In Nat Rubinson’s words, “Artists can be the loneliest people in the world – sitting there with a blank canvas in front of them, waiting for the muse to come. We try to be there for them when they need us.” Nat and his wife Rose Rubinson were two of Esherick’s most devoted patrons and friends. Over the course of three decades they commissioned numerous works from Esherick, filling their home with his singular creations. The Rubinson’s recognized the importance of supporting artists like Esherick, and the joy each artwork brought into their lives. In that spirit we invite you to explore the artists featured in the WEM Store this holiday season. These artists have special connections to the museum, whether as past Artists-in-Residence, exhibition participants, or other close ties to the Studio – and what better time to support the arts and give someone you love a thoughtful gift.
A guiding philosophy of our museum store is to offer visitors artist-made items for the home. These handmade objects can give a daily dose of joy and enrich our lives in small but meaningful ways. In 2021, ceramic artist Roberta Massuch served as WEM’s first Artist-in-Residence, creating a series of site-specific paper and ceramic works incorporated in the Studio itself which explored the form of the building as well as the play of light within it. This series of vessels continues her playful investigation, drawing from architectural elements – awnings, windows, stonework – of Esherick’s Studio.
“Each room in the studio is so different depending on the season or the time of day; it has been a fulfilling challenge to create work that speaks to or highlights the impact of constantly shifting light over the existing objects and beautifully crafted furniture in the studio.” – Roberta Massuch
Another home item featured in the store – this Oak Tray handcrafted by woodworker and furniture maker Ray Kelso of Treebeard Designs using wood from Wharton’s leaning oak tree. Ray made his first visit to the Studio in the early 1970s, just after Esherick’s passing, when he was working with Esherick’s wood supplier and friend Ed Ray. Kelso has remained a close friend of the museum for the last fifty years, so when it came time to design a cover in Esherick’s bedroom to hide a new air handler – part of a state-of-the-art HVAC upgrade in 2018 — we knew just who to turn to! Kelso’s original walnut cover with radiating boards and zig-zagging air vent feels completely at home in Esherick’s Studio.
Other artists featured in our shop, such as Anna Hitchcock and Colin Pezzano, have been recent participants in our changing exhibitions. Hitchcock’s carved basswood wall piece, These Hands Are Getting Heavy, received an honorable mention in Telling Tales, our 29th Annual Juried Woodworking Exhibition. Her hand-carved spoons and embroidered wooden box display the same skills and sensitivity she brings to her sculptural pieces. Colin Pezzano’s work has been featured in both Telling Tales and our 2022 Home as Stage exhibition. For the latter, personal and everyday objects recreated in wood by Pezzano were installed on Esherick’s dining room table and brought the artist’s studio practice in dialogue with Esherick’s own habits of making.
In addition to items like his candlestick holders – which would add a little drama to any festive dinner table – Pezzano’s printmaking practice is also featured in the WEM Store in Soma, a graphic novel told in 45 woodcuts — a transformational medium in Esherick’s own creative journey. Pezzano describes Soma as, “a ‘mundane horror’, the narrative investigates lived and imagined experience, corporality, and the passage of time.”
Works by artists Kay Healy and Emily Carris-Duncan venture away from the utilitarian, offering small wall-hung artworks with meaningful ties to the installations each artist had on view in the Studio during Home as Stage. Combining printmaking and quilting techniques, Kay Healy’s fabric light switch and outlet cover playfully reconsider small moments within our homes, as she did throughout Esherick’s studio in 2022. Emily Carris-Duncan’s Into Me See mini quilts harken back to the full size bedspread they made and displayed in the Studio bedroom, and feature strips of silk and satin dyed using red and white oak collected from the woods that surround Esherick’s home.
“The African American quilt tradition that my work is rooted in sees improvisation as the ultimate form of expressive freedom. Esherick’s work is very much in the same vein. He responds to his materials, allowing them to reveal themselves at his hand…” – Emily Carris-Duncan
If you’d like to adorn yourself (and not just your home!) past exhibiting artists Morgan Hill and Stacey Lee Webber both offer fantastic jewelry pieces as part of their creative careers. Hill, whose work was featured in Telling Tales, explores themes of ceremony, creation/destruction and renewal within her practice. She expands on these ideas further in her jewelry line Bad Habits by Morgan Hill which takes a lighthearted approach to indulge desires. Stacey Lee Webber works extensively with currency, including a series of tools made from decommissioned coins. One such tool, her penny Chainsaw (The Craftsman Series) offered visitors to Home as Stage space to reflect on the value of labor. Her skilled metalwork also takes the form of coin cufflinks, earrings, bracelets, and pins available in our museum store!
Post written by Deputy Director of Operations & Public Engagement Katie Wynne.