COTUIT – The Cahoon Museum of American Art announces its 2018 season opening with a highly regarded annual series of exhibitions that highlight contemporary art, traditional American art, and New England craft traditions.

Photo credit: Decorated by Ralph Cahoon, Sheba and Solomon Secretary, 1946, oil paint on antique Victorian secretary. The painted panels on this Victorian walnut secretary illustrate the biblical story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a theme popular in Swedish folk art.

A Swedish Folk Tale tells the story of how artist Martha Farham Cahoon (1905-1999) married her Swedish folk-art heritage with Pennsylvania-German and early American design to create unique forms of decorative art that had a bold impact on other Cape Cod artists, including her husband, Ralph Cahoon. Sponsored by a Trustee of the Cahoon Museum of American Art, this exhibit opens on March 21 and is on view through June 3. Scrimshandering: Ralph Cahoon, Scrimshaw, and Nantucket Whaling Heritage details the impact that the American nautical folk art of scrimshaw had on artist Ralph Cahoon’s paintings (1910-1982). Scrimshandering is on view through December 22. The Cahoon Museum will reopen with regular hours on Wednesday, March 21 at the Museum’s location at 4676 Falmouth Road in Cotuit and a free opening reception will be held on Friday, March 23 from 4:30 to 6:00pm. For more information about upcoming exhibits and programs, please visit the website,, or contact the Museum at 508-428-7581.

A Swedish Folk Tale features more than forty objects including paintings, archival artifacts, and many examples of decorative painted furniture created by Ralph and Martha Cahoon between 1930 and the 1960s when they achieved widespread recognition as important Cape Cod folk artists. For some twenty years before Ralph and Martha Cahoon became famous for their folk art paintings, they had a successful business decorating furniture; their early work was part of a folk art revival in the United States. These examples of decorated furniture have been drawn from the collection of the Cahoon Museum of American Art and numerous private collections. The show highlights a large furniture piece that Ralph Cahoon decorated with elaborate designs based on Swedish wall hangings.

Scrimshandering: Ralph Cahoon, Scrimshaw, and Nantucket Whaling Heritage presents scrimshaw related paintings by artist Ralph Cahoon (1910-1982) who had a deep interest in scrimshaw, the American nautical folk art which developed alongside the whaling industry during the first half of the nineteenth century. During this time, hundreds of whaling vessels roamed the oceans of the world carrying many thousands of American sailors. Scrimshaw refers to the art and craft of carving and engraving on bone or ivory. Sailors harvested teeth and bone from whales as a byproduct of the whaling industry, and what began as humble shipboard tool-making evolved into an occupational art form. Their scrimshaw pieces give us a unique window into early American industry and insights into nineteenth century work and family life. Also included in the exhibit are: an example of a faux-scrimshaw replica ditty box engraved and painted by Ralph Cahoon, a Clark Greenwood Voorhees carved whale, nautical antiques, whaling ship logbooks, and examples of various types of scrimshaw such as whale teeth. A limited-time viewing of a rare 1828 whale’s tooth from the Nantucket whaling ship Susan will be on view through early August.
Programs in conjunction with the exhibits include:

Thursday, April 12: 2:00pm, Artist’s Talk:
“Travels of the Swedish Fairytale” with Christina Keune, heritage artist and historian of traditional Norwegian and Swedish art. Tina focuses her talk on artist Axel Farham, his rural Swedish influences, how he brought these traditions to Boston, adapted his talent to decorating furniture, and shared his talent with his family, including Martha Farham Cahoon. Learn the characteristics of his folk art and how it evolved over time and location, while honoring its original values.
Free with museum admission, RSVP required

Friday, April 13, time tbd: Creative Workshop.
“Making Ornaments in the Folk Art Style” with Christina Keune, advanced beginner to intermediate. Paint a series of three ornaments on birch wood based on decorative folk art motifs: a Peter Hunt horse, a Cahoon whale, and a Swedish flower blossom. All materials for the class are included in the registration fee.
Limited to 20 participants, Registration required, $85 members, $100 nonmembers

Tuesday, April 24, 11:00am: Scrimshaw Demonstration.
Yarmouthport artist Ryan Cooper gives a hands-on demonstration of the traditional art of scrimshaw using tools and techniques popular with mariners of past centuries. Cooper has previously presented programs at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport.
Free with museum admission; RSVP required

Tuesday, May 15, 11:00am: Lecture
“Evolution of the Mermaid: The Development of the Cahoons’ Signature Motif” with former Cahoon Museum Director, Cindy Nickerson. Cindy gives a history of the mermaid in art and how the Cahoons’ mermaid motif began as a Pennsylvania-German decorative design on furniture and developed into the adventuresome heroine in their paintings.
Free with museum admission; RSVP required

Author: Mashpee Chamber of Commerce

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