Front Entrance Gallery
October 22 - December 10, 2010
Concurrently in the Front Entrance Gallery is an exhibition of domestic tools from the permanent collection of The Phillips Museum, curated by Millersville University student, Lynn Rhoades accompanied by a continuous loop of sound bytes containing entries from the journals of Mary Keen Shortess, mother of Lehigh University professor, George Shortess. The entries are read and recorded by Shortess' wife, MaryLou M. Shortess, and date from WWII to 1956.
The exhibition opens October 22 and the Museum will be open First Friday, November 5, for all who would like to visit the exhibitions as part of their First Friday gallery visits.
The exhibitions are free and open to the public.
18th and 19th Century Material Culture from the Permanent Collection of The Phillips Museum of Art
This exhibition features objects associated with women’s domestic labor in the 18th and 19th centuries that are in the permanent collection of The Phillips Museum of Art. It is intended to complement and contextualize the works in the exhibit Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit by presenting women’s “tools,” like the distaff attached to the spinning wheel, in their homely and unmediated state. But while these objects have not experienced a transfiguration at the hands of artists, they have their own aesthetic elegance and aura, instilled in them by their makers and users. They remind us that the skills and knowledge that was required for the work of housewifery---from fine needlework to beekeeping—was vast and complex, though not always noticed. The items on display fall into three categories of women’s work: textile production, food production and preparation, and child care.
Accompanying this exhibition are selections from the daily diaries of Mary Keen Shortess, a Dover, PA housewife who recorded her daily domestic activities from 1937 until the year of her death, 1987.
Eliza Reilly, Director
October 29, 2010
Front Entrance Gallery
An exhibition of domestic tools from the permanent collection of The Phillips Museum, curated by Millersville University student Lynn Rhoades. The exhibition is accompanied by a continuous loop of sound bytes containing entries from the journals of Mary Keen Shortess, mother of artist and former Lehigh University professor, George Shortess. The entries are read by Shortess’ wife, MaryLou M. Shortess, and date from 1937 to 1956.
This exhibition of domestic tools from the permanent collection of The Phillips Museum of Art was curated by Millersville University student, Lynn Rhoades. Items displayed were in use until the middle of the 20th Century and are still employed in some rural areas of the United States. In particular communities in Lancaster County many of the same domestic duties continue to be performed by women using similar implements while the men are responsible for heavy and demanding labor in the fields and in building and harvesting.
Accompanying this exhibition are selections from the daily diaries of Mary Keen Shortess, kept faithfully by Mary beginning in 1937 until the day of her last entry in 1987 written from her hospital bed while she lay dying.
Mary was born September 6, 1902. She graduated from Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland in 1921 and then attended Baltimore Teachers Training School. In 1923 she completed the required teachers’ training and became an elementary school teacher in the Baltimore school system. During summers she worked at the public library where she met her husband, George Seidel Shortess, on a stormy day when he offered his assistance to close the windows of the library against the wind and rain. They married on June 29, 1926.
The decision for Mary to marry meant that she would no longer be able to teach (these were the rules). George taught biology at Elizabethtown College from 1930 - 1943 and the family lived in Orange Street. The family moved to Baltimore with George’s sister for two years while Mary’s husband completed his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University. The rules by then had changed and Mary was able to substitute teach and she also took work at a local department store to help with the finances.
The family then moved to Dover outside of York where Shortess taught biology at York Junior College (now York College). He then taught at Lycoming College in Williamsport until he retired in 1963. Mary continued to teach when she could.
Mary and George had two sons, David and George. George discovered his mother’s diary entries about six months ago. The entries describe Mary’s life as a mother and wife during the War years and afterward until her death. The simple records for each day in her domestic life contain a powerful statement about the foundation of American family life for most of the 20th Century. George assembled excerpts from the diaries and sorted them to diversify the entries according to his own system of creative development. Only 220 entries were chosen for the exhibition. George explains that, even though he was present on many of the days described, he never saw the events as he does now. He plans to work with the diaries to create a multi media installation and art work related to them and to his mother’s life.
George’s wife, MaryLou M. Shortess, is an actor and reads the entries to the visitors of the exhibition.
George Shortess is a multi media artist who has taught studio and lecture courses on visual perception and the arts at Lehigh University and with students in residencies (through the Arts in Education Division of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts) developing computer-based interactive installations.
Claire Giblin, Curator of Exhibitions
October 28, 2010