Artist unites eras in ‘Crafting Settlement’ show at Currier
In Abigail Anne Newbold’s settlement, the history is palpable, until the bright yellow nylon of a cord shouts a hello from the future. The tools in her settlement are worn, until they meet the sleek cool of a modern handle. In Newbold’s settlement, old and new, traditional and modern, meet for a conversation.
Organized by the Currier Museum of Art in collaboration with the artist, “Abigail Anne Newbold: Crafting Settlement,” will be on view from Saturday through July 14.
The artist has been working day and night on the installation, said Nina Bozicnik, curator of the exhibit. Though Bozicnik explained that her job has really just been to trust Newbold.
“She was the one that sort of selected the specific objects that will be going into this space,” Bozicnik said. “The whole goal of this project for me was to give Abby a platform to expand her practice, so that the Currier could support her in exploring new territory in her work.
“And because of what I had seen previously, I knew that her commitment to incredible craftsmanship was so great, her sort of conceptual rigor was so great, that we could really trust her.”
In Newbold’s first solo museum exhibit, she uses master craft techniques mixed with modern design with the hope that each installation will start a conversation that challenges viewers to think about domesticity, self-sufficiency, and artisanal production.
To that end, the exhibit itself will transform the museum’s Scheier Gallery.
“She has taken that space over and inhabited it with all of her different objects to create a complete environment,” Bozicnik said. “It’s all meant to be one big art work. It’s not just individual pieces like paintings hanging
in a painting gallery that are all discreet. All the objects interrelate with each other to create one total experience.”
One of the most remarkable parts of the installation will be something Newbold is calling a “dwelling structure.” It’s a large living space made up of hickory pieces dry-fit together to create an armature, like a scaled-down version of timber framing. The hickory pieces are held together with hand-turned nylon pegs and each of the panels of the armature is covered with quilts designed by Newbold.
“It’s really quite a spectacular show of different craft technique,” Bozicnik said. “Which was one of the impulses for inviting Abby to the Currier, . . . because of our institutional commitment to craft practices. And she’s sort of taking it into a different direction in terms of its engagement with a conceptual practice not just a practical use of these techniques.”
She went on to explain that the importance of these objects will be less about how they are used and more of an invitation to the viewer to think about the value of making objects.
The footprint of the structure is an adaptation of the connective farm buildings of New England, Bozicnik said, which essentially means there is the big house, the little house, the back house and the barn.
“That was a method of construction that was popularized in the 1900s as sort of an efficient division of activities that were needed to keep these self-sufficient homesteads going,” Bozicnik said. “So Abby’s dwelling structure is divided into functional zones like that.”
Which means even the quilts she designed are reflective of the functions in each given area.
As for the rest of the installation, the perimeter of the gallery is lined with vignettes of the porch, the scullery and larder or the workshop, for example. Each of the areas will contain articles one might find in each of these spaces. Most of the objects themselves are flea market finds, modified and repurposed to suit Newbold’s modern sensibility.
“This is a practice you’ll see throughout the installation,” Bozicnik said. “So you can see the relationship between past and present and this idea of creating a lineage of craftspeople. You’ve got the present person working on the handle (of the tool), and the past person who made this tool head, and she’s creating a conversation between the two.”
The Currier Museum is open Sunday, Monday and Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with free admission from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. It is also open the first Thursday of each month from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $8 for students and children younger than 18 are free. For information, call 669-6144 or visit currier.org.