Monday, August 12, 2019

Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat: Fostered Intercultural Understanding

Thelma Johnson Streat
Thelma Johnson Streat was an African-American artist, dancer, and educator who gained renown during the 1940s. A multi-talented artist who worked in a variety of media, Streat focused on ethnic themes for her art and performance endeavors.

Born in Yakima, Washington in 1912, Streat moved with her family to Portland, Oregon where she graduated from Washington High School. She began painting at the age of seven and later, studied painting at the Museum Art School, now, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, in the mid 1930s. Streat was a frequent exhibitor and worked in tempera, oil, and watercolor.

For most of the 1930s and 40s, Streat worked for the Works Progress Administration, the WPA Federal Art Project in California. She moved to San Francisco in 1938 and was a participant in exhibitions at the De Young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Art among others. Her painting Rabbit Man was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. She was the first African American to have a painting bought by the museum.

Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat
Mural of Medicine and Transportation
ca 1940s
National Museum of African American History and Culture
In 1939-40, Streat worked with Diego Rivera on the Pan-American Unity Mural for the Art In Action Exhibition at Treasure Island's Golden Gate International Exposition. According to a manuscript in the Archives of the City College, Streat was the only assistant artist that Rivera trusted to paint directly on his mural. A portrait of her, along with many other friends of Rivera, can be seen at the City College of San Francisco in the Diego Rivera Theater, on Ocean Campus. Streat began working in the mural format and she developed a number of studies and maquettes (a scale model or rough draft for a sculpture) that were submitted designs for mural projects. The intensity and subject matter of her work such as Death of a Black Sailor, attracted the attention of the Ku Klux Klan, which in 1942, led to death threats. The work depicted a dying soldier's thoughts on democracy as he saw signs on defense plants stating "only white need apply," the Red Cross' refusal to accept blood donations from blacks, segregated military barracks, and restaurants' refusal to serve black servicemen.

Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat
Wild Horse
ca 1940s
6-1/2 x 9-inches mounted to 12 x 18-inch sheet of blue construction paper
A talented singer and modern dancer, Streat gave live performances, sometimes as accompaniment to her murals at their completion. In addition, she performed at New York's Interplayer's Theater in Carnegie Hall, and before audiences in Paris, France, London, England before Queen Elizabeth, and Montreal, Canada. Her dance performances were influenced by her international travel and experiences to destinations such as Mexico, Haiti, Java, the Hawaiian Islands, and Australia.
Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat
In 1945, Streat accepted the position of chair of a committee that sponsored murals to aid "Negro in Labor" education. Streat was also commissioned to create original fabric designs for women's sportswear manufacturer Koret in 1948. She followed with a series of canvases that depict the company's spring line.

Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat
The Negro in Professional Life 
(Mural Study Featuring Women in the Workplace)
ca 1945
Ink, Crayon, Watercolor on Cardstock
10 x 20 inches
Streat married her husband, her manager, Edgar Kline, in 1948. A playwright, film and play producer, they shared common interests such as education and the fight against intolerance that inspired their future projects. As a couple, they created the Children's City projects in Hawaii and British Columbia.

Streat's work was powerful, both in line and color, as exemplified by the piece Black Virgin, now in the collection of Reed College in Portland. Her work is also included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Mills College in Oakland, California, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Honolulu Academy of the Arts.
Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat
Black Virgin
ca 1940s
Oil on canvas
20 x 14 inches
Reed College, Portland, Oregon
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Streat’s art, films, textile designs, illustrations, murals, performances, and social contributions. In 1991, “Red Dots, Flying Baby & Barking Dog” was included in a group exhibit at the Kenkeleba Gallery (New York). 

Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat
Red Dots, Flying Baby, and Barking Dog
ca 1945
Pacific Northwest College of Art
Dr. Ann Eden Gibson, associate professor of art history and associate director of the Humanities Institute at State University of New York at Stony Brook, wrote an article in 1995 for the Yale Journal of Criticism titled, Universality and Difference in Women’s Abstract Painting: Krasner, Ryan, Sekula Piper, and Streat” and published “Abstract Expressionism” (Yale University Press), which included a chapter on Streat in 1997.

Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat with Drum
September, 1951
In 1959, Thelma Streat began to study anthropology at UCLA but died in Los Angeles that year. She was just 47. 

THE THELMA JOHNSON STREAT PROJECT was organized in 1991 to:

      (1) research Streat's life and work;
      (2) distribute information on the artist, her life and various avenues of creativity;
      (3) care for The Johnson Collection and make selected works available to museums and galleries for exhibits;
     (4) promote Streat's ideals through sharing her story with others.

Oregon Encyclopedia, Ginny Allen, Thelma Johnson Streat 1912-1959,, retrieved August 11, 2019.
Black Past, Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat, Cherisse Jones-Branch,, retrieved August 11, 2019.
WPA Murals,, retrieved August 11, 2019.
Newslocker, Brendan Kiley, 'Bigger Than Life' Trailblazing Northwest Artist Gets New Attention at Smithsonian,, retrieved August 11, 2019.
Thelma Johnson Streat, The Thelma Johnson Streat Project,, retrieved August 12, 2019.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dora Tse-Pe: Traditional Tewa Potter

One of the artists I explored for my dissertation was potter Maria Martinez, a Tewa Native American Puebloan who lived at the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico. She, and husband Julian, resurrected the stunning ancient local process of black on black pottery. The black ware was in marked contrast to the all-red or polychrome ware that had dominated the pueblo's creations for generations. Dora Tse-Pe is a remarkable potter and her creations were inspired by her mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and the pottery of San Ildefonso.

Dora Tse-Pe
Dora Tse-Pe, a Tewa Native American, was born at the Zia Pueblo in 1939. She learned the basics of the art of pottery production from her mother Candelaria Gachupin, one of Zia Pueblo's most outstanding potters and her grandmother Rosalie Toribio. Dora claims "My first experience with my mother's clay was when I was about six years old. She taught me the sacredness of clay. All have spiritual significance. I treat my clay with much respect." She explained that every step of making pottery is done only after prayer and thanksgiving for our gifts of clay, water, fire, and artistic talents.

Map of the Pueblos of New Mexico along the Rio Grande

Dora married Tse-Pe, an innovative San Ildefonso potter in his own right, and moved to the San Ildefonso Pueblo where she honed her craft. Her mother-in-law, the well-known Rose Gonzales, taught her to make the traditional red and black ware in addition to learning to highly polish her work, a technique not used by the Zia potters. Dora worked with Rose for ten years, perfecting her polishing and carving methods before breaking out on her own.

Two-tone black and brown jar with a turquoise inlay
5 inches high x 3 3/4 in diameter

In addition, she was highly influenced by Popovi Da, Maria Martinez' son and his son Tony Da. Dora and Tse-Pe spent much time over the years experimenting with different clays, forms, textures, and designs. Her work is sometimes referred to as "contemporary" however, she dislikes the term and considers herself a traditionalist although she enjoys pushing at the term with her innovative work.

Kiva step rim on a red jar lightly carved with an
avanyu design plus inlaid turquoise and micaceous slip around the rim

6 1/4 in high by 4 1/2 in diameter

Her style is a blending of Zia, San Juan, and San Ildefonso traditions. Dora's work is considered to be among the best available of its kind today. A perfectionist, she executes her pieces with a high degree of precision and finish, executing a beautifully smooth burnish and exceptional black firing. Her success with the two-toned firing technique resulted in sienna accents to the black ware. Dora Tse-Pe is recognized as a master potter was awarded the title Master of Indian Market in Santa Fe.
Brown jar with fire cloud and inlaid turquoise
3 inches high by 2 1/2 inches diameter
 Lidded jar with bear handle, height 6.5 inches x diameter 4.5 inches
Vase with sgrafitto and turquoise cabochon inset, height 6 inches x diameter 4.5 inches
Bowl with 
Avanyu encircling opening; turquoise stone eye, height 4.75 inches x diameter 7.25 inches
Third quarter 20th century
Dora Tse-Pe is featured in nearly every book written on Pueblo Pottery today including Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery by Rick Dillingham, Southwestern Pottery from A to Z by Allan Hayes,  Lee M. Cohen's Art of Clay, Gregory Schaff's Pueblo Indian Pottery and Pottery by American Indian Women by Susan Peterson. She is also one of the few potters honored by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. For a short video on Dora Tse-Pe, follow this link:


Women Artists of the American West, Susan R. Ressler, ed., McFarland & Company Inc, 2003, page 337. 

Dora Tse Pe (San Ildefonso, b. 1939) Black and Sienna Pottery, retrieved July 15, 2019
In the Eyes of the Pot: A Journey into the World of Native American Pottery, Dora Tse-Pe,, retrieved July 15, 2019
Adobe World, Dora Tse Pe,, retrieved July 15, 2019
Maria and Julian Pottery, Dora Tse-Pe,, retrieved July 15, 2019

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pansy Cornelia Stockton: The Art of Assemblage

Pansy Stockton
at work in her studio
This woman's vision was unique! Pansy Stockton created three-dimensional art pieces using hundreds of varieties of items from nature such as bark, moss, grass, and weeds. She called them her "sun paintings" because the botanical materials she used get their colors from the sun and, when the art pieces are finished, they resemble paintings. 

Pansy was born in El Dorado Springs, Missouri on March 31, 1895, and was raised in Eldorado Springs, Colorado where her parents ran the Grand View Hotel. Always an artist, she was just nine years old when she won her first adult competition with an oil painting however, Pansy not only worked in oil, but watercolor and acrylic as well. She studied the technique that substituted a palette knife in which artists use various tools shaped like knives, rather than brushes, to build up the paint on a canvas or other support. Pansy moved away from painting when she realized that the medium was limiting and that nature offered an endless supply of texture.

Pansy Stockton
Cero Pelon
ca n.d.
Botanical collage on board
4.5 x 3.3 inches
She created her first "sun painting" in 1916 while she was living in Durango, Colorado and sold it to the president of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. In her words, "The general effect of sun painting is much like looking out of a window rather than looking into a frame. There is a three dimensional value not found in painted pictures. I consider texture more important than color in getting my effects. All pieces are cemented to a soft paper board and pressed into service with heavy weights. When people ask,'How are your sun paintings made?' I tell them 'a lot of stuff, a little glue, considerable pressure, and a great big lot of imagination." Pansy coined the term "sun painting" because to her, it sounded primitive like sun temple or sand paintings.   

Pansy Stockton
Old Pecos MissionMixed Media Collage
ca. n.d.
11.62 x 15.62 inches
Pansy married Roscoe Stockton, poet, radio announcer, inventor, and teacher, in 1918. They settled in Denver, Colorado where Pansy became a founding member of the Denver Artists Guild in 1928. In 1936, she was adopted into the Oglala Lakota Tribe as a thank you for interceding on their behalf to help preserve their land and rights. She was often seen wearing traditional Lakota tribal wear and Pansy would participate in parades and dances. Her Lakota name, given to her by Native American dancer Charles Eagle Plume, was "Wanashta Wastaywin" (sp?) which means "Flower that Beautifies the Earth."
Pansy Stockton
In her self-made Kiva wearing traditional Lakota dress
ca 1930s
Nancy Bernhardt Collection
By the late 1930s, Pansy spent the bulk of her time in New Mexico and moved permanently to Santa Fe in 1942, where she built an adobe home with a kiva, a sacred building used for spiritual ceremonies, religious rituals and ceremonial preparations by the Pueblo Native Americans. Her substantial collection of Native American memorabilia and dolls were housed there. Pansy's home along Acequia Madre became a salon, where she gave lectures, and entertained visiting dignitaries. She was an integral part of the vibrant arts community in Santa Fe ans she sang at the Santa Fe Opera, served as a judge for the Miss New mexico pageant in 1958.  

Pansy Stockton
Down Mora Way
ca 1960
9 ¼ x 7 ¼ inches
David Cook Galleries
Pansy Stockton was quite well-known in her lifetime. In 1953 she was surprised by Ralph Edwards, host of the live television show "This is Your Life" and during the episode, the Governor Edwin Mechem of New Mexico proclaimed Pansy Stockton Sunshine day on March 31. Written on her plaque: "I hereby proclaim that of the 340 days of New Mexico sunshine each year, the sunniest of them all shall hereafter be known as Pansy Stockton Sunshine Day in New Mexico."

Her work was appreciated nationally and internationally, owned by both Eleanor Roosevelt and the Duke of Windsor. She exhibited in Paris, London, Vienna and New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Denver, and Santa Fe. Over the course of nearly sixty years, from 1916 to 1972, she created over one thousand sun paintings, most depicting scenes of her beloved New Mexico. "Ponchita," as she had become known, was an authority on Native American lore and an honorary member of the Sioux. She passed away in February of 1972. 
Pansy Stockton
with finished sun painting and holding botanical materials
Nancy Bernhardt Collection
Pansy Repass Stockton, Kat Bernhardt,, retrieved July 3, 2019
David Cook Galleries,, retrieved July 3, 2019
askART,, retrieved July 3, 2019
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998, p. 293.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ruth Harriet Louise: The First Female Photographer in Hollywood

Ruth Harriet Louise
Ruth Harriet Louise was an American professional photographer and the first female photographer active in Hollywood. When Ms. Louise joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, dubbed the studio with "more stars than there are in heaven," she was twenty-two years old and the only woman working as a portrait photographer for the Hollywood studios.

Ruth Harriet Louise was born in New York City and raised in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She was the daughter of a rabbiLouise began to take photographs while still living at home. She gravitated to the studio of society photographer Nickolas Muray who had emigrated to New York from Europe before the outbreak of World War I. Muray was working as a color printer and photo engraver in Brooklyn when he opened his portrait studio, working from his apartment in Greenwich Village. He was getting regular work from Harper’s Bazaar  when Ruth began to apprentice for him. Muray was a well-known photographer of Babe Ruth, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Langston Hughes, among other celebrities in New York.

Louise had family who had already moved to Southern California and worked in the entertainment business, when they encouraged her to join them in Los Angeles. Her brother was director Mark Sandrich, who directed some of the great Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers musicals including Flying Down to Rio and The Gay Divorcee, and she was cousin to silent-film actress Carmel Myers, notably in Ben-HurRuth opened a small portrait studio near Hollywood and Vine, but her work was seen by Louis Mayer who hired her to set up her portrait studio at his new film company, MGM.  

Ruth Harriet Louise
Greta Garbo
ca 1920s
Film studios in the early days relied heavily on still photography. Actors were not initially sent for screen tests; they went first to the portrait studio so directors might see what image they would project in the glamour photos that would be used for promotion. This was long before quick and candid shots and the studios could tightly control the images they sent out to promote a star or a film. Fan clubs emerged, and they relied on the still photographs that could be sent to their members.

In a career that lasted just five years, from 1925 until 1930, Ms. Louise photographed all the stars, contract players, and many hopefuls who passed through the studio's front gates. It is estimated that she shot more than 100,000 photographs during her tenure at MGM. Her original photographs were circulated via newspapers and magazines to millions of moviegoers and fans while the publicity department tapped into the audience's need for sophistication and fashion during the 1920s. Ms. Louise's photographs helped set the tone for glamour photography. 

Ruth Harriet Louise
Joan Crawford
ca 1929
Ruth Harriet Louise
Buster Keaton
ca 1929
Ruth photographed the likes of Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Joan Crawford, and Marion Davies. Ruth became Greta Garbo's personal photographer. At twenty-four years old, she was already a two-year veteran of Hollywood who had joined the community just a few months before Garbo. However, by 1930 tastes were changing. Norma Shearer selected George Hurrell to be her personal photographer as she liked the sexy glamour shots he produced. Louise’s elegant photos were not as desirable as they once were, and her contract was not renewed.

She retired from working as a photographer at MGM in 1927 to marry director Leigh Jason and had a son who died of leukemia in 1932. Tragically, Louise and her baby died in 1940 of complications from her second childbirth. 

Ruth Harriet Louise
Renee Adoree

Ruth Harriet Louise
John Gilbert
Today, Ms. Louise is considered an equal to the likes of George Hurrell, Clarence Bull, Milton Greene and Cecil Beaton. Sr. and other renowned glamour photographers of the era.

Austin Film Society,, retrieved June 27, 2019
Backlots,, retrieved June 27, 2019
Ruth Harriet Louise and Hollywood Glamour Photography, Abstract, University of California Press,, retrieved June 27, 2019
Questia, Ruth Harriet Louise and Hollywood Glamour Photography, Robert Dance and Bruce Robertson,, retrieved June 27, 2019
America Comes Alive, Ruth Harriet Louise, First Female Photographer in Hollywood,, retrieved June 27, 2019

Monday, December 31, 2018

Alice Brown Hamlin Chittenden: California Botanicals

To close out 2018, a year of change and upheaval for many of us, I've chosen a painter who created lovely portraits and landscapes, but who was best known for her spectacular collection of paintings depicting California wildflowers. 

Alice Brown Chittenden
October 14, 1859-October 13, 1944
Alice Chittenden was born in 1859 in Brockport, New York and moved with her family as an infant to San Francisco where her father became a prosperous miner. Alice was encouraged to study art and was one of the early women in San Francisco to study at the School of Design (the first school of art in the City) where she was a student of Virgil Williams three years after it was established in 1877. She began a long affiliation with the school as she became an art instructor and taught at the School of Design for 43 years. She was married briefly to Charles Overton in 1886, had one daughter, and never remarried. With the exception of trips to New York, Italy and France to study and to exhibit her work, Chittenden lived in San Francisco for the rest of her life until her death in 1944. She maintained a studio on the 4th floor of the Phelan Building and had a long and prolific career exhibiting her work for over 60 years. 
Phelan Building
San Francisco, California
ca 1888
Reminiscent of the Flatiron Building in NYC
The status of women's art in Nineteenth Century San Francisco was unique. As the seat of culture in the emerging West, the City attracted and supported a vigorous art community. The California School of Design, predecessor to today's San Francisco Art Institute, welcomed both men and women as students and instructors. California and Alaska Gold Rush dollars, Nevada Silver strikes and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, all contributed to affluence of the upper class and their desire to cultivate and collect art.
Women artists were studying and exhibiting art in San Francisco. The first class at the School of Design in 1874 had 46 women students out of a total of 60 (Wilson, 1983). When Alice Chittenden was appointed to the faculty in 1897 she was assigned to teach still-life drawing and painting. She became one of a few California artists who are known primarily for their work in still life paintings. Chittenden exhibited and received favorable reviews in what is thought to be the first major all-women’s art exhibition in the United States in 1885 sponsored by the San Francisco Art Association. She became the first woman juror for the Association’s art shows. Alice Chittenden and another female artist Maren Froelich were the first to break the all-male barrier at the Bohemian Club’s annual art exhibition in 1898. Chittenden was one of the charter members to organize the Women’s Sketch Club in 1906. Tragically, the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the headquarters of the Sketch Club along with most artists’ studios in San Francisco.
Alice Brown Chittenden
A Foothill Landscape
Oil on canvas board
ca n.d.
7 x 9 inches
Alice Chittenden was recognized as a prolific painter who is best-known for her paintings of over 350 varieties of California wildflowers. 
Alice Brown Chittenden
ca 1903
Oil on board
8 x 15 inches
Chittenden also painted numerous landscapes, mostly of Marin County, (see Mt. Tamalpais below) and portraits done primarily in pastel.
Alice Brown Chittenden
Mount Tamalpais
ca 1920s
Oil on canvas board
8 x 10 inches
In 1895 an East Coast newspaper declared her the “leading flower painter of America” (Lekisch:95). In addition, she studied botany, discovering and collecting  rare species of wildflowers on her  excursions by stage and horseback in the Sierras and other wilderness areas which saw her sketching and painting wildflowers. Alice Chittenden exhibited in group shows including those of San Francisco Art Association, Mechanics Institute Fairs, First Annual Exhibition of Lady Artists of San Francisco, California Midwinter International Exposition, Bohemian Club, Sketch Club, golden Gate Memorial Museum and California Building all in San Francisco; California State Fair, Sacramento, California Building,World's Columbia Exposition, Chicago; California Building, Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Portland, OR and solo expositions at the Schussler Gallery in San Francisco (1908), Stanford Art Gallery, Palo Alto (1918, 1922).
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Alice Brown Chittenden
Garden Scene
ca n.d.
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 inches
AskArt-Art Database,
Hughes, Edan Milton. 2002. Artists in California 1786-1940. Third Edition. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum. 
Lekisch, Barbara, Embracing Scens about Lakes Tahoe and Donner, Great West Books, 2003.
Silver, Mae, Shaping San Francisco Digital Archive @Found San Francisco,  1884 Midwinter Fair: Women Artists, An Appreciation, 1994. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998, p 46.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Doris Totten Chase: Experimental Artist in Motion

Doris Chase
April 1923-December 2008
Doris Totten Chase was an American artist whose career spanned 55 years of innovation and experimentation, using a wide array of media that included painting, sculpture, printmaking, video, film, and computer-generated prints. Chase produced and directed over 70 films.

Doris Chase was a member of the Northwest School, an art movement established in the Seattle area that was the first time there was national recognition of artists in the Pacific Northwest beyond traditional Native American art forms. 
Chase studied architecture at the University of Washington, but dropped out of college to marry Elmo Chase, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. After the birth of her first child, Chase became seriously ill, a victim of postpartum depression (not recognized as such at the time) and it became clear that her issue stemmed from"doing everything except what I wanted to do, which was to paint." She began to work again, studied oil painting and took a class with Northwest artist Mark Tobey. In 1948, one of her paintings was accepted into the Northwest Annual Exhibition.
Several years later, pregnant with their second child, her husband contracted polio and became almost completely paralyzed while they were in the process of building a house. (Chase was the architect). To support the family, Doris Chase taught painting and design at Edison Technical School and was accepted into Women Painters of Washington in 1951, where Chase remained a member until the mid-1960s. 
Doris Chase
ca 1964
Ink and watercolor on paper
18 x 12.5 inches

Doris Chase's early work was primarily paintings of Northwest landscapes and figures, often musicians in blocks of color built up in some cases with sand to achieve a heavy, coarse, texture. She claimed her inspiration was the structured designs of Northwest Coast Native American basketry and carving. Her first solo exhibition at the Otto Seligman Gallery in 1956 was a success with reviews in the Seattle Times declaring her "a serious and talented young painter." Other shows and exhibits followed in New York and Tokyo. In addition, she was accepted into the Huntington Hartford Foundation's artist's colony for a month's opportunity to create in Pacific Palisades, California in the years 1965, '66, and '69. 

Doris Chase
To See, To Feel, To Love
ca 1966
Oak and paint
19 x 5.5 x 3 inches
Her work evolved from wash drawings into a series of cement painting meant to be installed outdoors and inscribed with faces and included words such as "joy" and "love." Chase also experimented with shaped canvases and painting on wood, some inset with hinged sections which, when opened, revealed an additional painted area.
Chase's sculptures grew. Pieces became large and kinetic. Many of her forms invited views to interact and rearrange modules that had the black-stained look that resembled the Northwest Coast Native American Art she had seen at the Alaska-Yukon_Pacific Exposition of 1919 that were on the University of Washington campus during her student days.
In 1968, dancer Mary Staton used a set of Chase's large wooden circles within a choreographed dance. Dancers wheeled across the stage of the Seattle Opera house, spread-eagled like spokes inside enormous wooden wheels. 
Doris Chase
Dancers in Hoops
Choreographed piece by Mary Staton
In collaboration with Boeing, Chase produced Circles, a computer film based on spinning hoops and King Screen made a film of the dance/sculpture collaboration. Chase requested and received footage edited out of the King Screen film and created her own film, Circles II with help from professionals Bob Brown and Frank Olvey. 
Doris Chase
Jonathan and Circles
ca 1977
Video Still

Color separations showed the dancers and sculpture as color forms, time lapse made trails of light that followed the wake of the dancers' arms and legs. The film was recognized at the 1973 American Film Festival in New York where it was compared to Matisse's Dance painting. While Circles II was in production, Doris Chase built prototypes of large, colorful kinetic sculptures for children designed for kids to help them with equilibrium and body awareness.

Doris Chase
Changing Form
ca 1971
Kerry Park, Seattle, Washington
Photo by David Wilma
Sculpture has stereotypically been considered a "man's" work. Throughout history, there have been few women working in the discipline because of the weight of the materials or the upper body strength needed to lift, chip, polish, and generally work on heavy, large-scale pieces. In the 1960s, Chase proved that women could successfully create in the medium and one of her early steel sculptures, the 15 foot tall Changing Form was commissioned for Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill, which became one of Seattle's most endearing and regarded public sculptures.

In the early 1970s, at the front of the avant-garde movement, Chase began working in video using computer imaging, inspired by Nam June Paik, the Korean artist who is said to be the founder of video art. During 1973-74, she participated in the Experimental Television Center's Residency program and began to integrate her sculptures with interactive dancers, using special effects to create dream-like pieces. Check them out here:

As a video artist, and under the the auspices of the U.S. Information Agency, Chase lectured and showed her work in India, Europe, Australia, South America, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Using her favorite pale blue light as her medium, the dancers were integrated into a fluid, sensual choreography that explored movement in the context of abstract architecture. Long divorced, Chase's professional relationship became intimate with composer George Keinsinger, music composer of twelve of her videos.

In the 1980s, Chase achieved a breakthrough into mainstream television with a series of 30 minute videos entitled the By Herself series in which she introduced the subject matter of older women in society to a wide audience. One video, entitled Glass Curtain (1983), explored actress Jennie Ventriss' anguish over her mother's deterioration due to Alzheimer's disease. Table for One (1985) starring actress Gerladine Page in a voice over monologue of a woman uneasy about dining alone, and Dear Papa (1986), starring Anne Jackson and her daughter Roberta Wallach followed by A Dancer (1987) were powerful voices for women during that time. Dear Papa won First Prize at the 1986 Women's International Film Festival in Paris.
Parke Godwin's novel, A Truce with Time (1988, Bantam Books) is a fictionalized version of Chase's life during her time in New York. While he was writing the book, Chase made her own film about their relationship called Still Frame, produced at the American Film Institute. Art Historian Patricia Failing wrote a book about Chase entitled Doris Chase, Artist in Motion: From Painting and Sculpture to Video Art (1991, University of Washington Press). In 1989, Chase returned to Seattle, dividing her time between East and West working in video in New York and sculpture in Seattle. Ever experimenting, she began works in glass, sometimes in combination with steel.

Doris Chase
Late Autumn
ca 1997
14.75 x 20 x 2 inches
Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington
In 1993, Doris Chase produced a documentary about her home, the Chelsea Hotel which was originally conceived as New York's first major cooperative apartment building, owned by a consortium of wealthy families in 1883. The building became an apartment in 1905. Her video honored the building's 110th anniversary and those who called it home. 

Doris Chase
Moon Gates
ca 1999
17 x 9 feet
In 1999, Chase's four piece bronze sculpture, Moon Gates, was installed at Seattle Center in Washington. Her complete works of video and film was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. 

 In 1999, her four-piece bronze sculpture Moon Gates, 17 feet high, was installed at Seattle Center. New York's MoMA acquired her complete video and film works. The Seattle Art Museum has only one Chase work in its collection: a 1950s oil painting. Chase's work won honors and awards at 21 film and video festivals. Her work has a permanent place in the archives of New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It is collected by major museums and art centers in several countries.

Doris Totten Chase died in December of 2008 from a series of strokes and the effect of Alzheimer's disease. "She died in her own apartment with a good smile and a good attitude right up to the last," said her son Randy Chase. "She was always able to make the best of what she had...I always told her, 'hey, you did a great job,' and she did."

Archives West: Orbis Cascade Alliance,, retrieved December 4, 2018
Artistltrust,, retrieved November 28, 2018
Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art,
Northwest Women Artists 1880-2010, retrieved November 28, 2018

Whatcom Museum, Colton Redfeldt,, retrieved, December 4, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Eliza Barchus: Northwest American Landscape Painter

Eliza R. Barchus
It's been a while since my last post-I retired from teaching and moved to Portland, Oregon for a year of adventure and exploration so, meet Eliza Barchus, a native Oregonian and landscape painter. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 1857, Barchus relocated to Oregon with her second husband, John, in 1880. While she was raising a family, she began to study art with William Parrott, joined the Mutual Art Association, and began to exhibit at early industrial fairs. Barchus sold her first painting in 1885 and drew national attention in 1890 when one of her large paintings of Mount Hood, a 40 x 60 inch canvas, was displayed at the National Academy of Design in New York City. She created a number of paintings of the mountain such as the one below.
Eliza R. Barchus
Mt. Hood
Oil on Art Board   
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches
Widowed in 1899, Barchus became the sole support of her family. In addition to managing a thriving art studio, she sold and traded many artworks in order to make ends meet. In 1905 she won a gold medal at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition for her paintings and is also credited with the introduction of color postcards in the United States made from six of her landscapes at the exposition.

This lithograph was offered for sale at 50 cents during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. The lithographs of Mt. Hood at Sunset and Mt. Rainier at Noonday (large size) were a little more – 75 cents. Unsold inventory after the Fair generated income for the family for years afterwards.

This sign was created on sheet metal, painted black with white lettering. It measures approximately 20″ by 14.” A December 22, 1901 mention in the Oregonian newspaper announced that: Mrs. E. R. Barchus, artist, painter of mountain scenery, offers her beautiful picture of Mount Hood for the holidays. Small sizes. Low prices. Room 1 Multnomah block.
The reference to “Room 1” on both the sign and in the article link the sign to her time in that studio.

Eliza Barchus was quite the innovative artist and businesswoman. She produced thousands of artworks, often employing an assembly-line system, painting several canvases at once. She painted almost exclusively in oil with just a few watercolor sketches that were most likely done as preliminary pieces for the larger works. Barchus advertised in catalogs and had a thriving business through the mail. For those familiar with local history, Eliza Barchus sold paintings at the B.B. Rich Cigar and Concession at the Portland Hotel where Portland's "Living Room" now exists: Pioneer Square.

Eliza R. Barchus
Wilson River (?) Oregon
Oil on Art Board   
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches
Eliza Barchus was an artist of considerable talent and a business woman quite ahead of her time. Her painting career ended in 1935 due to arthritis and failing eyesight, but she lived until she was 102 years old. She is one of Oregon's most popular pioneer artists and, several years after her death, Barchus was named "The Oregon Artist" by the Oregon Legislative Assembly. Eleanor Roosevelt honored Eliza Barchus' 100th birthday in her syndicated column, "My Day."

Eliza R. Barchus
Multnoma Falls
Oil on canvas
12.25 x 22 inches

The Oregon Encyclopedia, Ginny Allen,, retrieved November 18, 2018
Elizabeth R. Barchus, Oregon Artist, Research Site,