2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the Wharton Esherick Museum and, as we reach the close of this busy season, we’re reflecting on Esherick’s enduring influence with the thousands of visitors who have stepped through the Studio doors or encountered his work in museum collections throughout the country.
Within two years of Esherick’s death in 1970, WEM opened its doors to the public, continuing the lineage of transformational visits to the Studio that guests had been enjoying in Esherick’s own lifetime. In a letter to Esherick after a visit in 1961, textile artist Lenore Tawney wrote, “You, your house, and all your work affected me very deeply…” In Home as Stage, our final exhibition of 2022, two pillows by Tawney found a temporary home in the Studio bedroom, just two of a selection of works on loan from the Fabric Workshop and Museum that highlight the rich networks and relationships of Esherick’s broader creative circle.
Across the room, Into me see (Wharton and Letty), a quilt by Home as Stage contemporary artist Emily Carris-Duncan made from raw and processed silk dyed with natural materials – including woods gathered from the WEM campus – lay across the bed. Together, the inclusion of these artworks and others throughout the installation speaks to the admiration and inspiration passed not only from one artist to another but to anyone in tune with Esherick’s approach to living. Esherick built a world for himself that feels strikingly relevant today, from seeking a life close to nature to the combination of craft, problem-solving, and play that brings meaning to our material lives.
As we close the year, we’re reminded, too, of Esherick’s reach beyond the Studio walls. Esherick left an indelible mark on the history of American art, craft, architecture, and design. His work is represented nationally in the permanent collections of more than 20 major museums and galleries, and we’re grateful for the important work our colleagues do to share his designs with the world. We’re delighted to share this video highlighting just a few of those pieces held in public collections and encourage you to explore Esherick near and far.
Thank you to our colleagues at:
The Art Institute of Chicago, Brandywine River Museum, LongHouse Reserve, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Wolfsonian at Florida International University, and The Delaware Art Museum for helping us celebrate WEM’s 50th Anniversary.
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Throughout 2022, a series of installations and programs explored the idea of “home” in order to celebrate WEM’s 50-year history and envision the next fifty years and beyond.
Post written by Communications and Public Programs Director Katie Wynne.