John Singer Sargent, Totem Pole, at Fenimore Museum

On Saturday, May 29, the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. becomes a hub of family-friendly activity with two exciting events: the long-awaited unveiling of the Museum’s newest acquisition – a thirty-foot Haida totem pole as well as the opening of the John Singer Sargent exhibition.

The Museum opens its doors at 10:00 a.m. offering the first public glimpses of the new exhibition John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women. This major exhibition features 25 works by John Singer Sargent, the foremost American portrait painter of the late 19th-century.

At 1:00 pm, the Museum unveils the latest addition to the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art &#8211 a Haida Totem Pole carved by Reg Davidson, Haida artist and master carver. The 30’ tall, 4’ wide cedar carving will showcase the work of a contemporary Native artist to a large public audience. Renowned art collector Mr. Eugene V. Thaw commissioned the internationally acclaimed artist to create the contemporary totem pole for the Museum which was completed and delivered early this spring.

Schedule: (Related activities begin Wednesday, May 26th)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

10:30 a.m. Village Library of Cooperstown – Story Hour
Children’s Librarian Martha Sharer will read a totem pole themed book and have a related craft project during their preschool story hour. Please bring your little one to share in this fun family time.

7:30 p.m. FAM Auditorium &#8211 Otsego Institute lecture

Chuuchkamalthnii (Ron Hamilton) This is Mine: Nuu-Chah-Nulth Territory, Beliefs, and Material Culture

Nuu-chah-nulth artist Chuuchkamalthnii (Ron Hamilton) of Hupacasath First Nation has over 45 years experience as a member and active participant in traditional ritual and ceremonial life, acting as: singer, dancer, speaker, composer, carver, painter, and, most significantly as a planner concentrating on traditional Nuu-Chah-Nulth protocols. Most recently he collaborated on the documentary film, We Come From One Root, (Histakshitl Ts’awaatskwii).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

10:00 a.m. Fenimore Art Museum opens for the day

11:30 a.m. Children’s Center – Story Hour

Children’s Librarian Martha Sherer will read a totem pole themed book and have a related craft project. Come share in this fun family time. (Suggested ages: 1 &#8211 8)

1:00 p.m. Official unveiling of the totem pole

Join D. Stephen Elliott, Dr. Douglas Evelyn, Totem Pole creator Reg Davidson, and others for this long-awaited event.

1:30 p.m. Performance by the Rainbow Creek Dancers (Haida)

2:30 p.m. Totem Pole Talk by Steve Brown (associate curator of Native American art at the Seattle Art Museum) &#8211 Fenimore Art Museum Auditorium

Totem Pole Carving Styles of the NW Coast

A photo-illustrated presentation on the various totem carving styles of the NW Coast, their differences and similarities. The Kwakwakawakw, Nuxalk, Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit, and other NW Coast peoples developed individual sculptural techniques and styles that enable one to differentiate between the totemic works of these groups, and this presentation will be an introduction to the carving styles that have developed on the coast.

Steven Clay Brown has been a student of NW Coast Native cultures since the mid-1960s. He has participated in numerous carving projects from totem poles to dugout canoes in Native communities in Alaska and Washington State. In 1986, he began a writing career that has flourished to include more than five major books in this field, a large number of chapters in other books as well as numerous articles and scholarly papers. Brown lives in Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula with his wife Irma and their son Abaya.

5:00 p.m. Fenimore Art Museum closes to the general public.

7:00 p.m. Members Opening for John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women
(Not already a member? You can sign-up at the door!)

The Fenimore Art Museum will have ongoing children’s’ activities such as totem pole pages to color in the Education Room throughout the day. Please check the Museum’s website ( or inquire at the admissions desk for more information.

Food will be available for purchase.

About the totem pole

The figures on the pole, from bottom to top, include: Beaver, Raven, Eagle – one of the major crests in Haida culture, and Black-finned Whale – one of the artist’s family crests. These figures tell a traditional Haida story of a raven stealing a beaver lodge. The totem pole is painted in the traditional Haida colors of black and red, with the natural cedar as a base.

The totem pole will be permanently sited on the Museum’s park-like front lawn and will be accompanied by an interpretive panel to provide important details about the piece.

Totem poles have a long tradition among the Native American peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and may be one of the most widely recognized art forms from that region.

About Reg Davidson, Haida artist and totem pole carver

Internationally acclaimed Haida artist and master carver Reg Davidson creates large and small cedar sculptures, silk-screen prints, jewelry, weaving, carved masks and painted drums. Born in 1954 in Masset, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia. Davidson was taught by his father, Claude Davidson, chief of the village of Dadens, Haida Gwaii. Many members of the Davidson family are artists, including his well-known brother, Robert Davidson. Davidson is an accomplished dancer and singer with the Rainbow Creek Dancers, a Haida Dance group formed by the brothers in 1980. Davidson designed and created much of the dance regalia for the group including masks, drums, and kid leather dance capes. Davidson’s style shows reverence for the masters and has changed only slightly over the years. &#8220Simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve,&#8221 he says. His work is included in private collections throughout North America, Germany, Holland, England and Japan.

About John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women

Divided into three thematic sections &#8211 Women of Fashion, Women of Mystery, and Women of Substance &#8211 the exhibition showcases images of women who exerted leadership in the arts and society as well as in their careers and in the intellectual community. It will also demonstrate Sargent’s keen interest in exotic women little known or understood by an American audience, and his visual assertion of the importance of mystery in the definition of femininity.

John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women features well known subjects such as Sargent’s famous Capriote model Rosina Ferrara and perhaps his most famous (or infamous) subject of all, Virginie Avegno Gautreau, or Madame X, represented in the exhibition by two preparatory drawings for her 1883-4 portrait.

“John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women breaks new ground in several ways,&#8221 commented Dr. Paul S. D’Ambrosio, Vice President and Chief Curator at the Fenimore Art Museum and exhibition organizer. &#8220It is the first museum exhibition devoted exclusively to Sargent’s portraits of women. It is the first exhibition to directly compare the varied attributes of the women Sargent portrayed and the visual strategies employed by the artist to communicate those characteristics. Lastly, paired with the Museum’s new exhibition Empire Waists, Bustles and Lace, the first exhibition of the Museum’s collection of historic costumes, the Sargent exhibition will be the first to allow visitors to see and experience broader historical context of women’s fashion.&#8221

A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition. A variety of public progra
ms will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition.


The Totem Pole Celebration takes place on the Museum’s front lawn and is free to everyone. Museum admission is only $12.00 for Adults and Juniors (13-64)- $10.50 for Seniors (65+)- Children 12 and under are free. NYSHA members are always free as well as active and retired career military personnel.

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