The Newark Museum

Newark, NJ



Shell Angelology


Visitors to The Newark Museum's Contemporary Craft Gallery will find a season-appropriate, whimsical display of miniature sculptures lovingly crafted from seashells and other natural materials.

"Shell Angelology," on view through July 30, 2000 highlights the craftsmanship of Thelma Dear. Each small assemblage is an expression of Mrs. Dear's profound love of the natural world and of her belief in the power of nature to arouse one's imagination. Through these very personal works, she transports the viewer to a make-believe world peopled by delicate angels born from the sea, ranging from Wagner's Brunhilda to whimsical circus clowns, from a bashful bride to turn-of-the-century ladies and Japanese-inspired warriors. (left: Amazon, right: Untitled)

Many years ago, while walking along a pristine sandy beach on the west coast of Florida, Mrs. Dear spotted a small pastel-colored shell. Both halves of the long-gone bivalve were intact, and lay spread in the soft sand like a pair of miniature angel's wings. That moment marked the beginning of what would become a passionate hobby for Mrs. Dear, a resident of Morristown with a long association with The Newark Museum.

Ever since her shell collecting began, Mrs. Dear has chosen natural materials because their shapes, colors and textures were suggestive of something else. Unlike shell collectors who focus only on perfect specimens, she is fascinated by sea-worn fragments as much as by intact shells. (left: Poor Old Lady, I Have to sell my beloved pert's home)

Sculpted by nature, rather than by human hands, these bits and pieces have become part of these complex miniature sculptures drawn from Mrs. Dear's wide artistic knowledge. Her ability to combine seemingly random natural artifacts into works that evoke poetic images from the human world is a testament to a keen aesthetic eye and to careful, patient craftsmanship. (right: I'm glad I have this stuff, It's cold up here)

Interspersed with these pieces are artworks from Mrs. Dear's private collection, including a painting by Everett Shinn, that have inspired her creations. The shell angels have been exhibited previously at The Newark Museum as well as The Morris Museum, Morristown, and Seton Hall University Library, South Orange.

Read more about the Newark Museum in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/18/11

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