Wilton artist curates exhibit featuring her family’s art at Hammond Museum

The formal title of the triptych of exhibits currently at the Hammond Museum, a few country miles west of Ridgefield in North Salem, N.Y., is “Artistic Legacies and Zen Sanctuary.” But a more homely title could be “Lucy Krupenye, family and friends.”

Lucy, a Wilton sculptor who works in found materials like stone, wood, metal and bone, is at the center of all three exhibits as artist, curator, daughter and granddaughter.

The family legacies, as Lucy explained them, begin with her grandmother, Berta Gladstone who ran a gallery in Woodstock, N.Y. which in its 1960s heyday had an impressive roster of artists.

“I played there as a little kid,” Lucy said. “Her artists were showing at the Met museum, at MOMA, at the National Gallery. I knew it was a prominent gallery, but as I grew up it wasn’t there anymore. As an adult looking back, I thought, ‘Oh?’ So I went through archives at the Woodstock library and it reinforced my memories.”

She did her research about five years ago, and the newspaper clippings she found reporting on shows at the Gladstone Gallery, along with other documents, occupy a corner of one gallery at the Hammond.

Meanwhile both Lucy and her mother, Berta’s daughter Grace Krupenye, had established themselves as artists independently from one another, at least at first. Lucy’s early memories are of her mother’s oil paintings. Later she switched to collage, partly because the family spent summers in southern France, where Lucy’s father Ira Krupenye, a concert violinist, performed with two orchestras. One was the Monte Carlo Philharmonic.

“My mother started to play around with the paper the French use to wrap bread,” Lucy said. “Then she started making her own paper. Incredibly that was about the time I was starting out as a sculptor. We were doing it totally separately and then we would come together and we were always amazed at how similar the feel was to our art work. It was wonderful because my mom always inspired me so much but then there was a time when she said how much I inspired her.”

Eventually, mother and daughter would do exhibits together. About two dozen of Grace’s collages are displayed in the Hays Gallery at the Hammond. They tend to be smaller and more delicate than her daughter’s rugged sculptures. But most incorporate metal, usually disguised in flattened ribbons.

One titled “Ellipse of Love” is dedicated to Ira, her muse and husband. In the center, there’s a found object that looks like a crouching creature from an early video game. Lucy said it is actually a bridge from one of her father’s violins. She herself did a sculpture series using his old violin cases.

At first, Lucy followed in her father’s musical footsteps, attending the Manhattan School of Music in high school as a flutist. Then one day in her 20s, she got a call from her mother warning her she was cleaning out the attic in the family home, where Lucy’s collection of shoreline finds from Cape Cod was stored.

“She said, ‘Would you like these? Otherwise I’m throwing them out.’ I said, yes. And I started taking stones and putting things together. I started making jewelry,” she said. But friends told her jewelry looked more like sculpture and urged her to work on a larger scale.

At the Hammond, she has 22 pieces on display in the Goelet Gallery. Many like “Lost Tribe,” which won the Eisner prize for sculpture in a Silvermine Arts Center show, incorporate bowed strips of wood or metal that evoke the entrance to a Japanese temple.

Another piece, and the largest, shares space with paintings done by her mother and even her grandmother. Titled “Sanctuary,” it is a five foot tall slab of mottled metal bearing what Lucy identified as old carriage springs. Paired end to end, they have a bowed canoe shape. In an upper corner are an animal’s leg bone and vertebrae arranged to look like a character from an Asian alphabet.

Lucy is a Zen advocate and the third section of her Hammond exhibit is a celebration of Zen spirit featuring the work of 23 different artists, many of them familiar names. There’s a landscape by David Dunlop, a Silvermine instructor. Jeanine Esposito of Westport’s Beechwood Arts Center has a hanging, 12-foot white waterfall made from painted fabric. Miggs Burroughs of Westport has done a Zen Garden in his signature lenticular style. Melissa Newman, a daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, has two small floral sculptures made from porcelain. They are under glass, as if each has its own private terrarium. Newman is a good friend, Lucy said.

In her artist statements, Lucy emphasizes Zen influence and she said she loves the tranquility of her home on the Norwalk River. But she described her studio, with a huge workbench as a jumble of found pieces of wood, metal, stone and bone, often brought to her by friends.

“People say, “How do you know where anything is?’ I just say I just know. But you need a tetanus shot before you go in,” she said.

Her “Artistic Legacies and Zen Sanctuary” exhibit runs to Nov. 5 at the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden.