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Local photographers cast new eye on Sheldon collection

MIDDLEBURY — Since this past fall, five Middlebury-area photographers have been exploring the collections of the Henry Sheldon Museum and found a wealth of inspiring material. Photographs of the objects they discovered will be on view at the museum in the exhibition “Focus on the Sheldon” from March 7 through May 13.
An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 10, 5–7 p.m. In addition, at noon on Wednesday, March 15, the five photographers will participate in a panel discussion led Pieter Broucke, Middlebury College professor of art and architecture.
Suki Fredericks, Paul Gamba, Kate Gridley, Kirsten Hoving and Eric Nelson have photographed items ranging from dolls to fabrics and eyeglasses to a sculpted dog and a life-size horse. In the process they have interpreted their subjects from a variety of perspectives.
Building on her interest in photographing animals, Fredericks focuses on a variety she found at the Sheldon, with surprising results. Gamba zeros in on fabric and lace patterns, drawing attention to the details of thread and stitching. Although she works primarily as a painter, Gridley applies her interest in portraiture to a series of moody photographs of dolls, whose personalities emerge through her lens.
Hoving investigates the Sheldon’s historic storage barn to produce eerie images of boxes of old tools and other strange objects. Nelson, who has been making small-scale sculpture for many years, photographs intricate compositions of small items ranging from toy soldiers to opera glasses.
In all of the photographs, recognizable objects are altered through light, composition, color, viewpoint, or post-processing. Paired with the actual objects, the photographs demonstrate the lure of the Sheldon’s remarkable collections and the transformative power of photography.
“Focus on the Sheldon” will feature both the photographs and the objects, representing only a small portion of the extensive collection of unique treasures amassed since the museum’s founding in 1882. The exhibit is curated by Kirsten Hoving, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Art History at Middlebury College, where she teaches courses on modern art and the history of photography.
A photographer herself, Hoving has shown her work in a variety of solo and group shows around the world. Her collaborative photo project, “Svala’s Saga,” done with her daughter Emma Powell, is currently on view at the Southeast Center for Photography in Greenville, S.C., and at the Far Eastern Museum of Fine Art in Khabarovsk, Russia. A longtime fan of the Sheldon Museum, Hoving has enjoyed getting to know the collection in greater detail through this project.
The Henry Sheldon Museum offers a diverse, in-depth look at the history and art of the Lake Champlain region of Vermont. The museum is located at 1 Park St. in downtown Middlebury across from the Ilsley Library. Museum hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Research Center hours: Thurs. and Fri. 1-5 p.m. or by appointment. Admission to the museum is $5 adults; $3 youth (6-18); $4.50 seniors; $12 family; $5 research center. For more information call 802-388-2117 or visit www.HenrySheldonMuseum.org.

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