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There’s a Story in Here Somewhere…. 

We will be hearing a lot in the next year about Selma, most of it related to the historic events that surrounded “Bloody Sunday” and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. Those events put Selma on the map, both nationally and internationally, but the town has been on Alabama’s map for a very, very long time, and what you don’t know about Selma may surprise you. One thing you might not know? There have probably been more creative and literary people in Selma per capita than in any other place in Alabama—maybe the whole South.

The curious coincidence that brought this to mind is the presence of two wonderful works of art that are currently in our galleries. They just happen to depict two members of a Selma family—two members who lived almost one hundred years apart.

Siegel_Fax_blogThe first is found in Romantic Spirits: Nineteenth-Century Paintings of the South from the Johnson Collection. The painting is by an artist named George Cooke who came to Alabama in the summer of 1848. He was traveling and took commissions to paint members of Alabama’s Black Belt planter families. He was given the task of painting a young boy named Joseph Fairfax Lapsley, known to his family as “Little Fax.” Like many children in the nineteenth century, Little Fax had a brief life, dying when he was only two. Little Fax’s father, Colonel John Whitfield Lapsley commissioned the painting as a memorial of his young son. Little Fax stands on a porch overlooking what was certainly the Alabama River as it winds past Selma. Up the river we see a steamboat, carrying away people and goods to a world little Fax would never know. It is a melancholy painting, intended to remind his parents of a life cut woefully short.

Flash forward to 2004 and a photograph by  Selma artist, Jerry Siegel in the exhibition Creator/Created: Jerry Siegel Portraits and Artists from the Permanent CollectionSiegel_lapsley_blogIt depicts the painter John Lapsley, the great-grandson of Colonel John Whitfield Lapsley, and an artist who is well represented in the MMFA permanent collection. Unlike Little Fax, John Lapsley had a long, very productive life as an artist, dying at the age of 90, but they are both depicted at the end of their natural lives. John Lapsley died a year after the photograph was made; Little Fax’s portrait was made the year after his passing. Those who knew John Lapsley knew a genuine Alabama character; like another Alabama native, author Truman Capote, he had a sharp wit and a sense of irony that was always present. John’s works in the Museum’s collection  date from the 1930s to the late twentieth century, fulfilling his destiny in a way that Little Fax unfortunately could not.

And there’s one more Selma art family to consider—that is the Siegels. Photographer Jerry Siegel was preceded one generation by his uncle, Jerome E. (Jerry) Siegel, Jr., who was for many years one of the best and most respected dealers in Southern art. As a true, old-fashioned gallerist Jerry nurtured the careers of artists such as John Lapsley, Crawford Gillis, Charles Shannon and others now in our MMFA collection. siegel_self_blogHis nephew continues that tradition through his photographs of artists in their studios, and although he makes his home elsewhere now he clearly knows his roots, artistic and otherwise. His own self-portrait in Creator/Created was made at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of “Bloody Sunday,” and a reminder that Selma is at the heart of Alabama’s history, both artistic and social.

Alabama’s greatest storyteller, Katherine Tucker Windham (and, yes, she was also from Selma) would have made a fine tale out of the Lapsleys, the Siegels and their lives across the centuries. Like all us Southerners, she did love a good story.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Tall Tales & Tornadoes with Ke Francis

GalleryTalk_KF_blogThe Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts hosted mixed-media artist Ke Francis at the opening of the exhibit Ke Francis: A Selection of Large-Scale Work on Thursday, March 20. In examining his work at face value, Ke’s pieces – GalleryTalk_KF_2b_blogwhich range from small prints to large sculptures – exhibit many of the characteristics of the folk aesthetic that are often found in rural settings. However, after hearing Ke explain his process, it became clear that he uses the folk medium as a vehicle for story-telling. During his lecture, Ke recounted several stories that influenced his work. Some were as real as tornadoes ripping apart houses, others as magical as sage catfish living on land. These tales allow the viewer to begin connecting the seemingly individual images within Ke’s works and understand how they mesh together into a web that evokes the archetypal experience of life in the South.  GalleryTalk_KF_3blogIt was wonderful to meet Ke and hear the stories in person. His words brought his images to life and created a very personal experience for the audience.

Beth Hataway
President, Junior Executive Board

Docent Field Trip to Chattanooga

On the first day of spring seventeen MMFA docents and four members of the educational staff headed north to Chattanooga, TN.

DocentTrip_blog1Our destination was the Hunter Museum of American Art. Several months in planning, this was the MMFA’s first overnight docent field trip. Set upon an eighty foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, the Museum features beautiful views of the riverfront and the surrounding area.

Upon arriving at the Museum we had a curator led tour of a current exhibition, African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond.  After having free time to explore the Hunter’s permanent collection, we attended a stimulating discussion, “Art + Issues: Diversity Is! Now Deal with It?” led by Bart Washington and Brian O’Leary of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

DocentTrip_blog2That evening and the following morning we were able to explore the city’s downtown area which, along with the Hunter, features the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum, a pedestrian bridge across the river, several art galleries and a wide range of restaurants. All of these attractions are within walking distance of each other. Art is everywhere in the downtown area, often in places you would least expect to find it. Those of us who toured the Aquarium were delighted to find an exhibit of Stephen Rolfe Powell’s  “Whacko” series complementing the jellyfish exhibit.

Just as Cappy Thompson was “enraptured by the celestial fireworks of the muses,” our group was enchanted by the hospitality we received at the Hunter, the range and beauty of it’s collection and the stimulating atmosphere of Chattanooga’s downtown area. Being able to enjoy these attractions as a group made the trip all the more memorable.

George Jacobsen
Docent Council Chair

‘Tis the Season…

…for spring fever, weddings, Easter, confirmation, graduation, Mother’s Day… well ’tis ALWAYS the season for SOMETHING, right?  And, although we DO have gifts for all of the above, DON’T wait for a special occasion to come peruse our one-of-a-kind collection here at The Museum Store.  I think we have the best selection of pottery in the city (Christopher Greenman, Randy Shoults, Tena Payne, Margaret Barber, Suzanne Jensen, Anna Bastida, Jo Taylor– to drop a few names), plus paintings, jewelry, glass, and more (so many artists/so little space)… surely something for everyone (including kiddies) and at all price points.

Teena Payne, Earthborn PotteryWe are constantly adding new artists and merchandise to keep things interesting and fresh.  So if you were here two weeks ago or it’s been two years, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find.  More than once, I’ve heard the comment:  ”This is one of the best museum stores I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot…” So, what are you waiting for?  I didn’t even mention that we provide free gift wrap and that our sales staff is always happy to offer suggestions, tell you about the artists we represent or just smile and nod– whatever you prefer.

Oh, and quarterly, we feature an Artist in Action where you can meet an artist and watch them at work here in the Museum Store, which is quite entertaining.  The next one is Thursday, April 17th from Noon-2:00– in conjunction with Cafe M’s Divine Lunch.  The artist will be Montgomery’s own, Barbara Binford Davis, painter extraordinaire and you’re all invited.  (Reservations are needed that day at Cafe M but you never need a reservation for the store.)

Do yourself a favor and see for yourself…
Tuesday-Saturday 11:00-4:00 and Sundays Noon-4:00. 334.240.4337

Kay Jacoby, Museum Store

What’s an ADDY?

blog_publicationsIt’s the American Advertising Awards, and we just heard that our catalogue for Material Transformations received the 2014 Best of Show Addy Award for the Montgomery region! The ADDYs recognize creative endeavors in all media and Camille Leonard of STAMP’s inventive design is nothing if not creative. We frequently work with Camille and designers of STAMP, one of Montgomery’s best Ad Agencies. Camille really understood the ideas and works of art featured in the Material Transformations exhibition and captured a wonderful way to portray them in print form. We’re thrilled with her concept and so excited that the American Advertising Awards program acknowledged Camille’s stunning achievement. It works not only as a companion piece to the exhibition but also stands on its own. It was great fun to work with Camille on this project and it’s not the first time the Addys recognized our collaboration with her—our exhibition catalogue Psychedelic Mania: Stephen Rolfe Powell’s Dance with Glass received an award in 2013. Come pick up your own copy! Both of these award-winning catalogues are available in the Museum Store.

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

The process behind Creator/Created

Blog_jjOur newest exhibition, Creator/Created: Jerry Siegel Portraits and Artists from the Permanent Collection just opened. This was a particularly fun exhibition to put together.  The idea started through conversations with Jerry who’s been photographing Southern artists for over 15 years.  In looking through his images we realized that the MMFA has many of these artists’ works in our collection and we thought by pairing photo and artwork together we could present a unique view into the works of art, the artists themselves, and their artistic process.  Going through our collection to select which of these artists’ works to feature was a real treat for me. I got to dive in and really begin to understand the breadth and depth of works by regional artists that we own in addition to all the other fantastic pieces in our collection.

Jerry is a wonderfully generous artist and I think his portraits speak to that; he really captures the essence of each of these personalities. When Jerry photographs his subjects, he takes multiple shots and often prints in both black and white and color. For the exhibition, we decided to use only the black and white images to present Jerry’s photographs as a cohesive body of work since we spread them throughout the galleries.  blog_iPadHe and I met several times to look at prints (both working and final) and to choose what worked best in this particular exhibition. Alternate images and color versions, along with interviews with many of the artists, are on I-Pads displayed throughout the galleries. Come take a look!

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

Alabama Natives, Alabama Neighbors

PoarchCrk-2The Museum and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians partnered  to present Alabama Natives, Alabama Neighbors, our Native American Family Day celebration on Saturday, March 8th.  1,500 visitors of all ages enjoyed dance and craft demonstrations, hands-on art activities, and story telling.  Many cultural artifacts from Kerretv Cuko (Building of Learning) Poarch Band of Creek Indians Museum in Atmore were on view in the Rotunda. PoarchCrk-1For more information about the tribe, please visit http://pci-nsn.gov/

BTW Word and Image

Last night the Museum was proud to host young writers from Booker T. Washington Magnet High for a reading “Word and Image.”  Each work of prose and poetry was composed in response to a work of art on display at the Museum.  Led by Mr. Foster Dickson, the expressions were a result of the annual Ekphrastic writing workshop at the Museum.  Ekphrasis means a literary response to a work of art.

btw reading

 Selections from the student work include:

1995.0007.0002.or1
Adolph Alexander Weinman, Descending Night
1995.7.2

From “Descending Night” by Somer Marshall
She was more than she could understand.
She was capable of more than her untrusting heart
Allowed her, she was beyond compare.

 1935.0012.or
John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Cotton Gin
Gift of Works Progress Administration, 1935.12

From “Cotton Gin” by Ke’Veonia Hall
This cotton gin can satisfy plenty
And also avoid a lot of mayhem
Keeping Whitney from turning over in his grave

 2008.0005.or
Rick Beck, Self Portrait
Gift of MMFA Patrons*, 2008.5

From “Thoughts Inside a Cocoon of Bones” by Keandra Pope
I turned into a cave of myself
Amber-colored walls kept up to keep out
Each limb turned into a lock

-       Alice Novak

* Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Bowen and Carol Ballard, Jim and Jane Barganier, John and Joyce Caddell, Dorothy Cameron, Ben and Virginia Cumbus, Elizabeth Emmet, Bonner and Virginia Engelhardt, Bob and Susan Geddie, Barrie and Laura Harmon, Camille Elebash-Hill and Inge Hill, Paul and Anne Hubbert, Charles and Donna Ingalls, Michael and Allison Ingram, Mike and Kent Jenkins, Mark and Amy Johnson, Joan and James Loeb, James and Margaret Lowder, Michael and Laura Luckett, Alfred Newman, Phillip and Gloria Rawlings, Bruce and Emilie Reid, Adam and Dawn Schloss, James E. Sellars, Charles and Winifred Stakely, Andy and Lisa Weil, Jean Weil, Barry and Corinna Wilson, Drs. Tommy Wool and Laurie Weil and Anonymous Donor

Art Auction was such fun!

auction_MerLynchauction4

Thank you all who worked to make it possible, especially Auction chair Emilie Reid and co-chair Lisa Capell and Art Selection chair Ginny Cumbus and co-chair Mary Dunn. Thanks also to our long standing Auction sponsor, Merrill Lynch.

auction3

The 2014 Art Auction was chaired by Emilie Reid and co-chaired by Lisa Capell. Committee members included Jean Belt, Lu Ann Cobb, Ginny Cumbus, Suzanne Davidson, Mary Dunn, Benita Froemming, Jason Goodson, Don Groesser, Brenda Hellums, Debbie Hobbs, Gage LeQuire, Lucy LuQuire, Cathy Martin, Tammy McCorkle, Lisa Newcomb, Caroline Rosen, Gloria Simons, Melissa Tubbs, Florence Tyson, Ashley White, Cindy Wilson, and Kelli Wise.

Ginny Cumbus chaired this year Art Selection Committee along with co-chair Mary Dunn. Other members of the Art Selection Committee included Jane Barganier, Camille Elebash-Hill, Bonner Engelhardt, Susan Geddie, Katharine Harris, Allison Ingram, Lucy Jackson, Gage LeQuire, Winston Wilson Reese, Bruce Reid, Emilie Reid, Laurie Weil.

auction2We had over 50 additional volunteers at the events that led up to and included the Auction. We could not have done it with out you!   The entire Museum staff is involved in this, our biggest fundraiser.  A big thanks to everyone – artists, galleries, workers, bidders and buyers!

Jill Barry
Deputy Director

An Expressive Evening and ARTWORKS Corridor Student Recognition

Expressive Evening 5 Expressive Evening 6 Expressive Evening 4 Expressive Evening 3 Expressive Evening 2 Expressive Evening 1On Tuesday night, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts was rich with vivid colors and sounds and truly felt like the home of the Muses.  The Museum’s teen council – the MUSES –  did a fantastic job organizing “An Expressive Evening”, featuring student singers, dancers, musicians, and visual artists.  Following inspiring performances in the auditorium and rotunda, student artists from kindergarten to 12th grade were recognized for their works on view in the juried ARTWORKS Corridor exhibition Inspired by Nature.  The student exhibition is based on Nature Distilled, on view in the Weil Print Room.

- Museum Educators

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