Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wooden birds

Last week, on the spur of the moment, Jeannine and I -- along with our friends Dan and Jess Berger -- took a trip down to the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT. Jeannine and I had been to this museum once before, to see a show of M. C. Escher's work, but Dan and Jess had not been to it... nor had they eaten at Arugula in West Hartford (our dinner destination after checking out the museum). There were a couple of new exhibits, one featuring a realist painter named Sarah Lamb and another titled "One Man’s Passion: The Art of Carved Birds" which included over sixty objects from the collection of J. Kemler “Kem” Appell, one of the leading collectors of miniature decorative bird carvings.

I expected to be more interested in the former, and the paintings were very nice (especially the still life with olives), but I was blown away by the exhibit of bird carvings. 

The sculpting -- and painting -- talent displayed in these pieces was just astonishing. Not only were the birds accurately rendered in form and color, but the bits of environment in which they were displayed as well. 

And although many of the carved birds appeared to be perched on real branches, those perches were actually carved and painted to APPEAR to be real branches.

But the thing that really impressed me the most was this display.

When I first saw it, I thought it was interesting that the sculptor had found some common objects on which to pose the carved birds. However, when I looked closer and read the display card, I was flabbergasted to find out that ALL of these objects were carved and painted to look like the real things. And they surely did! Check out this detail from the above photo to see what I mean:

After wandering around the museum for a while more, we headed off to Arugula, the Mediterranean restaurant in West Hartford, where Jeannine once again got one of their amazing flatbread "pizzas", this time featuring asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. 

And yes, it was as yummy as it looked! -- PL


Adam Riches said...

Those wooden sculptures are incredible. Do you know if they were all done with hand tools? I'm assuming there was some Dremel-type equipment involved to achieve that level of detail. Either way though, they're very impressive craftsmanship.

Mark H said...

Those are amazing. I thought for sure that the old water pump in the picture was real. Before reading you description I assumed it was an old pump used as a prop. Not only is the carving very impressive but, the pitting effect and the painted texture truly fooled me into thinking it was oxidized metal. That is most impressive!
These are wonderful pictures Pete. Thank you for sharing them with us. I wish I could see these on display in person. I have to imagine that up close, in person, they are even more impressive.
That pizza looks so tasty! I'm a fan of asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Yummy! I like making flatbread pizza at home with feta cheese, whole leaf spinach, and fresh tomatoes from my garden.
Thanks again for sharing these pictures of such awesome sculpting and painting!

Miserable Dreamer said...

These birds are fantastic. My dad is an artist, and a few years ago, he had to repair a couple of wooden bird sculptures similar to these. The feathers had been sculpted separately out of balsa wood and a few of them had gotten damaged or fallen out while the sculptures were being moved. The sculptor had died several years back, but dad was able to duplicate the original artist's technique thru trial and error - I remember visiting his studio at the time and seeing his work table littered with balsa wood feathers.

It's amazing what some people are able to do.

BL said...

VERY cool wooden works of art!!!(A bit of a step above what you and I used to do at UMASS, sneaking into the wood shop!)
Glad that you had another adventure!

Anonymous said...

If only you had a relative that lived in New Britain!