Through a selection of Shaker material chosen by artist Katie Stout from the Museum’s permanent collection, Fringe Selects explores the breadth of Shaker objects by taking a closer look at the objects on the “fringe”—colorful, ornamental, and less well-known than the minimalist, iconic Shaker pieces. Also on view are two new chairs created by Stout as a response to her exploration of Shaker material culture.
My initial interest in Shaker design came from the Shakers’ sense of material and how even the simplest object feels like a celebration and an exaltation of spirit. Their resourcefulness, simple solutions, and entrepreneurial genius have always been inspiring to me. While Shaker design is typically presented as cold, bald, and minimal – a manifestation of their virtues of purity and honesty – the truth is that the Shakers loved ruffles and color! I have found that the purity and honesty of Shaker design is reflected in the act of making, not just in minimal design, which resulted in a wide array of life affirming objects and art.
Fringe Selects offers a more textured perspective on Shaker design to counter the predominant belief that Shaker design is minimalist and strictly utilitarian. I chose objects, photos, and art from Shaker Museum’s collection that I found surprising and in contrast to the austerity one typically associates with Shakers. Turns out the Shakers lived with as much ornament and clutter as the least pious of us. Leave it to modernism to strip Shaker design of its doilies!
In addition to my selections from the Shaker Museum collection, I am excited to include two new chairs made in reaction to my findings in the collection. I was greatly inspired by the Shaker bonnets and cloaks made predominantly by Shaker women. I started by thinking of upholstery as the bonnet / cloak of the chair. As I began making these bonnet chairs, I fell into a more automatic and trance-like way of making – not dissimilar to that of the Shaker trances and production processes during the Era of Manifestations, an early 19th-century period when the Shakers were in communication with the spirit world. The end result became a silly frilly duo of cloaked and bonnet-ed chairs joined in a permanent Shaker dance.
Katie Stout (b. 1989, Portland, ME) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Katie is regarded as one of the leading designers of her generation and is known for utilizing a diverse range of media and unexpected techniques to create works ranging from sculptures to furniture. Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally and are in the permanent collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Dallas Museum of Art and the Museum of Art and Design in New York. She has been featured in T Magazine, the New York Times, Apartmento, Artforum and numerous other publications.
Fringe Selects was previously on view Friday through Sunday at 17 Main Street in Chatham, NY through March 28, 2021.
The exhibition has a complementary digital experience in partnership with Design Miami/ on the Shaker Museum YouTube channel. In the Work: Makers and Shakers, a discussion featuring Katie Stout and Shaker Museum Executive Director Lacy Schutz, can be viewed here.