Wash tells the story of the day to day work of Shaker women and men as they carried out the domestic chore of weekly communal laundry. It looks at the Shakers’ engineered waterpower systems, including dams, ponds, and aqueducts that ran the mechanical wash-mill, extractors, and elevators to lift clothes from the wash room to the drying attic. The exhibition also explores how the Shakers used their knowledge of laundry technology to create and manufacture a commercial washer, mangle, and laundry soap for sale to the public.
The New York State Museum, in collaboration with Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon, Hancock Shaker Village, and the Shaker Heritage Society (Albany), as well as the State Library and State Archives, presents a major new exhibition detailing one of the most significant and influential communal religious groups in American history. Artifacts from these preeminent Shaker collections are exhibited together for the very first time.
Fascination with miniaturizing familiar objects has always been part of being human. The Shakers have a history of making and selling dolls and doll clothing, printing and reading miniature books, and, in the 1950s, helping to furnish a doll house for the Museum's education use. This exhibition features items made by the Shakers and miniatures by artists inspired by Shaker objects.
Shaker furniture has been has been widely influential to modern furniture designers. This exhibition will examine the idea of modernism and its connection to ideals of utopian social reform through the lens of Shaker and modern furnishings, with works by iconic designers such as Jens Risom, Børge Mogensen, George Nakashima, and Wharton Esherick shown alongside Shaker works from the nineteenth century. The exhibition is installed in the historic Wash House ironing room at Mount Lebanon.
Shaker communal life and their values of purity, order, and union are revealed in how they made their furniture, which is distinctive in its simple, direct forms. Historians have long explored the influence of Shaker forms on modern design. The exhibition will trace the path of influence - how Shaker furniture came to inspire students at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Denmark, where a generation of renowned furniture designers, later famous for “Danish modern” design, were educated.
An exhibition curated by François Laffanour & Philippe Segalot in collaboration with the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon
In close collaboration with the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon and Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine hosts a major exhibition on the Shakers. The exhibit draws primarily on the broad collection of items from Mount Lebanon, and focuses on the community as the spiritual and administrative center of Shaker life. Using this lens, the show will present a historical overview of Shaker religious, social and economic life. It is the first major exhibition to focus to such an extent on the Mount Lebanon Shaker society.
In 1984, multimedia artist Dan Graham created an art video called Rock My Religion. The video draws a line from the enigmatic founder of the Shakers, Mother Ann Lee, through to the development of rock music and youth culture in America, and finally to the voices of individual artists such as Patti Smith. Through its rough aesthetic and collage of text over imagery, Rock My Religion presents a provocative thesis on the Shakers' place in culture, both past and contemporary, as well as the relationship between rock and religion.
Dan Graham is an acclaimed writer, curator, and artist in many media based in New York City. His work has been shown at major museums throughout Europe and America, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2009. In 2014, he was selected to create The Roof Garden Commission at The Metropolitan Museum of Art along with Günther Vogt.
Seven benches sit in an austere room. At first glance, they appear to be similar in design. A closer look reveals this to be far from the case. Each bench possesses its own unique qualities, owing to their creator, Francis Cape, and his utilization of designs from seven different intentional communities from both past and present.
Presented in the North Family Wash House at Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, Utopian Benches places the work of Francis Cape in the context of a Shaker village; three of the benches are based on designs from Shaker villages (South Union, Sabbathday Lake, and Mount Lebanon itself), while the rest are sourced from other communal societies such as the Community of True Inspiration in Amana and the Harmony Society. All visitors receive a gallery guide, "We Sit On the Same Bench," and are invited to sit on the benches and engage with the ideas they express - community, cooperative work, simplicity.
Utopian Benches is paired with a second exhibition, From The Collections, which consists of a series of Shaker items specially selected by Francis Cape from the Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon's extensive collections. The items, ranging from a bed to a lap desk, all speak to the Shaker way of thought which inspired the artist's work.
The exhibition features a number of 19th century Shaker objects including a peg rail, basket, box, bowl, dipper, iron, chair, stand, farm tool and textiles. Chosen for their simple designs and harmonious forms, each object becomes a sculptural presence and a complement to the contemporary paintings, drawings and sculpture on view.
Repetition of forms and patterns is characteristic of many Shaker objects: the caning and slats on a chair, the weaving of a basket, the spindles and spools in a box, the pegs of a peg rail and the incised lines in a wooden bowl. Similarly, Chie Fueki’s drawing, Check, and Michelle Grabner’s paintings, repeat a basic pattern, as do Nathlie Provosty’s drawn semi-circles and arcs and Pete Schulte’s striped block forms. The bold shapes of a bonnet and pronged chip fork (used to move shavings in a saw mill) are echoed in Cary Smith’s Splat drawings and Don Voisine’s striking geometric paintings. Seth Koen’s minimal sculptures in wood reference the fine contours of Shaker design, and Joshua Marsh’s painting of a dustpan and broom remind us of the simple beauty that can be found in common objects.
The formal relationships established between the Shaker objects and contemporary artworks may seem accidental, however, it is through their making, by the simplest of means (media, method and design), that purity and perfection are sought and perhaps achieved.
A book launch and exhibition of the work of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Architecture Department exploring potential futures for the Shaker legacy.
We usually take water for granted – until there is either too little or too much of it. The Shakers living here at Mount Lebanon were always challenged with not having enough or having too much water. In the summer of 2009, as a result of several days of steady and hard rain, the North Family experienced a sudden swelling of all of its waterways – a freshet – causing seasonal streams to jump their banks and wash over the ground, over roads, and filling the basement of the Brethren’s Workshop.
Underground waterways – aqueducts built by the Shakers – became so overfilled that water burst to the surface pushing some of the huge flat stones that covered the aqueducts above the ground. The Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon was fortunate to have a three-member team from the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscapes Survey at the North Family to witness this event and incorporate their observations into their survey of the Shakers’ landscape and water system.
The portion of their work that bears directly on the North Family Shakers’ management and use of water is presented here.