“SWEPT: This Work I Will Do” – An Exhibition at Hancock Shaker Village

Cate Richards. Photo courtesy of Cate Richards.

Hancock – Unbeknownst to the Artist and the Broom Catherine Richardsa residence at Mass MoCA last summer – in which they researched the history of broom production in New England – would lead to opportunities beyond the intended scope to conduct field work and create new rooms. The artist, whose work draws attention to the intersection of work objects with objects of spirituality, has been making brooms since 2019 when they learned the craft at Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center in Georgia. What began as an intentional immersion over the next three years – to understand the broom as an object where use, beauty, design, work, art, farming and craftsmanship come together. intersect – eventually turned into a solo exhibition. “SWEPT: this work that I will do” (the subtitle taken from a Shaker anthem), opens to the public on Saturdays at Hancock Shaker Village.

Completed, Libman broom, broom, string, 11 x 2.5 x 68″, 2021. Photo courtesy of Hancock Shaker Village.

“I often hear that brooms are simple, which is a very concrete word, and to me they’re so much more complex,” Richards told The Edge, revealing what they think of binaries (computer programming put apart). “The way we think about gender, the way we think about arts and crafts, good and bad; I think there’s so much more to learn between these two,” the artist explains. They cited their overarching motivation: “My main goal as an artist is to create an opportunity for a viewer to reflect, and my wish from them is to stop and reflect on what binaries – and also in this particular case, what stories – have been left out”, pointing out that it is part of their job, as an artist, to “work in the interest of progress… and to share things that are perhaps unknown Which, as expected, is entirely empowering.

The origin of the term broomsquire – a genderless term, like cobbler, used for someone who makes brooms – lies deep in history; conversely, the story lies deep within Richards. They grew up in a family of archivists, the child of a history teacher; as such, “history has been a part of my life since I was very young,” says Richards, pointing to the prevalence of interesting artifacts from history, and images of those artifacts – particularly old farm equipment. and religious objects – which surrounded them while growing up. at the top.

“I’m very interested in the intersection of objects of labor and objects of spirituality,” Richards said, as evidenced by the kitchen fork, for example, “a tool of witches in early modern Europe. . and the broom”. The artist works with a lot of what they call conjunctions – o-rings and metal caps, among others – which, like the grammatical term, act as joining tools.

Last June, Richards entered the MASS MoCA studio for the very first time to begin creating the body of work which, exactly one year to the day, June 16, is installed in HSV’s Chace Gallery. In this exhibition, Richards presents a dozen sculptures inspired by brooms – made of materials both expected (broom, string and wood) and unconventional (plastic and metal) – alongside Shaker brooms, linking Shakers to contemporary craft practices. and exploring the influence of the Shakers. about American crafts and art today.

Yoked Red, oak, broom, string/Ink on Bristol, 14 x 2.5 x 29″ / 13 x 16″, 2021. Photo courtesy of Hancock Shaker Village.

When asked to define the term craft in layman’s terminology, Richards pauses. “For me, craftsmanship is handmade with utility that definitely plays into a very long story,” they explain, coming from the perspective of someone who has gone through an art program – something that ‘they consider it very important to consider.

“Working in crafts and working in broom history, you’re going to cross paths with the Shakers at some point,” said Richards who, as someone who was already interested in brooms, was intrigued. to discover that the Shakers “had such a reverence for supposedly simple objects [like the common broom], but also to attribute a certain power to it – it was a ritual tool. Suffice it to say, this exhibition – of these particular works, displayed in this particular location – presents a convergence of all the things Richards has come to love.

When asked if these are practices and ways of thinking that precede them, Richards chooses not to use that term. Instead, they point to the development of colonial broom making and early American broom making, to which the Shakers contributed. “However, they were one of many – and that community aspect of broom-making development is something the Shakers would have really liked.”

“Swept: This Work I Will Do” opens at Chace Gallery on Friday, June 17 with a reception and talk for members of Hancock Shaker Village; the exhibition opens to the public with regular admission on June 18 and will be on display until November 27. For more details, click on here.

Maria D. Ervin