East End Arts and Suffolk Historical team up on shows celebrating the macabre

04/29/2012 5:00 PM |

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Guns belonging to Frank Tuthill, found murdered in 1932, and the 'Wickham ax,' used to murder Frances and James Wickham in the 1850s. Both are part of a new exhibit at Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead.

Take note, oh ye of dark or baneful natures, because a host of events celebrating the macabre is creeping up on us.

The Suffolk County Historical Society and East End Arts are coming together to kick off a month of metaphysical mayhem.

“La Morte,” a show where interpretations of the theme “death” were judged by guest juror April Gornik, an internationally known landscape artist, opens Friday, April 27, at the East End Arts Gallery.

“Ms Gornik was surprised by the quality of the work,” said Jane Kirkwood, gallery director at East End Arts. For the first time in judging history, there was a tie for best in show. Anne Seelbach from Sag Harbor produced an acrylic on paper piece called “Life Serves Death” which tied Center Moriches resident Cynthia Parry’s oil on canvas work called “La Petite Mort.”

Ms. Kirkwood said her personal favorite in the show is by Mary Wynn of Islip who, through her years as an organist at a funeral parlor, kept a journal with observations and drawings inside. “The Organist’s Funeral Journal” can be found at the EEA show sitting on a pedestal covered by a long, black veil.

Some works from the EEA show will also accompany the Suffolk County Historical Society’s similarly themed exhibit, “Death Becomes Her: Objects and Art of Death and Mourning,” opening the same evening and running through May 26.

“It really enhances our classical historic pieces when we pair them with contemporary works,” said Kathy Curran, the historical society’s executive director.

Ms. Curran said the society’s upcoming spooky programming, which includes visits from psychics, paranormal investigators, tarot card readers and more, began when she was approached by East End Arts Gallery director Jane Kirkwood.

“She had an exhibition she was really excited about and asked us if there was anything we could do with death as a theme,” Ms. Curran said. “At first we wondered if we wanted to do death so far away from Halloween, but that’s why we’re calling it Metaphysical May!”

Ms. Kirkwood said Ms. Curran did not immediately agree to the collaboration, but after a period of deliberation Ms. Curran agreed, reportedly by approaching Ms. Kirkwood to say, “I’m giving you death.”

The historical society’s exhibit will feature Edwardian mourning clothing, mourning jewelry that often accompanied such garb, two colonial children’s coffins, murder weapons and oddities like “hair jewelry,” often made from the hair of a lover in the 1860s.

“We have a beautiful gold watch with a locket containing a picture of two children and the band is made from hair,” Ms. Curran said. “The hair jewelry is so spectacular.”

Ms. Curran said the society likes to showcase what it owns and, when it comes to death, is well prepared.

“We have the guns of Frank Tuthill, an eccentric man found murdered in the Hampton Bays woods on Aug. 6, 1932,” said Ms. Curran. “He was a flimflam doctor, a snake oil salesman, and some people say his death was a flimflam doctor deal gone wrong. He was known to carry thousands of dollars on him.”

Among the exhibit’s most impressive items, she said, is what’s known as “the Wickham ax,” a weapon used to murder James and Frances Wickham in the 1850s while they slept in their Cutchogue home. The murder was reportedly perpetrated by disgruntled servant Nicholas Behan, who had been rejected by one of the Wickham’s female servants and was subsequently dismissed.

Ms. Curran said she recently handed the Wickham ax to psychic Dawn Joly, who told her, “There’s a farmer and his wife here. They’re very peaceful, were very much in love and are so happy you’re doing this and bringing attention to it. They follow you all over the museum and the man who did this is nowhere near them. He’s in the far reaches of the netherworld and will never get out.”

She said she was most impressed by this interpretation because Ms. Joly had never been to the museum and did not know about the Wickham ax.

The ax, she said, was obtained by George Edwards, son of Daniel Edwards, who was a jailer at the time of the murders, and was presented to the society in 1906 by Septer Luce.

Ms. Joly will lead a guided tour of the historical society’s exhibit at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, and will give interpretations of items guests bring in for examination.

Other events scheduled at the historical society during Metaphysical May are “Transchanneling of the White Buffalo Womyn” on May 11 and “The Spirits Among Us: Metaphysical and Paranormal Investigations of New York” on May 17.

To register for one of these events or to find out more about “Metaphysical May,” call the Suffolk County Historical Society at 727-2881, ext. 100, or visit suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org.

Other events to be held at East End Arts during Metaphysical May include “Astrology & Reincarnation” on May 8, “Past Life Regression Hypnotherapy Sessions” on May 12, “Spirit Travel Sessions” on May 19 and “Mini Chart Readings and Mini Tarot Card Readings” on May 27. Space is limited. For more information, call 727-0900 or visit eastendarts.org.

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‘Death Becomes Her’
Exhibit of objects and art of death and mourning at Suffolk County Historical Society, 300 W. Main Street, Riverhead.
On view through May 26; opening reception Friday, April 27, 6-8 p.m.
Visit suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org or call 727-2881.

‘La Morte’
Juried show at East End Arts Gallery, 133 E. Main Street, Riverhead. On view through June 1; opening reception Friday, April 27, 5-7 p.m. Guest juror: April Gornik.
Visit eastendarts.org or call 727-0900.