Published: November 6, 2007
The Fenimore Art Museum has received many notable gifts in recent months, including a substantial Native American collection from the Barbar Conable family, a contemporary Native American work from Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw and an historic musical instrument and landscape painting from Patricia B. Selch in memory of Eric Selch.
The Barbar Conable family’s Native American collection comprises 80 objects, including several artifacts of Iroquois origin dating from the early Seventeenth through the Twentieth Century, which provide an opportunity for the Fenimore Art Museum to tell a richer story of life in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century New York. Many of the objects will be used in a hands-on capacity in the museum’s Mohawk Bark House, a recreated Eighteenth Century Iroquois hunting and fishing lodge, located on the shore of Otsego Lake, while others will be on view in the museum’s galleries.
Of particular note is a beaded finger woven sash from the late Eighteenth Century. This object incorporates white beads, a valued trade item between the European settlers and the Native Americans. The collection also features a richly detailed 1790 carved powder horn, which is an excellent example of early life on the frontier. The Plains Indians are also represented in this collection through many quilled objects, including a hair ornament, moccasins and a hide tobacco bag.
The Fenimore also received a new acquisition, “When We Were There,” 2006, a collage by contemporary Native American artist Arthur Amiotte (Lakota), from Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw for the Thaw collection of American Indian art. Amiotte incorporates specific elements of the past into his work, using not only his family’s history, but also Lakota history, putting all in the context of a general, historical past.
In this collage, Amiotte illustrates the travels and adventures of his great-grandfather, Standing Bear, and other Lakota peoples throughout Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West traveling shows. Amiotte’s work is widely exhibited and held in many private and public collections throughout the United States. Fenimore’s season exhibition, “Myth and Reality: Art of the Great Plains,” features a painting depicting the Battle of Little Big Horn by Amiotte’s great-grandfather Standing Bear.
“When We Were There” is currently on view in the American Indian Wing.
The Selch collection is one of the largest private collections of historic American musical materials in the United States, and the museum has received a donation of a reed organ, made by A.L. Swan of Cherry Valley, N.Y., and patented May 7, 1850, from Patricia B. Selch in memory of Eric Selch. Frederick Selch (1930′002) is best known as a preeminent authority on American musical instruments and musical culture and his prolific collection of musical instruments, manuscripts, books and works of art relating to American musical culture.
Before being acquired by the Selches, the melodeon was in the Deansboro Musical Museum, a private collection that was open to the public for many years. It was dispersed by auction in the late 1990s.
The Selches have also given a painting, “Windham Valley in the Catskills, A Tollgate on the Susquehanna Turnpike,” by Henry A. Duessell, circa 1893. This painting depicts Windham, N.Y., during the Nineteenth Century and includes an iron bridge, residential dwellings and the “Old Bump Tavern,” shown in its original location, which is now in The Farmers’ Museum’s historic village. Also visible in the painting is a tollbooth and sawmill, relating to an earlier use of the turnpike as a plank road.
The painting is on view at the entryway into the Main Gallery on the first floor of the museum.
The Fenimore Art Museum is on 5798 State Highway, Lake Road. For information, www.fenimoreartmuseum.org or 888-547-1450.
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