Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Found: Mr. Gorey & Ms. Hosmer

By Jen of Parrish Relics

This is my first blog post for Boston Handmade, so happy to be a part of this group of talented local artists!

The other day my husband and I went into Boston to visit City Hall and pay a parking ticket we never knew we had. (boo!) The train schedule was a bit spaced apart, so I suggested we make it a fun trip by stopping by the Boston Athenaeum to see the Edward Gorey exhibition before it disappears on June 4.

Needless to say the Exhibition itself was just as delightful as expected. A perfect collection of sketches, toy prototypes, tiny books and fastidiously inked illustrations that epitomized his unique and twisted view of the world set up in two rooms by chronological order. It was interesting to see the changes in his work and fascinations as time went on, never losing his dark sense of humor (Loved his “Self Portrait with Floating Cats” so very much!).

What struck me most at the Athenaeum however, was a sculpture in the main information lobby. Commanding attention at the center of the room, a marble child-creature with wings on top of his head was playing leapfrog over an owl. I am a huge fan of owls and was immediately drawn to the amazing detail in the owl’s feathers, the strange and slightly creepy expression on the face of the boy-beast. I went over to the information desk to ask about it, as I could see no brass title generally seen near sculpture in a museum. The helpful woman at the counter had to look it up in her notes, and told me it was sculpted by a local artist by the name of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer.

Surprised that I hadn’t heard of her before, or wasn’t familiar with her name, came home and immediately looked her up. Sadly there isn’t much to be found other than in books that are now on my Amazon wish list! What I did find out from simple google searches was that she grew up a doctor’s daughter in Watertown, a nature lover who was encouraged to spend much of her time outdoors after her brothers died from tuberculosis. Her father created a gondola for her to ride down the Charles in, much to the horror of the gossiping neighbors who felt she was terribly spoiled and did not act like a “proper” young lady. She continued to fight against social barriers by studying anatomy, fairly unheard of for a woman of her time. Later she went to Rome to study sculpture, and when her father ran out of money and asked her to come back she became determined and found a way to support herself with her Art.

She lived from 1830-1908, and created some incredible sculptures…hoping to visit as many as I can in person. Her work, Sleeping Faun is on view at the new “Art of the Americas Wing” at the MFA Boston, next on my list to see up close.
I encourage everyone that can to visit the Gorey exhibit of course, but also to take the time to get to know the work of a lesser known female artist while you are there. I believe it is a part of the permanent collection so you don’t have to worry about missing it!

Also a nature lover, I will be participating in the upcoming “Winslow Shire Renaissance Faire benefitting the Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary in Norton MA on June 25 & 26. Please stop by and visit my booth (and the adorable goats!)

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