Thou Shalt Knot exhibition celebrates Clifford W. Ashley and the ubiquitous, sculptural, mathematically elegant world of knots

By Gayle Hargreaves | Aug 31, 2017

New Bedford Whaling Museum — Explore the world of knots and the work of master knot tyer, maritime artist, historian, and author Clifford W. Ashley in our big new exhibition, Thou Shalt Knot: Clifford W. Ashley, running through June 2018.

Many of you will know Ashley's name: he wrote The Ashley Book of Knots, a magnum opus on knot tying that has been in continuous print since 1944. A highlight of the exhibition is Ashley's personal collection of knots, which his daughters Phoebe Chardon and Jane Ashley donated to the Museum in 2016.

Knots are ubiquitous, sculptural, and mathematically elegant. They are both ancient and modern, and are the subject of cutting edge research and ongoing practice in the fields of mathematics, physics, life sciences, materials engineering, and art, not to mention within a wide range of industries and recreational pastimes. Thou Shalt Knot takes on many of these themes.

Complementing the Ashley Collection in the exhibition is a broad range of objects and rare books drawn from the Whaling Museum’s permanent collection, partner institutions, and private collections that help to place Ashley’s work within a larger cultural, social, industrial, artistic, and utilitarian context.

Thou Shalt Knot also includes modern works in various media that speak to a contemporary understanding and meaning of knots, including macro views of rope in large graphite works on paper by Huguette Despault May and ceramic sculptures of rope and sailcloth by Julia Mandle.

A full color, 83 page catalog accompanies the exhibition.

Thou Shalt Knot is sponsored by the family of Clifford W. Ashley and made possible, in part, by support from the International Guild of Knot Tyers, the Boston Marine Society, Margaret Baker Howland, and Mary Howland Smoyer.

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