I didn’t expect to be so inspired, moreso endeared, by the visit to the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland. Both were true!
The lovely small building with a handful of galleries sits on water in the quaint small town about 30 minutes from Ocean City.
There are cute little outdoor trails and a “sculpture garden” with about 10 bird sculptures and a bird hotel–so adorbs!
Inside the first gallery we went into was the World Championship Gallery– dozens of paintings, sculptures, photographs and more depicting eagles, swans, owls, geese, ducks, herons, songbirds and more–from hyper realism to abstract, in city scenes, wildlife and independent.
All that complemented each work was a label with title, artist name, location of artist and award name/year. No other artistic or historical context!
But that was okay!
as my daughter said– “this is so easy to look at! I don’t have to read a bunch of things about it, I can just enjoy the object for what it is!”
Though I’m a bit obsessed with context as interpretations can vary…this really worked for the art we were viewing. It was, in fact, just about enjoying the work, the birds, just as they are. How many interpretations of a bird can there be, after all, no matter where you’re from?
Then–the decoy study gallery! Oh my! So many decoys from different eras and areas – mostly from inside North America, but a small international section as well. Here’s one from Sweden (left).
And….there WAS TONS of context!! There was information on each stage of the decoy making process! It was so cool to see into this world I had no clue about!
THEN! The Ward Brothers Workshop Gallery! The founders of the Museum, Steve and Lem Ward – donated objects from their workshops as well as decoys made throughout their life from childhood, some of their duck/fishing inspired art, poetry and other ephemera!
That’s my blurry photo of part of the recreated workshop studio. So cool to go into their world! They were barbers by trade and no art training but some really rad decoys and even poetry – check this out –
There was no context given for the poem at right, and no easily found mention of significant others/partners. I don’t know what perspective this was written from or anything! But kinda a cool random reminder to share feelings, amongst the ducks!
YES, this is two white men–did the Museum acknowledge the Indigenous beginnings of decoys? Thankfully YES! In The Decoy in Time Gallery (small pic below from website; for some reason my photo isn’t uploading.) You can see a mannequin man with a large gun, he’s sitting in an actual hunting boat replica with decoys around him! Super cool.
The immersive hallway is:
“is a reconstructed wetland environment complete with decoys, birds, hunting paraphernalia, morning mist, and even calling ducks. With woodlands to one side and marsh one the other, the gallery tells the history of the use of the decoy by Native Americans, early settlers, market hunters, and sport and contemporary hunters.” (website)
I actually entered it backwards, so started from today and went back in time…
When I first saw the Indigenous person painted on the wall (right), I immediately worried; it appears to be dressed as a Native Plains person.
[Often, in mass US media, the depiction of Indigenous people is misconstrued as always a Plains tribe Indian, with a feathered headdress, living in a teepee. These simplified, inaccurate depictions grouping all Native Nations cultures together, come from the European settler perspective, situating the subjects as a historical “other” and dismissing the many complex cultures, identities, and living situations of Indigenous peoples then and today. Indigenous people’s clothing varied by Nation for many reasons.]
On the main large wall text, above left, “Native American” is generalized; but I learn in some smaller text that the area was home to Nanticoke Indian Tribe (part of Lenape), and upon some research, found that they, too, dressed similarly to Plains nation peoples, with feathered headdress.
The display contextualized and informed well about decoy and boating as Indigenous created.
Lastly….two white-walled galleries (meh but oh well) displayed contemporary artwork on flies (one gallery) and feather art (other gallery). Again! – well contextualized recognizing Indigenous originations of such artwork, and really diverse array of media and intent of work.
Highlights: in the Feathers exhibit, Chris Maynard‘s series of cut feathers crafted into tiny shapes of the bird which they came from and other sea/bird animals:
[white guy, I know…]
Rad glass feathers by artist Stacie Ratzin (who sadly I couldn’t find a website for online!) ->
and some cool Indigenous creations on loan by Pocomoke Indian Nation (below)…
The Flies exhibit was surprisingly cool too! Who knew there was an art to fishing flies?
[well maybe a lot of people…but not I!]
“They are made from feathers, fur, and other delicate materials in a dazzling array of colors and textures. They require refined skill to create, and often look to be as much an art form as lure.” (website)
Those at left crafted by three different people!! Wow. (Greg Hefner, Mike Valla, and Peggy Brenner)
The exhibit also includes other media depictions of flies – like this lovely painting almost reminiscent of the royal and rich vibe in 17th century North European still lifes!
The artist, Beth de Louiselle (cool name!) creates a lot of animal portraits and even some rad mini-animal portraits (see below–again reminds me of Renaissance painting miniatures!) I want one of my cat!!
All in all…
a great visit to a unique Museum.
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PS; my trip to Missouri last week was mostly healing my foot, didn’t get anywhere except playing mini-golf and going to the pool….visiting Omaha very soon to open a show at Petshop Gallery / experience Benson First Friday again, and visit for the first time (wasn’t there last time) Moonrise Gallery! More soon…