On Sunday, March 2, during a lightly falling, fluffy snow, Brenda, Laura, and I drove to Peabody. A few weeks earlier I had received an email from the Artists Foundation announcing a call for artists from the Peabody Historical Society regarding a future exhibit. The exhibit, “Historic Interpretations: Artists Interpret the Historic Collection” asks interested artists to create a new work inspired by a chosen historical artifact from the Society’s collection.
This sounded like a wonderful, unique challenge; one that the three of us were all likely to accept.
Arriving at the historical society, we were presented with two binders full of pictures of the historical artifacts contained in Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster Houses. Artists were invited to look through the binders to choose at least one historical artifact. We were also encouraged to walk through both houses to see the artifacts up-close.
Choosing one artifact would not be as easy as first thought!
Artifacts in the Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster homes included period clothing, signs, furniture, sculptures, lamps, wallpaper fragments, and pictures. Our minds were a bit overwhelmed with choices and possibilities.
I narrowed down my choices to two items: a bas-relief wooden sign featuring three faces and an eagle overhead and a wallpaper fragment.
As we walked through both houses checking out the items we were considering, I found myself drawn to the wallpaper fragment. It was the first item that caught my attention in the first binder I opened. And I know well enough that I should go with my first choice.
So that is what I did.
Here are pictures of the wallpaper fragment:
What drew me to this artifact was the shape of the wallpaper fragment. I believe the open ended aspect of this artifact presents a wonderful challenge. So many ideas for what I could create started to come to mind the longer I looked at this piece. I thought about recreating the design in polymer (challenge #1 as I rarely make cane designs in polymer clay.) I considered the shape of the fragment; curvaceous and feminine.
And then I learned more about the history of this wallpaper fragment.
The wallpaper fragment is from the early 19th century and taken from the Bell Tavern located at the corner of Washington and Main Streets in Danvers. The Bell Tavern is where the Minutemen gathered before traveling to Lexington. Hanna Webster Foster wrote a novel, The Coquette or The History of Eliza Wharton, which is a fictionalized account of the death of a socially elite Connecticut woman who dies in a room at a roadside tavern after giving birth to a stillborn, illegitimate child.
The tavern where this happened? The Bell Tavern. The character Eliza Wharton is based on the real-life Elizabeth Whitman who died at age 37 after giving birth to a stillborn child.
Who knew all this history could be contained in a wallpaper fragment?
What else would this fragment tell me if it could talk?
And how will this information influence and inspire the piece I create?
The mind boggles. I can’t wait to get started.