Exhibitions
David Ellsworth, Lunar Sphere, 2000. Spalted sugar maple. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Ruth and David Waterbury (Yale B.A. 1958), in honor of Christopher Monkhouse for bringing wood art to the MIA
Derek Bencomo, Shadow Dancer, Fourth View, 2003. Koa root. Collection of Ruth and David Waterbury, B.A. 1958. Photo by Robert Fogt
Robyn Horn, Full Circle, Slipping Stone Series, 2005. Jarrah burl. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Ruth and David Waterbury (Yale B.A. 1958). Photo by Robert Fogt
May 6, 2013

Conversations with Wood: Selections from the Waterbury Collection

May 17–August 18, 2013

The Yale University Art Gallery presents works from one of the nation’s finest collections of wood art in the exhibition Conversations with Wood: Selections from the Waterbury Collection (May 17–August 18, 2013). The exhibition features more than 70 objects from the 500 works in the collection of Minneapolis collectors Ruth and David Waterbury. Ranging from exquisitely turned wood bowls to large, sculptural pieces, these objects are complemented by select works given by the Waterburys to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Yale University Art Gallery. Conversations with Wood reflects the evolution of the field over the past 25 years, from one with a focus on the lathe and wood turning to an artistic field that now includes many more processes. The exhibition is on view from May 17 through August 18 and is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, Conversations with Wood: The Collection of Ruth and David Waterbury.

Exhibition Overview

Artists working in wood have produced increasingly diverse examples of their craft. The first practitioners used a lathe to turn the wood while the artist shaped it; thus, the early name of “wood turning.” In the late 1990s the field came to be known as “wood art” as it began to include the various processes practiced today—carving, piercing, and painting among them. The Waterburys have embraced the changing field of wood art and its artists since the late 1980s, collecting pieces from simple turned bowls to objects highlighting irregularities in the wood to works that explore imaginative ways to manipulate the medium. Founding members of the organization Collectors of Wood Art, the Waterburys not only have built one of the nation’s premier collections but also have given support to and forged enduring relationships with many wood artists. “As leading collectors, Ruth and David Waterbury have played a central role in raising the visibility of wood art nationally and building a collection here at Yale,” says Patricia E. Kane, Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts, Yale University Art Gallery. “This exhibition is a rare opportunity to view a collection of this caliber, and to learn more about the recent history and innovation of contemporary wood artists.” Both the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue feature the artists’ voices, which gives another dimension to understanding the works of art in this collection. These “conversations” came from the nearly 130 living artists represented in the collection; they shared comments or memories about their Waterbury Collection pieces.

Prominent international artists in the exhibition include Michelle Holzapfel, Robyn Horn, Todd Hoyer, William Hunter, Ron Kent, Michael Mode, Hayley Smith, Alan Stirt, and Bob Stocksdale. The exhibition also reflects the great variety of artists and the multiple scales of objects that define the field today. For example, the show includes works as diverse as Christian Burchard’s Torsos , which covers a large expanse of all with ethereal floating forms; Jack R. Slentz’s table sculpture, carved cube On the Edge; and Michael Hosaluk’s amusing Family. Stunning sculptures, such as William Hunter’s Garden Songs and Derek Bencomo’s Shadow Dancer, Fourth View, showcase remarkable technical and artistic skill combined with exceptionally beautiful specimens of wood. Mark Sfirri’s Rejects from the Bat Factory and Giles Gilson’s Gravity Bottle are among the exhibition’s more playful pieces.

Exhibition organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Presentation at the Yale University Art Gallery made possible by the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund.

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