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Archive for the ‘American Art’ Category

I need to get back in the habit of googling Harriet Hosmer more often.  I have come across two  older but interesting links in recent days.

Hosmer and an illustration of her bust Daphne is featured on the “That’s So Gay” blog, which is dedicated to gay history in the Library Company of Philadelphia collections.  The Library Company also holds the papers of the author Anne Hampton Brewster, a friend of Hosmer’s.  I loved reading through the Brewster’s letters, which contained a description of a dramatic fight Hosmer witnessed between Charlotte Cushman and her girlfriend Matilda Hayes when all three women were living together in Rome.  It was an unique insight into the life of this household.  The last post on the blog promotes the upcoming exhibit “That’s So Gay: Outing Early America,” which will run from Feb. 10-Oct.17, 2014.

Philip Kennicott’s 2011 article in the Washington Post, Art Has Yet to Face Up to Homosexuality raises important issues about the role of gay artists in our artist heritage and how that is represented or, often, hidden, in art history and museums.  I was both happy and distressed to read this sentence though: “Artists who hid their “gay” work (Charles Demuth), or stood to the side of the mainstream art world (Marsden Hartley), or are simply forgotten (a circle of artists in Italy that included Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis and Harriet Hosmer) may deserve new attention and status.”  I guess I hoped my book would mean Hosmer was not-so-forgotten? 

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The recent NY Times article “Welcoming Art Lovers with Disabilities” was illustrated by a picture of a woman who is blind touching Hosmer’s Sleeping Faun. The article is interesting, but I wish it had more information from the perspective of people who participate in the programs. What is like to experience art if you can’t see it? I would have loved know what Mercedes Austin, the 17 year old in the picture, thought as she touched the cold marble of Hosmer’s elaborate, and really quite odd, statue. (I love the little newt in this piece.)

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The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has recently announced that it has acquired a previously unknown picture of Edmonia Lewis, a sculptor who was Harriet Hosmer’s contemporary in Rome. The museum’s Deputy Director of Audience Engagement Jacqueline Copeland came across the image in a box of photographs in an antique shop and recognized the artist. Copeland will discuss finding the image at a brown bag lunch on Feb. 7.

The photograph is not the most astounding Lewis discovery–her sculpture Cleopatra was found in the storage room of a mall! And Marilyn Richardson only discovered her date and place of death two years ago.

On a less happy not, in Ken Burn’s Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson there is a reference to African-American artists that is illustrated by a picture that I think is clearly meant to be Lewis.  But is a picture of Vinnie Ream, a white woman who was another sculptor who passed through Rome. And Lewis’s birthplace is still unknown.  (At least I think, unless there has been another Lewis discovery).

Thanks to Sandra Payne for alerting me to the discovery of the photo.

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Jody Culkin, a New York City artist and also my aunt, has a show at the BOCA Museum of Art.  As the museum website explains, “Jody Culkin: Refashioned subverts traditional functions of women’s apparel by creating quirky, ironic faux-utilitarian clothing and accessories which question whether fashion entraps or liberates women – or both.”  Book21Cal has a ton of great pictures of the exhibit on Flickr.  I wish I could see it in person!

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Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography is included in the November edition of  Midwest Book Review’s Biography Shelf.  There are some other books that look fascinating as well, including “Stay By Me, Roses: The Life of American Artist Alice Archer Sewall James, 1870-1955.”  Hopefully now that winter break is almost here, I will have a chance to read a few of them.

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This past weekend, the New York Public Library celebrated the centennial of the magnificent building which houses its research collection with a series of events.  The one I was the most excited about was the tour of the stacks.  As many of you know, the  42nd Street research library is a closed stacks  institution.  Users fill out a form and submit it, and 20 or so minutes later the book appears at desk in the middle of the reading room. The forms until very recently were sent downstairs, to the 7 floors of stacks below the reading room, by pneumatic tubes, but I believe, sadly, that system has at last been made obsolete.  Anyway, the whole process seems very mysterious and slightly magical to someone like me, who has has spent countless hours in the building.  Most people on the tour seemed to feel the same way, especially the woman who had tears in her eyes she was so excited about seeing the stacks.  Perhaps not surprisingly, once we got down to the stacks, I felt like I was in a Wes Anderson movie set, in a charming thicket of  old card catalog cases, shoots and conveyor belts, call slips and (of course) books.

There is also a wonderful exhibition of some of the library’s treasures.  Highlights for me were seeing Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, Jack Kerouac’s diary that served as the basis for On the Road and the first book published by Europeans in the Americas, from the 1500s.  The oddest item might have been Charles Dicken’s letter opener–the handle was the paw of his beloved cat Bob, who had passed away. The exhibition’s curator Thomas Mellis is making a series of videos about some of the artifacts.

Another highlight–models of the library’s famous lions (Patience and Fortitude), made of Legos.

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On April 7, there will be an event to celebrate the publication of Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation. Born in Austria in 1904, Chaim Gross emigrated to the United States in 1921.  He became a well known sculptor, working primarily in wood, and was a founding teacher of sculpture at the New School.  The event will take place in his studio, which is filled with his work. I don’t believe the models from the picture linked to will be there; if so, they are likely to be clothed.

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