Birds of a Feather: Shelburne Museum's Decoy Collection
Birds of a Feather, organized by Shelburne Museum, will be on view at the Museum’s Pizzagalli Center for Art & Education from November 21, 2015 to May 1, 2016. The exhibition explores the illusory and deadly beauty of American wildfowl decoys. Culled from Shelburne Museum’s own collection, the rare and historically significant decoys featured represent the work of master artisans such as A. Elmer Crowell, Charles “Shang” Wheeler, Albert Laing, and Lemuel T. and Samuel Ward. Thirteen bird species will be featured ranging from black ducks and Canada geese, to swans, herons, and shorebirds.
Museum director Tom Denenberg said, “Shelburne Museum’s remarkable collection provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine the finest decoys in America. They are icons of American folk art. Carvers, such as A. Elmer Crowell, knew their subject intimately, and put a lifetime of observation and years of practice into these exquisite masterpieces.”
Operating under the principle that “birds of a feather flock together,” decoys are designed by hunters to lure game birds into gunning range by physically mimicking waterfowl in safe waters. Carvers of decoys are often also hunters, but no less naturalists and admirers of the beauty and diversity of their prey.
Hunters and historians alike will be interested to know that the exhibition will also feature vintage duck-hunting gear including a Nova Scotia duck tub, a Punt Gun, and other related objects.
IMAGE: Elmer Crowell’s preening Black Duck ca. 1920, (above - photo by Andy Duback) is an example of the master’s knowledge of wildfowl. His extraordinary life-like decoys blurred the lines between artifice and realism.