From the Curator's Desk

James Baldwin & The Toilette of Venus

Rusty Freeman - Friday, May 14, 2021

James Baldwin is having a revival of sorts, in 2020 and continuing in 2021, in the mass media as renewed attention is brought to his writings on civil rights.  The Fire Next Time is again being referenced for its eloquent prose and condemnation of American racism.  

In Jed Jackson’s painting, titled, The Toilette of Venus, the James Baldwin image plays a pivotal role.  The image of Baldwin works in counterpoint with the image of Boucher’s The Toilette of Venus.  The two visual representations—the Baldwin and Boucher images—are the only two within the painting itself.  

Born in New York City, James Baldwin (1924-1987), rose from poverty to become a leading intellectual advocating for civil rights.  His ascent was through books.  In 1953, Go Tell It on the Mountain was published which tells the story of a young man breaking away from his family ideologies determined to make it on his own.  In 1948, Baldwin moved to Paris where he lived for the rest of his life.  

The Fire Next Time, 1963, is regarded as one of the 1960s most influential books on race relations. 

Jackson in a written statement established “pretension” as the main theme of this painting.  The painting improvises on the 18th-century idea of the “salon” where wealthy socialites entertain in their homes a select group of socially prominent people — literary figures, artists, or statesmen.   

The scene of upper class affluence is a party hosted by the man in the center of the painting, a wealthy African American gentleman who appears to be a book collector.  Jackson has said that though the black host has moved into this realm he is ill at ease. The man’s expression, according to Jackson, “is a commentary on the scene taking place, a commentary on pretension and artificial, political relationships.”  

The visual sign, or clue, connecting Jackson’s painting to a 18th-century ideology of the salon is the image on the book’s cover, Boucher’s The Toilette of Venus, 1751.  

Boucher’s time is the Rococo period, just before the Enlightenment.  Salon evening get-togethers were popular then, as they are today.  Jackson associated hypocrisy and pretentiousness with salon gatherings.  It was something he experienced first hand while living in New York City.  

But Jackson is not finished.  Remarkably, the artist depicted a black man as host and adds, critically and significantly, the painting’s pivotal sign, an image of James Baldwin.  

The Baldwin image brings to the painting a host of new associations and comparisons.  As we know, Baldwin excoriated against racism in America.  Racism is a social order based on a false perception that is promulgated by affecting greater importance than is warranted.  In a word, racism is pretentious.  

Jackson associates the two orders, racism and salons, as orders of pretension and condemns both.  


JED JACKSON (b.1954) Fayetteville, Arkansas, The Toilette of Venus, 1990-91, Oil on wood, Museum Purchase 1996.05. Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mt. Vernon, IL.   
 



The artist Chakaia Booker & the artist Jessica Brown

Rusty Freeman - Friday, May 07, 2021

Thought experiment:  Imagine if in every single movie made today, not a single white person was seen.  It wouldn’t seem right.  

What does it mean to be left out, excluded?  

Those of us who live in the Midwest are not very fond of the term “flyover country”; it’s dismissive.  

Consider this much more subtle but sweeping cultural dismissal, the former use of the pronoun “he” to refer to men and women.  It may not seem like much, but like an unwritten law, women were dismissed from language and writing.  Seen but not heard. 

A similar cultural dismissal was the denial for women to be taught subjects like science or engineering.    

Women, gays, and blacks, all minorities, have been historically dismissed and continue to be so.  Consider too, the dismissals of all working class folks living anywhere, but especially in today’s Appalachia or the South.  

These personal and social dismissals have ranged historically from violent mass murders to the slightest of social indignities.  

The art world is very familiar with these issues.  The next four artists have dealt with some of these issues and are found in the Cedarhurst permanent collection.  

Mary Cassatt painted a lifelong theme of mother and child.  Though well aware of avant-garde modern art, Cassatt was a promoter of modern art, she purposely choose to paint women and their children as they were in real life.  Cassatt opposed the way men painters represented women in art as a fictive goddess.  

Robert Henri was well known for his paintings of everyday people, those not often represented in the fine art world.  

Paul Strand was also known for his photographs of everyday people, those people in society often overlooked or ignored.  


The artist Chakaia Booker in front of her creation, Wrench Wench, 1999, automobile rubber tires, steel, wood; Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Jitendra Trivedi, 2004.1, Collection of Cedarhurst Center for the Arts; all photos courtesy of Steve Modert 

Chakaia Booker frames social issues using the subtle language of abstraction.  In her Cedarhurst sculpture, Wrench Wench, Booker has carefully cut automobile tires into small pieces and arranged them into a curvy feathery boa.  The now graceful boa stands in for the torso of a woman with open-ended wrench heads as the head and feet of a person standing contrapposto.  

In Wrench Wench, Booker compares a common, functional object to the virtues of woman: a valuable tool that shapes, grips, turns, twists, and disassembles other objects.  

Booker has said that the black tires represent the black skin of people and the tire treads represent the scarifications slaves suffered at the abuse of slave-owners.


Standing with their smiling students are, to Chakaia’s right, artist and teacher, DeSande R, John A. Logan College, Carterville; to Chakaia’s left, Peter Cuong Nguyen, Museum Director, Crisp Museum, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO; and Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, artist and professor, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; September 14, 2014, Cedarhurst 

Dismissals occur in the art world as well, it is no different from society.  In 1971, art historian Linda Nochlin wrote what became a landmark essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”  Later in 1985, The Guerrilla Girls formed to become a famous coalition of unidentified women artists seeking to bring gender and racial equity to the art world.  

The artist Jessica Brown examines the utter absence of African Americans from the movies and TV shows of her youth.  

The art of Jessica Brown probes these issues with subtly and a sense of humor.  Among her many topics, here she emphasizes that black actors were denied lead roles in TV or film. In her counter-proposal, Brown playfully inserts herself into these cultural realms, for example, teaming up with the Get Smart actor Don Adams, or appropriating the 1950s cool style of James Dean on a motorcycle in a black leather jacket.   Above all is Brown’s high-functioning aesthetic sensibility which embraces semiotics, music, academic scholarship, cultural commentary, and performance art.  

Jessica Brown is an assistant professor at the Rhode Island School of Design by way of Paducah, and a former classmate of Carrie Gibbs at Murray State University.  

Throughout history, certain castes of society were excluded from full representation, and remain so today.  Progress has been made, with much more yet to be done.  

This blog introduces some of the topics for Jessica Brown’s upcoming exhibition at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Reel 2 Real: The Art of Jessica Brown, also opening DeSande R: Printmaking, Power & Heritage, May 15 - July 25, 2021.  


Robert Youngman's Cedarhurst One

Rusty Freeman - Thursday, April 29, 2021

Robert Youngman’s sculpture, Cedarhurst One, was the very first outdoor sculpture to be commissioned and installed by the Mitchell Foundation. It was done to celebrate the museum's tenth anniversary in 1983. Well before the sculpture park began formally in 1993 with the NEA's Jane Alexander dedication.

Youngman, Cedarhurst One, 1983, Goldman-Kuenz Sculpture Park, Mt. Vernon, IL Photos courtesy of Cedarhurst

Robert Youngman was born in 1927 in Murphysboro, Illinois. In 1969, Youngman began teaching art at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he taught for over 15 years. Youngman died in 2010. The following are excerpts from a Youngman talk at U of I School of Architecture, March 22, 1984.

"Realizing, from today’s perspective, how ridiculous this may sound, I can still clearly say that I knew what it was like to work with my hands—to build things—to repair—to improvise—to have a respect for materials and processes—to “set tires” for farmers’ wagons, to swing a sledge—to have calloused hands—to cut threads—to sharpen plow shares—to repair mole boards—to use a draw shave (we called it a “draw knife”)—to see an ordinary blue-colored shirt turn dark blue black from work sweat—to hear the ring of his hammer on the anvil.

It is difficult to believe, I know, but I was taught to gas-and electric-weld when I was 7 and 8 years old.

I experienced all of this very early in my life, for I was born next door to my father’s blacksmith shop—not in a hospital, but in my grandmother’s bedroom.

From 12 years on, the St. Louis City Art Museum was my “holy of holies".

Concrete was a new experience for me—it fact, even now (23 years later) it is still new.

Centennial, Campus of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign photo courtesy of ExploreCU

Even with today’s economy, many new opportunities exist for integration of the arts into the revitalization of our cities.  For example, I am vitally interested in participatory, computer-driven fountains sensitive to the pulse and movements of people.

And there is another direction I call “Habitable Sculpture”—that is, sculpture forms or masses large enough in which people can live and function.

These four, Comerica Building, Detroit, MI, 1970, and details, photos courtesy of Midwest Modern

Why, then, after becoming a professional sculptor (1967-69), did I return to academia? Perhaps it was because this is where broad systems of ideas can best be conceived, and simple, pristine, clear views of the world can be experienced. These two nourishments of the mind, one of the intellect, the other close to the heart, at times mingle and fuse and bring forth innovation."

Robert Youngman, Engineering Fountain, on the main campus of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, Photo by Amerique, courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Reading with Ken Botnick & John Fraser

Rusty Freeman - Friday, April 23, 2021

To ‘read’ a work of art, we study WHAT is said in terms of HOW it is said.  

We will look at these ways of reading art with the art of book designer Ken Botnick and the collage/assemblage artist John Fraser.  

First, signs can be read in two ways— literally and symbolically.  A sign can be a word, a picture, word clusters (sentences, etc), or groups of images in a single scene.  A sign is anything used to represent something else.   

Second, signs can be read across a space, such as a painting or sculpture.  Or signs can also be read in a medium that takes time to be read, such as a book or movie.   

The collages of John Fraser emanate with certain aesthetic pleasures from his use of diverse and sometimes disjunctive elements.  The collaged elements are removed from their original context and creatively refashioned into new wholes.  By intuitive and reasoned arranging and sequencing Fraser orchestrates pleasing compositions rich with intrigue.  

Fraser places historic cultural objects into new contexts that allow reinterpretations using his new associations of perspective and mood.  Books are often a source for his reinterpretation.   

John Fraser, Measure For Measure, 2018, seen here in detail, features a book spread with an exposed, aged, yellowing spine, all pages missing. The original endpapers replaced with crisp new sheets. A carpenter’s folding ruler squares one corner of the book. The ruler adds tremendous material and metaphoric power to the book. The disemboweled book and ruler form a relationship binding one to the other. “Measure for Measure” is also a tragicomedy by Shakespeare.  

For Ken Botnick, the art and craft of graphic design is central to his practice of making artist books.  An artist book takes a written text—poem, short story, or essay—and enhances it with illustrations, typography, or any of the elements used to make a book, such as kinds of paper or method of printing.  

Botnick defines his art practice by analogy: “artist books are to the world of books as poetry is to the world of language.”

One Botnick masterwork is his Diderot Project.  Four years in the making, the limited edition artist book reinterprets for the 21st-century the defining document of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopedia, or Reasoned Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts.  


Ken Botnick, Diderot Project, 2015, this two-page spread is emblematic of the book itself. Image and Word are paired. The illustration on the left displays the structure of a machine. On the right, letters in movement, which by turning pages reveal “DIDEROT.” The ghosted images of other letters are visible and imply movement. Like trains passing on parallel tracks heading in opposite directions. 

Collage and the artist book are useful to compare their methods of the HOW that each uses to get their WHAT across.  

To read literally or symbolically, one starts with the materiality of the sign which is at the heart of Fraser’s collages and Botnick’s bookmaking.  

Collage has an advantage in that its semiotic relations are visible in one field.  One can see all the elements at once.  An artist book displays its semiotic signs one or two pages at a time, with the added dimension of page sequencing and page turning in order to see and study the whole.  The value when reading a book may be its slowed unfolding of patterns which encourage rereading.  An artist book builds its meaning over time, page by page, and is somewhat like watching a movie.  Collage is a kind of static or motionless reading and is analogous to reading a single sheet of text. 

Reading works of art involve the careful inspection of how the literal, the symbolic, and their aesthetics of how operate.  From the process of reading artworks, we, in turn, read the complex world in more subtle ways.  

Recently retired Washington University Professor of Art Ken Botnick and Chicago artist John Fraser will be featured in the next Cedarhurst exhibition The Rapport of Beauty: Book Design by Ken Botnick and Collage by John Fraser May 15 - July 25, 2021.  


Mount Vernon's Second Best Art Teacher

Rusty Freeman - Friday, April 16, 2021

Born in the 19th-century, Mt. Vernon, Illinois native Summers established himself as one of the accomplished practitioners of American Impressionism with his colorful landscapes.  He studied at the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts where he was an award winning artist.  

His painting style is dynamic, spontaneous, yet disciplined with an eye towards recognizable form.  His use of color is lively and complex.  Throughout his compositions he conveys a keen sense of energy and surface vitality. 


Ivan F. Summers, Mt. Vernon, Illinois (1889 -1964), Lake Winter, Catskills, 1925, oil, Gift of Patricia and Edmund Morrissey, 2013.92

Early in his career, Summers earned commissions painting World War I officers’ portraits.  He also worked as an artist for Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.  

A charismatic art teacher Summers worked throughout the country. He taught art at the Kansas City Art Institute; South Carolina Art School Charleston, in Arizona schools; and eventually became the Director of the prestigious Art Student League’s Summer School in Woodstock, New York. 

Summers painted landscapes across the country, traveling to such historically famous art colonies as Cape Cod and Cape Ann, Maine; Rockport and Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Taos, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas; and the great California coast.  

Summers is perhaps Mount Vernon’s second best artist-teacher, right after Marejon Sue Shrode.


  

Mrs T is "non-fungible" but is not an NFT

Rusty Freeman - Friday, April 09, 2021

This past Wednesday at Art, Coffee, & Conversation’s bi-monthly meeting, we discussed NFTs or non-fungible tokens.  This blog explores the NFT concept a little further.  

For the art world, NFTs made the news when Christie’s sold at auction on March 11, 2021, artist Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann’s digital artwork Everydays: The First 5,000 Days for $69.3 million dollars.  His digital artwork sold as an NFT.    

It became the third highest art sale for a living artist behind Jeff Koons’ Rabbit and David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures).   

Fungible is a law term, an adjective meaning interchangeable.  Money is fungible in that one is paid money for one’s labor, and that paycheck can be turned around to purchase groceries.  Gold, beads, or shells are fungible units that could be exchanged like money.  

Non-fungible means unique or one-of-a-kind, like a work of art.  

However, non-fungible token is a whole other kettle of fish.  

A “non-fungible token” is a term for a unique digital code also know as a “blockchain.”  Blockchain technology brought Bitcoin into digital existence.  Before blockchain, the (physical) cost of replicating something in the digital world was nil.  Now, it requires massive expenditures of electrical power.  NFTs are unique, verifiable, and protected by a hard to hack digital code.  An NFT has become a valuable financial asset.

NFTs are a version of cryptocurrencies (bitcoin) that have unique assets (i.e., digital video, work of art) assigned to a unique NFT code.  

This technology is being used to create digital collectibles. 

It is a curious shift in the social value placed on a physical work of art and what is now placed on an intangible entity, like a digital work of art.  Perhaps it is the same thing? 

Many think all sectors of the economy will find relevant NFT applications. Everything from medicine to fashion.  

Currently, businesses, including the art world, are adapting NFTs: the NBA, Formula One, Ubisoft, Atari, and the entertainment industry.  

An explanation from the CryptoKitties website. Screenshot courtesy of CryptoKitties.com 

The history of the development of NFTs goes back to at least 2012.  But, it was in 2017 with the emergence of CryptoKitties that the goldmine was realized.  People want to collect and buy unique digital items.  

The genie is out of the bottle.  

There is money to be made but there remain serious issues that I did not touch upon, the energy consumption generated by these kinds of electronic production and the whole other issue of copyrights.  

Easy to guess, that with the rise of the financially valuable intangible assets sector, that art museums that preserve original, physical, unique works of art will only become more valued.  

They will be the precious and tangible links to history.  


Themes of Allegory

Rusty Freeman - Friday, April 02, 2021

Allegories are stories where a sociological, historical, religious, or political theme is seen through the primary theme or story which provides an aesthetic presentation for the secondary theme.  One theme does not equal the other; there must be an analogous structure of ideas and events paralleled in both.  The parallel and analogous structures of storyline are what makes an allegory work.  Outstanding aesthetics are what makes an allegory memorable.  

Fight Club scene with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, courtesy of Den of Geek

Consider the still controversial film Fight Club directed by David Fincher and released in 1999.  The movie was a box office and critics’ flop.  Later, with the DVD release it slowly became a cult movie.  

The surface story traces the friendship of two men who become members of a secret society of “fight clubs.”  The fight club is like a self-help group but with blood.  One friend is an insomniac addicted to self-help groups and cannot find a mate.  The other is a sado-masochistic anarchist.  

The film was interpreted by society with two diametrically opposed allegories.  The first allegory comments on the debasement of masculinity, consumerism, corporate culture, and the American Dream.  The film triggered a second and misogynist interpretation featuring themes suggesting that men are in a spiraling downward identity crisis and must return to “better days” when it was socially acceptable for men to be violent and where women were seen but not heard.  

The subsequent sub-cultures Fight Club spawned are disturbing.  

Night of the Living Dead scene with lead Duane Jones and unidentified actor, courtesy of BFI 

In 1968, director George Romero released Night of the Living Dead which is now so revered that it is often referred to as a manifesto for the modern horror movie. 

The surface story is the home invasion by a mysterious community of zombies.  

However, as we always try to point out at Cedarhurst, when we study art, pay attention to the historical moments from which the art emerged.  

Night of the Living Dead appeared during one of America’s most tumultuous years - 1968.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.  George Wallace ran for president. Nixon was elected president.  North Korea seized and held hostage the entire crew of the USS Pueblo for a year.  North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive.  The H3N2 flu virus turned into a pandemic leading to a million deaths worldwide.  The Democratic National Convention turned violent as police clashed with antiwar protesters.  

Romero’s movie was credited as an allegory reflecting the racial and political turmoil in America at the time.  But the film became an icon not for its allegorical reading but for its first-rate aesthetics.  It overturned conventions; it wasn’t set in a gothic castle with bats and cobwebs.  It dramatized the average, everyday farmhouse that could have belonged to anyone.  

The lead role went to black actor Duane Jones and this too broke convention.  

Romero upped the ante again by making his zombies flesh-devouring creatures.  This was read as society cannibalizing itself, an aspect many felt was already happening across the nation.  

The combination of ground-breaking directing, casting, writing, and cinematography led to an understanding of Night of the Living Dead as breaking genre molds while reflecting its times in innovative and allegorical ways.  

Parasite scene with Choi Woo-Shik (son), Park So-Dam (daughter), Song Kang-Ho (father), Jang Hye-Jin (mom), courtesy of Movie Insider 

My third selection may be too complex to summarize adequately as director Bong Joon Ho has perhaps allegorized allegory.  Parasite could be a (humorously dark) synonym for allegory.  As a parasite is a creature that lives inside another taking its nutrients from the host, so the allegory functions by one story living inside the host story.  

Bong’s film Parasite debuted in 2019 and earned the Oscar for Best Picture and a Palme d’Or.    

The surface story is a poor family scheming to replace the tutor, housekeeper, and chauffeur of a wealthy family.  The movie morphs seamlessly through comedy to horror tale to epic tragedy to an ending with yet another aspect of life to consider.  

Perhaps what made this film so intriguing is the way Bong presents his themes—class, status envy, aspiration, materialism, the family—by showing an allegorical comparison, but leaving resolution with the viewer.  No judgements are made by the director.  For example, you see both the wealthy and poor families exhibiting the same tendencies, but extenuating circumstances complicate resolution.  It’s complicated and brilliant to watch the stories interlock, unfold, and interlock again.  Bong called it “a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains.”  “I’m not making a documentary or propaganda.  It’s not about telling you how to change the world.”  

And it is Parasite’s convention-breaking excellence of the directing, story-telling, writing, acting, cinematography, set designs, and production values that make the film such a cultural and aesthetic phenomenon.  

Without outstanding aesthetics allegories and movies would be just another story.  


This blog is research for the upcoming Cedarhurst exhibition The Rapport of Beauty: Book Design by Ken Botnick & Collage by John Fraser opening May 15.  


McLellan's Dialectic

Rusty Freeman - Friday, March 26, 2021

Todd McLellan has been taking things apart since childhood.  His love of exploration and discovery led to a deeper exploration of the tools and devices of today and market culture.  

McLellan’s art is dialectical which means it comes in pairs.  A comparison of contrasting forces.   A dialectical storyline seeks resolution and this exhibition offers some.  

By photographing the same object, say a telephone, in two orders of organization, McLellan puts into play an order-disorder dynamic that echoes thematically throughout the exhibition, if not culture-at-large.  

McLellan’s order-half photograph portrays a disassembled 1980s telephone in a very precise and neat, thoughtful layout; while the disorder-half photograph depicts the same telephone’s parts now haphazardly in a midair free fall photographically frozen.  

The prime theme running through the entire exhibit is that of order and disorder.  

Together, these two photographs depict a dialectic.  A relationship of polar opposites.  Dialectics may be found throughout everyday life in such places as the melody and countermelody in the same song and in the novel as the plot and subplots.  

Dialectic, in Greek philosophy, was a method of resolution that used a series of questions and answers to arrive at some agreed upon point of view.  Call and response music uses the same patterning of thinking towards resolution.  

McLellan’s curiosity grew into an appreciation of the beauty and complexity of objects and an understanding of how objects work leading to a greater respect for the design, creativity, and engineering or craft that went into the making. 

Today’s consumer world can be counterproductive when it does not consider the easy repair of tools and devices.  If it cannot be repaired, then another must be purchased.  Producing endlessly pollutes the world and depletes finite resources such as rare earth metals required for computers.  People are working on remedies.  

The “repair-dispose of” polarity is a major exhibition theme and some resolutions are proposed in the concept of the art of the “teardown” and a concept known as “active disassembly.”  

Kyle Wiens is co-founder of iFixit, a San Luis Obispo company specializing in custom tools and replacement parts to aid homeowners repairing electronic devices.  Wiens’ company became experts in “teardowns” of smartphones.  

Joseph Chiodo is the inventor of the “active disassembly” process.  Active disassembly is the exact opposite of “planned obsolescence.”  Active disassembly plans for the future use of an object’s parts, so that the scarce resources that went into the object continue to be useful.  

McLellan’s art visualizes a model of looking closely at how objects are made.  By looking closely at the tools and useful objects we make and considering innovative ways of extending scarce resources, and by repairing them, we may extend their usefulness while preserving nature.  

McLellan’s dialectical model of assembled-disassembled objects almost describes the philosophy of life as it weaves in and out of resolutions.  Hegel, way back when, characterized this model of resolution as thesis generating antithesis generating synthesis.  

You are cordially invited to my gallery talk on April 3 to talk more about the photography of Todd McLellan and his Smithsonian exhibition Things Come Apart.  



American Artists of Asian Heritage

Rusty Freeman - Friday, March 19, 2021

In this week’s blog, we celebrate three permanent collection artists: Jiyong Lee, Arthur Towata, and Cheonae Kim.  


JIYONG LEE, South Korea (b.1971), Cube Segmentation, 2014, Cut and carved glass, color laminated, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Cedarhurst Collectors Club, 2015.01

Jiyong Lee on the metaphors in his art: “The segmentation series is inspired by my fascination with the science of the cell, its division and journey of growth that starts from a single cell and goes through a million divisions to become a life.”  

“The segmented, geometrical forms of my work represent cells, embryos, biological and molecular structures—each symbolizing the building blocks of life as well as the starting point of life.”  

Segmentation means movement as the cube represents, for Jiyong Lee, the biologic cell, or the singular point of unfolding.  


ARTHUR TOWATA, Japanese-American, Los Angeles, CA (b.1933) – Barrington, IL (d. 2019), Lived in Alton, IL for over 65 years.  Untitled, 1984, Stoneware, Museum purchase, 1985.2.01

After Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, Arthur Towata, as an eight-year old, was imprisoned with his mother and younger brother during World War II in the Manzanar internment camp California.  His father was detained by the Department of Justice and never heard from again.  

"Through the guidance of an intuitive mother, I was protected from the negative reality of our situation. I was instructed to entertain myself through the exploration of our new environment. She did not entrap me within an emotionally negative circumstance, but invited me to glean from it another opportunity to learn."

Towata became a veteran after serving in the Korean War. After the war, he earned his Bachelors of Science in Economics in 1962, and his MFA in 1971 from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He served as Chairman of the Art Department of Monticello College.  In 1964, Towata opened his Fine Art Gallery in Alton, IL.  He is a founding member of Craft Alliance, St. Louis. 

In 2006, Towata returned to Manzanar.  Manzanar is in a California desert composed of a yellow-orange sand.  

"Kate had to place one of my pots on the ground within the former camp and point out how it immediately blended with the natural landscape."  Towata is known for his signature vessels which for years represented the same desert landscape of his childhood.  


CHEONAE KIM, Seoul, Korea (b.1952), Fugue 1, 2, 3, 4, 1992, Acrylic, graphite on canvas, Gift of the artist 

Cheonae Kim explores in her paintings the idea of language systems, or structures, their relations to sound, and their visual expressions.  

Kim works with the concept of structuralism which embraces the idea that the totality of a structure works in relationships to its parts and the parts come to have their meanings and significance only within the structure, or system.  

Kim strives to reach all cultures—she uses the universal languages of color, line, patterns, and structures.  

Fugue” took as its model the Korean alphabet.  These paintings present in four different models, the ways a system composed of signs can visually change, or morph over time.  

Kim seeks the simplest of elements, or parts to explore.  Here, she uses the horizontal line and the vertical line.  The cultural symbolisms attached to these two aspects, the horizontal (inactive) and the vertical (active) are metaphors of life.  

Kim suggests a way to read these four paintings with her title. A fugue is a song where the melody is modified with each new countermelody.  


Spring Narcissus

Rusty Freeman - Friday, March 12, 2021

Spring brings the joys of symbolic rebirths; and not a moment too soon for 2021.  

Daffodils seemingly by magic materialized yesterday in my back yard and that moment triggered my return to our Childe Hassam, The Table Garden from 1910.  


FREDERICK CHILDE HASSAM, Dorchester, Massachusetts (1859-1935), The Table Garden, 1910, Oil on canvas, Gift of John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell, 1973.1.22 

Boston native Hassam established himself as one of America’s foremost painters of Impressionism.  A favorite subject of the painter was urban interior scenes composed of women and flowers.  Our painting’s title, The Table Garden, perhaps emphasizes the main subject, while the painting itself compares paperwhite bulbs with the blue and white flower design of the kimono. 

The Table Garden features the paperwhite narcissus— a flower of worldwide admiration.  

OrigInally from the Mediterranean, the Iberian Peninsula, and Western Africa, the narcissus, or daffodil, thrived wherever it has been transplanted.  The ancient Greek myth of Narcissus has greatly influenced our perception of daffodils reflecting along riverbanks.  In Britain, wild daffodils are called Lent Lillies and flourish from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  Daffodils stand as the national flower of Wales.  Chinese folklore regards the narcissus as good luck in the home.   

The cultural scope of the narcissus may be suggested by the next three paintings as all have the narcissus flower depicted.  


In early 2019, the Pompeii Archaeological Park reported the latest recovery of a fresco depicting Narcissus.  The Roman culture of Pompeii dates from the first century.  Mt. Vesuvius preserved Pompeii and Herculaneum in the year 79.  


John William Waterhouse, Echo & Narcissus, 1903, oil, 43x74in, courtesy of Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 


Salvador Dalí 1904–1989, Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937, Oil paint on canvas, 510 x 780 mm, Purchased from the Edward James Foundation (Grant-in-Aid) 1979, T02343, courtesy of the Tate Modern, London 

As one of the first flowers to appear in the spring, the narcissus roundly trumpets the world that a fresh new season has begun.