Once again the Eli Whitney Museum’s Leonardo Challenge has achieved high levels of accomplishment at its fundraiser on Thursday, April 26, number 18 in a series of sensational soirees. Each year an object, like pencils, rulers, mirrors, keys or ice cream spoons, is selected as an artist material and the “challenge” is to create something utilizing that in a novel way.
This year director Bill Brown and associate director Sally Hill selected numbers, entitled “Enumerated Invention" and one hundred artists from all over the country submitted everything from detailed painted eggs to beautifully carved furniture, blocks and toys for children to children's books, hand sewn patchwork quilts to elegant carved sculptures.
Jennifer Davies of Branford created “Your Numbers Are Falling,” with black and white paper she produced herself using Japanese mulberry plants. In a series of steps, she cooks and cleans it, makes it fiber, squeezing and suspending it and then catching it on a screen before flipping it on a blanket to dry. She claims to have been entering the challenge every year since “the clothes pins and cigar boxes.”
For Betsy Golden Kellem of Westville, who is an attorney by day, her love of art brings her to take part in the challenge. Her entry this year is called “4 and 20 Blackbirds,” a delightful water color painting of what might happen if the blackbirds from the nursery rhyme mutinied causing the chef to go in a tizzy.
For Tim Nighswander, one entry wasn’t enough, he submitted two. After scouring flea markets all spring to find just the right old clamps and fittings which, when mounted on an old white piece of lumber read as the numbers 1 – 10. Titled "Tools You Can Count On," it charmed everyone who saw it. Add to that, a painstakingly hand-crafted child's chair called "4 on the Floor" and it was clear what Tim did late into the nights before the Challenge.
Amy Peters of Madison used slate and wood, a wood burner and acrylic paint to create an abacus “You Can Count on Me.” Calling it “quirky like me,” it was the first idea she had and she selected a Gertrude Stein quote “Counting is the religion of this generation. Its Hope and Salvation.” She considers the quotation perfect for an abacus “funny, wise and eccentric.”
Among the many other unique submissions are “Soft numbers” animal toys by Sara Thomas, a lithographed and hand colored group of Toucans by Alexis Brown called "Safety in Numbers", a sculpture of 5 hands counting on one through 5 extended fingers by Susan Clinard, a shiny white 3D printed “Pi Plate and Pi Pin” designed by Tim Newton, an exquisite cherry wood and ash handmade bench with Pi shaped feet, called Cherry Pi Bench, by Dan Velasquez, and an adorable photograph of a girl and her pup called “Wallflower 13” by Jackie Heitchue.
All the proceeds from the fundraiser will be used for summer and year round programming for children and for scholarships. The entries will be on display until Sunday, May 13. The Eli Whitney Museum, 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden is available by calling 203-777-1833 or online at www.eliwhitney.org. Museum hours are Sunday noon-5 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday, open Wednesday – Friday noon – 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Come see creativity and imagination unleashed as a tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, master mathematician, painter, sculptor, inventor and scientist.