Pennsylvania Dutch Dioramas of Abner & Aaron Zook
August 12 – November 7, 2015
Reception: Sunday, September 13, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
See 18th century immigrant ships arriving at the port of Philadelphia. Witness the human and mechanical drama of the wheat harvest on a Pennsylvania Dutch farm in the early 20th century. See the smoke belching from the steam-powered tractor on the barn hill. Watch the action of a traditional barn-raising. Sense the excitement of a rural farm family in a large farm sleigh crossing over a bridge in a snow-covered scene.
Twins Abner K. Zook and Aaron K. Zook were raised in an Old Order Amish family in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, PA. Abner Zook (1921-2010), later of near Womelsdorf, made over 800 framed dioramas in his lifetime. Aaron also became a 3-D artist. As children, the boys would compete to see who could make better toys and watercolor pictures. This sense of competition followed them through adulthood, as the twins were in constant competition to see who could make bigger or better dioramas.
Abner’s works are a combination of painting and sculpture. In the dioramas, the buildings, figures, trees, carriages, and other objects are sculpted. They are made out of various materials, from steel wool and copper wire to auto body repair putty. The paintings have a brilliant use of depth and perspective that create a scene that looks true to life.
Zook’s intricate paintings are action based and tell a story. The dioramas settings take place in the Amish and Mennonite communities of Lancaster County around the turn-of-the 19th century. They include scenes from daily life such as seasonal farm work, public auctions, barn raisings, and a blacksmith shop. But they could also represent traditional Pennsylvania German farm scenes of Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
Twin brother Aaron K. Zook (1921-2003) lived and worked in Kinzers, Lancaster County. A three-dimensional artist for 25 years, Aaron had studios at his home and at Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant, in Bird-in-Hand. Besides his diorama work, he enjoyed worldwide travels.
The pieces in the show are selected from the collection of James J. and Nancy Binsberger of near Blooming Glen, the largest known collection of Zook dioramas.