"An American Sampler: Folk Art from the Shelburne Museum" opens Thursday at the County Museum of Art with 120 works that, in their way, help define the nation's history. The collection was initially amassed by Electra Havemeyer Webb, an enormously wealthy New Englander who had a lifelong passion for native handmade objects. Webb founded the Shelburne Museum in Vermont in 1947 to house her renowned collection.
The materials on view, most from the 19th Century, are of the "highest quality of their kind imaginable," said county museum Director Earl A. (Rusty) Powell. Listing other reasons for hosting the traveling show, he added: "The Shelburne Museum is the leading repository of American folk art in the U.S., they have never lent an exhibit before, and there has never been an American folk art exhibit in Los Angeles."
Organized by Washington's National Gallery of Art, the show includes trade signs (a huge wooden tooth to advertise a dentist's office, a big key for a locksmith), decorative carvings (George Washington on horseback), carrousel horses, cigar-store Indians, scrimshaw, whirligigs and weather vanes (a cock, a mermaid, a cow).
The quilts, coverlets, blankets and bed rugs on view range from a white-on-white piece with a woven weeping willow to a quilted throw bearing a vibrant, geometric star of Bethlehem.
J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery, said the objects can be viewed on two levels: "As aesthetically pleasing works in their own right and as wonderful reminders of American life and culture."
Powell, who holds a doctorate in 19th-Century American art from Harvard, agreed.
"The exhibit is beautiful and whimsical, it's naive and elegant. It's filled with marvelous contradictions. And if you're attempting to define the personality of a nation during its growth, these works represent a very important historical phenomenon."
"An American Sampler" will run through April 30.
CHANGES: Terry Wolverton, executive director of the Woman's Building, has announced her resignation, effective April 28.
Wolverton, who has held a variety of posts at the cultural center for 12 years, said she is leaving chiefly to finish writing a novel "about a 15-year reunion of women who worked together in the Woman's Movement in the early '70s."
"For a long time I've tried to balance being an artist and being an arts administrator," Wolverton said. "Now my art really needs my full attention."
Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, a Los Angeles-based graphic designer who co-founded the Woman's Building in 1973, said Wolverton's resignation is a sign that the center is fulfilling its mission.
"It's always a loss when someone who is really wonderful moves on," she said. "But the Woman's Building's entire function was to make it possible for women to become whoever they wanted to become. If writing is what Terry needs to do, it seems totally appropriate for her to leave."
Woman's Building administrators are now seeking a replacement for Wolverton.
MORE CHANGES: The Museum of Contemporary Art has elected four new members to its Board of Trustees. Susan Field serves on the board of trustees of the Greater Los Angeles Partnership for the Homeless and the Rape Treatment Center. Henry Hwang, chairman and president of Far East National Bank, is a member of the board of directors of the Pacific Asia Museum. Judge David A. Thomas has served on the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench since 1970. He is a member of the board of overseers at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Leonard Vernon is with Vernon Associates, a Los Angeles real estate development company. He is a member of the board of trustees of the Friends of Photography.
WATCH, LISTEN AND LEARN: A marionette play about the Harlem Renaissance and an artists book workshop will be presented at the Long Beach Museum of Art. On Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., artist Sheila Pinkel will lead a workshop on making artists books with copy machine-generated images. Limited attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis. On Feb. 25 at 2 p.m., artist and puppeteer Schroeder Cherry will perform her play "The Harlem Renaissance." Both events, offered through the museum's 1988-89 artist-in-residence program, are free. Information: (213) 439-2119).