Prattsville Clews - A Case Study Online Exhibit


The Zadock Pratt Museum in collaboration with Prattsville Art Center presents Prattsville Clews - A Case Study by Clover Archer, an online exhibition exploring micro or granular histories - small ordinary moments in everyday lives that fill in the vast amount of time around lifetime milestones or what is more generally considered “important.”
As a creative endeavor that combines contemporary artistic practice with historical research, the Prattsville Clews Project online exhibition is a collaboration between the Zadock Pratt Museum and the Prattsville Art Center. This project brings together the missions of Prattsville’s historical foundation and its creative community center to examine overlooked trajectories between the past, present, and future, and to celebrate this unique area of the Catskill region.
In Part I of this two-part presentation, the Zadock Pratt Museum is hosting a digital exhibition of the graphite drawings, the text of the “clews” that inspired the drawings, and the family trees that became artworks as their branches were jointly filled in by current family members with names and stories. In Part II of this two-part presentation, the Prattsville Art Center will host on its website the Clew Registry wherein visitors are invited to contribute a biographical detail that may subtly shift how future researchers will understand them. Through the online form, registrants are invited to submit a fact, memory, habit, characteristic that we could not know from internet research, that is not part of the public record, and that would otherwise be lost to time. A Clew can be as simple as “I like to chew ice” or “I rub my feet together when I’m sleepy,” or as complex as an intimate childhood memory or reoccurring dream. Newly registered Clews will be added to the website over the course of the digital exhibition.
In the summer of 2019, as an artist in residence at the Prattsville Art Center, Clover Archer worked closely with the Zadock Pratt Museum to learn more about the history of the area. During this time, she met with Prattsville citizens who generously shared their family histories, stories, photographs, and memorabilia.
While meeting with local residents, the artist made notations on large family tree charts documenting their stories as the Prattsvillian contributors reminisced. The artist calls these small human histories “clews.”
Our contemporary word “clue” is derived from the word “clew,” originally meaning a ball of yarn or thread. In one Greek myth a “clew” or ball of yarn is used to lead the way out of a labyrinth, which is how we have come to understand the word to mean something that leads to a solution or an answer. Thinking of the labyrinth as a metaphor for life, the artist considers these granular histories to be the moments that lead us through the maze of our existence - guiding the way and filling the time between the more memorable and more commonly documented occasions.
Based on this information, the artist has created a series of graphite drawings illustrating a small sampling of the clews that are connected to Prattsville. These small details are both particular to Prattsville and yet not geographically specific. Looking at these illustrations of the ordinary (i.e., a broom, a sled, a car, a cow, etc.), we all have associations with them – we see them as familiar and share the humanity of the small particulars. All drawings are 8 x 10 inches, graphite on paper, made in 2019 and 2020. Visit the exhibition online at


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