Let’s just start this post off by stating the obvious when it comes to the Shelburne Museum: these people had money. Like the kind of money that lets you design your dining room around four of the Claude Monet paintings you own. That kind of money. But, instead of collecting more Monets and Manets, they went in the opposite direction: steamboats, lighthouses, and lots of other Vermont treasures.
If you think I’m kidding about the steamboat and the lighthouse, I’m not. Check out the cover photo at the top of this post!
Modern Light: Luigi Lucioni
I started my time at the Museum with one of the visiting exhibits, paintings by Luigi Lucioni, an American painter born in Italy (b. 1900, d. 1988). I hadn’t heard of him before, but then again, I haven’t heard of a lot of painters and I’ve been happily surprised in many of my museum visits this year by what I didn’t know. And that was definitely true with Lucioni’s works.
His technique is breath-taking to see close up. It’s almost as clear and vivid as a photograph, hard to see any brushstrokes at all in the oil. The details are stunning in his still lifes, like this one. I can believe it took him 5-6 months for each painting; he usually worked on two at a time, one in the morning and a different one in the afternoon.
Just look at that lace tablecloth. I don’t think I could photograph it that clearly, with such depth of light and shadow. Wow!
The last of my three favorites of from the exhibit is this one of birches on the Museum grounds. He painted this when he was 85 years old. Age ain’t nothing but a number for artists.
East Meets West: Tseng Kwong Chi
I fell hard for the photographic art of Tseng Kwong Chi, who was featured in the Eyesight & Insight exhibition. Juxtaposing his Chinese heritage (he was born in Hong Kong in 1950) with American scenes, he created a series of photographs that showed his sense of humor and love of travel. For this series, he dressed in a Mao jacket and created his own official-looking ID badge, both of which combined to convince people he must be someone of importance and so he gained access to events and locations that were otherwise off-limits.
Here’s my favorite one, the artist posing in front of an old schoolhouse. It was 1983, so if you look carefully, you can see the wire for the shutter release in his hand.
Tseng Kwong Chi died in 1990 of AIDS-related causes. Reading that after enjoying his photographs made me realize, once again, how much we lost in the AIDS epidemic: friends, family, artists, people who would have made a difference in life, whether to a few people or to many.
Varied and Alive: Nancy Winship Milliken
One of the most lovely outdoor art installations I’ve experienced was this one, four frames of natural materials (one not shown in this photo), surrounded by flowers that were planted specifically to attract bees and butterflies. Each of the materials changes over time, as the light changes through the day, and as the seasons change throughout the year. weathering throughout the year.
My favorite was the middle frame, Earth Glow, long strings of balls made out of beeswax. The artist started rolling beeswax into balls during the pandemic lockdown, which I totally got (I made quilts). Smooth and supple beeswax, rolling ball after ball after ball, it sounds so relaxing to me. The artist used about 600 pounds of beeswax to create this piece.
The beeswax balls expand and contract, sway in the breeze, and, let’s face it, they look pretty damn cool just hanging there.
One More Thing…
It was a gorgeous summer afternoon in Vermont. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the grounds, it’s a lovely place, the Shelburne Museum.
Want to Know More?
- Shelburne Museum. All three of the exhibits mentioned in this post run through October 16, 2022.
- Shelburne Camping Area: a small, family-run place close to Burlington and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, as well as the Museum. Just don’t count on their wifi, it’s a bit erratic, especially in bad weather. The breakfast/lunch place just next to it serves up good food, within walking distance of your campsite.
I believe in walking out of a museum before the paintings you’ve seen begin to run together. How else can you carry anything away with you in your mind’s eye?