Published: May 21, 2002
SANDWICH, MASS. – Heritage Plantation on Cape Cod is exhibiting “: Creations of Shaker Life,” through October 31.
This exhibition presents the furniture, gift drawings and various other Shaker-made objects from the collections of the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, Mass.; Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass.; the Shaker Museum and Library in Old Chatham, N.Y.; and the Shaker Museum at South Union in South Union, Ky.
“” demonstrates how the spiritual belief system and communal way of life led the Shakers to make specific aesthetic choices. Although Shaker craftsmen created practical objects to enhance this community and the overall serenity of their environment, the resulting beauty of these objects was a conscious decision.
Since labor was seen as a form of prayer, the process of creating elegant and practical furniture, architecture, textiles, gift drawings and other objects enhanced their spiritual mission of elevating the soul. Accompanying these objects will be excerpts from Shaker writings, which allow more insight into the personal connection between the Shakers, their process of creation and the objects they produced.
Even though they were spiritually conservative, the Shakers did not reject material innovation, as can be seen in their inventions of the circular saw, apple peeler, flat broom and metal pen nib, to name a few.
The first family settlement was in Watervliet, N.Y., in 1776. Eventually the Shakers established 19 communities from Maine to Kentucky . A Shaker community also known as the United Society in Christs’ Second Appearing is still active at Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Me.
The unique selection of Shaker creations in “” explores the relationship between the Shaker religion and their motivation to craft such utilitarian, yet fine objects. Everything from a simple clothes hanger to their famous and colorful oval boxes to the complexity of Isaac Newton Youngs’ wall clock will introduce the visitor to the Shaker’s quest for beauty and order.
The exhibit demonstrates the Shaker’s attention to every detail, like the pewter tilter on a tiger maple ladder back chair or the dovetailing of a cherry drawer. One of the larger objects in the exhibition is an elegant staircase made from birch, cherry and pine, stained red, which was from the Sister’s stairhall that was part of the 1846 addition to the North Family Dwelling at the Shaker community in New Lebanon, N.Y. A diverse array of objects in the exhibit like a flaming birch trestle table or a solid walnut grain shovel will show how Shaker objects and furniture became one of the first aesthetic movements of a young United States.
Besides the main Shaker exhibit in the art museum, there are smaller Shaker exhibits in three other areas. At the J.K. Lilly III Antique Automobile Museum (which is a replica of the Round Barn at Hancock Shaker Village) there is an emphasis on Shaker farming ingenuity. At the American History Museum, there is a case highlighting the Shaker’s use of pacifism in the Civil War. This installation will complement the exhibit “Landscapes of the Civil War,” which is comprised of rare, original photographic prints recently discovered at the Medford Historical Society. There will also be a small Shaker interpretive garden to highlight the Shaker’s influence in the seed and medicinal herb industry.
Located off Route 130, Heritage Plantation is open from 9 am to 6 pm. For information, 508-888-3300 or visit www.heritageplanation.org.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm