Monday, December 29, 2014

Annita Delano: Artist and Founding Member of Art Faculty at UCLA

Annita Delano
ca. 1937
Graffito mural 4 x 7 feet
 for Dr. H.F. Ray- Housed in Oxnard, Calif.
"Delano was perhaps the local woman artist most abreast of modernist currents. Delano's modernism informed her teaching, especially her courses on design and architecture. Delano displays an awareness of the centrality of architecture and design, arguably California's greatest contribution to the unfolding of modernism in America." In addition, "Annita Delano was instrumental" in promoting the Blue Four. Delano helped friend Galka Scheyer "present several shows in the late 1920s at the Southern Branch campus of the University of California and through these exhibitions Californians could examine firsthand Feininger's Cubist paintings and Kandinsky's early spiritual abstractions, as well as the late nonobjective Bauhaus compositions."

Annita Delano's impact was felt simultaneously on several fronts: Delano the artist, Delano the art professor at the Southern Branch of the University of California (now the University of California, Los Angeles), and Delano as founder of the art department of UCLA and curator of the University's art museum.

Annita Delano (1894-1979) was born in Hueneme, California, on October 2, 1894. She attended elementary school in Los Angeles and later her family moved to Terra Bella, California, where she graduated from Porterville Union High School in 1914 as her class valedictorian. Delano enrolled in the art program at the Los Angeles Normal School before she began her career as Professor of Art in 1920.

In March 1881, after heavy lobbying by Los Angeles residents, the California State Legislature authorized the creation of a southern branch of the California State Normal School (which later became San Jose State University) in downtown Los Angeles to train teachers for the growing population of Southern California. The State Normal School at Los Angeles opened on August 29, 1882, on what is now the site of the Central Library of the Los Angeles Public Library system. Its curriculum, with a national reputation, included stagecraft, drawing, painting, life drawing, history of art, design, graphic arts, and crafts. In the latter part of the 1920s, the school was represented by an exhibition of student work at an international art conference in Vienna, Austria. Annita represented the Art Department for the University.

Annita Delano
A strip of four portrait photos of Annita Delano as a young woman,
ca. 1915.
Delano received training in art and art history from Columbia University, University of California at Berkeley and the Otis Art Institute, as well as in the studios of noted individual artists such as Dixon Morgan and Norman Bel Geddes. She spent two years conducting research with the Barnes Foundation, which provided a scholarship for a four-month research trip to Europe during 1930-1931. This trip brought her in contact with modern French masters and accelerated her development toward her own personal expression. During this period of research she spent time with Bauhaus faculty as well as with architects Richard Neutra and Josef Albers and the artist Anni Albers.

Annita Delano painting at Gallup, New
Mexico, 1934. Annita Delano papers, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Annita Delano was a founding member of the UCLA Art Department where she taught courses in fine art, art history and applied design. Her own paintings were widely exhibited, as part of group shows and in solo exhibitions of her work. Delano was a key figure in the development of the art world of Southern California and she was a member of a number of organizations including the California Watercolor Society and the Los Angeles Art Association.

Delano’s annual camping and painting trips include 28 summers to Arizona and New Mexico, beginning in the late 1920s. She recalled she would spend three months painting, camping and exploring each summer, living among the Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni Indians. Her artistic works were especially inspired by the landscapes of the Southwest and the Native American peoples of the region. She often attended the annual Intertribal Indian Ceremonial Gathering in Gallup, New Mexico, a large ceremonial gathering that first took place in 1922 and continues to this day.

Annita Delano
Canon Valley Landscape
ca. N.D.
Watercolor
30 x 21 1/4 inches
After her first solo exhibition in San Francisco and Fresno in 1929, Delano had thirty solo shows and participated in numerous exhibitions across the country, most of them in the western region of the United States. She was honored with a prestigious show at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, and an exhibition of work by living artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1940s, at a time when such exhibitions were not customary. After her retirement, Delano continued to paint and held three major exhibitions in California: the Cee Jee Gallery, Los Angeles, the Zara Gallery in San Francisco, and the Santa Monica Gallery, Santa Monica. 
 
Annita Delano
Roaring Green Lion With Chuckling Monkeys
ca. 1950
Watercolor on heavy textured rag paper
28 x 22 inches
 

Annita Delano
Cloud Shadows in The Grand Canyon,
 ca 1955
Oil on Canvas,
50 x 39 inches
Annita Delano spent forty-two years at UCLA, where she taught until she retired in 1962. She was critical to the growth and development of the art department into the professional school of the arts that it is at the University today. She never married and remained an independent woman for her entire life. Delano continued to paint until her death in 1979 at the age of 85.
__________________________________________________________________
Sources
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Research Collections, Image Gallery, Annita Delano, 1937, http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/viewer/anita-delano-6314, retrieved December 28, 2014.
Hamilton, Andrew (2004-06-18). "(UC) Los Angeles: Historical Overview". University of California History, Digital Archives (from Berkeley). Retrieved 2006-06-20.
Calisphere, University of California, Annita Delano, Art: Los Angeles, http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb1j49n6pv;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00024&toc.depth=1&toc.id=&brand=calisphere, retrieved December 28, 2014.
Independent Spirits, Woman Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, edited by Patricia Trenton, University of California Press 1995 at page 77. Independent Spirits at page 99.
Artists of the American West, Volume II by Doris Ostrander Dawdy , Sage / Swallow Press, 1981 at 78.  Independent Spirits at page 99.
On the Edge of America, California Modernist Art 1900-1950, edited by Paul J. Karlstrom, University of California Press, 1996 in association with the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.
Karlstrom at page 10. Independent Spirits at page 96 from interview with James V. Mink, 1971, Oral History Program, UCLA.
Independent Spirits at page 80 from interview with Delano's niece.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mary Huntoon: Artist and Pioneer Art Therapist



Mary Huntoon
1896-1970
unknown photographer,
 Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library,
Topeka, KS, USA
Mary Huntoon was among the most innovative of Topeka's artists. Born Mary Huntoon Atkinson, she was the daughter of Ruth Huntoon Atkinson and Franklin Henry Atkinson and the descendent of prominent Topeka pioneer, Joel Huntoon. Huntoon spent six years of her childhood on the cattle ranch of her grandfather, Fred Huntoon, in Beaver County (No Man's Land), Oklahoma. At age twelve, she was rechristened Mary Huntoon Parsons and adopted by her mother's second husband, Harvey Greely Parsons.

Huntoon was inspired to develop her artistic ability by her stepfather, Harvey Parsons, a cartoonist and columnist in Topeka. Huntoon’s academic training began at Washburn University where she earned her degree in art in 1920. Huntoon studied with internationally-known portraitist and founder of the art school at Washburn, Kansas artist George M. Stone. She continued her studies at The Art Students League in New York, and grew as an artist under instructors Robert Henri, George Bridgman, Frank Vincent Du Mond, and Joseph Pennell. Pennell persuaded her to travel to Paris where she reputedly introduced Stanley Hayter to printmaking techniques. Living in the Latin Quarter for five years, Huntoon sketched the buildings, people, and surrounding city scenes in which she lived. Her works were exhibited in the Salon d’Automne of 1929, as well as at the Salon des Ind├ępendants.  Huntoon's first one-artist show was in Paris at the Galerie Sacre du Printemps in 1929.

Mary Huntoon
Momus
ca 1928
Etching


Mary Huntoon
Along the Paris Quay
ca 1931
Etching
8 1/2 x 11 inches


Mary Huntoon
Tower
ca n.d.
Pencil
 7 x 8.25 inches

Despite these distinguished connections, Huntoon’s gender seemed to be a detriment. Under an assumed name, Huntoon's husband, a former reporter, mocked a reviewer's praise of her work in a letter to the editor of a Paris newspaper. He stated that "No women (sic) has distinguished herself in 5,000 years and it is a little too late to begin to hope." Public outcry at this misogynistic rant prompted record crowds at the exhibition, which was exactly the intended effect.
 Huntoon returned to Topeka in 1934 where she taught at her alma mater, Washburn College. She became state supervisor for the WPA Federal Art Project in Kansas from 1934-1938. In later years, Huntoon directed programs for the Menninger Foundation and later for the Winter Veterans Hospital becoming a pioneer in the field of art therapy from the 1930s through the 1950s. Huntoon carried out research in art therapy while she was employed at Winter V.A. Hospital and wrote several articles on the subject which were published. Huntoon believed in the power of art to heal, and encouraged her patients, whom she called "students," to engage with materials in a studio setting without external disruption. She devoted 16 years of her career to working with psychiatric patients and World War II veterans through art.  
Mary Huntoon
Fishing Shacks Marquette Michigan
ca n.d.
Oil on canvas
18 x 15 inches
Mary Huntoon
Poet's House
ca n.d.
Oil on canvas board
13 x 15 inches
 
Mary Huntoon
They Dreamed of Many Mansions
ca 1947
Etching
8 x 10 3/4 inches
 
Huntoon was married to Charles Hoyt (1920-29), Lester Hull (1933-37), Erwin Seaman (1945-1956) and Willis McEntarfar (1957-70). Mary Huntoon was a female artist with talent in a wide array of media. In addition, she was an art therapist, an author, a director (administrator), educator, lecturer, teacher, and intrepid traveler. She contributed art work to many exhibitions, won numerous awards, and her paintings and etchings are permanently displayed in the Topeka Public Library, Washburn University, the Salina Art Association, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and numerous public buildings across the state of Kansas.  __________________________________________________________________________
Sources:
Bernard O. Stone, "A Historical Review: Mary Huntoon's Far Reaching Influence on the Field of Art Psychotherapy" (unpublished manuscript, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library files).
Mutual Art, Mary Huntoon, http://www.mutualart.com/Artist/Mary-Huntoon/D7590BBB283DDC24/Artworks, retrieved December 19, 2014.
AskArt, The Artist's Bluebook,  Mary Huntoon, http://www.askart.com/askart/artist.aspx?artist=105829, retrieved December 19, 2014.
Art Therapy: The Journal of Art Therapy, Looking for What's Lost: The Artistic Roots of Art Therapy: Mary Huntoon, Linney Wix, MeD, ATR, Published online: 22 Apr 2011.
Patricia Trenton, Ed., Independent Spirits, Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, University of California Press, p. 271.
Clara, Database of Women Artists, Mary Huntoon, http://clara.nmwa.org/index.php?g=entity_detail&entity_id=11280.
The University of Kansas Libraries, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Guide to the Mary Huntoon Collection, Mary Huntoon Papers, 1876-1970, http://etext.ku.edu/view?docId=ksrlead/ksrl.kc.huntoonmarypapers.xml, retrieved December 19, 2014.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Elizabeth Ann Cooper: Seattle Modernist Painter

Elizabeth Ann Cooper
Untitled Cubist Self-Portrait
ca 1930s
Oil on canvas
 Martin-Zambito Fine Art
Elizabeth Ann Cooper was a highly regarded Modernist painter who worked in Seattle during the 1920s and 30s. One of the early members of the Women Painters of Washington organization, Cooper exhibited with WPW. She participated in the Northwest Annuals at the Seattle Art Institute and the Seattle Art Museum as well.

Women Painters of Washington (WPW) began as one of the earliest arts organizations in the Pacific Northwest and remains among the few statewide women’s arts associations in the United States. The group formed in 1930 after several of the prominent regional women artists attended a class conducted in Seattle by the Canadian painter Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969). They were dedicated to exploring modern art techniques.  In 1937, the group produced a catalogue booklet that included their biographies and artistic statements, as well as illustrations of their work

Elizabeth Cooper was born in Nottingham, England. She emigrated to the United States and attended the Mark Hopkins Art Institute in San Francisco (now the San Francisco Art Institute). Cooper moved to Seattle in the early 1920s where she was a student at the University of Washington and studied with Walter Isaacs, Eugenie Worman, and others. 
Elizabeth Ann Cooper
Untitled Still-Life with Flowers
ca 1930s
Oil on canvas
 Martin-Zambito Fine Art


Cooper was a member of the prominent Group of Twelve, Modernist artists in Seattle that included some of the major regional painters of the period such as Morris Graves, Ambrose Patterson, and Kenneth Callahan.  Cooper was inspired by modern movements in art, including the European Post-Impressionists, Cubists, and the German Expressionists. She produced some of the most daring and progressive regional art of the period.

 In her own words:
"Aims: To interpret rather than represent, to achieve good composition, that is, fine arrangement of line, mass and color, irrespective of subject matter or emotional appeal. To stimulate in others, appreciation and understanding of the aims of modern painters, who, by individual technique, endeavor to interpret life and to communicate their aesthetic experience.."


Elizabeth Ann Cooper
Untitled Two Heads
ca 1930s
Oil on canvas
 Martin-Zambito Fine Art
Elizabeth Cooper, like so many female artists, raised two children and balanced family life while creating art. In middle age, she continued to work until her untimely death in 1936. Cooper asserted that "…Art creation is not the exclusive domain of youth. Middle age and old age find in creative art a wellspring of eternal youth. Renoir, in his eighties, did his best work. Art, like mercy, is twice blessed; it blesseth him who gives and him who takes.."

Elizabeth Ann Cooper
San Francisco Street
ca 1930s
Watercolor on paper
 J. Franklin Fine Art, Inc.
_________________________________________________________
Sources
1. An Enduring Legacy,Women Painters of Washington, 1930-2005, Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA, 2005, p. 65.
2. Elizabeth Ann Cooper, 1877-1936, http://www.womenpainters.com/75th/COOPER/Cooper.html, retrieved 12/4/2014.
4. AskArt: The Artist's Bluebook, Elizabeth Ann Cooper, http://www.askart.com/askart/artists/search/inquiry.aspx?artist=5011313&ad=160632&searchtype=ART_FOR_SALE, retrieved 12/4/2014.
5. Women Painters of Washington, http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=7644, retrieved 12/4/2014.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adelaide Hanscom Leeson: Pictorialist Photographer


Adelaide Marquand Hanscom Leeson
(1876-1932)
Adelaide Hanscom Leeson  was an early 20th-century artist and photographer who published some of the first books using photography to illustrate literary works. Born in Empire City, Oregon, Hanscom was a major figure among West Coast photo-secessionists. She is probably best known for her photographic illustrations of the book, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam published in 1905. It was reprinted in a number of popular editions through 1922, including a color version in 1912.

Hanscom was named after Adelaide Marquand, an early proponent of universal suffrage. Marquand's husband, Henry, was a business associate of Meldon Hanscom (young Adelaide's father), and later publisher of the Berkeley Advocate. Henry was co-editor of the Advocate with his wife, the adult Adelaide, who remained a family friend and an influence on Hanscom for many years thereafter.

Hanscom began creating art when she was a teenager and later studied art and design at the University of California. She began to take photographs while at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art (now the San Francisco Art Institute). Her classmates, Emily Pitchford and Laura Adams, established their own studio, and by working with them, Hanscom expanded what she learned about photography while at school. Adelaide is also known to have spent time with photographer Anne Brigman and is thought to have learned some of her printing techniques from Brigman as well.

By 1900, Hanscom's work was entirely devoted to photography. She opened her own studio in partnership with Blanch Cumming in downtown San Francisco. Hanscom and Cumming produced the first edition of the lavishly illustrated Rubaiyat in 1905. Hanscom heavily manipulated her glass plates to affect a painterly, pictorialist style. Her images in this book are allegorical tableaux, featuring figures in ancient costume, enacting parts of Khayyam's verse. The first edition was printed on at least two different types of tissue, one limp and thin, and the other stiff and parchment-like.  The book was published in at least three smaller sizes, all with halftones, sometimes in color.


Adelaide Hanscom Leeson
Frontis
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
1905
Photogravure
Adelaide Hanscom Leeson
Plate VII
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
1905
Photogravure


Adelaide Hanscom Leeson
Plate XIV
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
1905
Photogravure
Adelaide Hanscom Leeson
Plate XXIII
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
1905
Photogravure
In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed Hanscom's entire studio, including her Rubaiyat negatives and most of her prints. Since the area in San Francisco where she lived and worked was now uninhabitable, she packed her few remaining belongings and moved to Seattle. Hanscom set up a studio with photographer Gertrude Wilson, and for the next five years she did commercial portrait works for prominent families in the area, her photographs appearing in the society pages of Seattle's newspaper.
Adelaide Hanscom Leeson
Logo
1909
In 1907, a contest was held to design the logo for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition  More than 150 of America's best artists and designers competed for the $500 prize and by unanimous vote, the publicity committee selected Hanscom's design as the winner. The logo, in the Arts and Crafts movement style, portrayed three women representing Seattle (right), Alaska (middle) and "the Orient" (left) all extending their hands to each other while holding representations of each area's economic strengths (respectively, railroad commerce, mineral resources and shipping commerce).

Hanscom married British mining engineer and ex-Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Arthur Gerald Leeson in 1908. Soon after they moved to the area near Douglas, Alaska, for her husband's work on the Treadwell gold mine. They remained there for the next three years, although both Hanscom and her husband made yearly trips to Seattle and other areas outside of Alaska. In 1909 Hanscom spent several months in San Francisco after giving birth to a son, Gerald. During this time, most of her photographic work stopped while she supported her husband and raised their son. In 1911 the family moved to Danville, California, where her husband took up farming. Hanscom was able to set up a darkroom and resume her work. She provided similar Pictorialist style photographs for an edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese. The first edition included twenty tipped-in photogravures and was followed by two additional editions due to its popularity.

Adelaide Hanscom Leeson
Sonnets of the Portuguese
1916
Photogravure
Adelaide Hanscom Leeson
Sonnets of the Portuguese
1916
Photogravure
In 1916, her husband, Gerald, enlisted in the Canadian Army in order to fight in World War I. He left for Europe with very little notice and, within a few weeks, he was killed in action. The combination of that loss and her father's death three years later caused Adelaide to fall into a deep depression. She became irrational at times and was in and out of mental institutions. Hanscom never resumed her photographic work, and, as one writer noted, "the remaining sixteen years of her life seem to have been a feckless series of wanderings with her children in tow." She moved briefly to England to be near her dead husband's relatives, but she eventually returned to California and lived with her daughter. In November 1931, Adelaide was killed by a hit-and-run driver while getting off of a trolley in Pasadena, California. For most of the twentieth century, like so many early female artists and photographers, her work was forgotten, but recently she is again being recognized for her  creativity, beauty and grace.

____________________
Sources
Women Artists of the American West, Susan R. Ressler, Ed. p. 313.
The Art of the Photogravure, A Comprehensive Resource Dedicated to the Photogravure, http://www.photogravure.com/collection/searchResults.php?page=2&portfolio=68&view=small, retrieved November 18, 2014
The J. Paul Getty Museum,
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. With Illustrations from Life Studies by Adelaide Hanscom and Blanche Cumming, http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=65995, retrieved November 18, 2014  
     

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dr. Amy Freeman Lee: Artist, Educator, Experimenter

Amy Freeman Lee
1914-2004
Amy Freeman Lee lived in San Antonio, Texas, nearly her entire life. Freeman was a well-known and beloved Texas writer, artist, and lecturer. She has been represented in 1,253 national and international exhibitions, given 2,960 lectures and authored 255 publications. 

Amy Freeman was born to Julia Freeman and Joe Novich and she spent her early years in Seguin, Texas.  After her mother's death during the 1918 flu pandemic, she was legally adopted by her grandmother, Emma Freeman. In 1929 the family moved to San Antonio to enroll her in St. Mary's Hall from which she graduated in 1931, followed by special studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Lee attended Incarnate Word College in San Antonio and served as an assistant to the head of the English Department during the years of her attendance (1934-1942). Lee was married for several years to Ernest R. Lee an aide to General Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II, and she worked as an art critic for the San Antonio Press during that time. A Quaker by choice, she described her spiritual convictions as based in the concept of reverence for the unity of life.

After Lee began to paint seriously in 1945, she became staff critic on radio show for station KONO, analyzing music, art, literature, and other cultural activities. From that time until her passing, Lee continued her career as a painter and sculptor, lecturer, judge at art exhibitions, and author.


Amy Freeman Lee
Dark Forest
ca 1949
Oil on canvas
30 x 36 inches
As an artist, Lee's style evolved from traditional realism to various forms of non-objective art (but not abstract expressionism), and she produced watercolors of western scenes during the 1940s and early 1950s. Half of the works shown at her first one-person exhibition in San Antonio were of Texas subjects, among them were paintings done at El Rancho de los Hombres Libres, the family ranch near San Marcos and scenes in and around San Antonio, San Geronimo and Bandera.

Amy Freeman Lee
Twilight Image
ca 1955
12 x 9 inches
Ink on paper
Lee was widely exhibited and collected. Her work was shown from Maine, where she summered for many years, to Monterrey, Mexico, where she developed many lifelong friends. Lee supported literacy efforts and was a champion of the liberal arts. She delivered lectures to groups throughout the nation, sometimes traveling as far as New York or California to share her belief in the importance of art, civility, humane ethics and universal love. Her self-deprecating humor and wit allowed for lively presentations, and she remained among the most popular speakers in the state, even in later years when bouts of illness slowed her in the years prior to her death.

Amy Freeman Lee
Dawn Silence
ca n.d.
Watercolor
11.5 x 17 inches
As a respected artist, art critic, poet writer and philanthropist, Lee numbered many distinguished artists among her close friends, including renowned Texas painter Kelly Fearing and essayist Loren Eisley, whose parable The Star Thrower, Lee often cited in lectures and in her written work. Lee was an early supporter of the Witte Museum in San Antonio and a founder of the San Antonio Art League, later, a founder of the Texas Watercolor Society.

Amy Freeman Lee
Autumn Harps
ca. n.d.
Watercolor
13 x 10 inches
Lee received numerous awards including the Ford Motor Company Lifetime Achievement Award, the J.C. Penney Spirit of the American Woman and the International Women’s Forum’s The Woman Who Made A Difference Award. Lee was a member of the International Art Critics Association in Paris, France, and a charter member of the Advisory Council for the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. She was also a National Trustee and National Secretary of the Humane Society of the United States.
 
Lee's life was spent as an artist in service to the arts, education, and humanitarianism. In thousands of public lectures, she routinely credited her grandmother for instilling in her an abiding commitment to give back to others the gifts she received early in life. Those who were closest to her will never forget her characteristic sign-off: "I'm loving you."
 
Amy Freeman Lee
Private Life of Plants Series: Mystical Geometry
ca n.d.
Mixed media
30.37 x 24.37 inches
Amy Freeman Lee died peacefully, surrounded by close friends, at the age of 89.
___________________________
Sources
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, University of Texas Press, Austin, p.185-186
Texas Women's University, Texas Women's Hall of Fame, http://www.twu.edu/twhf/tw-lee.asp, retrieved October 28, 2014
Images: Artnet, Amy Freeman Lee, http://www.artnet.com/artists/amy-freeman-lee/past-auction-results, retrieved October 28, 2014
AskArt: The Artist's Bluebook, Amy Freeman Lee,  http://www.askart.com/askart/l/amy_freeman_lee/amy_freeman_lee.aspx?GUID=1E6289D3-B98A-4896-85AA-689477277A60, retrieved October 28, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Laura Adams Armer: Painter, Photographer, Writer, and Filmmaker

 
 
Laura Adams Armer
Portrait Study
ca. 1900
The Navajo called Laura Adams Armer "the woman who wears the turquoise" and "hard-working woman." She was the first white woman to have a sand painting prepared in her honor and the first permitted to film the sacred Mountain Chant ceremony (1928) for distribution as a feature-length film. Armer was a respected painter and photographer for many years before she turned her hand to writing. Her first book, Waterless Mountain (1931), published when she was fifty-seven years old, received both the Newberry Medal and the Longmans, Green & Company's prize for juvenile fiction.

Laura May Adams Armer grew up in San Francisco, was educated in public schools and by private tutors. By age 16, she demonstrated an ability in sketching and painting and attended the California School of Design during the years 1893-1898. Afterwards, she spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley. She also studied photography and in 1899, opened a studio in San Francisco where she catered to members of California high society. In the spring of 1902 she and her sister visited the Southwest for the first time and she wrote, "There at Tucson and in the Catalina Mountains I was first inoculated with the desert delirium." She was enchanted.

Laura married classmate Sidney Armer, also an artist, who later achieved fame as the highest paid commercial illustrator in California.  Following her marriage, Laura gave up her San Francisco studio and moved her darkroom to her home with Sidney across the bay in Berkeley. Armer continued her art photography there and in 1904, won four awards in the Kodak Competition. In 1905 she illustrated Theodore Elden Jones' book Leaves From an Argonaut's Note Book and in 1906, traveled on assignment to Tahiti.

Laura Adams Armer
Cover, Sunset Magazine
ca. 1911
As an artist, Armer worked around the birth of her son and exhibited at the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey (1907-1910) and at the Hillside Club in Berkeley in 1914 which featured leading women artists of California. Armer did a cover for Sunset Magazine and provided story illustrations as well. As a photographer, Armer received honors at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Seattle (1909), and at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco (1915).

In 1923, Armer returned to the Southwest. It was on this trip that she bought her signature turquoise earrings. Since few white women wore turquoise at the time, Armer's chance purchase gave her an entry to the Navajo and frequently proved helpful in times of delicate negotiations.
Fascinated by the Native Americans of the Southwest, Armer became a student of Navajo folklore and their religious rituals that involved sand painting. She enjoyed quite a bit of freedom to move about  for a woman alone during the early years of the twentieth century and, on occasion, she lived for months at a time in remote reservation areas.

True to her Navajo nickname "The Hard-Working Woman," Armer compiled volumes of notes, many of which she incorporated into her later novels, in addition to painting and photographing the people and their culture.


Laura Adams Armer
Native American Studies, Navajo and Hopi
ca. 1920s
In her collaboration with Lorenzo Hubbell  of the Hubbell Trading Post who became a mentor to Laura for the next fifteen years, her trips were organized into Navajo areas. Hubbell also helped to fund her 1928 documentary film, The Mountain Chant. Armer agreed to teach an art class in the nearby government school with the hope of meeting Native Americans and it was indeed a success; she had forty Hopi boys and girls in her first class. Because she spent so much time in the wilderness learning to embrace the quiet and spiritual nature of the Native Americans, she was allowed to photograph sacred religious rites and to film the Mountain Chant ceremony. With no previous filmmaking experience, Armer wrote, directed, edited, produced, and marketed the entire project. She even convinced Lorenzo Hubbell to make a major capital investment in the film. Since some of the public showings were narrated by Navajos in native tongue, The Mountain Chant is considered to be the first "all Indian" motion picture "in an aboriginal language."

Marketing the film was a nightmare and not of her skill set. Despite the rollercoaster of acceptance and rejection in Hollywood, the film was widely viewed by groups such as the Section of Anthropology and Psychology of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Explorer Club, and at the University of Pennsylvania, among others, however the film was not a commercial success. Armer turned to writing for solace and it was at that time that she was awarded the Newbury Medal for her book Waterless Mountain. The generous monetary award allowed she and her family to survive the Depression and, she continued to write.


Laura Adams Armer
Waterless Mountain
ca. 1931
Laura Adams Armer
The Traders Children
ca. 1937


Laura Adams Armer
The Forest Pool
ca. 1938














Armer wrote and illustrated Southwest which was published in 1935. The Traders Children followed in 1937 and was highly autobiographical as she inserted herself in the tale and referred to herself as "Aunt Mary," to Sidney as "Uncle Joe," Although Laura and Sidney lived apart for much of the Depression (Sidney found work in Detroit), their art continued to be intertwined. Laura's books, for example, were illustrated in one of three ways: by Sidney alone, by Laura alone, or by the two working together. In the case of Waterless Mountain, there are four illustrations by Laura, one by both Laura and Sidney, and the remainder by Sidney. In 1938, her book The Forest Pool was recognized as the most distinguished picture book of that year. The book was illustrated, in color, with her paintings.

Armer exhibited her western paintings in both solo and group shows. In 1963 many photographs taken by Armer on the Navajo Reservation and vicinity were put on display at the Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art which owns the 97 copies she made of her Navajo sand paintings.
Laura Adams Armer
Hopi Women
ca. n.d.
Oil on canvas

Laura Adams Armer
Untitled Illustration for The Forest Pool
ca. 1938
Tempera
Donated by Helen Everett

Laura Adams Armer
Untitled Illustration for The Forest Pool
ca. 1938
Tempera
Donated by Helen Everett

____________________________________
Sources:
Women Artists of the American West, Women in Photography Archive, Peter E. Palmquist, http://www.cla.purdue.edu/waaw/palmquist/photographers/armeressay2.htm, retrieved October 10, 2014
Humbolt Arts Council, http://humboldtarts.org/Collection/artists/LauraAdamsArmer.html, retrieved October 10, 2014
artnet, Laura Adams Armer (American, 1963) http://www.artnet.com/artists/laura-adams-armer/past-auction-results, retrieved October 10, 2014
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovnick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovnick, ed., p. 9

Friday, September 26, 2014

Women Artists in the West: Mary Achey, one of the Earliest Western Artists

There is a wonderful book entitled Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, edited by Patricia Trenton. The Introduction, Women Envision the West by Virginia Scharff is a fascinating accounting of the West as it was...wild, open, and a time of expansion and exploration into the unknown. As the frontier "closed" in 1890, some felt that an "epoch of American exploration had come to an end" while others felt that it was just beginning. The East was tame, established, and women's roles were clear, but not so in the West, where lawlessness existed and where women could defy societal constraints of which they had not created.

Women were slowly gaining political rights, as Wyoming was the first state to grant women full suffrage in 1890. The Chicago Exposition of 1893 featured a pavilion representing the state of California featured an art gallery in which more than half of those on exhibit were done by women. Women have worked in the West as long as humans have inhabited the region beginning with the earliest periods. Native Americans created pottery, wove, and made baskets.

As women, we approach life differently than men. Even today, women are still expected to do the lion's share of taking care of the home and children while we work full-time. We strive to connect with each other and to our own lives and to derive meaning. Family ties both empower and constrain women artists as we try to find their own artistic voices while we balance the responsibilities and demands of our families. Some of us want escape from the bonds of family and society while others find safety, comfort, and support from that community. Whatever our individual needs require, women face challenges that are unique to our gender and our work has, in many cases, taken a back seat to the artwork of men in the same social and racial class.

This is why I write the blog. I want to honor those women who took such incredible risks, especially during such an early, unsettled time in our history, and dared to push boundaries in both their lives and in their work.

We will examine the life and work of Mary Achey, one of the earliest documented female Western artists. The photograph that has been a part of this blog entry since its origination was identified by Achey's great-great granddaughter, Mary Gould, as another woman, however definitely NOT Mary Achey. I've looked in several different reference books and online but have yet to find an image that can be positively connected to Mary Achey. I've removed the photo and will replace it in the future if an appropriate one can be found.

A native of Ohio, Mary Achey executed her first known western works during the 1860s when she lived in Colorado. In 1862 and 65, Achey lived in Kansas and Missouri while her husband served in the Second Colorado Cavalry Volunteers. She produced drawings of army fort scenes in Colorado and Kansas. Achey became the territory's first resident female artist while living in Central City, Colorado and painted a number of views of Clear Creek that received attention in the Denver newspapers. Her painting of Lake Creek garnered praise as the "handsomest oil painting ever seen in Colorado" by the Rocky Mountain News in November of 1869.

Mary Achey
ca. 1860
Oil on canvas
In 1870, Mary Achey left her husband several years after the death of their only daughter from diphtheria. He apparently fell asleep during a night watch over her and Mary held him responsible. For the next fifteen years, Achey traveled throughout the West with her two sons. She settled for a time in Napa, California in 1875, where she listed herself as a portrait painter in the local directory. From there, Achey relocated to Healdsburg, California, approximately 40 miles northeast of Napa, then homesteaded land on the Upper Wishkah River near Aberdeen, Washington in 1881. By 1883, she began to visit Astoria, Oregon, a more profitable area for the sale of her paintings and she divided her time between Aberdeen and Astoria. In 1885, she married again to Emerson A. Woodruff of Canby, Oregon. Mary Achey died near Aberdeen, WA, Sept. 18, 1886.

According to her own accounts, Mary Achey completed over 500 works in oil, watercolor, pen and ink and pencil. Her subjects included landscapes of California, Oregon and Washington, army fort scenes, wild west genre, portraits, and still lifes, and she supported her two sons with the sales of her paintings. Because she lived and worked so long ago, it is difficult to get the correct titles and dates for her works.

Mary Achey
Nevadaville
ca. 1860
13.5 x 20.5 inches
Oil on canvas
Mary Achey
Montesano
ca. n.d.
Oil on canvas
Mary Achey
Landscape
ca. n.d.
___________________________________________
Sources:
Independent Spirits, Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, ed. Patricia Trenton
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovnick and Marian Yoshiki Kovnick
AskArt: The Artist's Bluebook, http://www.askart.com/askart/a/mary_elizabeth_achey/mary_elizabeth_achey.aspx, retrieved September 26, 2014.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fra Dana: Artist, Range Rider and Rancher's Wife

 
Fra Dana
ca 1900
Now that summer vacation is over (sigh) and school has begun in earnest, I went on the hunt for another wonderful painter to bring to you. I discovered artist Fra Dana, a talented impressionist painter who was not only well-trained, but well-traveled.
Born in 1874, Fra Marie Broadwell (pronounced "Fray") grew up in Rockville Indiana. She studied with Joseph Henry Sharp at the Cincinnati Art Academy (founder of New Mexico's Taos Artist's colony), William Merritt Chase then considered the most important American artist and art instructor of the age (his Chase School of Art is now the Parsons New School for Design), and Alfred Maurer and Mary Cassatt in France. Sharp considered her a superb painter, once bestowing upon her the ultimate compliment in his eyes: "she paints like a Man!"

A talented youngster, Fra was encouraged by her stepfather to pursue her art studies. While still a student at the Cincinnati Art Academy, she made her first trip to the West in 1891, traveling by stagecoach with her mother and half-sister, Edna. The trio journeyed to visit land owned by her stepfather's family near Parkman, Wyoming and in 1893, they returned to settle there. The contrast between the urbane art world of New York City and the isolated rural life of late 19th century Wyoming was an enormous adjustment for the refined young woman. She was not one who romanticized the west. It was difficult to find others who shared her interests and had much education or travel experience such as she.


William Merritt Chase
Fra Dana
 ca 1897 
University of Montana Museum of Fine Arts 
Oil on Canvas 
19 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches 
Fra met a fascinating man who peked her interest. Edwin L. Dana, ten years her senior and a successful Montana cattle rancher. They married at her mother's home in 1896. The rancher's holding grew, and by 1919, the Dana Ranch located in northern Wyoming and southeastern Montana, was possibly the largest cattle ranch of its kind in the United States. Legend says that Fra signed a pre-nuptial agreement before her marriage that permitted her to continue her art studies and to spend a portion of each year studying in New York and Europe. In reality, her husband supported her artistic endeavors in a way that was unusual for the times and encouraged her travel and her study.

As a rancher's wife, however, Dana rode the range, knew every phase of the business, served as secretary, bookkeeper, as well as hostess to ranch visitors. Fra was conflicted with her life in the Rocky Mountain West, but appeared to be unable to sever her connection with the region. Excerpts from her diary show the deeply felt tensions between her desire to be an artist and her role as a rancher's wife.

"Today is (Diego) Velazquez's birthday. I always keep it in my heart. But I speak no more of my vanished dreams. We spayed sixty-eight heifers this morning. It took from six o'clock until eleven of hard work. I tallied and got hungry and sleepy-so sleepy that I fell over against the gate post of the corral. This is life and the thoughts that I used to think were dreams. Beauty of any kind is a thing held cheap out here in the land of hard realities and glaring sun and alkali..." She was often lonely for the company of other artists and literary conversation such company would inspire.

Although Wyoming Territory first granted women the right to vote in 1869, long before the country ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920, political emancipation did not always lead to social liberation or professional autonomy. Dana was not accepted by many of her neighbors who judged it scandalous that she would be permitted to travel to Europe without her husband. There was no art community in her region, so she was without a support group with which to identify or be taken seriously as an artist.  

Because of her position and the wealth of her husband, Dana had studios in both Wyoming and Montana. She made as many as nine trips to Europe, looking for the nuances and beauty that she could not seem to find in Montana and Wyoming. The couple also kept and apartment in New York City. After suffering a nervous breakdown in New York in 1911, Dana reduced her travel. New movements such as Cubism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Futurism were consuming the world of art, and while she read and sought about these new forms, Fra maintained her allegiance to the aesthetics and principles of Impressionism.

Dana painted a wide variety of subjects including self-portraits, portraits of ranchers and Native Americans, landscapes, animals and still-lifes.



Fra Dana
On the Window Seat
ca 1909
Oil on Canvas
 16 x 19 inches


Fra Dana
Turkeys and Hollyhocks
Oil on artist's Board
ca 1940 -1945
  18 x 24 inches
University of Montana

Fra Dana
White Peony against Red Background
ca n.d.
 oil on panel
University of Montana
In 1937, Fra Dana moved from the ranch to Great Falls, Montana, where she became good friends with novelist, Mildred Walker. Edwin visited often over the next nine years. When he retired from the ranch, he moved into the apartment with Fra. Although by then she was ill herself, Dana nursed Edwin until he died in 1946.

Shortly before her own death, Dana donated her paintings and her collection of work by Chase, Maurer, and Sharp, to the University of Montana. In a brief letter she wrote, "I do not know that there is anything to tell you about my life. My annals are short and simple. I was born, I married, I painted a little, I am ready to die."

Fra Dana
Birdcage
ca n.d.
Oil on panel
University of Montana
_________________________________________
Sources
Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, Patricia Trention, ed.
An Encyclopedia of Women Artist of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick
Art Montana, http://www.artmontana.com/article/dana/feature10.html, retrieved September 4, 2014
Missoulian, http://missoulian.com/lifestyles/territory/book-art-exhibit-provide-insight-into-fra-dana/article_c4ba0874-17aa-11e1-974b-001cc4c002e0.html, retrieved September 5, 2014
University of Montana, MMAC: Montana Museum of Art and Culture, retrieved September 5, 2014