Tom Sherwood Tells Us More About His Life & Artwork

On May 14th, local artist Tom Sherwood spoke about his artwork in a retrospective and walk-through of the exhibition, Tom Sherwood: A Golden Perspective, at the Lightcatcher building. If you missed the chance to participate, here's another opportunity to learn more about Sherwood, his background, and his artwork. We hope you will be inspired to visit the exhibition if you haven't already, or encouraged to return again if you have.

Assistants older


The Assistants2010; Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel. 
Collection of Ron and Pam Binns.


Whatcom Museum (WM): When and how did you first become interested in creating art?

Tom Sherwood (TS): Like most children—should they be presented with materials and opportunity—I drew at a very early age (starting in the years of the Second World War) and my parents, as parents now and then do, retained some of my childhood drawings. What they kept, they passed on to me and from that record, and from my own professional survey of child art, and I can assure you that I showed no particular talent or aptitude for creating artwork. My parents both had begun their careers as musicians and while they did not forcefully press their musical penchants on me, they did in one way or another encourage my escape into picture-making and other forms of “play acting.” Still, they believed in the doctrines of liberal education and doubted the viability of a solid, middle-class, remunerative career in “the arts.” I suppose, as a youngster, I found “being an artist” was a sort of useful posture and I continued to strike the pose whenever it seemed to set me apart in what I perceived to be some socially or personally advantageous way.

I carried this pose about with me even into graduate school—the “go to” guy for any cartoons or posters about upcoming academic events.  And after I had been admonished by student colleagues that I should get out of academe and “go be an artist” (and after I had done another stint in an art school and returned to graduate school) I was usually called out for advertising purposes or to show others some of the ropes to which I had been pushed in the course of my little “side show.”  It wasn’t until I was fired from my rather more professionally respectable position as a college professor that my wife, of all people, suggested I retreat to my makeshift attic studio on Liberty Street in Bellingham and “create art.” If I have accomplished anything since that moment, it has been born upon the backs of my wife Dorothy’s thrift and patience and the remarkable nonchalance of our sons, Talley & Jud.


All the Rage: Cycling Photography and Stereoscopic Cameras

 Written by Rebecca Hutchins, Curator of Collections

Kinsey web
Darius Kinsey
American, 1869–1945

Crossing a glacier near Monte Cristo, 1902
Black-and-white stereograph
Whatcom Museum, 1978.84.6417



While researching cameras in our collection recently, I discovered that we hold two that were previously owned by Darius Kinsey. These two cameras, each of which is amazing in its own right, are now installed in Old City Hall. The first is a stereoscopic camera (#1978.84.2) and is actually pictured with Kinsey in one of the murals. The stereoscopic cameras took two images simultaneously from slightly different angles to create 3D images when viewed through a stereoscope. The taking and viewing of stereoscopic images was all the rage in the latter half of the 19th century.

The second is a camera that was specifically designed to be transported and used on a bicycle called a Cycle Poco (#1978.84.4) – combining the two predominate leisure activities of the time, cycling and photography.

These cameras are also beautiful pieces of craftsmanship with then state-of-the-art optical components, mahogany interiors, brass fixtures, Russian red leather bellows and small ivory details.


Stereographic Image 2259

Advertisement for the Cycle Poco camera, 1899
Rochester Came
ra & Supply Company



John Edson, His Birds, and His Museum

Written by Paul Woodcock, Vice President of the North Cascade Audubon Society, with research collaboration from Jeff Jewell, Whatcom Museum Photo Archives Historian.

AT THE END OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY THE ART OF TAXI­DERMY WAS A FAD. Mounted birds and other animals were used as home decor and most naturalists, amateur and pro­fessional alike, collected and mounted specimens. As such, the Whatcom Museum’s Edson-Edson-Booth Bird Col­lection of over 600 mounted birds is an important cultural and historical artifact. But it is much more than that.


How Your Museum: Protects the Collections


Thirty thousand objects. 170,000 photographs. 16,000 archival items.

These numbers make up the Whatcom Museum Collection and Curator of Collections, Becky Hutchins, is in charge of protecting each piece from harm. Threats are as small as the powderpost beetle and as large as a fire or flood.

For the smallest variety of threat, Hutchins employs an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach as an environmentally friendly way to monitor and regulate the bug factor throughout Museum facilities.

Using sticky traps, we can determine if our collections are in danger. Caught specimens are examined, and, depending on their numbers and where they are in their lifecycle (larvae or adult), we can determine how hospitable our environment is to them and what their food sources might be. By changing the temperature and maintaining moisture levels, monitoring our collections and keeping the museum spaces well maintained, we're able to create an unfriendly environment for pests, and protect treasures like historic maps of Bellingham Bay and 100-year old women's finery.

But who are these unwanted visitors? Turns out museum collections are at greatest risk from a few common insects, Hutchins explains, because these pests have favorite food sources as well as preferred habitats that are often found in our collections and storage spaces.

CLOTHES MOTH               

These winged menaces feed on all the protein they can find — from silk to feathers! Their wingspan is only a half-inch, but can have a big effect. Once mating has occurred, the females lay 40 to 50 eggs over a course of 4 to 21 days that hatch into eating machine larvae. These live for an unusually long period of 50 days before they pupate, all the time feeding on the fibers of feathers, wool, leather, cotton, linen, silk and even synthetic materials.



Booklice (or psocids) feed mainly on the starchy glue that binds books, but are also known to munch on paper, plywood, and plaster. They can grow between 1/25 and 1/13 of an inch — tiny but mighty! The adult female psocid lays up to 60 eggs in its short life of about 2 months.



As their name suggests, with enough time, these little beetles can reduce a post of wood to powder. They can live for years in a larval stage burrowed inside of furniture, frames and other objects. Small piles of dust indicate where the larvae have entered and small holes where the adult beetles emerge. Powderpost beetles prefer the sapwood of oak and other hardwoods and many of the insects will continue to breed in an infested piece of wood for generations. 

Hutchins and the Museum staff work together to find new ways to protect our collection through simple practices of good housekeeping and maintenance — for example, making sure that exterior doors have tight seals, and taking care not to leave food out. Flowers, though gorgeous, don't find a long-term home in the Museum since they can carry in, and attract, critters.

Visit to learn more about how collectors like museums and libraries work to keep treasures safe from pests!

Illustrations by Rifka MacDonald


Sneak Peek at Famous Peak

Hooray! The manuscript for the Vanishing Ice catalogue was emailed to the editor thirty minutes ago. Here is a sneak peek at one of my favorite artworks in the exhibition:

altThomas Hart Benton's (American, 1889-1975) journey to the Canadian Rockies inspired Trail Riders, a sweeping, cinematic view of Mount Assiniboine. The artist faithfully documents the landscape setting and the mountain's conical shape resembling the famous Matterhorn in the Alps. (According to the U.S. Geological Survey, glaciers on Mount Assiniboine have decreased 820 feet in twenty-three years, an average of more than 35 feet per year.)

Casting a nostalgic look at American history, Benton presents an unusual mid-twentieth century interpretation of Manifest Destiny. The artist, a grandnephew of a prominent, populist Missouri senator who helped shape the policies of American expansionism, harks back to a time when trailblazers settled the American West. Throughout his life, he mythologized this theme, beginning with early paintings like The Pathfinder (1926) and culminating in the grand-scaled mural, Independence and the Opening of the American West (1959-62), commissioned for the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. In the 1930s, such themes earned Benton recognition as a “regionalist” artist who celebrated Middle American values by depicting rural culture.

Trail Riders also draws upon classic Hollywood Westerns that celebrated the loners and nomads along pioneer trails. The artist’s gigs in Hollywood for Life magazine and Walt Disney enabled him to see first-hand the creation of these idealized heroes.

In this painting, Benton mediates on his personal relationship to the land: The protagonists riding along the trail represent the artist and his friend, who explored the Banff region on horseback in 1963. Benton turned to the mountains for solace after his regionalist aesthetic was scorned by an art world enamored with another movement, Abstract Expressionism, in the 1950s. The landscape assuaged the artist’s loneliness and distaste for America’s increasing urban culture.

—Barbara Matilsky, Curator of Art


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