Chesterwood announces 41st annual contemporary sculpture exhibition

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Chesterwood announces 41st annual contemporary sculpture exhibition
Rick and Laura Brown working on one of their site-specific installations in the woods at Chesterwood. Photo: Gregory Cherin.

STOCKBRIDGE, MASS.- Chesterwood announces its 41st annual outdoor contemporary sculpture exhibition, featuring a site-specific installation by artists-in-residence Rick Brown and Laura Brown. The exhibition, “One Impulse from a Vernal Wood”, on view June 29 through Oct. 27, includes nine large sculptures constructed by the artists using carefully selected distressed or standing dead trees located within Chesterwood’s forest trails.

This is the Browns’ first solo exhibition at Chesterwood. The sculptors, who share a passion to create monumental shapes and forms out of wood, were invited to live and work at Chesterwood for a month in June 2018. On their frequent walks with sketchbooks and cameras in hand, the Browns were inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape and captivated by Chesterwood’s aging New England forest. The sculptors cut and assembled three-dimensional models, and then placed them in front of large photographic prints of specific places in the woods to mark their future locations. During their residency, the Browns began to curate this site-specific exhibition as an expression of their wonderment in not only the size and variety of the trees themselves, but also how the trees are connected below the surface in an unseen world.

“Daniel Chester French often placed his own work outside, as well as the work of his artist friends. We are delighted to have Rick and Laura continue the outdoor sculptural tradition at Chesterwood and to find inspiration in the landscape. We consider our annual contemporary sculpture exhibition, now in its 41st year, one of our most important programs that honors the legacy of French,” said Executive Director Donna Hassler.

Rick Brown and Laura Brown’s Artists’ Statement
“One Impulse from a Vernal Wood” is comprised of nine large site-specific sculpture installations constructed using carefully selected distressed or standing dead trees located within the nine acres of Chesterwood’s woodland. Sections of selected trees were removed, reconfigured on-site, and finally re-introduced into the original tree remnants. Over the years, our large outdoor environment installations have been informed by our determination and interest in working in nature. Inspired by Daniel Chester French’s love of the outdoors—particularly the forest surrounding his country home and studio at Chesterwood—it is our intention for this exhibition to provide direct connections between the sculpture, the environment, and the site to timeless nature, eternal cycles of life, and a recognition that “the end” marks a new beginning. These works are a willful collaboration with nature and through our choices of medium, process, and expression become part of the greater continuum.

We believe that trees are perhaps our most important partners on the planet. Trees are noble symbols of strength and the spirit of life. These installations provide distressed trees with a new life as a transformative expression between the natural life of the tree and our human intervention. We are inspired by the Gaia Hypothesis proposed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis: “The planet earth is a living creature. Taken as a whole, the planet behaves not as an inanimate sphere of rock and soil, sustained by the automatic and accidental processes of geology. . . But more as a biological super-organism—a planetary body—that adjusts and regulates itself.” We are also inspired by the writings of botanist Suzanne Simard, who has determined that trees communicate underground through a complex network of root systems and fungal matter. Simard suggests that “trees can talk.” We hope that our installation will speak to the viewer within the specific context of French’s beloved woodland as well within the greater context of the planet Earth.

Rick and Laura Brown met in art school at the University of Georgia in 1970. They have been on a collaborative creative journey ever since, working with a wide range of materials, tools, and techniques on large-scale environmental installations. They are both on the faculty at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. In 2002, they co-founded Handshouse Studio, Inc., a non-profit educational organization that initiates hands-on projects to explore history, understand science, and perpetuate the arts. The Browns have received numerous grants and awards, and have traveled and exhibited works locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

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