Bennington Museum: Creative Collisions Between Old and New

With the introduction of the Bennington Modernism Gallery and Gilded Age Vermont Gallery one year ago, Bennington Museum embarked on a new path unveiling a new vibe and spirit for the museum. At a recent gathering, executive director Robert Wolterstorff stated, “With the addition of modern works into our galleries, we are not losing our emphasis on traditional arts and history. As we go forward, we will develop the idea of what I am calling “Creative Collisions” between old and new, traditional and modern. Simply put, the new mission of the Bennington Museum is to celebrate the creativity of Vermont in all its forms from the earliest times to the present, and to inspire the future.”

In keeping with the museum’s mission, the museum is proud to have on view through November 2, Alice Neel/Erastus Salisbury Field: Painting the People. This exhibit features the stunning work of two acknowledged masters of the portrait as art who are separated by one hundred years. “Examining the artists’ cultural, political and social milieus, as well as the subjects of their paintings and what painting meant to them personally, this exhibition reexamines the relationship between Modernism and its romantic notions of the “folk” in order to bring viewers to a more nuanced understanding of these great artists and their work.” states curator Jamie Franklin.

Bennington Modernism Gallery re-opened this year with newly installed paintings by Helen Frankenthaler and Jules Olitski, which joined works from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s that were created by a group of avant-garde artists such as Paul Feeley, Pat Adams and Anthony Caro who worked in and around Bennington, leading the nation in artistic thought and innovation. Outdoors, the museum installed wonderful sculptures by Willard Boepple and Rita Dee, while the main lobby features on a rotating basis works by artists such as Barbara Takenaga and Willard Boepple.

In the Regional Artists Gallery through October 19 is Intimate: Photographs by Jonathan Brand. Brand (b.1933) is best known as a street photographer, but this exhibition focuses on images of those most intimate to him: family and friends and is drawn from a formative period in Brand’s work, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s.

The museum also presents Patsy Santo: A Growing Collection, an exhibit that highlights the work of this well-known local artist and the celebration of a gift of six of his paintings to the museum by Tom and Jennifer Fels. “We acquired our first Santo painting, The Gingerbread House, directly from the artist in 1966. It wasn’t until 1992 that we began to acquire more of Santo’s work, recognizing them as an important parallel to Moses’s work, of which we have the largest public collection in the world.” stated Curator Jamie Franklin. With this recent addition to the museum collection, the museum is now the leading repository of Santo’s work. Included in the exhibit are Silo Filling and Cabin in the Pines, two of Santo’s earliest exhibited works, as well as Ready for Battle and Pleasant Street, scenes of downtown Bennington, and Peaceful River, a blending of Santo’s homes in Italy and Vermont. Skiing in Bromley is the latest of his paintings included in the exhibit.

Also on view in the Paresky Court is an installation celebrating the work of another famous local artist entitled, Katie Cleaver: Bennington Metalsmith.

Through October 27, the museum exhibits Postcard Perfect Bennington which includes forty-one postcards of the over 800 in the museum’s collection. Picture postcards and tourism came of age together in early twentieth century Vermont. While manufacturing struggled, Bennington reinvented itself as a tourist destination and capitalized the presence of outdated covered bridges and mill dams by re-branding them as “quaint.” Monuments dedicated to both events and people who were related to the Battle of Bennington, explained to travelers the town’s importance and fostered local pride.

The quilt that inspires quilters all over the world will be on its yearly display at the Bennington Museum through October 31. The Jane Stickle Quilt is only shown for a short time each year due to the fragility of the fabric. The quilt is comprised of 169 five-inch blocks, each in different patterns, containing a remarkable total of 5,602 pieces surrounded by a unique scalloped border.

On Sunday, September 7 at 2 pm, Bennington Museum welcomes Pam Weeks, New England Quilt Museum Binney Family curator, who shares recently uncovered information that sheds more light on the Civil War era quilt and its creator Jane Blakely Stickle. “What’s New About Jane Stickle and Her Quilt,” presents a quilt historian’s response to the artifact, and a fuller picture of Jane, her life and times. $8 for not-yet-members plus admission to tour the galleries and a charge of $5 for museum members.

Bennington Museum recently orchestrated an agreement enabling them to borrow four masterworks by Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses – Taking in Laundry, In Harvest Time, Sugaring Off, (1943) and Hoosick Valley (From the Window). Now on view in the museum’s Grandma Moses Gallery, they are joined by many of the paintings owned by the Bennington Museum. The newly installed gallery arranges Moses’ work in inter-related groupings to convey the full breadth of her work in a more cohesive manner than previously exhibited. As the best-known ‘primitive’ artist of the twentieth-century, Grandma Moses is often seen as exceptional, and outside the mainstream of American art history.

The Bennington Museum is located at 75 Main Street (Route 9), Bennington. VT in The Shires of Vermont. The museum has the largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings as well as the largest collection of 19th century Bennington pottery. In its other eleven galleries is a 1924 Martin Wasp Touring Car, one of only twenty produced, 20th-Century Vermont Ceramics, as well as military artifacts, one of the earliest ‘stars and stripes’ in existence, decorative arts, folk art ranging from 18th century to present, and more. The museum is open daily through October and is wheelchair accessible. Regular admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and students over 18. Admission is never charged for younger students or to visit the museum shop.  Visit the museum’s website www.benningtonmuseum.org or call 802-447-1571 for more information.

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