Finding the Unexpected

While I know it is frustrating to read a review of a museum exhibition that has already closed, I felt I must share with you my recent tour of the Smithsonian exhibition “Women, Art & Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise.”

This exhibit has been touring the country for three years, but I just had my first opportunity to see it as I was driving through Nashville, where it was in its final days at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Hopefully, many of you saw it in New Orleans, Princeton, Grand Rapids, Miami, Toronto or Jacksonville.

I mention this for the simple fact that many of us, upon hearing the words “Newcomb Pottery,” would immediately recognize it and might well know the basic story behind the famous pottery which the Newcomb coeds designed and decorated in New Orleans from the 1890s until 1948.

I had seen a major Newcomb pottery exhibit in Cincinnati several years ago, as well as the Stickley Museum’s exhibit of early Newcomb pottery, which also just closed this month at Craftsman Farms, so I walked into this one expecting to see more moss-draped cypress trees beneath a misty moonlit sky.

And, yes, there were a couple of examples of this popular Newcomb design.

But what I also discovered, and what prompted me to write about an exhibit that has since closed, was that the women at Newcomb College did far more than simply drape moss from tree limbs on clay vases formed on the potter’s wheel by their mentor, Joseph Meyer.

As early as 1901 they also began making pierced metal lampshades for their pottery bases, soon followed by bookends, jewelry, tiles, candlesticks, and even a limited amount of sterling silver flatware. The young women who worked in the adjacent sewing room (lower photo) produced some of the most stunning Arts and Crafts table-runners I have ever laid eyes upon, with classic designs that hold you spellbound as you absorb their beauty and craftsmanship.

And so here is my point: there is something new to be discovered in any museum exhibition, even if it is one you feel you already know.

So, I hope you will take the time to browse the websites of museums in your area, and to regularly check our calendar of events here at this website before you travel out of town, so that you don’t find yourself repeating this story of mine. After wandering rather aimlessly around Manhattan for an afternoon before my early morning flight, I found myself standing in my hotel elevator at six o�clock in the evening looking at a shopping bag decorated with an Edward Hopper painting. I could not help but ask the woman about it, to which she replied, “Why, didn�t you know there is a major Hopper exhibit at the Whitney?”

Which, of course, had closed for the day.

Until next Monday,

Avoid missed opportunities.