On exhibit: Muse at Home at Skidmore

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By Amy Griffin

Think about the items you choose to decorate your home. Are they simply there to beautify your walls or do you have a deeper connection to them? For the 27 contributors to “The Muse at Home” at Skidmore’s Schick Gallery, it’s deeply personal. The artworks they choose to surround themselves with are like old friends, sometimes created by friends.

Rebecca Shepard, curatorial assistant to the director of the Schick Gallery, says that within the idea of a show about collecting, she felt the focus should be on exploring more fully how people feel about the art they own.

“It’s really more about what people get from living with the work in their home,” says Shepard. A call was sent out to everyone involved in visual art at Skidmore. Faculty and staff from the Tang Teaching Museum, the studio art and art history departments and the visual resources area of the library responded. Fifteen of the 27 contributors are working artists themselves.

It’s a different kind of show, with an understandable diversity of styles of art. Arranged by collector, each set of works is accompanied by wall texts, taken from conversations between Shepard and each contributor.

There is a lot to read, but the texts are almost of equal importance as the artwork. They reveal the pleasures of owning original art. The stories told by each contributor deepen our understanding of the objects and themes emerge about collecting and collectors, the notion of “value,” and the importance of the evidence of the artist’s hand.

“Part of what matters to me is the idea that somebody crafted it. … I can’t imagine living without that or with stuff someone else, like an interior decorator, picked out,” says Trish Lyell, visiting assistant professor of painting and drawing, in her wall text. She chose two paintings by Laura Von Rosk.

Shepard herself has chosen several works from her own collection. She reiterates the importance of the object and the connection to its maker, “When a thing is more of an ‘object,’ the artist’s hand is so tangible, real, visceral.”

Megan Hyde, curatorial assistant at the Tang, told Shepard, “Experiencing a work of art can feel like sharing a unique connection and understanding with the object and its maker, a connection that persists and grows.”

Ian Berry, newly appointed director of the Tang, agrees: “Art is at its best when it works slowly … and rewards repeated viewing.”

Elizabeth Karp, head registrar and collections manager at the Tang, remembers the stories behind each work.

One, a simple, cartoonish painting of a sailboat hangs crookedly from a wire. It’s a familiar work that hard-core “Simpsons” fans will immediately recognize. Karp’s friend, painter Bert Schuck, knew that she loved the show and made “Scene from Moby Dick” (2007) to hang above her first sofa.

Katie Hauser, associate professor of art history and Joel Reed, Saratoga Arts executive director, are perhaps the most prolific collectors, in the traditional sense, in this group. For them it’s as much about supporting artists as it is about acquiring art.

None of these artworks were collected for their anticipated future value. The value comes from what they give the owner, the things they tell them about themselves as artists or art lovers. The immense return on these investments is difficult to measure but plain to see in this exhibit.

Amy Griffin is a freelance writer from Delmar.

On exhibit
“The Muse at Home: Exploring How and Why 
We Live with Art”

  • Where: The Schick Gallery, Saisselin Art Building, second floor, Skidmore campus, Saratoga Springs
  • When: Through Dec. 16; hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat.-Sun. Noon-4 p.m.
  • Admission: Free
  • Info: 518-580-5049; http://www.skidmore.edu/schick/

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