November 23, 2004
CW to display folk art sculpture in "Outside In: Folk Art for the American Landscape"
Colonial Williamsburg will display a striking selection of outdoor folk art beginning next year, from a trade sign resembling an oversized pair of spectacles and a colorful tobacconist clown to an enormous wooden watermelon and a weathervane in the form of Lady Liberty in “Outside In: Folk Art for the American Landscape.” The exhibition, which will offer more than 40 objects that illustrate the artistic side of early American al fresco decoration, will be on display at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum Feb. 5, 2005 through June 2006, while the new Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is under construction in 2005 and 2006.
Long before the invention of neon, American cities and villages were filled with colorful signs and painted sculptures. Eye-catching shop signs and trade figures identified products and services to entice customers into individual businesses. In addition to its commercial appeal, sculpture also adorned churches, schools, houses, barns and public buildings. At the top of most of these edifices perched a weathervane in the form of an angel, a quill, a sheep or a rooster. These examples of “public sculpture” not only showed which way the wind blew but also indicated the owners’ occupations or the kinds of activities carried on within the buildings.
“After the widespread use of electrified neon signs began in the 1930s, sculptural architectural decoration fell from fashion and much of the visual appeal of the built environment was lost,” said Jan Gilliam, Colonial Williamsburg’s manager of exhibition planning. “Weathervanes, painted signs and sculpture provided variety, beauty and interest to the landscape. Today, they are reminders of a time when visual surprises might be found on any street, around any corner or on the very tops of buildings – when whimsy and imagination were considered essential ingredients of daily life.”
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are part of the award-winning Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. The Wallace Museum is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5.pm. from January to March. The new Folk Art Museum, which will be adjacent to the Wallace Museum, will open in October 2006 with 11 exciting new displays of folk art from the Colonial Williamsburg collection. Admission to the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg is included in any multi-day admission ticket or by one-day or annual museums ticket. For program information, call (757) 220-7724.