Explorations in Wood & ‘Hateful Things’ •

The Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum Debuts a Pair of Dynamic and Powerful Exhibitions

    icon Jan 30, 2020
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With their newest exhibition “Explorations in Wood: Selections from The Center for Art in Wood, which is now open at The Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum at Saginaw Valley State University, 74 objects of sculpted wood created by artists spanning the world are displayed in a manner that demonstrates not only the many facets of wood, but challenges one to discover the inherent beauty and dynamic possibilities of the medium in a manner that is both delightful and awe-inspiring.

With works that stem from a love of wood and display a rich variety of wood types, the creative process of each artist are varied, including wood-turned vessels as well as more sculptural forms. Many celebrate the natural beauty of wood, evident in rich warm-brown tones and assorted grain patterns, typical of materials gathered around the globe.

“It’s stunning to see the many varied interpretations and manipulations of what people can do with this natural material in all its varieties and different woods and grains, from small almost metallic looking spiked objects to a piece that almost looks like a leather pillow,” explains Museum Director Megan McAdow. “Different treatments, carvings, and varnishing are used and a majority of the works are pretty contemporary, originating from the 1990s forward.”

Located in Philadelphia, The Center for Art in Wood has over 1,200 objects in its collection and according to Megan, these 74 pieces on display at Marshall Fredericks are some of the most unique works contained within their collection. “These pieces are derived from 20 different countries spanning the globe and are very abstract and decorative,” she adds.

“Our dependence on–and love for–wood cannot be overstated,” states curator Andy McGivern. “it is integral to our very existence in a range of ways, encompassing our manmade environments as well as both utilitarian and decorative items. The organic qualities of wood, our ability to manipulate its shape, its abundance, and its renewable potential are among the reasons wood permeates our culture – including the art world.”

Some of the artists featured in this exhibition include, Gianfranco Angelino, Italy; Mark Bishop, Tasmania; Todd Hoyer, US; Ted Hunter, Canada; Thierry Martenon, France; Rolly Munro, New Zealand; Liz & Michael O’Donnell, Scotland; David Pye, UK; Butch Smuts, Africa; Jakob Weissflog, Germany; and Vic Wood, Australia.

The museum also has a schedule of fun and engaging programs for the community to participate in, including:

• “Learn and Turn Art Workshop” with Eastern Michigan University Professor John DeHoog, January 30, from 12 – 3 pm. Make and keep a small wood turned bowl. $10 per person. Only 12 spots available so call to register at 989-964-7096.

• “Create & Take Saturdays,” a free event offering different hands-on art activities for all ages on select Saturdays from 1 to 4 pm.  February 22: Adinkra African Symbols Workshop - Learn more about African symbols while making your own version in a variety of methods.  Sat., March 14: Modernist Geometric Wood Relief - Make a modernist geometric design with wood. Sat., April 11: Clothespins, Clips and Craft Sticks Construction - Learn how to use these simple materials to create your own small architectural structure! Sat., April 25: Cell Phone Holder - Create your own cell phone holder using craft sticks.

• “Lunch and Learn,” a free event, with wood turner Ken Nitschke discussing how wood becomes spalted and how spalted woods are used in woodworking, held March 25, from 12 – 1 pm.

• “STEAM Art-making Activity,” a free program, where participants will use simple materials to create their own small architectural structure, held April 11, from 1 – 3 pm.

• “Wood Art Mini-Fair” will be held April 4 from 1 to 5 pm, where the community can shop, observe demonstrations, learn, participate, and have fun with works in wood with members of the Midland Woodworkers Association.

Explorations in Wood: Selections from The Center for Art in Wood,” runs through May 16, 2020. It is free of charge and open to the public.  For a full up-to-date list of programming, visit the museum website at MarshallFredericks.org.

Hateful Things • Memorabilia from The Jim Crow Museum

Another powerful exhibition that will be on display at the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Gallery during Black History Month from February 1-29th is Hateful Things, an amazing and equally disturbing display of over 35 objects of racist memorabilia that is assembled to help teach tolerance and promote social justice.

Created by pieces on loan from The Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University, this unique museum was created by Dr. David Pilgrim in 1996 from his collection of 2,000 objects, which he donated to the museum, that depict African-Americans in stereotypical ways.  The museum now owns 9,000 objects and is in the process of building a larger venue in order to display more of the collection.

“Usually during Black History Month we present art exhibitions,” notes Marshall Fredericks Director Megan McAdow, “but this year we wanted to host something a little bit different by featuring this material cultural exhibition comprised of objects cultivated from the Jim Crow era.”

“The intent is to teach social justice and racial awareness through these objects of hatred; and the founder of the Museum, Dr. David Pilgrim, started collecting these objects in college with no specific intent,” she explains. “He would go to junk shops and auctions and collected these objects for decades until Ferris State University invited him to found the Jim Crow Museum as a place to archive his collection.”

“In his book, Understanding Jim Crow, Pilgrim talks about how when he first started collecting things he could do it very cheaply,” continues McAdow. “There was a kind of bizarre market for these materials and over the years they became valuable for various reasons: some people didn’t want these objects out in circulation and some people collected them for historical reasons.”

“The importance of this exhibition is that some people don’t even know what Jim Crow was; and because we’re a university campus and our students are younger, there’s a value in teaching about this historic period of time from the post-Civil War up to the early 1960s when the South passed many codified laws touting a standard of ‘separate but equal’, which were institutionalized in schools & restaurants through signs of ‘Black or White Only’.”

“What Pilgrim shows with this exhibition goes beyond these ‘Jim Crow laws’ in the sense that it also created a cultural caste system reinforced by everyday objects and imagery,” note McAdow. “Through caricatures such as ‘Aunt Jemimah’ that were used to reinforce a stereotype of a Mammy, overweight and happy to be in servitude, up through the Civil Rights movement, a lot of this imagery is still being used and created today in different ways to reinforce the notion that blacks are not equal to whites. As an example, as recently as 2002 a board game was created called ‘Ghetto-opoly’ with new caricatures, so the notion of Jim Crow is not just some dusty old thing from the past.”

With 38 objects of recurring themes on display at the Hateful Things exhibit, McAdow says that while some people feel these objects need to be smashed, burned and banned, Dr. Pilgrim’s philosophy is that they need to be used as a teaching tool.  “Even today he points out how we have new Jim Crow standards in existence, especially in terms of mass incarceration and how more African-Americans are disproportionately in prison today than the amount that were ever enslaved for over a hundred years in our country.”

Additionally, on Wednesday, February 5th, the Museum will host Hateful Things and A Night with Dr. Pilgrim, that is free and open to the public from 5 to 7 PM. The reception will include Dr. David Pilgrim signing his book, Understanding Jim Crow, which will be available for sale at the event, as well as free refreshments and a cash bar. And then Pilgrim will be giving a lecture from 7 to 8 PM.

Then on February 19th will be a Poetry Slam: Black History Month Edition from 6 to 8:30 pm.

Free and open to the public, you can listen to students and others perform their original or favorite Black History Month poems in the Museum. Refreshments are provided. If you would like to participate you can email Cecelia at cahopkin@svsu.edu.

Running through February 29th, the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 11 am to 5 pm and Saturday from Noon to 5 pm.  You can also phone 989-964-7125 to schedule a FREE guided tour of this powerful exhibition.


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