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Two new exhibits reopen the Sheldon Museum

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Posted on March 22, 2018 |
By Addison Independent



Long Point, Lake Champlain, George Lathrop, 1938.jpg
James Pease Blair's exhibit features dozens of photographs found in the museum's Research Center, including this one of Long Point, Lake Champlain, by George Lathrop, 1938; below, Maids at Bread Loaf Inn, ca. 1900. Bottom, a wood sculpture by John Cross: Ultimate Yankees Fan, 1984.

Middlebury’s Henry Sheldon Museum was closed for the month of February for “exhibit planning, installation and research.” And it was worth the wait. The museum reopened earlier this month and has two exhibits you won’t want to miss.

James Pease Blair, a now retired award-winning photographer with National Geographic, has curated a collection of three dozen photographs found in the museum’s Research Center. The images depict landscapes, townscapes and citizens over 100 years. This exhibit will be complimented by period clothing from the Sheldon’s vintage apparel collection.

The second exhibit features a retrospective of John Cross’ whimsical wood carvings. Just in time to correspond with the contemporary folk artist’s celebration of his 60th reunion at Middlebury College.

Both exhibits will be on view March 20-July 8 at the Henry Sheldon Museum, 1 Park Street, Middlebury. For more info call (802) 388-2117 or visit henrysheldonmuseum.org.

Our Town Our Town: Love, Joy, Sadness and Baseball — 100 Years of Photographs from the Sheldon Museum

Curated by James Pease Blair

Upon his retirement, James Pease Blair (who goes by Jim) and his wife Elise settled in Vermont.  Blair, an award-winning photographer with National Geographic, became entranced by the singular photography collection found in the Research Center of the Henry Sheldon Museum, where he found exceptional images that traced the citizens, landscapes and townscapes of Addison County and the Lake Champlain region.

Collaborating with Sheldon Museum Archivist Eva Garcelon-Hart, he has chosen three dozen remarkable photographs that will be displayed in the exhibit “Our Town Our Town: Love, Joy, Sadness and Baseball — 100 Years of Photographs from the Sheldon Museum.” The exhibit will be on view at the museum in Middlebury from March 20-July 8. 

His selections for this exhibit reflect a photographer’s unique eye, developed in his early training from celebrated American photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind  and while studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in photography at the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  Later during his long career at the National Geographic he traveled the world, advancing his art, resulting in further photographic achievements.

The exhibit features single and group portraits of Vermonters — both the celebrated and the ordinary citizen, village scenes capturing disasters and daily life, landscapes of Vermont’s treasured mountains and lakes.

Aerial landscape photographs were taken by George N. Lathrop (1900-1983), who owned or managed sporting goods stores in Bristol and at New Haven Junction.  A self-taught photographer, he learned to fly in the 1920s and helped establish the Bristol airport in the early 1930s.  He flew with the left side door of his plane removed, using a Fairchild F- 8 camera with a large Zeiss lens for his aerial shots, to include many panoramic views of Lake Champlain.

A century of life in the Middlebury region is highlighted in this exhibit curated by Blair. Supplementing the exhibit, will be clothing from the Sheldon Museum’s vintage apparel collection that corresponds to the attire featured in the photographs.

American Wood Sculptor John Cross: A Contemporary Figurative Folk Artist

This year, the masterful contemporary folk artist John Cross celebrates his 60th reunion at Middlebury College. To honor his work, the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury offers a retrospective of Cross’ whimsical wood carvings.

The exhibit, “American Wood Sculptor John Cross: A Contemporary Figurative Folk Artist,” will be on view from March 20-July 8.

Few would have predicted that an economics major at Middlebury College who earned a Master’s degree in business at the University of Chicago would have begun carving during his career as a creative copywriter at a premier New York advertising agency.  Humor, perseverance and imagination are the skills reflected in all phases of his life journey.

Cross began whittling while watching the filming of commercials for which he wrote the scripts for Proctor & Gamble and for Toyota.  His ad copy promoted such iconic brands as Scope mouthwash and Crest toothpaste.  During the day he wrote jingles from his advertising office in New York City, then headed for 813 Broadway where he shared a rented loft with sculptor William King, coincidentally in the same building where Wolf Kahn painted. 

Kahn, who now maintains a summer studio near Brattleboro, is known for his sumptuous landscapes, and King, who died in 2015, worked in clay, wood, bronze, vinyl, burlap and aluminum.  Cross, King and Kahn were among the poets, artists and museum professionals who gathered for drinks and conversation at the renowned Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village to encourage one another.

Cross has always worked with wood, in particular sugar pine.  He favors figurative renderings of sports figures, especially the players and fans of the New York Yankees, artists, sideshow performers, Miss America contestants, fishermen, operatic stars and playful everyday characters.  He has researched players from the Negro Baseball League and commemorated them in compelling wood carvings.

For many years Cross was represented by Jay Johnson, owner of a leading New York City American Folk Art gallery on Madison Avenue and later by the David Findlay Jr. Gallery on Fifth Avenue, and currently by the Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, N.Y.  His carvings are in the public collections of the Museum of American Folk Art and the Smithsonian, and in the private collections of Garrison Keillor and Ali McGraw.

Cross and his wife Linda, also an artist, reside and work from their home studios in Elizaville, N.Y. The Hudson River is nearby, as is the scenic rail line which provides them easy access to New York City galleries and museums and their son Peter Cross (Middlebury College ’93) and his family, who live in Manhattan.

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