The real discovery of our Blobfest weekend was not campy street festivals, nor tin foil hat and scream contests, but a new favorite artist. While we were sitting in The Colonial waiting for The Blob to begin, The KingofHearts and I saw an advertisement on the screen for a nearby museum. After we'd sucked the marrow out of Blobfest, we weren't hip on heading back home quite yet, so we took a little detour to check out this museum. Neither of us had ever heard of Wharton Esherick before and we just wandered in on our way out of town.
As it turns out, you can't just wander in to the Esherick museum. You have to make a reservation. It says so at the entrance. There was a lovely woman in the gift shop who explained and that's when we realized we'd walked right past the sign that clearly states such. So we shrugged our shoulders and said we'd try to come back another time. The girls let out an "awww," but that was about it - we apologized for being jerks who couldn't read a simple sign.
But she stopped us as we were going out the door and said, "Hang on a second, there might be someone who would be available to give you a tour right now, but it's only a chance. Let me see if he can come over."
So she picked up the phone and a few minutes later, we were beginning our personal, private tour with none other than the curator of the museum and let me tell you, this place was a-mah-zing. We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the house so I only have a few to share, but there's a nice virtual tour of the house here. You should look at it, but more importantly, you should physically go there because those photos might be nice, but in person, it's an experience.
Here's what I learned about Wharton Esherick. He was a contemporary and good friend of Louis Kahn (who is one of my favorite architects), though their aesthetics couldn't be more different. He tried to be a painter in the early 1900s and didn't have much success at that (though I do not understand why because what I saw of his early work, I loved). So he and his wife moved to Pennsylvania to become subsistence farmers - or as the curator said, "to lead an organic life" - while he tried to sell his artwork. He started to carve frames for the artwork he sold and found more interest in the frames than the artwork, which eventually led him into a career as a wood sculptor that lasted the rest of his life. He designed and built the entire house and all of the furniture in it.
|This is the garage. THE GARAGE!|
His sculpture is amazing and easily able to impress even the geekiest artist and/or woodworker wannabes, which coincidentally describes The KingofHearts and me to a tee. He liked non-traditional lines and mimicking nature and finding the natural abstract form of whatever he was working. What we didn't expect was how impressed by the place The Shortlings would be. Every time the curator took us into a new room, he was met with gasps of awe and surprise from my kids. They. Loved. Everything. From the artwork, to the floor, to the carved wooden spoons and cutting boards in the kitchen. The Caterpillar declared her desire to live there and offered to be the caretaker of the house. The Dormouse asked how many years before she could come back and be a docent. They both asked somewhat-relevant questions. Most of the time, kids walk around without the sense God gave a goose, but every once in awhile they surprise you and this was one of those times for me. About halfway through the tour, the curator turned to me and said, "Oh my gosh, I love your kids!" I suppose it's possible that some of their interest had to do with being told they could touch the sculpture and a lovely gentleman who treated their questions like important matters and not just an irritant, but I can't help but think that it maybe, just a little bit, had to do with the beauty surrounding them too.
The curator mentioned that if we liked the work and wanted to support it, one way we could do so - since they weren't able to accept our kids' offer of indentured servitude - was we could tell others. So that is the purpose of this post today. If you are in the area, get yourself to the Wharton Esherick house. Tell them Winnie-the-Pooh sent you.