Thursday, November 29, 2012

Minna Citron at GMOA

It’s the week after Thanksgiving and I’m sure we’re all either still full of turkey and sweet potato soufflé or getting geared up for the big winter break. But before we kick back and relax on the couch with movie marathons, the Georgia Museum of Art has one more exhibition starting before the holidays. “Minna Citron: The Uncharted Course from Realism to Abstraction” will open on Dec. 8 and run until March 3, 2013.
      The exhibition will showcase roughly 50 of Citron’s award-winning social realist and abstract paintings and sculptures, picked from her 60 years as an artist. The art is on loan from her granddaughter, Christiane H. Citron, and has traveled from museums in Texas, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
      Minna Citron attended the Art Students League of New York in 1928, and it was during her time there that she created her iconic genre scenes of Union Square and became a member of the 14th Street School. Citron associated with artists such as Isabel Bishop, a renowned graphic artist, and Reginald Marsh, most notable for his paintings of New York City, Coney Island and vaudeville in the 1920s and 1930s.
     Citron’s work initially started out as realist, depicting fine details in the clothes and faces of her subjects. These early works focused more on the roles of women in her satirical style, and during World War II she traveled across the country for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Program, producing some of her iconic prints based on the women who joined the U.S. Navy. After the war, she moved onto the abstract, strongly emphasizing dynamic shapes that stood out from their backgrounds. During this time she traveled to France to learn new techniques in color printing, which she brought back to the United States. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Citron experimented with collages and other aspects of three-dimensional art, even developing methods for 3D printmaking and assembly. 

Minna Citron
Cold Comfort
Minna Citron
      Many of Citron's works hang in prestigious museums, including the Teller Gallery in New York, and GMOA owns a small abstract oil by her that hangs in its permanent collection galleries. The exhibition was organized by Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., along with Christiane Citron, and is sponsored locally by the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art. Paul Manoguerra, our chief curator and curator of American art, will serve as the in-house curator for the exhibition and will lead a tour of it Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 2 p.m. We would be thrilled to see you before and during the holidays when the exhibition opens.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Georgia O'Keeffe!

Georgia O'Keeffe, hands 1918
Photo by Alfred Stieglitz

Today we celebrate the birth of one of the most influential and well-known female artists of the 20th century. Born in 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisc., O’Keeffe was the second of seven children born to a pair of dairy farmers. Her maternal grandfather and namesake, George Victor Totto, was a Hungarian count who immigrated to the United States in 1848.  Known today for her intense and vibrant paintings, O’Keeffe made the decision to become an artist at the wise age of 10, and, along with her sister, received her first instruction from watercolorist Sara Mann.
When the O’Keeffe family moved to Williamsburg, Va., in 1902, Georgia remained in Wisconsin with her aunt to attend school before making the move to join her family in 1903. After graduating from high school in 1905, O’Keeffe went to study at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago until 1906. From there she enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City, where she happened to study under William Merritt Chase. In 1908 she won a still-life prize named for Chase at the League for one of her oil paintings.
That same year, after attending an exhibition of Auguste Rodin’s watercolors at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery, O’Keeffe gave up the idea of being a professional artist, believing that she could never distinguish herself from the painters from whom she had learned. She did not paint again for four years.
In 1912, O’Keeffe attended a class at the University of Virginia Summer School, where she was introduced to the innovative ideas and techniques of Arthur Wesley Dow, who was best known for teaching that instead of copying nature, art should focus on the elements of the composition, such as line, mass and color. These ideas inspired O’Keeffe to pick up her brush once more and she ended up teaching art in public schools in Amarillo, Tex., from 1912 to 1914. She still took classes from Dow, who helped shape her thought-process as she painted. After teaching at Columbia University in South Carolina until 1916, O’Keeffe took the job as head of the art department at still young West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Tex., where she stayed until 1918. During that time she made multiple expeditions into the Palo Duro Canyon, using the rock formations as subjects in many of her works.
It was in 1916 that O’Keeffe’s work made an impact on the New York art community. Anita Pollitzer, a photographer and friend of O’Keeffe’s from Columbia University, mailed a few of O’Keeffe’s charcoal drawings to Stieglitz, not only a gallery owner but a photographer (and O’Keeffe’s future husband). Stieglitz told Pollitzer that the drawings were the “purest, finest, sincerest things that had entered 291 in a long while.” In April of that year, he exhibited 10 of her drawings, surprising O’Keeffe. When she confronted him, she agreed to let them remain on display. This catalyst began their partnership. Stieglitz went on to organize nearly all of O’Keeffe’s exhibitions, starting with her first solo show, in 1917, at 291, which included her paintings and watercolors from her time in Texas.
Stieglitz and O’Keeffe kept in constant contact over the years, and in 1918, O’Keeffe agreed to move to New York to devote her time to her art. The two began to fall in love and moved in together, even though Stieglitz was already married and 23 years older. In 1924, his divorce was approved and he married O’Keeffe within four months. It was with Stieglitz’s aid that O’Keeffe’s work gained further fame and commanded higher and higher prices.
O’Keeffe’s notable New Mexico phase did not begin until the late 1920s. Before then she had been working in the New York area, but she had felt the increasing need for a new source of inspiration, and traveled to Santa Fe. She took multiple trips into the desert, painting her iconic scenes with vivid colors. In late 1932, she suffered a nervous breakdown partly because she was falling behind schedule on a mural project. O’Keeffe did not paint again until 1934, after recuperating in Bermuda. She returned to New Mexico, leaving Stieglitz to work (he also had an affair with the photographer Dorothy Norman) in New York.
O’Keeffe continued to work exclusively from New Mexico, buying homes there, including an abandoned hacienda in Abiquiu, until 1946, when Stieglitz died. She spent three years settling his affairs in New York before moving permanently to New Mexico. She worked primarily from her Abiquiu house, making its architectural elements subjects of her work.
In 1962, O’Keeffe became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and four years later she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She continued to have exhibitions, and her work remained a prominent force in the public eye. In 1977, President Gerald Ford presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to American citizens, and in 1985, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
O’Keeffe became increasingly frail in her late 90s, and her eyesight began to deteriorate. She moved to Santa Fe in 1984, and in 1986, on March 6, she died at the age of 98. O’Keeffe was cremated in accordance with her will, and her ashes were scattered on the winds atop Pedernal Mountain, over what she called her “beloved faraway.”

Georgia O'Keeffe
Red Barn, Lake George, New York, 1921
O'Keeffe's legacy lives on today, her work being her most influential impact on the arts. The museum in Santa Fe devoted to her paintings, drawings and pottery, coincidentally designed by the same architects as the Georgia Museum of Art's renovation and expansion project, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. In the sciences, a fossilized species of archosaur (an ancient relative of today's crocodiles) was named after her as Effigia okeeffeae (meaning "O'Keeffe's ghost"). Collections of her paintings hang in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art and in the Georgia Museum of Art. If you'd like to have a look at some of O'Keeffe's influential work, especially on her birthday, we would love to see you in the museum!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Separate Vision

Video by Kathryn Kao
            Vision can be many things. It can be a gift, a science, an image or a distant dream.
            But for Jonathan Jacquet, a professional artist, a security supervisor at the Georgia Museum of Art and a soon-to-be-nurse, vision is an obsession. His paintings and sculptures cling to a fading age of Romanticism that often borders on the grotesque. As an artist, he is heavily influenced by a childhood accident that left him blind in one eye, and on many levels, viewing his works is like reading an intimate autobiography. He is enthralled by how the brain and eye function together to read depth and proportion. In fact, most of his works of art examine the science of neurobiology to explain the physiological processes that occur while a person is drawing. For some people, this may be a dense and complicated subject matter, but for Jacquet, it is his life.
            He is a great admirer of scientists like Margaret Livingstone and Nobel Prize winner Ruth Hubbard for their investigations of how the eye functions. Jacquet humbly explains that Livingston’s article on Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt might explain why he has a natural ability to replicate visual objects from life onto a two-dimensional plane. “There has been a lot of science and biology that’s fed into the understanding of vision and how the mind processes vision,” says Jacquet. “Just how you hold a pencil, that tactile feel, how the touch is and the amount of brain space dedicated to the hand is miniscule compared to the amount of brain space dedicated to the retina.”
             His stereo blindness, or inability to see depth, is a visual experience that is often represented as a ring or halo in his paintings. In a nut shell, his art depicts what an eye sees. If a person shuts one eye, he or she sees a round, oval shape that defines the perimeter of his or her vision. This ring, representing Jacquet’s unique field of vision, is often depicted in sketches with his nose at the bottom left corner and his eyebrow peeking over the top. Additionally, the anatomy of the retina is built in concentric rings that he believes students can use as a tool to perceive angles, horizons and values. Although this takes a bit of awareness on the artist’s part, the ring in the center of Jacquet’s vision makes reading proportions a great deal easier. “The amount of brain space dedicated to perceiving vision is phenomenal,” says Jacquet. “A student that could train themselves to become more aware of the retina as a tool would greatly aid them in drawing.” 
            To Jacquet, the retina is just as important as the hand, if not more. “Sight is a wonderful gift that is easily lost,” he says, gazing out the window at a clear sky. “Just being able to see currently, I greatly appreciate it.”
*          *          *
            Born on February 13, 1975, Jacquet was only 5-years-old when he stabbed his left eye. “I was carving a piece of wood with scissors my mom took away,” says Jacquet sheepishly. “But I kept sneaking the scissors and carving to make a little knife.” To cut the tape, Jacquet put the end of the roll in his mouth and started poking it with scissors, when he lost his grip and accidentally stabbed his eye. “I don’t remember it hurting. I do remember walking into the living room and being like, ‘Mom, am I going to be blind?’ and she said, ‘Yes, Jon, I think you probably will be.’”
            He was flown to Minneapolis, Minn., where doctors removed the lens over his left eye. But less than a year later, he suffered a retinal detachment that required doctors to wrap a sclera band around his eye. “I actually found out just recently that they should have removed it at around age 12, so my eye could have grown some,” he says. “But my eye is the same size as it was when I was 5-years-old because of the restriction by the sclera band. So there’s actually a rubber band around my eye, but it’s a piece of silicone.” Jacquet is frank about wanting a fake eye one day. “If I saved enough money, but it’s $3,000.”
           Jacquet’s earliest memory is of his first house in Marion County, Fla. He remembers the cows in his backyard, two geese, a fig tree and his dog named Blue. His parents, Leon and Melanie, met at a Bible college and moved the family, which included Jacquet’s brother Emmanuel and sister Star, across the country. The family traveled from Florida to North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, back to Florida and then to Idaho, where they lived on a dairy farm for two years. When his family moved back to Florida from Wyoming, they lived on his grandfather’s front porch for six months.  Jacquet slept under a desk. “I think those were some of my favorite memories,” says Jacquet. “When I think about it, I’m like ‘Wow, we must have been really poor.’”
            While he was attending elementary school, his father moved the family to Cambridge, Idaho to find work. Two years later, Jacquet moved back to Florida, living in a tent for two to three months as the family traveled from Idaho. Along the way, Jacquet helped his father move water lines in fields and load up trucks with hay for money. “It was fun. We got to see birds and be outside all the time doing stuff,” he says. “We were just like migrant labor.”
*          *          *
            A romantic appreciation of sculpture and wood carving runs through Jacquet’s bloodline. His grandfather was a Swedish wood carver and cabinet maker, and his paternal relatives were glassblowers. Jacquet believes this hierarchical perception of art perpetuates within him, often hampering his professional goals. Nevertheless, the classically trained artist couldn’t care less about using an outmoded medium. “It’s what I like to do,” he says simply. “There are people that do what I want to do better, but I’m where I’m at.”
            He holds an intense affinity with major European artists and sculptors of the 16th and 17th centuries. Much of this appreciation stems from the depth of vision he experiences while standing in front of older paintings. Italian artist Caravaggio and Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker Pieter Bruegel are some of Jacquet’s favorite artists. Their technique of layering transparent paint over opaque colors allows him to see a degree of depth despite his stereo blindness. His romantic fascination with wood sculptures—a medium he’s struggled to make time for in the past decade—is inspired by German sculptor and woodcarver Tilman Riemenschneider. “His work method was primarily facilitating a team of carvers to make a cohesive work of art and not carving solely as one individual,” says Jacquet. “It’s beautiful to me because it goes against the narrative of the isolated artist.”
            Jacquet is a history junkie, naming the English Reformation as one of the most fundamental turning points in art. It was during this time that his favorite painters started shifting away from the church toward the bourgeoisie as their primary supporters. Jacquet mimics the quiet drama of the early Baroque period by applying the painting techniques of Spanish painters Francisco de Zurbarán and Diego Velázquez. “I think Jonathan’s work is notably outside the trends in contemporary art,” says Katya Tepper, a contemporary painter and performance artist based in Athens, Ga. “They feel reactionary. I define them not by what they are, but by what they are not, how outside of the zeitgeist they feel. Although he and I appear to be working on opposite ends of the spectrum with our paintings, I think we are both mesmerized by paint as a material, and we are both expected to refer to its intense history when we make art in the age of technology.”
            Jacquet enjoys modeling sculptures after bog bodies, or preserved human corpses found in Northern Europe. When he lived in New York during the 1990s, he made several life-size figures from wood, hand-stitching leather over them with kite string to create a mummy effect. “Those who are looking for pictures to match their sofa don’t quite ‘get it,’” says Shawn Vinson, a professional art advisor and Jacquet’s representative in Atlanta. “Jonathan’s work stopped and made me look further. I was struck by his unique style and his painting talent was obvious.” These leather bodies were often suspended from the ceiling or hung from the wall for balance and dramatic effect. “I think I’m kind of attracted towards the grotesque because of my eye,” says Jacquet. “The facial deformity that’s caused by the eye being smaller than the other one is always there.”
            In 1997, Jacquet graduated from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., with a bachelor’s degree in sculpture. He later earned his master’s in sculpture from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2001.  Jacquet was a scenic sculptor for the Ringling Bros. Circus for two years, carving massive floats from polyurethane foam. He sculpted a 40-foot-tall mountain for “Hercules on Ice” and cast 40 to 50 skulls for Rasputin’s lair in “Anastasia on Ice.” As the lead scenic sculptor for Sightline Studios in Stark, Fla., Jacquet helped construct a 30-foot-long dragon that now sits in a theme park called Terra Mítica in Spain. Additionally, he carved rocks for Universal Studios, sanded the seat backs of river rafting ride Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and carved a Mickey Mouse statue for a rest stop off Interstate 4 in Florida.
*          *          *
            Jacquet currently works at the Georgia Museum of Art as a security supervisor and at Athens Regional Medical Center as a patient sitter. He is finishing his last year of nursing school at Athens Technical College and will graduate next spring. Balancing his time making art with work and family is a stressful challenge for the father of two. For the past decade, he has not created many sculptures—his preferred medium—because of time constraints.
            He adores his two children, Daisy, 8, and Victor, 6, but admits that taking care of them limits time for his art. On weekdays, he wakes up at 7:15 a.m. to feed his kids and drop them off at school, so he can get to class by 8:30 a.m. After his two four-hour-long lectures are over, he picks his children up from school and tries to devote the rest of his time to them. Every Tuesday, he takes them to the library so they can check-out books and do homework. “Victor’s starting to read, and Daisy’s reading chapter books,” says Jacquet. “She’s in this kind of network for kids and what books they read.” He can name several of her favorite series off the top of his head: “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “Judy Moody” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
             When he arrives home, he cooks dinner (his entire family is vegetarian), gives his children baths and then reads to them for an hour before they fall asleep. He has about 90 minutes to himself after this to read and prepare for the next day. 
*          *          *
            After spending most of his childhood in and out of hospitals, Jacquet knew he wanted to be either a doctor or an artist. The course curriculum at Athens Tech coincides with Jacquet’s interest in medicine and, he hopes, will provide him with a stable income in the future.  Despite his interest in both areas, Jacquet still feels torn between his art and nursing school. “I hope my pursuit of art doesn’t damage my career as a nurse,” he says. “I don’t know how corruptive the two will be.”
            He believes that sacrifices in his artwork are necessary to pursue a career in nursing. “People’s lives are important,” he says. “If they need me to be at a level of skill that might be impeded by my career in art, then I might have to sacrifice something.” Despite his confusion, he finds nursing fulfilling. He both fears and respects the amount of dedication the profession requires. In clinicals, students are expected to mimic a nurse’s typical work day, often forcing Jacquet to put art on the back burner. After spending eight hours a week in class and 36 hours a week prepping and doing paper work, he doesn’t have much time to paint.
            Instead, he turns to his children for inspiration. Lately, Victor has been drawing more. He likes to decorate pages, stapling them together to make a book or magazine. “They believe they’ll be able to draw like I can,” he says. “To help them, I put pirate patches on them, so they can draw with one eye.” He wants his children to follow their interests and isn’t too concerned about them learning how to draw accurately from life. “I have a vision of what I’m trying to work towards,” he says. “Sometimes it gets clouded, but I have faith that I know what I want to do. I always know I’ll be making art.”

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Happy Birthday, William Merritt Chase!

William Merritt Chase in 1900
Born in 1849 in Nineveh, Ind., Chase was an exponent of Impressionism and is best known for establishing the Chase School, today Parsons The New School for Design. In 1861, Chase’s father moved the family to Indianapolis and employed William as a salesman in his local business. Chase exhibited an interest in art early and studied under such local, self-taught artists as Jacob Cox, a landscape and portrait painter who is known for his paintings of several Indiana governors.
Chase joined the navy for a brief period before his teachers encouraged him to travel to New York to further his artistic training in 1869. He enrolled in the National Academy of Design and studied under Lemuel Wilmarth, who was a student of French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme, considered one of the most important painters in the Academic style. Chase was forced to leave a year later for St. Louis, Mo., to rejoin his family due to financial trouble. While he worked to help support them, he ingrained himself in the St. Louis art community, winning prizes for paintings at local exhibitions. In 1871, Chase exhibited his first painting at the National Academy, which elicited the interest of wealthy St. Louis collectors who ultimately acted as his benefactors, arranging for him to visit Europe for two years in exchange for his paintings and help securing European art for their own collections.
Chase traveled around Europe, first settling in Munich at the Academy of Fine Arts in Germany, then made his way to Venice. He returned to the United States in the summer of 1878, where he subsequently exhibited his new paintings with the newly created Society of American Artists. He also opened a studio in New York and became a member of the Tilers, a group of artists and authors including Winslow Homer and John Twachtman.
In 1886, Chase, now a cosmopolitan and esteemed art teacher, married Alice Gerson, one of his favorite models, and she continued to be his primary model throughout the 30 years of their marriage. They raised eight children, and their eldest daughters, Alice and Dorothy, often modeled for their father as well. During this period, Chase cultivated the lifestyle of a devoted family man, but he became known for his extravagant spending as well, filling his studio with lavish furniture and oriental carpets. By 1895, the cost of maintaining the studio as well as his other residences forced Chase to close it and auction its contents.
In addition to his on-and-off teaching jobs, Chase, on the advice of a patron, opened the Shinnecock Hills Summer School on eastern Long Island, N.Y., in 1891 and taught there until 1902, during which time he adopted the plein-air method of painting and held the majority of his classes outside. In 1896 Chase created his educational magnum opus, the Chase School of Art, which became the New York School of Art two years later. Chase stayed on as a teacher until 1907. Along with Robert Henri, Chase became the most important teacher of 20th century artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley and George Pearse Ennis. 

Chase’s creativity declined in his later years during the onset of modern art, but he kept painting and teaching into the 1910s. He died on Oct. 25, 1916, in New York, and his works carry on his legacy as an esteemed elder of the American art world. His paintings hang in most major U.S. museums, and the Georgia Museum of Art happens to have in its permanent collection one of his paintings of Shinnecock Hills, the location of his home and primary studio, which were added to the National Register of Historic Places. If you would like to have a look at the place that inspired a true visionary, feel free to come on in! 

William Merritt Chase
Shinnecock Hills, ca. 1892