Often defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound, rhythm is a significant theme in Wharton Esherick’s life and career in numerous guises. Rhythms and Rhythms II are tall, flowing abstract forms that Esherick made from cottonwood in the 1960s which have the word as their title. Four decades prior in the print Rhythms, Opening (1923), Esherick composed a tangle of figures in ecstatic motion, building the energy of the image through strong contrast and abstracted form. This print was used as the cover illustration for a brochure for the Ruth Doing Camp for Rhythmics, where instructors used dance to bring bodies depleted by urban life closer to the pace and patterns of the natural world.
A tour through WEM is an exercise in spotting rhythms. Visual rhythms also echo throughout the Studio. The iconic Spiral Staircase (1930) is made through a repetition of sculptured stair treads, each with slight variation from the next. The curly oak surface of the Cabinet Desk (1958) is subtly adorned through the natural rhythms of wood grain. Visitors also learn about what Esherick valued by seeing how the building and expansion of his home and studio supported the rhythms of his changing creative life. Likewise, our lives are made of daily, weekly, monthly rhythms. Some of our rhythms are instinctual, like the drawing of breath, in and out, over and over. We exist within patterns, and when we’ve stepped outside of them and the rhythm changes, we notice.
For the Wharton Esherick Museum’s 30th Annual Juried Woodworking Exhibition, we invite you to think about the rhythms that shape your creative practice. How do the rhythms of life – whether the daily movements, from waking to sleep, or the larger rhythms of shifting seasons or other cycles – show up in your work? Does making artwork help you capture rhythms, or keep you “on time”? Are there specific rhythms that you center in your creative work? What visual or material rhythms speak loudest through the works you create? We encourage applicants to think about this idea broadly, and hope you’ll submit entries across the spectrum of approaches to this theme, from literal to interpretive. We look forward to seeing it all.