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Category: Artist

Frank Fleming (1940–2018)

Jerry Siegel (American, born 1958), Frank Fleming, 2010, archival pigment print, Lent by the artist © jerrysiegel.com

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, renowned Alabama artist Frank Fleming passed away. Born in Bear Creek, Alabama (roughly 155 miles northwest of Montgomery) in 1940, Fleming experienced a typical farm-boy childhood surrounded by animals and constantly outdoors. As a child, Fleming stuttered, and as a result of being teased by other children, he often turned to animals for company. He has said he felt more at home with animals than people as a child.

Because of his love for animals, Fleming originally planned to be a biology major, but when he took an elective course in art and discovered his talent, he decided instead to get a BA in art. He graduated from Florence State College in 1962 and would go on to earn his Master of Arts (1969) and Master of Fine Arts (1973) from the University of Alabama. Unable to find a teaching job, Fleming put aside his teaching ambitions and moved to Birmingham where he began making functional and decorative pottery, continuing his sculptural work on the side.

Fleming preferred to work in porcelain, particularly Tennessee porcelain, but also tried bronze casting—like his work surrounding the Till Fountain. His ceramic pieces were entirely hand-built, and he rarely created conceptual sketches of his works before he began, preferring to watch his compositions evolve as he worked. During his time at Florence State College, Fleming used paints and colored glazes but switched to clear glaze over plain white porcelain when he began to produce pottery professionally. Eventually, he came to leave the surfaces of his works unglazed to make surface textures more palpable and immediate to the viewer.

Fleming’s sculptures are notable for their extreme veracity of detail which makes them highly realistic. The disjunction between the careful detailing and colorless surfaces of his works, however, lends a bizarre, and many times surreal, atmosphere to his pieces. Most of Fleming’s works center around anthropomorphized animals, human-animal hybrids, and other organic hybrids. Humor is a common undercurrent in many of his works which is sometimes ironic, sometimes whimsical, and sometimes directed at Southern culture.

In addition to being an outstanding and creative talent in our state, Frank Fleming was a good friend to the Museum. He consistently supported the Museum’s Art Auction fundraisers, and he was generous with his time in working with our educators and docents.  In addition to the Till Fountain, the Museum holds four other works by Fleming, including two porcelain sculptures that demonstrate his amazing facility in the use of clay.

Learn more

Artist Biography
Objects by the Artist

Artist Market: Pam Buwalda and Brooks Barrow

Artist Market kicks off with its preview party the Friday before Thanksgiving with a preview party for museum members from 5:30 to 8:00 P.M. and open to the public Saturday from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Artist Market celebrates local and regional artists by offering an opportunity to feature and sell their art, while also connecting with others in the industry. We took a moment to interview a couple of our artists.

Come join us as we celebrate our 8th Artist Market!

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Behind the Scenes—Installing Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman

Blog.LipmanOn Saturday, November 14, 2015, the MMFA will open our newest exhibition for the fall season, Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman.  Featuring seven sculptures and eight photographs, this is the largest exhibition of artist Beth Lipman’s work to date. While her sculptures allude to seventeenth-century still-life paintings, her three-dimensional interpretations of these historical canvases offer pointed commentary on contemporary art and life. (At left: Artist Beth Lipman during installation at the MMFA)

Putting together these large-scale sculptures—assemblages of hundreds of individual glass objects—is not a straightforward process, but rather is an intricate dance of placement, gluing with silicone, and timing. To create this exhibition in our galleries Lipman arrived at the Museum on November 4. Since then, she has worked many long days on several pieces at once, adding new layers, allowing the silicone to dry, and coming back to each of the sculptures to add additional elements day after day.  Lipman’s works often defy gravity—glass vines, pitchers, swags, and vessels break free of the confines of their tables, bursting beyond their edges to dangle unsupported in space.  Pushing the glass material to the point of breakage, while simultaneously highlighting its strength, Lipman’s precarious compositions are fraught with a sense of immediacy and tension. Watching the artist in action as she builds these complex installations demonstrates Lipman’s mastery over her process, and the results are stunningly beautiful feats of exemplary creative engineering!  Accompanying the sculptures are equally impressive photographic representations of Lipman’s glass objects portrayed in two-dimensional splendor, revealing yet another aspect of the artist’s approach to her work.

Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman is accompanied by the first full-scale, illustrated catalogue of the artist’s work, produced by the MMFA and available in the Museum Store.  The exhibition is touring to two other venues, The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee (on view from March 11, to June 12, 2016) and the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (on view September 22, 2016 to January 7, 2017).

Please stop by the MMFA between November 14, 2015 and January 31, 2016, to see the results of Beth Lipman’s hard week’s work of installation—the culmination of her many years of experience creating art the in splendid medium of glass.

To see Beth in action, check out the  video  Cynthia Milledge, director of marketing and public relations, captured of the installation and the brief interview she conducted.

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Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art, and the exhibition

A Thomas Hart Benton for the MMFA

Benton.BlogThursday, May 21, 2015 marked a significant milestone in the history of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and its collection.  At around 10:30 that morning, the Museum purchased Ozark Autumn, 1949, by the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975) for its American paintings collection. It is the first painting by one of the three major American Regionalist painters—Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood—to enter the collection.   Acquiring a painting by one of the artists from this particular school of American art was long considered an important goal for our MMFA collection because the Museum owns a significant number of works by Southern Regionalist painters who were contemporaries of Benton and the others. J. Kelly Fitzpatrick and his students formed a “mini-Regionalist” cohort here in the heart of Alabama, and these works were the foundation of the MMFA collection that began in 1930.
 
Benton.Blog.4Thomas Hart Benton was a controversial and influential character in both the art and social worlds in early and mid-twentieth century America.  After study and the practice of art in Paris and New York, Benton’s outspokenness, writings, and large-scale public mural projects made him a voice for national political and art issues in Depression-era America.  Early in his career he worked for a time as a modernist painter, but he eventually abandoned that style to pursue one rooted in traditional European art, creating murals with distinctly “American” themes that resonated with the public.  He is best known for his mural cycles such as America Today (now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), and his massive composition for the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. His association with Wood and Curry, along with a December 1934, Time magazine cover story about Benton’s work, allowed him to settle into his permanently defined role as a Regionalist painter. (Above: Registrar Pamela Bransford and MMFA Consulting Conservator Larry Shutts examine the Museum’s latest acquisition.)
 
The acquisition of this critical work was made possible only by the amazing legacy of Ida Belle Young, who bequeathed the Museum funds for the purchase of “traditional American art” upon her death in 2004. However having the resources for a purchase was only one factor in acquiring the appropriate work.  The staff made a concerted effort for more than seven years to locate “the right Benton” before Ozark Autumn became available.  This work possessed two attributes that were considered critical—as a larger scale work in oil and tempera it could be put on long-term view with our other important American paintings (unlike a work on paper which is subject to damage over time from exposure to light), and the subject was an agrarian one depicting a corn harvesting scene.  Since many of our Southern Regionalist works depict the rural South, it was important to us that our Benton reflect that same agrarian tradition.
 
And yet a second exciting day dawned on August 31, when we finally unveiled this outstanding work of art for our MMFA Board of Trustees. The event, held in the Museum’s Rotunda at 5:30 P.M., celebrated the support of the Board, the generosity of Ida Belle Young, and the City of Montgomery’s ongoing belief in our mission to the community.Benton.Blog.3  The painting was given a very warm and hearty welcome, accompanied by a toast to the memory of Ida Belle Young, whose gift in the form of the Ida Belle Young Art Acquisition Fund had made its acquisition possible.(Right: Acquisition Committee Chairman Winnie Stakely and MMFA President of the Board of Trustees Roger Spain unveil Ozark Autumn)
 
For any collecting museum the addition of a truly major work of art is a rare event, and one that contributes to the ongoing vitality of the institution.  It takes a concerted team effort to achieve the Museum’s mission “to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret art of the highest quality.” This acquisition of Ozark Autumn, and the many people that worked to get it to Montgomery, is a testament to what that mission statement is really all about.Benton.Blog.2

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

MAG Featured Artist Clark Walker Discusses His Art and Demonstrates Its Creation

walker1blogrevisedArtists rarely have the opportunity to see their work in museum galleries, and the public rarely has the chance to hear artists discuss their work that is on display in museum galleries. On Sunday, June 28, Clark Walker and River Region art aficionados were able to enjoy these rare treats.

Walker conducted an informal gallery talk in the Museum galleries that are temporarily devoted exclusively to his retrospective show that is part of the 41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition. Two-dozen paintings and drawings on loan from a dozen local collectors comprise the show. The artist also demonstrated his drawing techniques.

walker3blogrevisedStanding at an easel in the Museum library, felt-tipped pen in hand, surrounded by admiring fans and collectors of his work, the artist showed how he typically begins drawings of faces with the eyes, then nose, mouth, and finally the silhouette of the head—all with an economical use of line. He explained in his typical deadpan manner that he paints the same way, “in my underwear.” It was not the first laugh he elicited from the crowd of forty people, nor the last. Nor was it the only insight he provided on how he draws and paints the “circus people,” “curb market people,” and countless cats and still-life compositions that have earned him well deserved respect among Montgomery art connoisseurs and collectors.

An illustrated brochure that documents the exhibition is available for free in the galleries, and may be downloaded free as a PDF from the Museum’s website. The 41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition with Featured Artist Clark Walker is on display through Sunday, August 9.

Michael Panhorst
Curator of Art

 

41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition Opens

 

Blog.ArtGuildThe 41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition opened Friday night, June 12, with a festive reception attended by more than 400 people. The highlight of the evening was the announcement of 24 awards worth a total of $22,645. The Museum appreciates the work that Thornton Clark, the Art Guild’s show chair, has done to raise the money for these awards, encouraging the participation of so many accomplished artists. Museum Director Mark Johnson said, “We are also grateful to the many generous supporters, including the Museum’s 2014 Junior Executive Board, Sterling Bank, and Margaret Berry Lowder, who helped to sponsor this exhibition.”Blog.ArtGuild2015

The juror, Tom Butler, Director Emeritus of the Columbus (GA) Museum, selected 97 items from 427 entries by 127 artists. 38 artists entered for the first time, and 27 of those first-timers were among the 74 artists selected. Butler also presented the following awards (dimensions are in inches, height before width before depth). (At right: Director Mark Johnson and Juror Tom Butler.)

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$3000 Noble Seay Jones Best In Show Award
Chie A. Hitchner, Unfolding, Weaving (108×28) (At left: Best-in-Show winner Chie A. Hitchner)
$2500 MMFA Director’s Award
Cicely Hulett, Genesis, Mixed media (48×48)
$1000 AUM College of Arts and Sciences Award
Dale Lewis, Heart of Gold, Wood and metal (30x9x9)
$1000 Thornton and Pat Clark Award
Lindy Bruggink, Casey in Black, Oil on panel (17×14)

 

 

$1000 Doster Award
Larry Percy, KERYGMA SERIES: Journeys to Holy Ghost Canyon XX/Dodged Bullet: Incident
401, Saggar fired earthenware, charred wood, concrete (53x19x14)
$1000 Kelly Fitzpatrick Award
Pamela Wesley Copeland, Rouen Nights, Oil (30×24)
$1000 Foy Gilmore Goodwyn Memorial Fund Award
Sheri Schumacher, Margins, Mixed media textiles (50×38)
$1000 Halvorson Award
Kate Seawell, Cadmium Orange, Mixed media monotype (24×32)
$1000 Moore Wealth Management Award
Michael Vaughn Sims, Mount Carmel, Mixed media (33x22x20)
$1000 Edward L. Robbins Award
Joan DiLaura, Irises, Mixed media, (28×22)
$1000 Jimmie Sabel Award
Richard Mills, The Poletoads Nesting in Lucerne, Watercolor, gouache, collage (40×50)
$1000 Vivian Butler Scott Award
Amber Hall, Tornado Aftermath at Lake Martin East I, Oil on canvas (30×60)
$1000 Chuck Whitehead Award for Figurative or Portrait Art
Scott Crockett, Self-Portrait, Graphite (27×21)
$500 2014 MMFA Junior Executive Board First-Time Entrant Award
Warren Simons, Palm Tree Repairs, Digital inkjet print on paper (33×24)
$500 Vincent Cappelluzzo Award for Figurative or Portrait Art
Cecile W. Morgan, Different Drummer, Oil (33×27)
$500 Doug’s 2 Award
Virginia Wolfe, Out to Paint the Town Red, Watercolor (26×22)
$500 The Sandra Hicks Larson Award
Donna Pickens, Variations on the Ladder Theme, Charcoal, conti, collage, graphite (20×27)
$500 McKenzie Award
Margaret Gluhman, Journey: Unknown, Collage (20×16)
$500 Midstate Advertising Award
Darrell C. Warr, Blue Haze, Oil (25×29)
$500 Terrell Stokes Award
Carol Barksdale, Indigo Vibes, Mixed media (24×36)
$500 Clark Walker Award
Rachael Sherer, Rodrigo, Oil (48×24)

Three Art Galleries and Artists of the South Advertisement Awards Donated by AGAS Publishing
Kay Alkire Brummal, Depth Perception, Color photograph on paper (24×28)
Ken Lever, Bow-Legged, Wood, (12x20x14) (At right)
Don Norris, Carpenter Romanesque, Monroe County, Alabama, Digital inkjet print on paper, (23×16)ArtGuild.Blog3

The MMFA and the Montgomery Art Guild’s partnership has again produced an outstanding exhibition representing the best contemporary art in the River Region.

Michael Panhorst
Curator of Art

History Marches On in Montgomery

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On Thursday, March 19, the Museum hosted an opening reception and lecture for our current exhibition History Refused to Die: Alabama’s African-American Self-Taught Artists in Context.  The exhibition was organized by the MMFA in collaboration with the Alabama Center for Contemporary Art in Mobile, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, and Tinwood, LLC, in Atlanta, Georgia.   

HRD-3artsts.blogThe artists featured in this exhibition all worked in Alabama in the mid to late- twentieth century, and, with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, it seemed there would never be a more appropriate time to present these works for Alabama audiences. A book published by Tinwood, LLC, also entitled History Refused to Die, documents the works and the theme of the project as a whole: an examination of the history of African-Americans in the state as seen through the eyes of these extraordinary artists.  (Pictured at left: Louisiana Bendolph, collector Bill Arnett, Thornton Dial, Sr. and Richard Dial) HRD-Minter.blog

Guests at the opening on Thursday evening had the rare pleasure of greeting six of the fifteen artists whose works are on view. They included Thornton Dial, Sr., his son Richard Dial, Charlie Lucas, Lonnie Holly, Joe Minter (at right), and quilt maker Louisiana Bendolph. It was a poignant moment in the history of Alabama art, since many of these artists are advanced in years, and, while their artwork has previously been exhibited in museums around the United States and overseas, they had never seen their art installed in an Alabama museum. This powerful and moving art reflects the larger context of the history of African-American culture in Alabama and the South, from slavery in the nineteenth century, to the migration from rural to urban centers in the twentieth century.  Using non-traditional materials such as metals, plastics, organic or plant-based material, these works bridge the gap between daily life and the world of art—demonstrating a profound respect for the process we today call “recycling,” but that the  artists see as a means to   link the present with a vibrant past.

HRD_Charlie2-blogHRD-Lonnie.blogThe Museum will be hosting a number of programs in conjunction with this exhibition including talks by Loyd Howard on Thursday, April 2, and a special audio-visual presentation by Randall Williams on Thursday, April 23.  We invite you to review all the programs listed in the calendar on the website, or call 244-4333 for more information.  Don’t miss this outstanding exhibition, and all the thought-provoking programs associated with it. (Shown above: Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Charlie Lucas, and Museum Director Mark Johnson; Lonnie Holley talking with Joe Minter.)

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

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