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Floating Sculptures: Traditional and Contemporary New England Decoys

 

Examples of the rich history of decoy carving will be on view in Floating Sculptures: Traditional and Contemporary New England Decoys at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, from June 22 through August 24, 2003.

While the age of the market gunners as well as the decoys they made and "shot over" has passed, the beautiful sculptures they created are today some of the most sought-after collectables. They are considered to be one of the truly unique American art forms.

Historical working decoys by many well-known craftsmen such as Joe Lincoln, Elmer Crowell and Lothrup Holmes demonstrate diverse styles and methods. While we can appreciate the sculptural lines of a Lincoln goose, or the paint job on a Crowell pintail, a decoy that didn't bring in the wild ducks had no place in a hunter's rig. As Joe Lincoln said in a Boston Traveler article in 1933, "I've studied the wild birds all my life, and I always give the decoys the appearance of fat, contented ducks or geese as the case may be. If a flock of wooden decoys looks happy and satisfied, they'll tole in the birds, but if they look strained and scared, they're worse than no decoys at all."

Three contemporary artists who "fit the bill" are Gary Starr who carves decoys, shorebirds, songbirds and ornaments out of native basswood in his Weybridge, Vermont studio. Bob Mosher works out of his home.in Hingham, Massachusetts in a studio no larger than the small shed Joe Lincoln worked from in the same town almost a century earlier. He carves traditional decoys from northern white cedar, using a variety of drawknives, hand knives and rasps. Steve Weaver of Sandwich, Massachusetts carves a variety of ducks and birds using both traditional and contemporary tools and methods.

A goal of the exhibition is to show a local portion of the rich tradition of the art, as well as the ongoing craft. Not a bad place to end up as Bob Mosher would say, "for a craft that was once used mainly to generate supper."

An opening reception is scheduled for June 22 from 1:30 - 3:30.

 

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