Published: July 31, 2007
“Stone Cold Folk,” an exhibition presented by David Wheatcroft Antiques, is anything but stone cold, at least from a visual perspective †in fact, it is as visually scorching as the dog days of August when this unique showing will be open. Often massive in both form and weight, carved stone objects with their monochromatic surfaces have traditionally been underappreciated by the masses. Recognizing that, and with a deep love for the medium, Wheatcroft has decided to “stir the pot.”
“We are trying to get people to see things a little bit differently,” stated the dealer while sitting in a tubular chrome Modern chair †which proves a stark contrasts to the variety of natural stone figures that surround him. “I love stone,” he says, gesturing toward the human, architectural and animal forms that line the room, each dramatically lit and well presented against darkened walls.
The figures are astounding when one stops and takes the time to absorb both the medium in which they are carved and the elegant or folky forms that they portray. The centerpiece of the room is a monumental dog carved by a memorial maker for the pediment of a granite building in Tippleton, Penn., circa 1930. Resting on a platform and with its head turned at 90 degrees to its body, it embodies all of the qualities of the finest folk art.
On the far wall is one of William Edmondson’s “lil’ ladies,” a standing figure of a woman with crossed arms and a cape or wings extending down her back. Wheatcroft, who has owned quite a few Edmondsons in his career, remarked that this “earthly angel is a favorite.” Aside from the “great proportions, great condition and good scale” noted by the dealer, the stone carving has a wonderful texture that when properly lit gives it an appearance that is “almost other-worldly and spiritual.”
“There is a unique quality in stone,” says Wheatcroft as he attempts to come to grips with the choices of collectors. “People want color, so stone is not always popular. But, when you get it in the right light, when you take in the nuances of the surface, it is really beautiful.”
A cylindrical boundary marker carved from limestone, circa 1850, with a shaped torso and primitively carved head, sits in the corner, beckoning to viewers. The question inevitably arises regarding its similarities to ancient works. One of the beauties of stone, says Wheatcroft, pointing to its surface and style, “it can possess an appearance that can be very similar to carvings that are 2,500 years old.”
“We want to get people to see things a little bit differently,” says the dealer, who emphasized that there are a great number of reasonably priced items among the pieces that have larger numbers attached to them. An example is a wonderful folky alligator carved from sandstone in a pleasing red hue. It is priced under $2,500.
While one room of the gallery is devoted to stone, the main room of the gallery is ablaze in color. Vibrantly painted tole makes up one display, with an exquisitely decorated document box positioned above a creamer and a sweet handled tole sander decorated with a band of tulips around the circumference.
Redware and stoneware are also featured with incised and blue filled decorated crocks and jugs with American eagles, houses, star faces and big fat birds bringing them to life. The selection of slipware is also tasty with three-color plates, large loaf dishes and plates.
A stately Winsor bow back armchair with delicate turned legs and stretchers is quick to catch the eye, as is a William Mathew Prior portrait of a child in a salmon-colored dress, one shoe on and one shoe off, who appears peaceably seated as her dog looks on.
Fraktur and other Pennsylvania folk items occupy yet another corner of the shop, while centered on a series of stepped pedestals is a collection of early American burl ranging from a footed bowl to a huge handled bowl made by the Iroquois †a favorite of Wheatcroft’s.
David Wheatcroft Antiques at 26 West Main Street will be open daily, 11 am to 6 pm, through the month of August. A special invitation is extended to those traveling to Antiques Week in Manchester. For information or directions, 508-366-1723 or www.davidwheatcroft.com .
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm