December 2011

Deck the Halls

WAM_DecktheHalls_Cat.jpgFrom November 19, 1995-March 3, 1996, WAM exhibited, “Deck the Halls: Holiday Photography by Roger Mertin and Christina Patoski.” As, “the most… wonderful time…. Of the year…” has again approached and passed us, it is an apt time to look back at this exhibit which brings into focus the celebrations and pastimes that surround the holiday season.

In the exhibit catalogue, former WAM curator Patricia McDonnell described,

Christmas in late twentieth-century America is a pervasive cultural phenomenon, and for many it entails a round of rituals that are removed from a specific religious context. Given the importance in our culture of this winter observance, it represents prime territory for the artist interested in cultural meaning, its development, and ways of representation.”

Through the exhibition of the holiday-focused photographs of Roger Mertin and Christina Patoski, we can look at seasonal cultural offerings in different contexts.

An invitation to the exhibition opening and a listing of related programs provides further insight into the discussion of cultural considerations of the winter season:

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Former WAM Director of Education Colleen Sheehy described the exhibit,

The artists’ accumulation of images, taken in far-flung locales over a number of years, builds a composite picture of the country’s holiday folk customs. That larger picture reveals how Americans use objects in an artfulness of everyday life, creating domestic spaces in which ornament, architecture, and landscape are carefully designed and then enhanced through the use of lighting.

As I returned home for a holiday celebration with family this past weekend I thought of this exhibit. I gave special attention to how my mother used objects in “the artfulness of everyday life” to design our home with holiday décor.

After participating in a secular family viewing of “Home Alone” whilst enjoying a piece of lefsa lightly dusted with brown sugar, I realized just how, “Fast away the old year passes…”

“Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!”

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Art & Nature

Over the course of the past few days, nature has had a great affect on the mood and demeanor of those that inhabit the Twin Cities. As we reach the middle of December, “mother nature” has provided us with a temperature of 40 degrees and a climate of rainstorms, only to be followed by a temperature of 25-degrees and freezing rain the next day. For those that were able to witness the brief moment that the sun made an appearance in as many as 2 days early this morning, consider yourself to be one of the lucky ones…

The recent irregularities in nature reminded me of a folder in a box I processed months ago in the WAM Archives of an exhibit titled, “The Debt of Art to Nature.”

Web_DebtofArt_01.jpg Web_DebtofArt_02.jpgThe exhibit, which originated at the Fogg Museum at Harvard University in 1943, was arranged by Ruth Lawrence to be exhibited at the University Gallery in 1945. The catalogue to the Fogg exhibit, written by Gretchen Warren, states, “This exhibition consists of a collection of shells showing their dynamic spiral, together with photographs of the spiral as used in the visual arts of almost every age and civilization. These will illustrate the widespread influence of this beautiful form and its value for symbolism… The thesis underlying this entire exhibition may be summed up in one phrase: Relatedness, order, and beauty in the universe, and their imperishable significance for man, in symbolism, tradition, and education.” A catalogue, drafted by Warren, was provided to Ruth Lawrence to accompany the exhibit at the University Gallery (see attached draft at left).

Images from the exhibit, showcasing the shape and form of the shell spiral juxtaposed with photographs and other objects were contained within the exhibition folder:

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Despite the gloomy weather of the past few days, I will try to observe artful forms of nature in my environs… as even a raindrop or an ice pellet falling from the sky has an aesthetic worthy of appreciation…

An apple a day…

Helps you appreciate art in a new way?


Photographs taken of students visiting the exhibition of works of American artists in the “Art Here” exhibit held in March of 1937 have me considering the gallery policies of that time. Was food and beverage allowed in the gallery spaces in Northrop Auditorium? Previous photos we have encountered allude to the fact that smoking was permitted at one time. Why not a quick snack?

ArtHere_01.jpgOn page 53 of the University Gallery press books (which have been meticulously photographed by a project processor – the files of which were recently shared amongst the project team), a clipping from a March 5, 1937 article from the Minneapolis Star is rubber cemented to the page. The article, written by John K. Sherman indicates that, “it’s a valiant picture ogler that can keep up with Ruth Lawrence and the University Gallery.”

As usual, Ruth mounted an exhibit that attracted the attention of University students, exposing them to contemporary artworks.

Several students seem to be thoroughly engaged in active appreciation of the “Art Here” exhibition:

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