Sculptor-in-Residence Judith Shea

Chesterwood Announces Judith Shea as Sculptor-in-Residence through September 30

Noted American Sculptor will Create New Works and Give Public Talk on September 21

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. – Chesterwood, A National Trust Historic Site, announces noted American sculptor Judith Shea as its sculptor-in-residence through September 30, 2010. Chesterwood is the historic home, studio, gardens and woodland walks of America’s foremost public sculptor Daniel Chester French, 1850-1931, famous for his sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. Chesterwood’s 2010 Artist-in-Residency program has been made possible by a grant from the High Meadow Foundation.

“We’re excited to welcome Judith Shea, a well-known sculptor, to Chesterwood. Our visitors will have the opportunity to watch her at work and to ask her questions. We will learn much, through her eyes, about how Daniel Chester French’s oeuvre continues to be relevant and current,” said Chesterwood’s Director Donna Hassler.

Born in 1948, Shea’s early training was as a clothing designer. Her first sculptures were simple forms made of pliant fabric hung on the wall. Later, she began casting fabric in metal to achieve greater strength and rigidity. The use of clothing forms allowed her to represent the human figure using the most economical of means and to synthesize figurative art and Minimalism. In the mid-1980s, Shea began juxtaposing figures with forms and then pairing figures, giving her work added psychological complexity. She is best known for a series of works in bronze in which she creates empty clothing forms which suggest figures that are not present; some of her more recent work incorporates figures as well. Shea’s work is included in the collections of numerous museums including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn., and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Ms. Shea was previously Chesterwood’s sculptor-in-residence for two and a half months in 1989, owing to a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was invited back this year by Director Hassler. “I thought it would be fascinating for Judith to have the opportunity to re-experience Chesterwood in a different way and that it would be equally interesting for our visitors to observe a notable contemporary sculptor at work in this lovely location that provided Daniel Chester French with so much creative inspiration. During Judith’s earlier residency here some 20 years ago, she first began to work in clay, taught herself to carve wood, and created some amazing works of art. I look forward to seeing the evolution of Judith’s sculptures and her discovery of new inspirations in the coming weeks,” Hassler said.

While she is at work in Chesterwood’s Woodshed building, open to visitors, Shea’s goal is to create three finished clay heads that will eventually become part of her full sculptures. She is sculpting with dark, earth-colored air dry clay, which she chose from about 25 kinds of clay available at the Sheffield Pottery in Sheffield, Mass. Once completed, Shea will pour rubber molds of the busts in her New York City studio and from the molds will make versions of the busts in different materials including bronze, a metal she favors.

“The work that I’m doing at Chesterwood follows a new body of work recently exhibited, titled ‘Legacy Collection,’ which was provoked by the imagery and media saturation of the catastrophic events of Sept. 11 and my response to it,” said Shea, who has lived near ground zero for many years. The ‘Legacy’ series incorporates images of blackened store windows with those of her carved, mannequin-like, clothed sculptural forms. The legacies inherent in this work are both a response to Sept. 11 and a self-referential commentary about her earlier works of sculpted spare clothing forms, Shea said.

“My Chesterwood residency was such a productive period for me,” Shea said. “If I’m half as productive this time, I’ll be thrilled. Being here was my introduction to Daniel Chester French’s broader work and since then I’ve made pilgrimages to see other of his works. He must have been a very modest person. Everyone knows the Abraham Lincoln monument at the Lincoln Memorial but most have never heard of Daniel Chester French, who created this famous sculpture that was unveiled in 1922 and is now timeless. I now appreciate how hard it is to get it right: to have the patience, forbearance and expertise to have brought this off was exceptional. When you see a great piece of art, you say, ‘Yes, that’s it.’ French’s Abraham Lincoln makes me feel like it is absolutely right.”

Public Progams with Chesterwood’s Sculptor-in-Residence Judith Shea

September 19: Berkshire County Day at Chesterwood, sponsored by Berkshire Bank, on Sunday, September 19, offers free admission for Berkshire County Residents from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The day will feature an opportunity to observe and interact with Chesterwood’s Sculptor-in-Residence Judith Shea and includes hands-on art and nature activities for families throughout the day. Chesterwood, A National Trust Historic Site, 4 Williamsville Road, Stockbridge, Mass., 413.298.3579,

September 21: A Conversation with Judith Shea: Meet Chesterwood’s Sculptor-in-Residence Judith Shea and join a discussion about figurative sculpture in the 21st century at a public lecture on September 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Meadowlark residence and studio at Chesterwood. Seating is limited. Admission to the lecture is free. Please RSVP to Anne Cathcart, 413.298.3579, ext. 25216, For more information call 413.298.3579 or go to


Daniel Chester French Sculptures (Flickr)

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