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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Year: 2019

A Familiar Face Returns to the Museum

The Museum is excited to welcome Tisha Rhodes back to the Museum family in her new role as Director of Development. Before leaving the Museum in 2014 to pursue an opportunity in private business, Tisha spent 17 years as the Director of Services. For the past two years, Tisha served as the Public Affairs and Development Director at the Family Sunshine Center. Tisha grew up in a military family and moved to Montgomery in junior high school. She has been married to Jason Rhodes for 26 years, and together they raised a daughter now starting her first year of college.

What drew you to art?

My parents did a great job of introducing me to the arts as a young girl, and I continued to be interested as I matured. I studied art in college, and in 1997 at the age of 25, I jumped at the opportunity to join the MMFA team.

What brought you back to the Museum?

I returned because of my love for the institution and a mission that strives to enrich, enlighten, and bring enjoyment to people’s lives through art.

What is the best thing about working at a museum?

I get to be around art and collaborative people who feed my spirit.

What is the biggest change at the Museum since you last worked here? What has not changed at all?

The biggest change is the leadership. I spent 17 years working with Mark Johnson, which I will always cherish, and now I have the privilege of working with and learning from Angie Dodson. The thing that remains constant is the spirit of the creative people who work for the Museum. I love the energy!

What is your favorite work in the collection?

I adore Kelly Fitzpatrick’s work because of the Southern regional subject matter and the amazing colors. I am lucky to have one of his paintings—one of my favorites—Alabama Foothills, hanging in my office.

What do you want others to know about the Museum?

I want locals to know that the Museum has free admission and that art is for everyone. With our great permanent collection, ArtWorks, and the John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden, there is something to pique all interests. I want people outside of the area to know the MMFA has one of the finest collections of American art in the Southeastern US, and a trip to Montgomery is not complete without a visit to the Museum.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think people see me as an extrovert because of the work I do and have done for 20+ years, but I am an introvert—peace, quiet, and alone-time energize me.

Why do you feel art is important—for individuals, families, communities?

Art introduces perspective and allows people the opportunity to achieve that perspective. I love the quote by John Lubbock, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” Perspective is key to one’s experience and art can be a catalyst for that outlook.

Do you have a favorite story or memory about the Museum?

One of my fondest memories is the 25th Anniversary in the Park Celebration Reception and the excitement that was in the air. It was such an exciting time with the Sculpture Garden on the horizon and so many monumental moments from the past 25 years in the current building to celebrate. There are terrific pictures that capture the joy of that evening.

Bearing Witness: Art of Alabama

Alabama artists have borne witness to the drama of American and world history, including the rise of agriculture and native ceremonial centers, immigration, wars, gold rushes, forced removal, emancipation, economic depressions, and the advent of motorized flight. All along, artists have participated in and documented the events that have shaped our state. Their work across this wide canvas of history will be examined at a major symposium hosted by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). Bearing Witness: Art of Alabama will be held Thursday, November 14 through Saturday, November 16, 2019. Bearing Witness will feature leading scholars such as Bridget R. Cooks, Katelyn Crawford, Bill Eiland, James Knight, and Richard J. Powell, discussing the breadth of Alabama visual arts from the Pre-Columbian period to the present. This will be the art history event of Alabama’s bicentennial celebration.

Bearing Witness is the brainchild of recently retired MMFA interim director Ed Bridges. For more than a year, Dr. Bridges has convened a planning committee made up of representatives from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA), and the Landmarks Foundation. The group has reached out nationally to secure scholars who have researched and written on Alabama art. The result of their work is a symposium schedule spanning three days, offering lectures, gallery talks, an artist market, and a book fair all centered around the creativity of Alabamians.

The heart of the Bearing Witness symposium will be the lectures. Dr. Vernon James Knight, professor emeritus from the University of Alabama, will address the art of native peoples, drawing upon his long archaeological career. William Underwood Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art, will find in the faces of its peoples a portrait of Alabama through the ages. Dr. Michael Panhorst, director of the Landmarks Foundation, will speak on From Southern Shores to Northern Vales: Alabama Landscapes, 1819–1969, the exhibition he guest-curated at the MMFA. Dr. Katelyn Crawford, curator at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA), will address the art of Alabama industry, drawing upon her related research. Dr. Bridget R. Cooks, associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, will explore the art of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, including works by artists in the MMFA’s collection. Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, director of the BMA, will provide an overview of significant early 20th-century women artists of Alabama, including Clara Weaver Parrish, Anne Goldthwaite, and Zelda Fitzgerald. Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, curator at the MMFA, will speak on Alabama’s painters of the New South and the Dixie Art Colony. Dr. Richard J. Powell, professor at Duke University, will examine the emergence of self-taught Alabama artists to national prominence. Chester Higgins, photographer and author, will reflect on the Tuskegee approach to Alabama photography and how Alabama shaped him as an artist.

Dr. Elliot Knight, director of ASCA, will host a panel on public art in Alabama with Dennis Harper from the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Chintia Kirana from Expose Art House, Dana Lemmer from the Wiregrass Museum of Art, and Deborah Velders from the Mobile Museum of Art. This discussion will include everything from Confederate monuments and Works Progress Administration works to the new Alabama Bicentennial Park. A panel discussion on art in Alabama today will include Stan Hackney from the Mobile Museum of Art, Dr. Jennifer Jankauskas from the MMFA, Essie Pettway from Gee’s Bend, and Peter Prinz from Space One Eleven.

While at the symposium, attendees can view related exhibitions such as Alabama Landscapes; Cal Breed: Signs of Lift; and Charles Shannon. In addition to the exhibitions, select works by Alabama artists, including Chester Higgins’ photograph Shugg Lampley at the Garden Gate (negative 1968, printed 2007) featured on the previous page, will be on view in the galleries. To enhance this experience, gallery talks by guest scholars and artists will include Dr. Graham C. Boettcher from the BMA; Dr. Jennifer Jankauskas from the MMFA; Dr. Michael W. Panhorst from the Landmarks Foundation; Dr. Richard J. Powell from Duke University; Chester Higgins, Jr.; and Margaret Lynne Ausfeld from the MMFA.

To underscore the centrality of the role of artists, during Bearing Witness the MMFA’s 10th annual Artist Market will be held on Saturday, November 16. The Artist Market kickoff reception for MMFA members and paid symposium guests will be on Friday evening. Read Herring will also be onsite Friday with books by speakers available for purchase.

Image Credit: Chester Higgins (American, born 1946), Shugg Lampley at the Garden Gate, negative 1968, printed 2007, platinum print on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase, 2007.14

Essay By

Joey Brackner

Director of the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture at the Alabama State Council on the Arts and one of the lead organizers of Bearing Witness.

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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