Gordon Parks, one of the most celebrated African American artists of his time, created a body of work on his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas--focusing on life under segregation. Fort Scott was the town that he had left in 1928, when at age 15 he found himself suddenly having to make his own way following his mother's death.
He used the 1950 Life magazine assignment to revisit memories of his birthplace, many involving serious racial discrimination, and to reconnect with childhood friends, all of whom had attended the same grade school. A visually rich and captivating series of images, Parks' photographs were slated to appear in Life magazine in summer 1950 and again in April 1951, but the photo essay was never published.
This exhibition represents a rarely seen view of everyday lives of African Americans, years before the Civil Rights Movement. Importantly, the lives of Kansans masterfully captured by Parks serve as a model for this national cultural experience.
Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
This exhibition is funded in part by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization promoting understanding of the history, traditions, and ideas that shape our lives and build community.
On view in the John W. and Mildred L. Graves Gallery and Louise and S.O. Beren Gallery
All museum exhibitions receive generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the City of Wichita.
The exhibition presents pictures that recast the mental image Americans hold about the Civil Rights era. The project stems from the 2014 scholarly book by cultural and photohistorian Martin A. Berger. Photographers shot millions of pictures of the Civil Rights struggle from the late 1940s to early 1970s.
Most Americans today recall a handful of images. In our collective memory, the Civil Rights Movement is remembered by dramatic scene--protesters attacked by police dogs or black activists victimized by violence. In fact, there are other stories that other pictures tell. Blacks changed American discriminatory practices through their action, not their suffering. This exhibition presents forgotten photographs that illustrate the action, heroism, and strength of black activists in driving social change.
Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle has been curated by Martin Berger, Ph.D., Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California--Santa Cruz, and is organized by the Art, Design, and Architecture Museum, University of Californi--Santa Barbara, generously supported by Sharon and Terry Bridges.
Dialogue explores the medium of drawing throughout the 20th century. This period saw the rise of drawings, not as a method of preparation, but as a unique form of artistic investigation. Historically, drawing has been the cornerstone of art practice because mastery of the discipline was considered to be an important part of every artist’s training. Within that framework, drawing was viewed as a minor art form, since artists traditionally used drawing for preparation and study.
This period saw the rise of drawings, not as a method of preparation, but as a unique form of artistic investigation. Historically, drawing has been the cornerstone of art practice because mastery of the discipline was considered to be an important part of every artist’s training. Within that framework, drawing was viewed as a minor art form, since artists traditionally used drawing for preparation and study. In the 20th century, drawing was embraced for its own unique possibilities. Drawing offers an intimate and open field for imaginative elaboration, in which concepts and ideas can emerge and change with relative ease. For artists who embrace its flexibility, immediacy, and economy of means, drawing offers a unique opportunity to engage directly with the artistic issues or interests that drive their work.
Each drawing is a kind of dialogue--an artistic exchange between form and idea, a negotiation between an ephemeral moment and a lasting impression, or a message from artist to viewer. This direct and unmediated form of art directly communicates an artist’s process as well as peculiarities and preoccupations.
Featuring work by artists Thomas Hart Benton, John Fincher, Ben Shahn, Marguerite Zorach, and more, Dialogue highlights different applications of this essential medium. This exhibition is an opportunity to take stock of and celebrate some of WAM's remarkable drawings from the permanent collection. On loan to WAM for inclusion in the exhibition are works by Wichita artists Emily Brookover, Patrick Duegaw, James Ackerley Porter, and Kent T. Williams. Additionally, Dialogue will be presented with multiple engagement opportunities, each inviting our visitors to explore their own artistic voice and to join in the artistic dialogue.
In a 1963 interview, artist Lucile Blanch (1895–1981) was asked to comment on her successful 30-year career. Instead of discussing her artwork, Blanch emphasized her "toughness" and "fight." Her daily job as an artist, she insisted, required determination: "The hanging on and moving forward no matter what, the not getting lazy."
Blanch first burst onto the art scene in the 1930s, earning a coveted scholarship
to the New York Art Students' League, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and several major WPA (Works Progress Administration) commissions. By the 1950s, she was named "one of the most important artists in the U.S." by a New York magazine. Blanch worked at her craft every day until her death in 1981. She understood that being an artist was more than a calling; it was a profession that required daily work. Each day, she created piles of sketches in order to translate her ideas into visual form, to practice her technique, and to hone her style.
Art and Everyday Life celebrates Blanch's daily, dedicated work as an artist. She refused to miss even a single day of "practicing her art." These prints and drawings, gifts of the artist’s estate, demonstrate both Blanch’s unique artistic vision and her dedication to her profession.
On view in the Kurdian Gallery
Rhythm and Hues explores the influence of music on modern and contemporary art practices. Both forms of artistic expression share compositional and stylistic similarities.
In Lester Johnson's densely packed composition, City Women, the figures seem to pulse with energy. Their arms and legs are caught in beautiful stylized movements, reminiscent of a complicated musical score. Johnson’s work was heavily influenced by jazz, and it demonstrates the same shifts between tones and design, using bold colors and angled figures to mimic the sound of instruments interacting, tangling in an exchange of ideas.
Drawn from the permanent collection, the works of art in Rhythm and Hues explore the parallel nature of visual art and music. From regional musical styles such as bluegrass, to cultural expressions such as American Indian dances, to the birth of jazz in the early modern era, music and visual art are intimately intertwined.
On view in the DeVore Gallery
The three-part Art We Love exhibition series wraps up with its final iteration: Even More Art We Love. Featuring work chosen by members of the Wichita community, Even More Art We Love celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Wichita Art Museum and its founding vision as a resource for the entire community. Work chosen by seven community curators, along with one crowd-sourced work selected via WAM's Facebook page, will be included in the exhibition.
See Even More Art We Love to view selections by:
- Mark Reed, executive director of Sedgwick County Zoo
- Sean Sandefur, reporter for KMUW FM 89 Wichita Public Radio
- Kristin Beal, artist and co-founder of Harvester Arts
- Gabi Johnson, Wichita East High School student
- Prisca Barnes, president/CEO of Storytime Village
- Trudy and Joe Miller, Wichita arts supporters
- David Flask, director of Old Cowtown Museum
On view in the Vollmer Gallery
Every work of art has a story to tell.
When John Steuart Curry was growing up in on his family farm near Dunavant, Kansas, he would often wander into the high fields of corn. "I remember," he wrote, "wandering through them and being over-powered by the fear of being lost in their green confines."
At 35 years of age, Curry returned to those fields to capture in his work the same sense of drama he felt, "beneath our windblown Kansas skies." For Curry, Kansas Cornfield represented the story of his youth on a Kansas farm.
When Curry's Kansas Cornfield entered WAM's permanent collection, a new chapter in its tale was written and a new story began. The work was the first painting collected by the Wichita Art Museum. As the foundational work of art for the new museum, the painting came to symbolize WAM's commitment to both the highest caliber American art and to Kansas audiences.
Today, Kansas Cornfield has become a part of many visitors' personal stories. Brett Zongker, an Associated Press journalist based in Washington D.C., recently featured the painting on his popular Twitter feed. As a self-described "son of Kansas," the painting represents home to Zongker.
Museums, by their very nature, are repositories of incredible stories. The Wichita Art Museum has introduced its visitors to the best American artwork and has been a part of thousands of engaging stories. In celebration of the museum's upcoming 80th anniversary in 2015, Storytelling, a reinstallation of the permanent collection, celebrates the histories, mysteries, and anecdotes that make the Wichita Art Museum collection unlike any other.
Each and every one of WAM's objects has a story to tell. What influenced its creation? Who is pictured? How did the work come to Wichita? Storytelling invites visitors to take another look at familiar favorites from the collection as well as important works that have been off view for many years. We hope that the artworks inspire a meaningful encounter with the past, one that is relevant to everyone's personal story today.
On view in the Louise Caldwell Murdock Gallery, Elizabeth S. Navas Gallery, and the Excel/Cargill Cares Gallery.
The Living Room, an interactive gallery, is a lively space for the young (as well as the young at heart!) to explore their inner artist.
This bright and spacious area welcomes families in particular for art investigation and make-it/take-it art activities. The museum offers a variety of art projects--always linked to what's on view in the galleries. The fun art activities extend the experience of looking in the galleries to a tactile, physical activity of making. The museum supplies free materials.
This area is often bustling with action, particularly on Saturdays when WAM offers free admission to all. During the active Saturdays in The Living Room, art assistants welcome visitors, suggest different activities, guide the art-making projects, and overall help to enhance the encounters of museum-goers with the visual arts.
Reimagined anew and opening in April, the museum presents a compelling arrangement of the distinguished and growing glass art collection. For the new display, the museum consulted with the Seattle-based independent curator and craft scholar Vicki Halper.
Notably, Halper curated WAM's popular 2014 summer exhibition Australian Glass Art, American Links for the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.
Revealing WAM's rich holdings , the variety, quality, and artistry of Steuben glass will be presented. In fascinating ways, the exquisite work of the Steuben Glass Works, the world-class glass manufacturer (1903—2011), continues to beguile and inspire artists. The new installation will acknowledge and examine how contemporary glass artists explore the continuing allure and legacy of Steuben. Magnificent work by such living artists as Dante Marioni and Kiki Smith will be on view.
The new collection display also features a new commission--an elaborate, Steuben-inspired candelabrum--by glass artist Andy Paiko. This special work will be effervescent! It incorporates an abundantly enthusiastic array of forms and techniques first developed by Steuben. Paiko's tapering candle holders that hang gracefully from the central form, each demonstrate the Steuben "air-twist" technique, perfected by designer George Thompson. The cinched, bell-shaped forms of upper part of the large-scale candleholder are typical of Thompson's designs. WAM's collection includes original sketches by Thompson during his time working for Steuben, making Paiko’s re-imagining of Thompson's forms particularly relevant to the collection.
On view in the F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust Gallery.
Dr. Robert Burnstein, a Detroit psychiatrist, began collecting glass in the 1980s. He was attracted to American glass of the 19th and 20th centuries because, as he stated, "it was a time when handcrafted expertise and precision craftsmanship were the benchmarks of the American glass industry."
Soon he came to find that among American companies, the glass produced by Steuben was unsurpassed in quality, color intensity, and breadth of design.
Therefore, he focused his collecting first on Steuben, then on candlesticks in particular. He concentrated on candlesticks given their elegance of design and great variety of their colors and decorative techniques. Dr. Burnstein has presented his collection in honor of his parents, Donald and Arlene Burnstein.
On view in the Lulu H. Brasted Board Room.
Charles Russell was one of the great painters of the American West. With little formal training but much firsthand experience of his subject, he captured the western landscape, wildlife, cowboys, and Indians in all of its wild if nostalgic moments.
In 1880, when he was only 16, Russell went to Montana for the first time to work on a family friend’s ranch. Ranch life was not for Russell, but he would stay in Montana for two years working for a hunter and trapper.
He began to draw and paint animals at this time and learned a great deal about their anatomy. In 1882, he went to work as a night herder for a group of cowboys called the Judith Basin Roundup, and on and off for the next 11 years he would work watching cattle by night and painting during the day.
In 1888, Russell returned to St. Louis for a short time and submitted some of his art to Harpers Weekly, where it was published. His work had become very popular in the Montana territory, and he began to sell pieces and take commissions for works when he returned.
With the advent of the railroad to Montana, the territory became more civilized, and Russell mostly gave up cowboy life in order to become a full time painter of the life he had known in the West that was now slowly fading.
On view in the Charles M. Russell Gallery.
The term salon style derives from the exhibition of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, which began in 1667 in Paris.
In order to display work by all the Academy's students, the paintings were hung as close as possible from floor to ceiling. In the nineteenth century, this salon-style hanging became increasingly popular across Europe and in the United States. The gallery has been transformed into an American salon featuring remarkable 19th-century paintings from the museum's permanent collection.
On view in the Carlene and Lee Banks Rotunda Gallery.
This display showcases WAM's unique collection of Pre-Columbian art. These sculptures and vessels in terra cotta and stone represent the ancient Indian cultures of Mexico and Middle America including cultures such as the Maya and Aztec.
This collection complements the museum's outstanding American art collection by bridging the gap between the indigenous American cultures and the post-European cultural developments in America.
In Mesoamerican culture, pottery was appreciated as an artistic medium--a way people could express emotions and ideas--not solely as a utilitarian material. To make ceramic art, these ancient peoples gathered clay from local sources and formed shapes using only their hands by pinching or coiling the clay. After shaping the objects, they were placed in very hot, open fires and baked until hard.
On view in the Cessna Art Investigation Gallery.