Current Exhibitions

Photo by Larry Schwarm of artist Bob Schwan's studio for the book Wichita Artists in Their Studios by author Sondra Langel

Foot in the Door

Foot in the Door celebrates the artists who call Wichita home. Featuring the work of hundreds of Wichita artists--young and old, professional and emerging--the exhibition showcases 12x12-inch artworks--from paintings and prints to drawings and reliefs.

Artworks were accepted on a first come, first serve basis from Wichita artists eager to get their "foot in the door" at the Wichita Art Museum. Organized in a large grid in the museum's Ross/Ritchie galleries, the exhibition is a visual testament to the depth and richness of Wichita's artistic talent.

Staged in conjunction with the Wichita Art Museum's 85th Anniversary, "the exhibition is an opportunity to recognize Wichita artists and make them feel welcomed and loved at their art museum. They are critical to the lifeblood at WAM," says director Dr. Patricia McDonnell.

Click here to see the artists' names and learn who got their "foot in the door" at WAM!

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Preston Singletary, Dleit Yeil (White Raven), 2018. Blown, hot-sculpted, and sand-carved glass, 19 1/4 x 9 x 14 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Preston Singletary: Raven and the Box of Daylight

The art of internationally regarded Preston Singletary fuses time-honored glassblowing traditions with Pacific Northwest Native art. Specifically, Singletary honors his ancestral Tlingit culture, a tribe centered in southern Alaska. His art features transformation, animal spirits, basketry designs, and Tlingit form lines. In Tlingit culture, objects that incorporate elements from the natural world tell foundational stories as well as histories of individual native families. Singletary mines this rich past into a seamless fusion of contemporary art, glass, and evolving Tlingit tradition. Raven and the Box of Daylight features those qualities of Singletary’s exceptional artmaking that have earned him a sterling international reputation.

Countless generations of Native American children have heard the story of Raven, a bird spirit whose fantastical journey transforms darkness into light. Tlingit oral history has preserved the rich narratives that are foundational for the Northwest culture, and Raven helped shape the world and released the stars, moon, and sun. In the exhibition, this story unfolds as visitors progress through one scene and staged environment more beautiful and arresting than the last. Recordings of storytellers pair with original music and Northwest soundscapes. Projected imagery and theatrical lighting complete the gallery experience.

The artist is now internationally revered, and his art is included in collections including The British Museum in LondonNational Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Smithsonian Institution in D.C., and Seattle Art Museum, among many others. 

Raven and the Box of Daylight is organized by Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, and Preston Singletary. The exhibition is guest curated by Dr. Miranda Belarde-Lewis (Tlingit/Zuni). The multisensory visitor experience is designed by zoe | juniper

The Wichita presentation has been generously underwritten by presenting sponsor F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust, INTRUST Bank, Trustee. Lead patrons are DeVore Foundation and Mrs. Judy Slawson. Fred and Mary Koch Foundation provided additional major underwriting. Charles E. Baker is a principal sponsor. Emprise Bank is a substantial corporate sponsor. 

Generous support has been provided by Louise Beren, Berry Foundation, Donna Bunk, Mary Eves, Norma Greever, Dr. Dennis and Mrs. Ann Ross, Mary Sue Smith, Sarah T. Smith, K.T. Wiedemann Foundation, Janice and Jeff Van Sickle, and Sue and Kurt Watson.

Dr. John and Nancy Brammer, Sharon and Alan Fearey, Toni and Bud Gates, Carol and H. Guy Glidden, Patti Gorham and Jeff Kennedy, Sonia Greteman and Chris Brunner, Mary and Delmar Klocke, and Will and Kristin Price are additional exhibition patrons.

All museum exhibitions receive generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the City of Wichita.

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Elizaabeth Stubblefield Navas, Carnegie Library Stained Glass Window, 1915. Stained glass 57 x 25 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches. Wichita=Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Gift of Sean and Melissa Conley in memory of Carolyn Conley

A Tale of Two Women: Louise Caldwell Murdock and Elizabeth Navas

A Tale of Two Women: Louise Caldwell Murdock and Elizabeth Navas celebrates the two female visionaries responsible for the formation of the Wichita Art Museum. In 1915, Murdock made it her mission to ensure that her hometown would have an art museum, donating her family fortune to the purchase of a “significant collection” of American art. Murdock entrusted Elizabeth Navas, her friend and professional colleague, with the task of assembling the art collection. Together, the two women made an unsurpassable impact on Wichita and the surrounding region that continues today. Commemorating both WAM’s 85th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, the exhibition combines photographs, objects belonging to Murdock and Navas, and key Murdock Collection paintings.

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Francis H. Gearhart, These Embroidered Hills, about 1930. Color block print, 12 x 10 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of David Thompson

Frances H. Gearhart: Color Block Prints in Wichita

This exhibition surveys the work of one of the leading color woodcut artists of the early 20th century. Renowned for her dramatic landscapes of the California mountains, deserts, and shoreline, Gearhart’s use of saturated color and bold compositions reflect her pioneering interest in modern art and design. Gearhart, a Californian, was an important member of the Prairie Print Makers, the Wichita-based print society founded in 1930 by some of Kansas’ best artists. Organized by the Wichita Art Museum and guest curated by Roger Genser.

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Herschel Logan, Untitled (Winding Path), 1926. Woodblock print, 6 x 8 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Samuel H. and Martha F. Logan

Telling a Story: Woodblock Prints by Clare Leighton, J.J. Lankes, and Herschel Logan

This exhibition surveys works by three early 20th-century masters of woodblock printmaking. Clare Leighton illustrated her own books and those of other authors while also depicting her gardens and travels. J.J. Lankes likewise illustrated books for renowned authors—including four volumes by poet Robert Frost—while also portraying his favorite country scenes. Herschel Logan’s childhood memories inspired the stories he told in his prints and miniature books.

Although each developed a distinctive style, the three artists are united by their ability to relate intricate and compelling stories in deceptively simple black-and-white images.

Leighton, Lankes, and Logan were all members of the Prairie Print Makers, a Wichita-based print society founded in 1930. Telling A Story is guest curated by Barbara Thompson, granddaughter of Prairie Print Maker founder C.A. Seward.

The exhibition is part of an ongoing series at the Wichita Art Museum that celebrates the Prairie Print Makers and their continuing legacy.

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Charles M. Russell, Smoking Cattle out of the Breaks, 1912. Oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 33 inches.  M.C. Naftzger Collection

Charles M. Russell and the American West

The American West has special majesty in its expansive landscape and many cultures. Among legions, Charles Marion Russell (1864–1926) is one of the premier artists of the historic American West.

Stories and images of the American West of the 19th- and early 20th-century reflect a fascinating combination of fact and fiction—in the visual arts as well as popular culture. In fact, as Russell painted the West, historians already acknowledged its end. Frederick Jackson famously noted the closing of the frontier and Old West in 1893. Russell’s depictions of the Old West, therefore, weave nostalgia with the artist’s focused storytelling. Viewers see traditions and virtues of the West as Russell envisioned them.

Charles Russell grew up in St. Louis and first traveled west in 1880. He lived as a ranch hand and only committed himself fulltime to his art in 1893. He settled in Great Falls, Montana, in 1897. Russell depicted the romance and allure of life in the Wild West, and his scenes of cowboy adventures and American Indian hunting are captivating. They reveal an idealized even glorified slice of the Old West, while this chapter of American history is nuanced, complicated, and was at times lawless and dishonorable.

Russell’s firsthand experience outdoors as a ranch hand and with Native Americans lends important authenticity to his distinctive realism, and it contributed to his strong reputation for careful accuracy.

The Wichita Art Museum holds a prized collection by Charles Russell, thanks to the generosity of passionate collector and museum leader M.C. Naftzger (1884–1972) and his family. In Wichita, Naftzger Memorial Park on Douglas Avenue is named for M.C. Naftzger.

 

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No Idle Hands: Treasures from the Americana Collection at the Wichita Art Museum

No Idle Hands gives museum visitors a chance to view the art and artifacts that reflect daily life in America's early history. The exhibition features highlights from WAM's newly acquired collection of more than 450 works of American folk art, including some of the best furniture, samplers, hunting decoys and lures, and corner store paraphernalia from the new collection.

It tells the story of America's past while also foregrounding the beautiful materials and craftsmanship of many of these objects.

WAM's curatorial staff organized the exhibition with local architect Dean Bradley, of Platt, Bradley, Adams, and Associates. As a specialist in residential architecture with a personal passion for history and preservation who also serves on the board of The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Bradley designed a gallery installation evoking the stores and homes in which the works were originally used and cherished. Shop signs--including iconic striped barber poles--conjure up an image of Main Street. Portraits, toys, and miniatures--small, hand-held portraits sometimes worn as jewelry--reference the life of the family and home. Each object--some rare and precious and others common fare—tells the story of the changes and continuities of daily life in America over the last 200 years.

On view in the Vollmer Gallery.

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Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, about 1890. Oil, 35 1/2 x 25 3/8 inches. Roland P. Murdock Collection

 

 

Storytelling: Highlights and Insights from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

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 80th anniversary in 2015, Storytelling, underwent a reinstallation of the permanent collection, celebrating 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.

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Titian Ramsay Peale, Ruffled Grouse in a Landscape, 1873. Oil on canvas, 16 x 22 inches. Museum purchase, Wichita Art Museum Members Foundation

An American Salon: 19th-century Paintings from the Wichita Art Museum's Permanent Collection

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.

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Pairpoint Glass, Candlestick (one of a pair), about 1920–1925. Blown glass, 10 1/16 x 5 3/16 inches. Gift of Robert S. Burnstein

Catching Light: Selections from the Wichita Art Museum's Burnstein Collection

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.

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Mexican (Teotihuacan), Cylinder Tripod Vessel, about 450-600 B.C. Terra cotta, 7 x 6 1/2 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Haig, Rima, and Gregory Kurdian

Pre-Columbian Art and Artifacts from the Museum's Collection

WAM's unique collection of Pre-Columbian art and artifacts was collected by Haig Kurdian between 1954-1959 during expeditions into Mexico and Costa Rica. The collection is mostly pottery, a few pieces of metal, carved shells, and precious stones.

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.

"I particularly love that tripod bowl, from Teotihuacan, with the square legs. It's a superb, beautiful piece. To think that someone made that, not on a potter's wheel, but by piling up coils of clay, then working it and firing it. And it's survived at least 2,500 years. The other tripod bowl I love represents a squash and has parrot legs. That one is from Colima," Kurdian said.

The artifacts originated from various locations in Mexico including Colima, Veracruz, Valley of Mexico, Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Guerrero. The collection includes artifacts from Costa Rica: including Atlantic Watershed, Guanacaste-Nicoya Zone, and the Diquis Zone. The objects date from 1000 B.C. to 1450 A.D.

The collection was given to the Wichita Art Museum by Haig, Rima, and Gregory Kurdian in 1977. Then in 1986, Louise and S.O. Beren offered WAM a selection of artifacts, they had earlier received from Haig's expeditions.

On view in the Cessna Art Investigation Gallery.

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Art of Fire: Frederick Carder and Steuben Glass

Completely reimagined, 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 on view. 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 acknowledges and examines 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 will also feature a new commission--an elaborate, Steuben-inspired candelabrum--by glass artist Andy Paiko. This special work is effervescent! It incorporates an abundantly enthusiastic array of forms and techniques first developed by Steuben. Paiko's tapering candle holders hang gracefully from the central form, each demonstrating the Steuben "air-twist" technique, perfected by designer George Thompson. The cinched, bell-shaped forms of the 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 reimagining of Thompson's forms particularly relevant to the collection.

Art of Fire: Frederick Carder and Steuben glass will be on view in the F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust Gallery.

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