Museum reopens with new exhibits

Wednesday February 1, 2012

BENNINGTON — The Bennington Museum returns this weekend from its annual January renewal/closure with a re-opening Community Day — when regular admission is $3 — on Saturday, Feb. 4.

New in the galleries are the opening of the Annual Student Art show, the first part of the “Memento Mori: The Art and Commerce of Gravestones in Bennington” exhibit, and the satirical works of local artist Bruce MacDonald in the Regional Arts Gallery.

Featured during Community Day is a guided tour of “Memento Mori” — Latin for “remember your mortality” — by Jamie Franklin, museum curator of collections, at 1 p.m., beginning in the galleries and, weather permitting, continuing into the Bennington Center Cemetery.

MacDonald will be discussing his art, at 3 p.m., in the Regional Artist Gallery. The exhibition runs through March 18.

The annual Student Art show brings together artwork of the region’s elementary, middle and high school students to the museum in a display ranging from whimsical projects by the young students to more advanced work of older students. Collage, pastels, pencil drawings, and photography are complimented by ceramic work, assembled pieces from recycled materials, paper sculptures, and more. The exhibit runs through Feb. 28, in the Flag and Intro galleries.

The museum’s special opening exhibit “Memento Mori: The Art and Commerce of Gravestones in Bennington” explores the artists, aesthetics, and economics involved in the creation of these poignant memorials to lives lost. The exhibition takes place in two phases: The first phase, on view through may 22, features photographs of gravestones taken by Daniel Farber (1906-1998), while the second phase, opening on March 10, features original gravestones, including the markers (head and foot) created to memorialize Bennington’s first minister, Rev. Jedidiah Dewey.

Farber, a self-taught photographer whose work is in the collection museums that include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was drawn to early American gravestones in the 1960s, eventually photographing more than 9,000 of them.

“The photographs are part of the permanent collection of the Museum, he had an exhibition here back in about 1990 … there are something like 110 or 120 in our collection,” Franklin said this week. “The Farber Collection, as it is known, is among the preeminent resources for the history of gravestone carving in America.”

A total of 19 Farber photographs were taken in the Bennington Center Cemetery, located between the museum and the Ancient First Church. these photos, according to Franklin, document the traditions and evolution of the first 30 years of gravestone carving in Bennington.

“They represent various carvers … the artistic evolution of gravestone carving in Bennington,” Franklin said. “From circa 1770 when gravestones started showing up here.”

Since Bennington wasn’t settled until 1761, about 100 years after gravestone carving became a specialized art in New England, seven other photographs by Farber, depicting gravestones from Massachusetts and Connecticut dating from the 1670s through the 1790s, provide a larger context for understanding the evolution of this artistic tradition, from frightening Puritanical death’s heads of the 17th Century to cherubic soul-effigies dating to the mid-to-late 18th Century.

The second part of the exhibit focuses on local headstones of historical note, led by the story of the gravestone of Rev. Jedidiah Dewey (1714-1778), which was received as a gift to the Museum in 2010. (See related story on page 1D.)

Also on view during phase II of this exhibit is a group of early stones from the Shaftsbury Center Cemetery, on loan from the Shaftsbury Historical Society, and selections from an archive of manuscripts documenting the Rule family of stonecutters from Arlington during the 1820s. a stone attributed to the Rules, inscribed to the memory of Rosannah Willoughby who died in 1814, is on loan to the exhibit from the Shaftsbury Historical Society.

In addition to the new, changing exhibits, the Museum continues “Celebrating Vermont’s Heritage” with the Bennington Pottery Gallery, the Military Gallery, Grandma Moses Schoolhouse and Interactive Family Center, as well as the Grandma Moses Gallery with the largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world, Early American Furniture and Art, and the Martin-Wasp Antique Car. The Bennington Museum is located at 75 Main St., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but closed on Wednesday. for more information call 802-447-1571 or visit

<a href=”,2005:cluster=, 02 Feb 2012 03:53:11 GMT”>Museum reopens with new exhibits

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