NWAA & Winterthur: A Collaborative Exhibition - Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library

NWAA Winterthur: A Collaborative Exhibition

The Chris White Gallery, 701 Shipley Street, Wilmington, Delaware
April 5–April 26


NWAA Winterthur was an exciting collaboration that shows what can happen when we dare to mix new artists and old stuff. The project was conceived through a desire among Winterthur staff to both support and build relationships with the burgeoning Wilmington arts community and by the desire of a local arts organization to help emerging artists become more familiar with the many resources the Wilmington area has to offer.

Founded in 2008, the New Wilmington Art Association supports the creative interests, endeavors, careers, and lifestyles of local artists as well as fosters the development of a more diverse cultural landscape in Wilmington. Over the past three years, the NWAA has presented numerous public exhibitions, events, and performances in the city.

In the spring of 2012, NWAA members participated in an open house at Winterthur, which provided an introduction to our museum, garden, and library collections. Two artists, Nancy Breslin and Carrie Mae Smith, were subsequently selected to spend the next few months mining the collection for inspiration. Their work will be on view at the Chris White Gallery in a show that we hope will introduce new audiences to Winterthur as well as encourage long-time Winterthur fans to see the museum in a new light.

Nancy Breslin

Artists' Statements

Nancy Breslin

Most of my work is in media that require the passing of time: pinhole cameras require long exposures and compress time into a single frame; gum bichromate and other antique processes need minutes of ultraviolet light to expose a print; video combines sound and images in such a way that the viewer must experience the piece over time; and my diary-like series capture events of a similar sort over a period of years. 

Winterthur is very much about time. Items in the collection have gained a great deal of their value because of the time that has passed since their creation. The garden was designed to showcase the seasonal changes in color and texture, and the room décor reflected this with rotating slip-covers and draperies.

As an artist in residence, I have been inspired to pursue several ideas, working with my pinhole camera and video, as well as with my cell phone (simple tools can yield surprising results).  I hope these projects will stir the viewer to compare past and present, to see overlooked beauty, and to experience time’s movement more consciously.

Carrie Mae Smith

Carrie Mae Smith

For me, the distinction between history and heritage is significant. Henry Glassie argues that history is recorded by a select few, and therefore constructed from limited perspectives. Heritage, on the other hand, is a cultural construction, built from our own needs and individual web of nostalgia. From history, we edit out what doesn’t serve us and inflate the ideas we want to associate with. This process of reassessing history fills us with pride and allows us to abandon all undesired, shameful behaviors. Heritage is constructed through our needs in the present, selecting what is convenient to acknowledge in the past as support for the identities that we choose for ourselves. We do this as a nation and as communities of people. Heritage is the collective corrected historic past that we accept as reality in the present.

Looking at historical forms and structures as well as investigating methods of construction and materials, is a way in which I engage nostalgia, and interpretations of the past. It is the starting place for most of my recent works. I observe objects, furniture, and structures that are historic, and examine their construction, function, and what they communicate from that time period. I work from this place, re-creating the object or form, employing contemporary methods of construction and materials, producing my own understanding or illumination of heritage.

“Our view of the past, and our rendering of its patterns are closed down and conventionalized- limited in significance and utility- by the imp of simplicity…. We are beguiled into betraying the human being’s complex reality in deterministic formulas,” warns Glassie. However, the way out of this dilemma is to “make history the biography of a people or of people”. Through the re-materializing of historic utilitarian objects and structures, I feel that I am uncovering forgotten or overlooked facets of history and people. In the process, my work gives a voice to the past by creating opportunity to reinterpret the relationship between history and the present. 

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