Creative shell compositions on display at the Marion Art Center

Apr 1, 2023

MARION— It was Marion resident Sarah Mitchell’s first time viewing all of her grandmother’s art in one room during the Marion Art Center’s opening reception for Evelyn Kendall’s exhibit on Saturday, April 1.

According to Mitchell, the artwork created with shells is usually displayed throughout her family’s home. 

“It is so impactful to see them all in one space,” said Marion Art Center Executive Director Jodi Stevens.

Kendall was born in Ontario, Canada in 1893 and began summering in Marion in 1913 with her husband Henry Plimpton Kendall. According to Mitchell, her grandmother did not receive artistic training but instead worked as a nurse and pursued art in her free time.

“It was her thing,” Mitchell said. “Hours and hours a day she would be in her studio with her shells.”

Kendall’s shell compositions range from traditional sailor valentines to picturesque seascapes. 

“I remember just being fascinated watching over her shoulder as she did all of this meticulous work,” said Mitchell. “She was very skilled.”

Mitchell said her grandmother’s collections were not limited to the shells used in her art.

According to Mitchell, Kendall owned an expansive doll collection that was sold in 1999 and a scrimshaw collection which is displayed at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. 

“She was a psychotic collector,” said Mitchell. 

Although Mitchell has referred to Kendall’s work as folk art, she finds it difficult to restrict it to just one category. 

“It’s so hard to describe it,” said Mitchell referring to Kendall’s artistic style. “We have been trying to come up with a name for the genre but we have always just called them grandma’s shell pictures.”

Despite difficulty deciding on the genre of her work, Mitchell and her family can agree that their grandmother’s work is beautiful.

“You have to come see it in person because the pictures don’t do it justice,” said Stevens.

Kendall’s artwork will be on display at the Marion Art Center until May 6.