Out of Bounds: The Art of Croquet

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“Aunt Emma’s Revenge” by Elizabeth Spotswood Spencer

Reinventing the ball and the hammer

[View the virtual gallery here]

It shouldn’t have ended like this. Out of bounds: the art of croquet, co-curated by Jennifer-Navva Milliken, artistic director of the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia, PA, and Northampton-based furniture maker Silas Kopf, was an opportunity for “artists to delve into function, form and the historical mystique of croquet “for Milliken. However, no one had any idea that the world would provide so much inspiration beyond that. “We started developing the show in January and the artists were invited in early March, just before the lockdown occurred.” explained Victoria Allport, the Gallery and Marketing Manager for the Messler Gallery at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship.

“Bat and Croquet Ball of a Peculiar Carpenter” by Yuri Kobayashi

So what do you do when a global pandemic strikes just as your exhibit is taking off? The same thing everyone else had to do: improvise the best you can and move it online. The first challenge was for the artists themselves. Some have had to retire due to financial problems or lack of studio space. Others have had to completely reinvent their idea from scratch. One piece, by Ellie Richards, was lost in the mail. Art can thrive in difficult times, however. As Milliken writes, the exhibition “shows what can and cannot be accomplished during a tumultuous and uncertain time, as artists suddenly found themselves cut off from access to workspaces and materials, or overwhelmed by the many roles they play. are hiring now, regardless of whether working for the racial justice movement, volunteering for a food distribution center or learning how to guide and educate students of sculpture from strictly digital platforms. The works on display, as well as the works designed for but never concretized, they are comments on our time, through the language of the apparently arcane game of croquet ”.

“Flamingo” by Alf Sharp

The final exhibition is as varied as the artists who created it. “[The curators] he aimed for a list that reflected the broader field in terms of age, gender, race and other identity considerations, ”Allport explained via email. The pieces themselves vary enormously: there’s humor and whimsy, there’s a longing for a moment before this pandemic, and there’s social commentary. Interestingly, while it doesn’t have to be done, nearly all artists have presented a croquet set that has retained a certain level of functionality. The notable exception is artist Scott Grove’s “Racial Croquet”. In his words: “I created this piece in response to the inexorable racial injustice we see in America. I want to immortalize George Floyd’s recent death and reflect on his legacy, literally in black and white. I hope the piece creates unease and promotes the frank discussions necessary to recognize our history of black oppression; our current rules on the use of force and military-style police; and how we can move forward towards a new definition of true equality. Black life is important. I selected the materials and arrangement carefully, using cherry wood (George Washington’s moral of the story acknowledges his fault); white milk paint (representing white and milk privilege, which is used to neutralize tear gas); the right-angled shape (as in the right wing) that dominates and oppresses the black figure below; and the price, $ 846 (meaning the eight minutes and 46 seconds that George Floyd gasped before he died below Derek Chauvin’s knee). “

“Racial Croquet” by Scott Grove

The latest challenge for the Messler Gallery was to share art with the world in a safe way. The decision was made to organize a virtual tour where people could enjoy the gallery from the safety of their home. The result and feedback has been positive enough that they hope to continue the practice after the pandemic ends.

Out of bounds: the art of croquet runs at the Messler Gallery until January 6, 2021. For more information and to view the virtual tour, visit their website.

“Cross-Quet” by Beth Ireland


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