What is the average visitor to the Morris-Jumel Mansion looking for when they come to the historic house where George Washington once slept? Revolutionary War stories, maybe? Artifacts of the past? An aura and lingering rumors of the eccentric Madame Jumel?
Trish Mayo recently invited local artists to visit the Mansion and view its interior from a different perspective.
The artists were asked to consider how their artwork connected to the 18th and 19th century period rooms and furnishings. While co-curators Mayo and Carol Ward had the final say on where to place the artwork, Mayo said that the selection was surprisingly easy. No two artists chose the same spot for their work, and for most a link with a particular room was immediately evident.
Mayo said she was inspired by an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in which British artist Yinka Shonibare displayed Colonial-style dress, made of modern African fabric, in Colonial-period rooms.
Mayo and Ward named the exhibit “Design in the Heights: Contemporary Meets Colonial at the Morris-Jumel Mansion.”
So does the contemporary artwork reveal a new dimension of the Colonial past? Or does the Colonial past frame and give context to the contemporary? Perhaps the exhibit does a bit of both.
In Jessica Laguna’s work titled “Bittersweet,” a pair of broken teacups are glued back together, appearing seamless from a distance but cracked upon closer inspection. The work is symbolic of the marriage and divorce of Madame Jumel and Aaron Burr. Present illuminates past.
In Beatrice Lebreton’s four watercolor and acrylic paintings titled “4 Seasons,” African women represent the four seasons. Mayo said the paintings suggest the African Americans who inhabited the house since its origin, beginning with domestic slaves that served in the Mansion. It mirrors the presence of African Americans in both the Mansion and surrounding neighborhood in every season that they have existed. Past gives context to the present.
The exhibit may be viewed at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Wednesday through Sunday, 10am – 4pm, until Sunday, Sept. 12. Featured artists include John Cichon, Risa Hirsch Ehrlich, Laura Gadson, Jessica Lagunas, Beatrice Lebreton and Trish Mayo.
For more information on the Mansion, visit www.morrisjumel.org.