Monthly Archives: March 2011

Judith Shea

The work of Judith Shea was introduced to me when I was a graduate student at NYU in the early 1990s, and she remains one of my favorite sculptors.
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.

Margaret French Cresson

A sculptor, painter, writer, and lecturer, Margaret Cresson (1889-1973) was the daughter of sculptor Daniel French. She was a member of the National Academy of Art and exhibited widely in the eastern states. She studied under Abastenia St. Leger Eberle and George Demetrius, and worked primarily in bronze cast from her clay originals. Her works were exhibited in Paris, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and other museums and galleries. She was the founder of the Chesterwood Studio Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Source: “Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters and Sculptors”

Photography courtesy Juley Archive: Margaret French Cresson with her bust of Nathalie Osborn

Edmonia Lewis’s “Hygeia”

A rare Edmonia Lewis monument exists in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The badly eroded marble memorial marks the grave of Harriot Kezia Hunt (November 9, 1805 – January 2, 1875), an early female physician. Hunt was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jacob Hunt and Kezia Wentworth Hunt. She and her sister, Sarah, studied medicine under Elizabeth Mott and Richard Dixon Mott. She was the first woman to apply to Harvard Medical School, but was denied entrance in both 1847 and 1850. She was an advocate for the right of women to learn and practice medicine.

Who was Hygeia? She was a daughter of Asclepius, who was himself the god of healing. Greek sources assign to his daughters various aspects of the healing process, with Hygeia being given rulership of cleanliness. She can be said to have dominion over matters of clean living: washing, eating well, looking after yourself, and having a preventative attitude toward disease.

Scholar Marilyn Richardson has commented that Lewis and Hunt, both talented, ambitious, cultural pioneers, were friends, and that Lewis agreed to produce a monument for Hunt upon her death.

photo of Hygeia copyright Christopher Busta-Peck