Monday, March 23, 2009

"Rural Modernism"

On Sunday March 29, at 2:00 PM, I'll be giving the last gallery talk related to "The Road Less Traveled: Thomas Nason's Rural New England."  In this talk, as in the video below, I'll be discussing prints in the exhibition that suggest Nason's familiarity with the aesthetics of modern art.  It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but I think of Nason as a experimenting with something I'll call "rural modernism."  I'll also compare Nason's prints with work by Grant Wood, Charles Sheeler, and Charles Demuth.  This video takes a closer look at Nason's wood engraving Factory Village, the subject of which is a distinct departure from his  typical scenes of rural New England life.  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Something "New" in Miss Florence's Bedroom

For many of us docents who spend time in Miss Florence's house, there has been something missing lately. It is the lovely statuette of "Jessie Wilson" by Bessie Potter Vonnoh which is normally on the fireplace mantel in Miss Florence's bedroom. This bronze and another by Vonnoh entitled "Standing Nude" (usually in the artist's bedroom) are currently part of the exhibition "Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women," organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum.

This show was on view at the Florence Griswold Museum last fall and is now at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama. It will travel on to the Cincinnati Art Museum this summer.

Vonnoh was a popular member of the Lyme Art Colony and a good friend of Florence Griswold's. It is believed that the two bronzes were gifts from Vonnoh to Miss Florence.

The sculpture of "Jessie Wilson" (the daughter of President Woodrow Wilson) is a favorite of mine and I have missed seeing it. But several weeks ago, I walked into Miss Florence's bedroom and--what to my wondering eyes should appear?--there was another work by Bessie Potter Vonnoh.

This "new" bronze is from a private collection and is another cast of Vonnoh's "Standing Nude." It was discovered several years ago in upstate New York. The owners are loaning it to the Florence Griswold while the museum's two Vonnoh sculptures are on the road. And the privately owned "Standing Nude" will remain on the fireplace mantel until next fall when "Jessie Wilson" returns home.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Museum Inspires Young Artist

After visiting the Florence Griswold Museum for the first time during the summer of 2004, five-year-old Stephen Mills sat down on the museum grounds with the materials his mother provided him and painted his first canvas. Two hours later he finished, arriving at a new and more advanced level of painting that surprised those who saw his work. Now 10 years old, Stephen has already received several awards and recognitions.

When Stephen was seven, his Mom took him to Giverny where he painted in Monet's garden. He wants to go back again one day and paint there again. He commented that being at the Florence Griswold Museum reminded him of Giverny.

Jane Mills, Stephen's mom, talks about a more recent visit to the Museum, " The photo of him at the Museum at age 9 last September shows him at a very happy moment. He had toured the museum and sat down to paint. The museum closed and he was yelling to nobody how happy he was and how he loved painting and loved being there. He said, 'I think I can feel Childe Hassam's spirit looking over my shoulder!' and he painted right until dark."

In 2005, at the age of six, Stephen received The Connecticut Renewal Team's National Arts Program Award. Stephen was the youngest person in Connecticut to ever receive this award. In October, 2006, Stephen signed his posters at Borders to help raise money for hurricane relief. His painting, Poinsettias, was chosen to be represented on holiday cards for the 2006 Children's Medical Center's Holiday fundraiser. Also in 2006, Stephen had a one-person art show at the Peterborough Art Academy and Gallery in Peterborough, NH.

Stephen's art was selected in an international contest in 2007 to appear on the cover of the book, It's All in Your Head, Around the World in 80 Lyme Patient Stories by PJ Langhoff. In 2008 he was featured on Viva Hartford during his Strokes of Genius 2 exhibit at Young Studios in Hartford.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Different Kind of Self-Portrait

In this video, we look at a Thomas Nason print entitled Engraving A Block.  Despite its minimal qualities (and size, at 1 1/2 x 2 1/8" it's the smallest print in our Thomas Nason exhibition), I think it speaks volumes of Nason's sense of self.  In the print Nason represents his own two hands, at work, cutting a block.  All of the images in this video are on view in The Road Less Traveled: Thomas Nason's Rural New England, along with Nason's own tools and blocks.