TAMMY PLESHEK, MINNEAPOLIS INSTITUTE OF ARTS, (612) 870-3171; TPLESHEK@ARTSMIA.ORG
LYNETTE NYMAN, MINNEAPOLIS INSTITUTE OF ARTS, (612) 870-3173; LNYMAN@ARTSMIA.ORG
ANNE-MARIE WAGENER, MINNEAPOLIS INSTITUTE OF ARTS, (612) 870-3280; AWAGENER@ARTSMIA.ORG
Print-quality Images Available Online: http://www.artsmia.org/press
WIND & WHIMSY:
WEATHERVANES AND WHIRLIGIGS FROM TWIN CITIES COLLECTIONS
NOVEMBER 17, 2007—APRIL 13, 2008
Minneapolis, October 23, 2007—The uniquely American folk art form of weathervanes and whirligigs is featured in this unprecedented exhibition organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). This exhibition features approximately forty artworks, including both handmade folk art and manufactured examples, ranging from the eighteenth through the twentieth century. Manifesting a dizzying variety of shapes, these sculptural forms are drawn from the MIA’s collection and supplemented with loans from prominent local collections. On view November 17, 2007, through April 13, 2008, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.
Throughout history, weathervanes have been used to predict changes in the weather based on the direction of the wind. Early American colonists continued the European tradition by placing handmade vanes on rooftops of churches, public meetinghouses, and barns. During the apex of weathervane popularity in nineteenth-century America, craftsmen and small cottage-industry manufacturers met the demand by vying with one another to produce an abundant variety of appealing sculptural forms. While roosters and horses were particularly popular subjects, other barnyard animals, banners, arrows, and various human figures were also frequently featured. By the mid-twentieth century, weathervanes became less important for meteorology than for use as fine examples of American folk-art sculpture.
The nucleus of the exhibition consists of fourteen rooster weathervanes donated to the MIA in 2004 by John and Lee Driscoll. One of the earliest weathervanes in the exhibition, a rooster of cast zinc and hand-molded copper, dates from around 1850 to 1868, and was produced by American makers Jonathan Howard & Co. Howard, known for casting in zinc for added weight and durability, also used detailed wooden molds for highly stylized pieces. The intricate crimping on the copper tail of the rooster gives the impression of feathers rippling in the wind.
Another highlight in the exhibition includes the captivating representation of Fame. The figure of a young girl balances gracefully atop a ball and appears to herald the coming wind with her horn. Her forward stance, combined with the backward flow of her delicately feathered wings and gently flowing skirt, gives the appearance she is standing in a high wind, even on the calmest day.
Carved wooden sculptures called whirligigs provide the “whimsy” in this exhibition. Created to dance in the wind, these whirling forms were originally conceived as toys to entertain, and sometimes teach, children. Human figures with rotating arms were the most popular subjects. A variety of these colorfully carved forms, including sailors, Native Americans, and soldiers, are on view.
The exhibition catalogue Wind & Whimsy: Weathervanes and Whirligigs from Twin Cities Collections features an essay by Karal Ann Marling, a professor of art history and American studies at the University of Minnesota. The catalogue is available in the MIA Museum Shop for $15.95.
About the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), home to one of the finest encyclopedic art collections in the country, houses more than 80,000 works of art representing more than 5,000 years of world history. Highlights of the permanent collection include European masterworks by Rembrandt, Poussin, and van Gogh; modern and contemporary painting and sculpture by Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Stella, and Close; as well as internationally significant collections of prints and drawings, decorative arts, Modernist design, photographs, prints and drawings, and Asian, African, and Native American art. General admission is always free. Some special exhibitions have a nominal admission fee. Museum hours: Sunday, 11 A.M.–5 P.M.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 A.M.–5 P.M.; Thursday, 10 A.M.–9 P.M.; Monday closed. For more information, call (612) 870-3131 or visit www.artsmia.org.
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