The Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College will present two concurrent exhibitions — How Things Are: Paintings by Ann Martin, and The Eight, the Ashcan School, and the American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection — from Monday, Feb. 25 through April 21. The Museum will hold an opening reception that is free and open to the public from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, February 25.
How Things Are: Paintings by Ann Martin features watercolors by Martin, who was born in Omaha and has lived in Ireland since 1984. The artist is familiar to many on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College from her several informal residencies over the past few years, during which she observed and painted various aspects of campus life. She attended Gustavus for several years starting in 1964. In the early 1970s, she worked as a free-lance courtroom artist, covering notable trials related to Watergate, the Black Panthers, and the Chicago Seven. Martin moved to Ireland in 1984, settling in 1991 at her farm in Kilcoe, Skibbereen, County Cork (in southwest Ireland).
Her work is akin in philosophy to the Ashcan School artists of the early twentieth century in the United States (whose works form the core of the Hillstrom Museum of Art’s permanent collection). Those artists, such as Robert Henri (1865-1929) and George Bellows (1882-1925), were eager to embrace modern life, to create images that drew from real people and their lives. In her work, Martin seeks deeper understanding of life, for herself, through the process of creating, and for her audience, through their apprehension of her watercolors. That is her preferred medium much of the time, partly because its portability allows her to observe and intermix with life as it occurs, recording her observations.
As Martin notes in her Artist’s Statement for the exhibition, to understand How Things Are is to realize that one is deeply embedded in the lives of others. And her discussions with those she portrays have an impact on what she observes. She is primarily concerned with her own amazement at the unpredictability of life that is “acted out by players whose personal drama is endured with dignity and heroism.” She observes the social condition of her subjects, and her works are filled with fascinating physical minutiae, details that support the observations that delight and astound her and that she wishes to share with her audience.
In conjunction with How Things Are will be performances of dance works inspired by Martin’s works in the exhibition, which will be choreographed and danced by students in the Dance Composition II class under the guidance of faculty member Melissa Rolnick. The program, titled How Things Move, will be presented in the Museum April 18 and 20, 2013 (3:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. respectively).
Also in conjunction with How Things Are will be The Eight, the Ashcan School, and the American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection. This exhibition highlights the core of the Hillstrom Collection, which is based on the collection formed by Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom ’38. Of the thirty-nine works on view, which include many of the finest paintings, drawings and prints in the Hillstrom Collection, about half of them were donated by Reverend Hillstrom. The Museum continues to build the Collection judiciously, through donations of art or of funds to acquire art, and through funds from a donated endowment established to support the acquisitions and programming of the Museum.
The works on view in this exhibit were acquired through the generosity of donors including Dr. David and Kathryn Gilbertson, Dawn and Edward Michael, Jane Bouché Strong, the Strong Family, Gene and Ann Bassett, Dr. Delphine Hedtke, Ursula and R. Stanley Johnson, Ruth and Raymond Reister, The Pearson Art Foundation, Dr. Arnoldus and Joanie Grüter, Marie Bonse, and Reverend Hillstrom. The Museum is grateful to all its donors and supporters.
When he started collecting art in the mid 1940s, Reverend Hillstrom initially acquired works by Swedish-American artists and then, after moving back to Minnesota in 1947 after having served a parish in Indiana, began collecting artists from his home state. Not long after that, he became interested in obtaining works by nationally recognized American artists. The Eight, the modernist group formed around painter and teacher Robert Henri (1865-1929), became a primary focus, as did the offshoot group called the Ashcan School. Eventually Hillstrom obtained one work by each of The Eight, and he branched out from there, acquiring many works by Ashcan and related artists, especially one of his favorites, George Bellows (1882-1925). All of these artists were interested in the portrayal of real, modern, American life, rather than working in an academic, conservative mode and creating romantic images that did not connect with their own lives or those of their fellow countrypersons. For the Ashcan School, this typically meant depictions of urban realism, while for the related American Scene and its offshoot of Regionalism, the subject matter expanded to include rural images and people. All of these kinds of works were eagerly acquired by Hillstrom, and the Museum’s acquisitions have concentrated on continuing in that vein.
Regular Museum hours are weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends, 1 to 5 p.m. Please visit the Museum’s website at gustavus.edu/finearts/hillstrom for further information.
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