Marguerite Zorach's Eden, on Display at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine
Recently I posted on Facebook that I was in desperate need of a mental health day and that my preferred destination for travel on that day would be Rockland, Maine. As it turned out, my husband was off from work on Monday, July 5th, the weather had cleared after a terrible weekend, and off we went to Rockland.
I rarely go to Rockland without a visit to the Farnsworth Art Museum. Every once in a while I'm in Rockland with my dog, Wyeth, so of course, museums are off limits then. We left Wyeth home for this trip, however, so all was normal.
At the time of this writing, the Farnsworth is having an exhibit called Betsy Wyeth: Partner and Muse. The exhibit is a moving and educational collection of pieces by NC, Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth that was bequeathed to the Farnsworth after Betsy Wyeth's passing in 2020. These works were part of Andrew and Betsy's personal collection and therefore were rarely, if ever, seen in public previously. It was this exhibit that I was most excited to see when we purchased our tickets on Monday, and it certainly did not disappoint. The paintings are on exhibit through January 9th, 2022 and I highly recommend taking a look.
However...there is another exhibit ongoing through January 2nd, 2022 that I was previously unaware of called Women of Vision. The exhibit honors thirteen women who have contributed significantly to Maine culture. As I was walking through this exhibit area, I was admiring all of the work. Then I saw it...
This hooked rug, Eden by Marguerite Zorach, is incredibly commanding when seen in person. It is large (and in charge...), with so much texture and detail, hooked mostly in wide cuts, some curling over on themselves. The museum description says it is wool on burlap, backed with linen, but after looking at it closely (not touching), I am not certain that is 100% accurate. There were some loops that didn't look like wool to me, but that is a small detail. I am also not sure if this is the original color palette or if there is some fade to it, having been hooked over a century ago in 1917. It is truly affecting to stand in front of it. I was awed and somewhat overcome.
Here are some detail photos of the piece:
The Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine also has some wonderful paintings by Marguerite Zorach that I have become familiar with, but on this day at the Farnsworth I discovered another of her paintings in their collection.
While I always find myself standing for a long time in front of Zorach's paintings, and this one, Land and Development of New England, was no exception, there was something especially tactile and energetic about the hooked rug, Eden, that made it hard to walk away from at all. I think my husband was amused, without fully understanding, that I would have camped out in front of Eden for hours had it been possible. I admire and am grateful to the family who donated it to the Farnsworth so that the public could enjoy this remarkable piece of textile art. To view other objects in the Farnsworth's Marguerite Zorach collection, click here.
If anyone ever questioned that the technique of traditional rug hooking could yield fine art, Marguerite Zorach's work puts that question definitively to rest. I often tell my students not to allow any limitations on their imagination when it comes to developing their technique and style. The notion of treating rug hooking as though it should have limitations in the form of hard and fast rules or rigid genres is shattered when one encounters a piece like Eden, or, for that matter, much of the work being done by contemporary hooking artists all over the world.
The Farnsworth is a treasure in Midcoast Maine and I highly recommend a visit. I would also like to add that the museum shop there has kindly ordered my book, Heritage Skills for Contemporary Life: Seasons at the Parris House, to carry in their book section. So if you visit, you may pick up a copy (and lots of other beautiful things that help support the museum) there if you'd like.
I hope this post has inspired your own creativity in whatever medium you practice and that you will confidently allow your imagination to drive your process.
- Elizabeth Miller