Mysteries and Revelations – A Carving owned by the Cahoons

07 Oct Mysteries and Revelations – A Carving owned by the Cahoons

What is the story behind this mystery?

This carving was originally the back of a chair owned by Cape Cod folk artists Ralph and Martha Cahoon. Ralph (1910 – 1982) and Martha (1905 – 1999).

They lived and worked in the historic house that is now part of the Cahoon Museum of American Art. Their studio, and rooms dedicated to displaying their painted furniture and paintings for sale, often contained antiques of interest to them. Mermaids were one of Ralph’s trademarks in his paintings, and both artists used the mermaid motif frequently in their work. They collected imagery and objects featuring mermaids for inspiration.

The chair sat in the main entrance to the museum for years, greeting visitors as they entered. It’s a mystery as to how (and why) the back of the chair got separated from the seat, and where the seat is now. There is also a question as to the significance of the date (1698) carved at the top.

A dynamic center for appreciation of the visual arts, the Cahoon Museum is home to a collection of American art with a special focus on regional art of the Northeast and Cape Cod.

The museum celebrates the creative spirit of folk artists Ralph and Martha Cahoon through the preservation of their artwork and the historic building which served as their home and studio. The museum presents an ambitious schedule of original exhibitions and programs each year.

The Mysteries and Revelations Exhibit currently is at the Cape Cod Museum of Art

September 24 to November 26

10 a.m. to-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $9    Seniors: $7     Ages 13-18: $5;      Students: 19+: $7;     Members  & Children Free


It features more than 40 exhibits contributed by 36 museums on the Cape and Islands – intriguing objects and their stories that reveal fascinating facts about an unfamiliar past.

Pondering unsolved mysteries or questioning true or false stories behind a wide range of artifacts, paintings, photographs, and curiosities, visitors will learn the remarkable truths and legends uncovered by these singular treasures preserved by each participating organization.

“Mysteries & Revelations” was organized by Cape Cod Museum of Art Director Edith (Deede) Tonelli and Guest Curator Amanda Wastrom in response to the theme for New England Museum Association’s Conference this year:  “Truth & Trust: Museums in a Polarized Society.”  The Conference takes place in Falmouth from October 24 – 27.

NEMA Conference 2017

When visitors go to a museum, they expect what they see to be true, Tonelli told the Cape Cod Times as she related the exhibit to NEMA’s theme.

“How do we get to the truth?” asks Tonelli.  “This exhibit shines a light on the work of Cape Cod museum professionals who are on the front lines of documenting and preserving our history.  Ultimately, we—our culture and our history—are defined by the stories that we preserve and share with our community.  We invite our community to enter this show with their own stories and add to our shared cultural identity.”

The collaborative exhibit is curated by Amanda Wastrom.



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