Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood 2019

Rick and Laura Brown

May 29 - october 27

Director’s Foreword 
Artists-in-Residence Rick and Laura Brown spent the month of June 2018 at Chesterwood. Inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape and having a passion to create monumental shapes and forms out of wood, they were drawn into the Site’s aging New England forest with sketchbooks and cameras in hand. From their frequent walks, sometimes alone or together, the Browns cut and assembled new, three-dimensional models and placed them in front of large photographic prints of specific places in the woods to mark their locations. They were beginning to curate a site-specific exhibition as an expression of their wonderment not only of the size and variety of the trees themselves, but how they are connected below the surface in an unseen world. Daniel Chester French often placed his own work out-of-doors as well as the work of his artist friends. Since 1978, this outdoor sculptural tradition continues at Chesterwood.  The Brown’s have exhibited their work at Chesterwood before in group shows dating back to 2006 but this is their first solo exhibition here. We are pleased to host an annual sculpture show as one of our most important programs during the season. 
- Donna Hassler, Executive Director 


Artists’ Statement 

One Impulse from a Vernal Wood consists of a number of large-scale sculpture installations integrated into carefully selected sites within the boundaries of the woodlands at Chesterwood. This forest, cherished by Daniel Chester French, is a living example of an old-growth New England forest. Trees are perhaps our most important partners on the planet. Almost every culture has a designated ‘sacred tree.’ Trees are noble symbols of strength and this natural treasure provides an opportunity to utilize many large trees.  For many years we have collaborated using storm-damaged, standing dead, or fallen trees, or trees slated for removal. In this elaborate assemblage of various site-specific installations we have chosen to “work with” elements provided by nature and natural forces acting over a given area over many years in and around and within this complex community of plants and animals.  

The exhibition title, One Impulse from a Vernal Wood, is a reference to the late 18th century poem, The Tables Turned, by William Wordsworth.  Wordsworth calls out to his readers, “Let Nature be your teacher.”  

One impulse from a vernal wood  
May teach you more of man,  
Of moral evil and of good,  
Than all the sages can.  
. . . Come forth, and bring with you a heart that watches and receives.  

In addition, over the years our art practice has been informed by the “Gaia hypothesis” proposed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis: “the planet earth is a living creature. . . a biological super-organism—a planetary body—that adjusts and regulates itself.” In this exhibition, each sculpture installation has been inspired by the scientific work of forester Peter Wohlleben and botanist Suzanne Simard, who have determined trees communicate underground through a complex network of root systems and fungal matter.  Simard suggests that “Trees Can Talk.” Perhaps in a place where science meets closely with the arts, our works loosely reference their breakthroughs in scientific inquiry. 
- Rick and Laura Brown, June 2019

Rick and Laura Brown are the co-founders of Handshouse Studio, Inc. a non-profit educational organization that initiates hands-on projects to explore history, understand science, and perpetuate the arts. This summer they are running a series of programs to coincide with their exhibition. Find out more here.

Contemporary Sculpture Show Programs: