When the name Hamilton is mentioned in the context of Fort Wayne history, we tend to think of the famous female cousins – Agnes, Edith, Alice, Norah, and sometimes Jesse, but most are less acquainted with their cousin, James Montgomery Hamilton. James (1876-1941) was the son of Allen and Cecilia (Frank) Hamilton. Though his name is not as familiar, and details of his life are less known, his generosity and devotion to his boyhood home left a lasting mark on Fort Wayne and on our Museum.
Today is the launch of the 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards! Creative students aged 13 and up may now visit the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards site and begin entering their work into this prestigious competition. FWMoA is a Regional Affiliate of the Awards, overseeing both art and writing for Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio, which is home to some incredibly talented students and educators. We’re always happy to welcome Alumni back to the museum where their art or writing was first displayed, and we were excited to discover that one of our current interns, Aaliyah Miller, received multiple Awards during her high school career. Aaliyah graduated from Carroll High School in 2016 and has gone on to pursue a degree in Art Therapy from the University of Saint Francis. We talked about her path and perspective a couple years out from high school.
Fish’s decision to focus on still life painting was an interesting one. For centuries there has been a hierarchy of subject matter in art – histories or dramas have been the most highly regarded, followed by portraiture, and then the lowly still life. This latter genre was often viewed as quaint and trite, something light and palatable that female painting hobbyists could do in their spare time when not taking care of the home or their children. While some artists have attempted to raise the status of still lives through history – 17th and 18th century Spanish and Flemish still life painters, for example, whose paintings rival photography in their level of detail and perfection – the genre failed to ever move up the ladder. Fish likely knew that she was tackling an almost impossible subject, but it’s possible that that’s what drew her to it: in a modern world with an abundance of abstract painters, still life painting was a true challenge that she could make her own.
The majority of our collection is from a single collector, David Pottinger, who focused on “Amish Quilts” from the early 20th century, though our earliest quilt is from 1876. Amish quilts have two definitions: quilts made by Amish or Mennonite quilters or quilts made using traditional Amish techniques and fabrics. Amish Quilts have a distinct style that persists to quilters today. A dark base color, striking geometric designs, and fantastically intricate hand stitching are hallmarks of Amish Quilts, though of course not the only techniques found in these types of quilts. Quilting is often a community project, where many friends and family members gather to work together to create a single quilt. Much like glassblowing, quilting is a collaborative art that is passed down to the next generation. Mothers would teach their daughters from an early age what they knew. When you look at the quilts, see if any share similarities in color or style, were they made by people from the same family? From the same community?
The news media loves to circulate stories of brazen museum visitors who get too close to the objects in their midst, causing some degree of harm to priceless art and antiquities. The more valuable the art, the more headlines, and the more dramatic the damage, the more shame we in the audience can heap on the hapless fools. Sensational news stories are one thing; real life “please do not touch!” incidents at FWMoA are another.
Burroughs’ work in the visual arts took the form of painting, some sculpture, and a large body of relief prints. In Black Venus, Burroughs surely sought to reinterpret Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s iconic Birth of Venus. Dr. Alain Locke, along with other Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and writers, set out to redefine their image as the New Negro, which would counter the stereotypes associated with Jim Crow America. They challenged artists to forge a new, authentic iconography for a re-envisioned identity. The arts would draw inspiration from the South, the Caribbean, and pre-colonial Africa—their true cultural roots. Burroughs borrowed compositional elements from Botticelli’s painting of the classical goddess rising from the sea, but provides a renewed definition of beauty by replacing her fair hair and complexion with a rich, dark skin tone.
Surprising things often turn up in our archives, and the story of the first Director of the Fort Wayne Art School & Museum is one of those. When Theodore Thieme, president of the Wayne Knitting Mills, gave his home on Berry Street to the Fort Wayne Art School in 1921, he mandated some conditions before the transfer of his property could occur. One condition was that the Museum would become a formal part of the institution, others described the new board, constitution, and memberships, and, finally, it was agreed that the school would have a Director. Until then, the Board of Control had recruited an array of instructors, but had not appointed an executive. Now, with the added responsibilities of the Museum, a large endowment, and growing enrollment, it was necessary that the school and museum have a leader.
When you walk into the 46th International Glass Invitational Award Winners exhibition here at FWMoA, it’s likely that your eye will be immediately drawn to a pair of large, brightly-colored pieces standing in one of the gallery’s corners. These works by American glass artist Stephen Powell have playful, enigmatic titles, and, with their size and thinly curved structures, seem to be part-sculpture, part-architectural element.
With the start of the school year also comes the start of our docent training for the year. What better time to get to know another of our wonderful docents, Marlene Cooper! Marlene’s enthusiasm for and love of art is infectious. Read on, and watch a short interview, to see why FWMoA is her happy place and the children she gives tours to are her favorite people.
Whoever is shown in this painting, parts of it were painted well and parts of it show a great lack of skill or a disinterest in accurately depicting parts of the picture. This painting was commissioned to local painter Horace Rockwell, who made a modest living in the business of commercial portraiture and occasionally executed nearly life-sized family portraits like that of the Hanna family. Rockwell, exercising the style of the time that people should be depicted naturally and without idealization, paid special attention to the faces of the Hanna family and rather skillfully shows how these people probably looked in real life. Ironically, the bodies of these people look quite unnatural, lacking anatomically correct bone structure and proportion. Feet look more like wooden wedges, shoulders slump like shapeless sacks of flour, and the youngest Hanna in the portrait is shown to have only four toes. Rockwell has problems with his composition as well. An empty spot in the middle of the painting leaves an awkward division between the sitters, and almost no attention is paid to the background, which the artist has chosen to resolve by painting it a flat brown with no clue to tell us where this family is sitting.