Marlene Hamann-Whitmore, Acting Director of Education Speaking on Wilhelm Schimmel’s Eagle
I'm Marlene Hamann-Whitmore, Acting Director of Education this year. I chose this small carved eagle, attributed to Wilhelm Schimmel, an American artist who was born in Germany in 1817, eventually made his way to the United States, and lived in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania until his death in 1890.
As soon as I spotted this small sculpture on a shelf in one of our storage rooms, I was taken by the immediacy of the carving - it so perfectly captures the struggling "birdness" of a young bird that I found it irresistible. And the depiction of the iconic form of an eagle as a vulnerable creature made the piece even more striking. There are many other pieces in the Gallery’s collection that I would say are more beautiful, or finished, or complex, but for straight-out personal connection, this one was it for me.
The piece reminds me that as a young child—and I bet a lot of you did this too—I tried to rescue my share of very young birds that had been pushed out of the nest, landing somewhere in our backyard. In they came, into a shoebox—with a "nest" we constructed out of goodness knows what—and placed under a desk lamp for warmth. We took turns feeding the baby bird whenever it cried, whenever we could. This endeavor was heart-wrenching then, and again as my young children repeated the saga. It pretty much always ended in tears, followed by a funeral in the backyard. Yet the intensity of the caring, and the connection, was real, and seemed like the only right choice at the time. So in my mind, if a work of art can rekindle and elicit that level of response, I say, "shot: score."
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