Shaker Museum launched its latest exhibition Fringe Selects (through Feb. 28, 2021) in collaboration with artist/designer Katie Stout. Through a selection of Shaker material chosen by Stout from the Shaker Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition explores the breadth of Shaker objects by taking a closer look at the objects on the “fringe”—colorful, ornamental, and less well-known than the minimalist, iconic Shaker pieces. Also on view are two new chairs by Stout created as a response to her exploration of Shaker material culture. The exhibition is presented in Shaker Museum’s pop-up space located at 17 Main Street in downtown Chatham, NY, donated by Columbia County resident, Jack Shear, and near the future home of Shaker Museum’s permanent facility.
Stout professes a longheld interest in Shaker design. “Their resourcefulness, simple solutions, and entrepreneurial genius have always been inspiring to me.” According to Stout, Fringe Selects offers a more textured perspective on Shaker design to counter the predominant belief that Shaker design is minimalist and strictly utilitarian. “I chose objects, photos, and art from Shaker Museum's collection that I found surprising and in contrast to the austerity one typically associates with Shakers.” A crocheted stuffed dog, a baby blue pot holder in the shape of a squirrel, and colorful seat cushions are among the material on view. Photos depicting how the Shakers lived and worked, including the interior of a Shaker bedroom and a store, give context to how some of the material was used and sold by the Shakers at the time.
“We could not have wished for a more relevant and exciting collaborator than Katie [Stout],” states Lacy Schutz, Executive Director, Shaker Museum. “Partnering with today’s leading makers like Katie is a meaningful way to introduce Shaker material culture to a broader audience. There are more similarities between Shaker objects and Katie’s work than one might first assume. It’s interesting to see this selection of objects largely made by women through the lens of a contemporary female designer. That is what makes this exhibition incredibly impactful.”
The two chairs created by Stout and on view exclusively as part of Fringe Selects were inspired by the Shaker bonnets and cloaks which were predominatly made by Shaker women. Describing her process, Stout explains, “As I began making these bonnet chairs, I fell into a more automatic and trance-like way of making—not dissimilar to that of the Shaker trances and production processes during the Era of Manifestations, an early 19th-century period when the Shakers were in communication with the spirit world. The end result became a silly, frilly duo of cloaked and bonnet-ed chairs joined in a permanent
Fringe Selects is on view at the Shaker Museum, 17 Main Street in Chatham, NY, visit the museum's website for visitor guidelines.
The exhibition has a complementary digital experience in partnership with Design Miami/ on the Shaker Museum YouTube channel. “In the Work: Makers and Shakers”, a discussion featuring Katie Stout and Shaker Museum Executive Director Lacy Schutz can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3lx5UGt