Dutch artist Petra Schilder’s exhibition at Carter & Citizen revitalizes a mostly bygone way of life. In the intimate gallery, Schilder has painstakingly constructed a replica of a Dutch smuiger, or fireplace, out of hand-painted ceramic tiles. The tiles, which cover the wall from floor to ceiling, depict a farm landscape dotted with sheep. The hearth is flanked by two chairs holding piles of sheared wool in its raw state, and a chandelier loaded with lumpy brown candles hangs from the ceiling. The whole scene feels a bit like a diorama in a museum display, or an altar to an older way of life.
However, treating the tiles as a large canvas — the farm scene spreads across the entire width of the smuiger — rather than decorating them individually gives the fireplace a modern feel, like a mural. This approach reflects Schilder’s other occupation as a sheep breeder, in which she is invoking an age-old tradition of animal husbandry to create a new variety of sheep that is more independent and requires less care.
The rest of the walls are lined with plates and tiles painted with detailed portraits of these sheep. Rendered with a detail and tenderness usually reserved for human subjects, they embody a sense of responsibility and even affection. By taking the animals so seriously to her “hearth,” Schilder declares them members of the family.