The Shakers believed all labor was worship that would bring them closer to God and that simplicity is the embodiment of purity and unity. We see the fruits of their labor in such diverse objects as an oval box, a staircase, a chair, or even a ladder. They lived, worked, and worshiped in communal villages, and believed their lives held a deeper purpose, realized only through the discipline of the flesh. Only by renouncing their passions and the enslavement to their appetites could they find the order that would bring their lives and work on earth closer to the perfection of heaven. Their art reflected their beliefs by focusing on communal rather than individual expression.
By combining objects from the collection of the Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham, New York, with contemporary artwork on loan to the Tang Teaching Museum, Work: Shaker Design and Recent Art proposed new ways of looking at familiar and beloved forms alongside contemporary avant-garde art.