Reality Check: For Your Eyes Only

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.

Treasures from the Vault: Margaret Burroughs

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. 

Karl Bolander: The Hobby King

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.

Art Term Tuesday: Murrini

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.

Docent Dialogue: The Marvelous Ms. Marlene

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.

Off the Cuff: Fort Wayne’s Past in a Portrait

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.

Winslow Homer takes FWMoA Back to School

It’s that time of year again: Back to School! While students of all ages cling to their final vestiges of freedom, we at FWMoA welcome this time of year. It’s when our galleries fill up again with tour groups and brighten our days. I was one of those kids excited to go back to school—I could learn and see my friends? Yes, please! I can see you shaking your head and smiling about how that eager little girl ended up in a museum (where she can now learn literally every day of the year) but I’m not the only one! There are artists who look back on school days with fondness, and one of them is on display just in time for the school year to start: Winslow Homer.

Art Term Tuesday: Engraving

“Winslow Homer: From Poetry to Fiction” opened at the museum on July 28, celebrating the engraved works of one of America’s most famous artists. Winslow Homer, a mostly self-taught artist of the 19th century, is well-known for his paintings and watercolors of American life and marine seascapes. However, Homer also created many engravings for Harper’s Weekly before his painting career took off, and a selection of those engravings are on view at FWMoA now. In honor of this exhibit, let’s explore what an “engraving” is in today’s Art Term Tuesday.

Treasures from the Vault: Robert Stackhouse

Over the course of his 30+ year career, Stackhouse has refined his style. He almost exclusively crafts around the forms of ships and snakes, believing that a great artist doesn’t need an abundance of new information. He’s found what works for him, and if it’s not broken, he doesn’t plan on fixing it.