Sheldon exhibit invites viewers to carve conclusions

MIDDLEBURY — A native of New York City, whose parents were both artists, Marks journeyed to Vermont to attend Middlebury College. Following his 1966 graduation, he traveled, tried a series of part-time jobs — construction, hospitality, community organizing and social work through VISTA (Philadelphia, Penn. and Mud Creek, Ken.,) teaching, and sales, but felt unfulfilled.
While in California he befriended a guitar maker, who made a perfectly good living as an artist. A lover of smoking pipes, Marks embarked on his artistic career as a pipe maker. His artist’s statement states the idea came to him “out of the blue,” but perhaps had its seed in visiting museums in Manhattan, living with his artist parents, and as a drummer.
He soon returned to Vermont and settled in the Champlain Valley permanently. He chose briar burl as his medium and has been making quality smoking pipes for over 40 years.  He continues to sculpt from a large quantity of Corsican and Greek plateau briar he purchased in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1974. Marks is known internationally for the quality, design, and craftsmanship of his handmade pipes.
In the 1990s Andrew Marks began to explore other artistic expressions for his briar. The Sheldon exhibit highlights the resulting “fantasy creatures.” All are mounted on stone, many depicting imaginary animals. Marks studied and sought inspiration from the beliefs and “fetish carvings” of the Native American Zuni tribe, found primarily in New Mexico.  The Zuni people believe that all things are imbued with spirit, especially animals. Their fetish carvings are thought to assist in healing, hunting, fertility and protection.
On display at the Sheldon are 16 “fantasy creatures” that invite interpretation.  Animals, possibly represented, include squirrels or chipmunks, a slithering snake targeted by approaching mongoose, an otter or mink, and several feasibly human forms in meditation or conversation.  Visitors will delight in conjuring their own conclusions.  Also on display will be a hands-on sculpture which guests are urged to handle, discovering its smoothness, grace, and beauty from what was once ancient deformed wood with knob-like protrusions.
The Henry Sheldon Museum offers a diverse, in-depth look at the history and art of the mid-Lake Champlain region of Vermont.  The Museum is located at One Park Street 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. 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: henrysheldonmuseum.org.

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