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Virginia museum explores ‘Tennessee fancy’

The “Chicken Clock” from Tennessee Fancy, Wharton Esherick’s “Hessain Hills Chair”, and “Partially Draped Cabinet” by Esherick exhibitor Aspen Golann.

The “Chicken Clock” from Tennessee Fancy, Wharton Esherick’s “Hessain Hills Chair”, and “Partially Draped Cabinet” by Esherick exhibitor Aspen Golann.

The William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, Va. is hosting “Tennessee Fancy: Decorative Arts of Northeast Tennessee 1780-1940” through Oct. 31. The exhibition of furniture, pottery, paintings, fabrics and more explores the origins of the unique decorative arts of Tennessee and how styles flourished across the state line.

Known briefly as the State of Franklin, the counties of Northeast Tennessee produced artists that are said to have incorporated bold designs in their work. In furniture, for example, pieces with highly patterned woods and rope and tassel inlay were made by what were known as the Greene County cabinetmakers. The methods and practices of these artists led Tennessee to have a fancy decorative style all its own by the mid-nineteenth century, according to the museum.

“The traditions and heritage of the early settlers in Tennessee began to develop into a unique decorative style as Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton cabinetry styles trickled in along the Great Road, and as German, English, Scottish, and Irish immigrants pushed westward after the American revolution. Throughout the nineteenth century, Tennessee’s style was cultivated by waves of settlers and pioneers expanding further west. They drove the market by seeking to fill their homes with functional pieces that also reflected their newfound prosperity and permanence,” the museum explains on its website.

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Esherick virtual exhibit

The Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern, Pa. opened its 27th annual juried exhibition, “Wood and…”, available online through Sept. 12.

The exhibition honors Esherick, the late master woodworker who liked to include a wide range of materials in his furniture, artwork and architecture. The 26 projects in the exhibit incorporate clay, glass, fabric, metal, and LED lights, for example.

“Taken together, the works in ‘Wood and...’ argue for the vast potential of material interdisciplinarity, which reflects the experimentation with materials, object types, and genres that were a critical part of Esherick’s own artistic practice,” according to a museum release.

Exhibiting artists include 1908 Design (Jeff Tummelson and Sina Meier), Kaillee Bosch, Christian Burchard, Jackie Cassidy, Kate Davidson, Annie Evelyn, Aspen Golann, Duncan Gowdy, Elizabeth Heller, Rebecca Juliette-Duex, Kristy Kún (with Christian Burchard), Jill Kyong (with Jim Christiansen), Eric Laxman, Phillip Mann, Jillian Matthews, Delmar McComb, Tom Neville, Philip Roberts, Brittany Rudolf, Abraham Tesser (with Olena Nebuchadnezzar), Travis Townsend, Ruby Troup, Jason Turnidge, Nina Valdera, Cindy Pei-Si Young, and Stephen Yusko.

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This article was originally published in the June 2021 issue.

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