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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Year: 2019

A Fresh Look at our Studio Glass Collection

In March of 1962, a seismic shift occurred in the creation of art glass with a workshop led by American glass artists Harvey Littleton (1922–2013) and Dominick Labino (1910–1987) at the Toledo Museum of Art. During this workshop, they introduced advances in technology that enabled glass artists to work independently on a smaller scale instead of requiring the assistance of skilled teams of workers in a factory setting. This allowed individual artists to work in innovative ways and launched the American Studio Glass movement. Since that time, Studio Glass has continued to flourish, particularly in the American Northwest.

For the last 25 years, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has collected and interpreted art created by studio glass makers. Our collection began with the acquisition of an exquisite vessel by Sonja Blomdahl (American, born 1952) and in 2007 we organized a comprehensive exhibition of her work. Several other pieces also entered the collection through exhibitions organized by the Museum including sculptural glass by Stephen Rolfe Powell (American, born 1951), Ginny Ruffner (American, born 1952), Cappy Thompson (American, born 1952), and most recently, Lino Tagliapietra (Italian, born 1934). We continue to seek out works by masters of glass to provide a full picture of the Studio Glass movement, adding important acquisitions such as Orange Triple Movement (pictured above), 1983, by Harvey Littleton, the man internationally recognized as the “Father of the Studio Glass movement.” His inventive and elegant layers of flowing color and light in glass joins equally innovative and breathtaking works by other influential artists such as Dale Chihuly (American, born 1941), Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace (American, born 1952 and 1949), and Dante Marioni (American, born 1964), among others.

The Museum’s collection illustrates the breadth and depth of the changing landscape of art glass, showcasing the creativity and vision of the many artists working with this challenging material. With the reinstallation of its collection, we hope to bring attention and appreciation to the accomplishments of the leading artists involved in the Studio Glass movement.

 

Harvey K. Littleton (American, 1922–2013), Orange Triple Movement, 1983, from the series Topological Geometry, free-blown glass, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase, Decorative Arts Fund, 2014.2.2

A Gift that Sparks the Imagination

The Museum is thrilled to introduce its latest permanent installation in the John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden to the River Region. The Children’s Gate (2019) is a gift of the City of Montgomery in honor of the Montgomery art community.

This brightly-colored work of art was crafted by Montgomery-based artist Vincent Buwalda (American, born 1965). Situated between the Sculpture Garden and the Education Courtyard, the Gate consists of playful robots welded from steel. Buwalda’s inventive design will spark the imagination of people of all ages, encouraging all who enter the Education Courtyard to unleash their own creativity.

Mayor Todd Strange and the Museum initiated the commission to celebrate local artists with the permanent placement of a work of art in the Garden. The Sculpture Garden Committee unanimously selected Buwalda’s design from the call for proposals put forth by the Museum and the Montgomery Business Committee on the Arts.

On Thursday, June 6, Mayor Todd Strange and the Museum’s Director Angie Dodson presented the Gate to local children, Museum supporters, the Sculpture Garden Committee, the Montgomery Business Committee on the Arts, and members of the media.

Vincent Buwalda, (American, born 1965), The Children’s Gate, 2019, urethane paint on welded steel, Gift of the City of Montgomery, Todd Strange, Mayor, 2019.6

Yvonne Wells – 2019 Governor’s Arts Award Recipient

The Museum wishes to celebrate artist Yvonne Wells (American, born 1939), a recipient of the 2019 Governor’s Arts Award from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

A Tuscaloosa native, Wells began quilting in 1979. Initially, she created quilts to keep her and her children warm during the cold winter by following patterns from a book. Sewing based on patterns felt unsatisfying, and in 1984, Wells began creating story quilts. A quiet and humble woman, she speaks both eloquently and powerfully through visual narratives that illustrate personal experiences as well as religious or sociopolitical issues. She has said, “Everything I create is like a story, a record of history to benefit people in the future.”

For example, in Yesterday: Civil Rights in the South III on view now at the Museum, Wells’ imagery serves to illuminate many difficult moments from the era, including the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls, Governor George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door in an attempt to stop integration at The University of Alabama, and various acts of violence such as lynching and attacks on protestors with dogs and water hoses. Wells did not focus solely on the struggles of that period; she also depicted joyous celebrations and the hopeful changes that time has brought while honoring heroes of the movement such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Among her many achievements, Wells created an ornament for the Christmas tree at the White House in 1993, and she received the Alabama Arts and Visual Craftsman Award in 1998. The Museum holds 18 of Wells’ exuberant and sophisticated quilts in our Permanent Collection, and we presented solo exhibitions of her work in 1996 and 2013. In addition to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, her work is included in national and international museums and private collections.

Congratulations to Yvonne Wells on receiving this well-deserved honor!

Credit: Yvonne Wells (American, born 1939), Yesterday: Civil Rights in the South III, 1989, Cotton, cotton/polyester blend, wool, polyester, and plastic buttons, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Kempf Hogan, 2004.20.8

Stephen Rolfe Powell (1951–2019)

The Museum wishes to honor the memory of Stephen Rolfe Powell, a luminary in the field of studio art glass and a friend of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, who passed away on Saturday, March 16, 2019.

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Powell spent his undergraduate years studying painting and ceramics at Center College in Danville, Kentucky. While continuing to pursue ceramics in graduate school at Louisiana State, he found his passion in the excitement of glass and never looked back.

Since that time, Powell became internationally recognized for his innovative glass sculptures. A master with murine, he blew and stretched glass into suggestive, asymmetrical shapes, that along with his inventive method of swinging and torching the molten glass, offered a fresh departure from conventional vessels. His eccentric sculptural pieces, often sporting tongue-in-cheek titles, are dazzling imaginative works that pop and sizzle with rich color.

Known for his humor and exuberance, along with his grace and generosity, Powell was an unofficial ambassador for glass art and studio glass artists. Equally important to creating his own work, Powell relished his role as a professor, inspiring many students throughout the years at the glass program he founded at Centre College.

Learn More

From Our Collection

Artist Biography
Objects by the Artist

Exhibition

Psychedelic Mania: Stephen Rolfe Powell’s Dance with Glass

Museum Store

Catalogue – Psychedelic Mania: Stephen Rolfe Powell’s Dance with Glass
Publication — Stephen Rolfe Powell: Glassmaker

Gifts from Mark and Amy Johnson

In January of this year, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts received as gifts three works of art that were part of the collection of the Museum’s Director Emeritus, Mark Johnson, and his wife, Amy Johnson (pictured above). Mark spent most of his 23 years as Director of the Museum strategizing the refinement and expansion of the Museum’s permanent collection. Much of this involved the Museum’s use of endowed funds to purchase American historical paintings and sculpture (thanks to the generous bequest of Ida Belle Young) or Old Master prints (equally generously funded through the Weil Print Endowment). While he enjoyed the excitement that went along with these searches and purchases, he was personally devoted to more modern works of art, and particularly Studio Art glass and contemporary ceramics. Mark made many friends among the artists in these media, and he valued them as people as well as the art that they made.

The first gift, an intricate and exuberant ceramic platter by Viola Frey, Halo of Possessions, 1994, is currently on view in the exhibition About Face: Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture. Frey (American, 1933–2004) had an incredible influence on the trajectory of figurative ceramics in this country. Her bold and colorful platters such as Halo of Possessions were inspired by found materials gathered from junkyards and flea markets. Casting these objects in clay, Frey assembled them into rich, expressionistic, textural platters that become tableaux of our cultural lives.

Also included in the gift are two sculptures in glass by Seattle-based artist Ginny Ruffner (American, born 1952) that showcase her exceptional creativity and lampworking skills: Learning to Cat Paddle, 1994, and A Not So Still Life, 2000. Ruffner’s works combine her skills as a painter with her training as a flame worker in glass. Her sophisticated, whimsical, and narrative sculptures function as a canvas for her thoughts and dreams as seen in Learning to Cat Paddle. Sharing its title with an award-winning, full-length documentary about Ruffner, A Not So Still Life was featured in the exhibition Creativity: The Flowering Tornado, which the Museum organized and toured in 2003.

The Museum family takes great pride in the work that Mark and Amy invested in the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and in its success over his long tenure. We are tremendously grateful that they have entrusted these outstanding works of art that meant so much to them to our permanent collection.

Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, the Museum is featuring the following works that highlight African-American culture and history from its permanent collection. To browse the permanent collection, click here.

Works

Back Home from Up the Country (detail), 1969

Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988)
Durr Fillauer Gallery

Back Home from Up the Country and In the Garden both relate to a larger thematic grouping of work, The Prevalence of Ritual, which was also the title of an important exhibition of Bearden’s art held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1971. The series references Bearden’s memories of his youth, including many works that refer to his childhood home in rural Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Both demonstrate his characteristic manner of working in collage to create flat, abstract designs that reference recognizable imagery such as the objects and human figures in both works.

View in collection

 


 

In the Garden (detail), 1974

Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988)
Durr Fillauer Gallery

Back Home from Up the Country and In the Garden both relate to a larger thematic grouping of work, The Prevalence of Ritual, which was also the title of an important exhibition of Bearden’s art held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1971. The series references Bearden’s memories of his youth, including many works that refer to his childhood home in rural Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Both demonstrate his characteristic manner of working in collage to create flat, abstract designs that reference recognizable imagery such as the objects and human figures in both works.

View in collection

 


 

The Donkey Cart (detail), n.d.

Clementine Hunter (American, ca. 1886/87–1988)
Blount Galleries

Clementine Hunter was born in the Cane River district of Louisiana and worked for most of her life as a farm hand. Largely without a formal education, she spent her later years working at Melrose Plantation and began to paint by using materials left behind by a visiting artist. Her subjects are typically scenes of rural and agricultural life during the early 20th century, and they form a record of the daily life and activities of that era. The Donkey Cart is an example of her work in this genre, showing a simply composed scene of a field worker transporting cotton in a small wagon.

View in collection

 


 

Hiawatha’s Marriage (detail)

1868 Edmonia Lewis (American, 1844–1907)
Hudson Gallery

Edmonia Lewis was born to an African American father and a Native American mother of the Chippewa tribe in New York. In 1859 she enrolled at Oberlin College to study art and sculpture. She studied with sculptor Edward Brackett, who encouraged her to continue her training in Europe. Lewis produced several sculptural subjects related to her heritage inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 popular poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.” This piece depicts the Ojibwa warrior Hiawatha wedding a daughter of the Dacotah tribe, Minnehaha, to seal a peace between those two nations.

View in collection

 


 

Self-Portrait: When the Left Side of the Brain Meets the Right Side of the Brain (detail), ca. 2006

Charlie Lucas (American, born 1951)
Rotunda

Artist Charlie Lucas originally worked in construction, but after a back injury, he started painting and sculpting as part of his recuperation. Lucas creates sculptures made out of welded metal found objects and scraps. He has had no formal training as an artist; instead, as a child, he learned crafts by watching relatives and tries to keep aspects of these traditions alive in his work. He currently lives in Selma, Alabama, and he has a dream of an interactive theme park where children could play among various kinds of art and could create art with their parents.

View in collection

 


 

Pig Pen Variation (detail), 1986

Mary Maxtion (American, 1924–2015)
Newman Gallery

Mary Maxtion of Boligee, Alabama, was one of the state’s most prolific and skillful quilt makers in the 20th century. Her multi-colored Pig Pen Variation is a version of a popular pattern also known as a House Top. In the pig pen pattern, a medallion of fabric is centered in rows of fabric extending vertically and horizontally, creating brilliant squares that seem to recede into space. Maxtion varied the colors of the strips to enhance that visual illusion by alternating colors that are warm (like red) with others that are cool (like blue).

View in collection

 


 

The Sweat of the Mule and the Sharecropper, n.d.

Joe Minter (American, born 1943)
Caddell Sculpture Garden

Sculptor Joe Minter is from Birmingham, Alabama, and creates his works primarily from discarded, rusted metal. Many of the materials Minter uses speak to his African American family’s roots and the obsolescence of old technology—a visual link to enslavement, for example in his use of plow points and rakes. The plow points and the worn metal shoes from a mule’s hooves hang from chains that allude to forced labor in times of slavery and later in the practices of sharecropping, as well as the “chain gangs” that were a practice in the penal system.

 


 

Untitled (detail), 1999

Clifton Pearson (American, born 1948)
Richard Gallery

Clifton Pearson is an Alabama artist living near Huntsville. His glazed stoneware objects are stylized figures that combine his imagination with reality. This chieftain leader from the Celebrated Figures series exemplifies Pearson’s approach of creating majestic figures from slabs of clay that embody dignity while reflecting various cultures, including African and Native American. Pearson hand-works each piece, highlighting rich textures and ornate headdresses, letting the personality and humanity of each figure evolve through the process.

View in collection

 


 

Rosa Parks I (detail), 2005

Yvonne Wells (American, born 1939)
Blount Galleries

Yvonne Wells is best known for her “narrative” quilts in which she uses the appliqué of hand- shaped fabric pieces sewn to a larger top to tell a story within her design. This image of Montgomery’s Rosa Parks, a pioneer within the Civil Rights Movement, includes references to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, segregated public facilities, and the struggle of Black Americans to guarantee their right to vote.

View in collection

Related Programs

Weekend Tours

Free docent-led tours are offered at 1 PM on Sunday, February 3 and Saturday, February 16. These tours are free and open to the public. No reservation required.

Caddell Sculpture Garden – Ribbon Cutting

On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts officially opened the John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden to the public. Transformed by season, time of day, and even weather, the Garden provides an ever-changing and contemplative haven to view works of art and to enjoy the natural beauty of our Park.

Learn more about the inaugural exhibition, Art in the Garden.

Video

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