It was my great pleasure this week to see the family of Joseph Schoell (visiting from Georgia) and (with my colleague Erin Richardson) show them the sculptures we have in the Fenimore Art Museum collection. I wrote about my experiences with Joseph in my previous post, "An American Dream in Sheet Metal and Paint." The family group included Agnes Schoell Freas, the artist's daughter (in light blue, above; she is named for her mother, the artist's wife), her son David and daughter-in-law Theresa, and their children Alex and Adam.
I don't write enough about folk artists' families. They are really the unsung heroes of this body of work, and their devotion to the visions and labor of the artists among them is what carries on much of the legacies we enjoy. They are as important as any museum staff. As a case in point, I discovered that the Schoell family home is still preserved, with many of Joseph's original sculptures still in place on the front lawn.
As we looked at Joseph's Statue of Liberty, it was particularly heartwarming to hear Agnes explain to her grandchildren the hardships of Joseph's life in Europe and his gratitude for everything this country had to offer. The sculpture was, to them, much more than a visual delight; it was part of who they are. You can see from the photo that we asked Alex and Adam to hold the plaque Joseph made commemorating the anniversaries of the Statue of Liberty and of his coming to America. It seemed like an appropriate way to honor the hopes and dreams the artist undoubtedly carried with him across the ocean. I like to think that Joseph would have been pleased and proud.