Wild Kingdom: Dana Sherwood’s Old Lyme Show explores ‘Animal Appetite and Other Wild Encounters’ – theday.com | Candle Made Easy

Artist Dana Sherwood on the film set of The Artists’ Bedroom Bestiary in Old Lyme in 2021. (Photo by Paul Mutino, Courtesy of the artist)

A video still from Dana Sherwood: Animal Appetites and Other Encounters in Wildness at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. (All work by Dana Sherwood and courtesy of the artist and Denny Dimin Gallery, New York unless otherwise noted.)

Dana Sherwood’s set, which was outdoors at Old Lyme last year. The resulting work is featured in Animal Appetites and Other Encounters in Wildness at the Florence Griswold Museum. (All work by Dana Sherwood and courtesy of the artist and Denny Dimin Gallery, New York unless otherwise noted

A video still from Dana Sherwood: Animal Appetites and Other Encounters in Wildness at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. (All work by Dana Sherwood and courtesy of the artist and Denny Dimin Gallery, New York unless otherwise noted.)

A video still from Dana Sherwood: Animal Appetites and Other Encounters in Wildness at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. (All work by Dana Sherwood and courtesy of the artist and Denny Dimin Gallery, New York unless otherwise noted.)

“Face to Face in the Palmettos,” 2017, directed by Dana Sherwood

Seas of Horses and Cake, 2019, by Dana Sherwood

The bedroom sits on a lawn as if torn from a house, with only two walls remaining. It looks like a movie set, and it is.

The green wallpaper is decorated with drawings of raccoons. The antique-style furniture and fittings are reminiscent of the early 20th century.

At night the bedroom is arranged with food plates. Night vision cameras capture what is happening in the depths of the evening. Wild animals cautiously approach the room and dishes. You smell the food. They touch the offerings. You grab a piece and enjoy it.

Sometimes it’s a raccoon, using its paws like nimble hands. Another time it’s a mother possum with her babies on her back as she scoots across the bedroom.

The setup and resulting videos are by artist Dana Sherwood and the images were captured at Old Lyme last summer.

The videos – and the full bedroom set, which has been moved indoors – are part of the ‘Dana Sherwood: Animal Appetites and Other Encounters in Wildness’ exhibition, on view at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme.

The bedroom is said to pay homage to the 1910 bedroom featured in Florence Griswold’s boarding house, where Lyme Colony artists congregated at the time.

Sherwood’s set and cameras were set up last summer on the property of a neighboring site to the Flo Gris: the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center. Since the site used to be Bee and Thistle, there was a huge commercial kitchen that Sherwood was able to use to prepare food for the art installation.

It is a recent work by Sherwood, whose fascination with this process began by accident 11 years ago. Sherwood, who lives in Copake, NY, did time-based training in the landscape of the Art Omi arts center in upstate New York, where she displayed cakes designed to rot over time. Instead, she found the food had been looted by raccoons.

Jenny Parsons, Associate Curator at Flo Gris, says that Sherwood “found beauty in it and wanted to explore that element of the unexpected. She intentionally started doing projects that offer food to animals… I think Dana really pushes the boundaries of art and life by inviting the presence of wild animals to participate in her art.”

Parsons says the lack of control and the acceptance that things might not go as planned have become part of Sherwood’s journey — and part of the work itself. Parsons notes that the element of chance has a tradition throughout art history, from surrealism to the readymade.

As a result of each project, Sherwood received more invitations to perform her work in different locations. Scientists in Denmark, for example, suggested she travel there because the red deer are so tame that they can eat out of her hands. In fact, the deer were afraid of the presence of humans. They timidly began to approach the cake that Sherwood had left outside, but then walked away.

Sherwood was frustrated but recognized it, as quoted in the exhibition as saying, “When you invite the chaos of nature as a collaborator, you can’t tell what’s going to happen.”

Parsons says Sherwood had an epiphany; She realized that there is something wonderful about animals just being animals.

“As much as we try to think like them and give them something they want out of generosity or in an attempt to connect, nature is just unpredictable, and therein actually is optimism,” says Parsons.

Sherwood tailored the food in various displays based on what the animals seemed to like, and eventually came to this revelation: “No one eats kale!”

Sherwood creates whimsical ink and watercolor works inspired by the videos and her interest in literature such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Connection to Flo Gris

Parsons met Sherwood in 2018 when she and Flo Gris curator Amy Kurtz Lansing stopped by the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts when Sherwood was speaking there.

Parsons recalls, “I was just blown away by the way her work was so avant-garde but really had so many connections to our core story (at Flo Gris), particularly through animals, the environment and food. All of this is so important to the story of the Lyme Art Colony and why the artists came here in the early 20th century. They came to paint the landscape, to immerse themselves in nature. Many of them came to paint animals on the surrounding farms. Some of them even interacted with Miss Florence’s cats – there were animals right at Griswold House that were domesticated. Then we know that they loved food, that Miss Florence grew food in her garden, that she had fruit from her orchards, she grew vegetables.”

Some of the Lyme Colony artists said they really enjoyed dining at Miss Florence’s and that was one of the many reasons they kept coming back.

“When we saw that Dana’s practice included so many of these intertwined themes, we just thought this would be a really great way to continue this journey we’ve been on, which is programs and exhibitions about art and the environment and connections between these things . Your work would be a really original and unique way to show a different perspective,” says Parsons.

She notes that making art in a kitchen is different, but each can relate to food or food or social connections. This is really at the heart of Sherwood’s work, fundamental ideas about coming together at the table, eating, sharing and connecting.

Night vision at Old Lyme

Sherwood became Flo Gris’ artist-in-residence in the summer of 2021. The set for the Old Lyme installation was built in May of that year (Sherwood’s studies for the set were turned over to Day + Age at Ledyard, a design building and restoration company that designed and built the set based on Sherwood’s ideas). Filming followed.

When Sherwood sets out the plates of food, she wants them to be works of art. She spends time pouring food into Jell-O molds and making aspic.

“One of the things that’s important to her is not just that she’s feeding (the animals), but that she’s feeding them something very beautiful in this almost ritualistic way, so she creates this kind of landscape still life,” says Parsons .

Sherwood was inspired by the memento mori still lifes of Dutch masters, where everything looks beautiful and lush but rots on closer inspection.

“It’s really a story about the circle of life and the idea of ​​life and death,” says Parsons.

Sherwood researches the wild diet of animals. But she also found early on that when she offered processed foods because it was simply what her roommates had hidden in the closet, some animals liked it, presumably eating it for access to trash cans or dumpsters, Parsons notes.

The goal is never to give them anything unhealthy, says Parsons. In fact, the creatures at Old Lyme loved vegetables, fruit, chicken, and raw beef meatballs.

Animal Attraction

What’s so appealing about Sherwood’s work? Part of it, Parsons thinks, is that people are drawn to animal videos. Friends share videos online about a panda rolling down a hill at the zoo or a cat performing a trick.

“I think we always want to understand them. We can’t help but think through this anthropomorphic, human-centric lens and want to give our pets a voice and name them. I think Dana gives us a whimsical side of it that lets us see a side of them that we haven’t seen before,” says Parsons.

And there’s the fascinating realization that these animals are on the fringes of our lives all the time, even though they’re normally invisible to us.

Snails in the pension

Sherwood also created an installation for the Griswold House dining room, where slices of cake lie on the table along with live snails in a terrarium. The title of the installation, The Confectionary Lives of Artists and Other Organisms, alludes to Sherwood’s interest in 19th-century literature, fantasy, and storybooks.

“It’s this living piece that develops, and it’s just been wonderful to see audiences react to it because it invites them to come into the historic home and experience it in a different way,” says Parsons .

“As she thought about the play,[Sherwood said]she thought about all the beings that had been in the room, surrounding that table. This house has so much history. We tell a story of the Lyme Art Colony, but there’s also the story of Miss Florence’s family who were here, there was a girls’ school here, there was of course the colony’s artists and even the people who lived here before it was a museum became . Now, of course, it’s a museum, and visitors circle this table every day and look at the paintings and imagine who was sitting there,” says Parsons.

“So she presents this kind of fantasy meal as this invitation to invite anyone and everyone to come together in this imaginary dream scenario, and then the snails are in there, eating all the time, and the piece keeps changing. I just love how it sparks all kinds of imaginations that everyone can relate to because we’ve all been sitting at some kind of dining table. It’s this ongoing story about food and sharing, and the terrariums are about life.”


What: “Dana Sherwood: Animal Appetites and Other Encounters in Wildness”

Where: Florence Griswold Museum, 96 Lyme St, Old Lyme

When: Until September 18; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Admission: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $8 for students, free under 12

Contact: (860) 434-5542, florencegriswoldmuseum.org

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