For people who live on the American plains--the great grasslands of the central and western United States--the landscape is a familiar touchstone.
We can all picture the endless expanses of grass and sky, the unobstructed views, and the geometric patterns of farm fields and repeating rows of crops.
While less obviously dramatic than mountains or oceans, this landscape has inspired American artists for centuries.
Visions of the Plains features paintings that celebrate Midwestern landscapes, from the rolling hills of eastern Kansas to the flat farmlands around Chicago. The works explore the variety of emotions inspired by the countryside, from loneliness and isolation to feelings of freedom and oneness with nature. Visions of the Plains joins the documentary photography exhibition Kansas Land, opening September 29, in investigating life and art in the American Midwest.
Historian R. J. O. Adams tells us that World War One "changed in some way the lives and futures of every man and woman on the planet." American writer Gertrude Stein, who lived in France during the 1914–1918 conflict, characterized the abrupt cultural shift the war generated by stating that it was only after the war's end that "we had the twentieth century."
Over There, Over Here: American Print Makers Go to War, 1914–1918 explores the little studied phenomenon of American print makers and their artistic responses to the watershed cataclysm of WWI. The exhibition includes powerful images of soldiers on the battlefield, while also showing the effects of the war at home--including the prints of those artists in Wichita and in Kansas who artistically reflected the city's booming aviation business in 1914 and following.
On the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the Great War, WAM is pleased to collaborate with guest curator Barbara Thompson to reconsider the resonance of WWI--in the United States and in Wichita. Thompson is the granddaughter of Wichita printmaker C. A. Seward (1884–1939), the artist who was the driving force behind the Prairie Print Makers. In our museum's continuing study of art in Wichita, the Prairie Print Makers and the group's activities and impact remain very significant.
With the special WWI exhibition, Thompson has authored and produced two related publications. Over There, Over Here: American Print Makers Go to War: 1914–1918 and Wings Over the Prairie: A Brief History of the Aviation Industry in Wichita, Kansas are elegant, informative volumes with rich illustration and vital print history. They are available for purchase in WAM's Museum Store.
Click here for information about the Forum on Print Collecting with guest curator Barbara Thompson on Wednesday, September 19.
Click here for information about the History Talk on World War I and Early Wichita Aviation with Edward H. Phillips on Thursday, September 20.
For ancient people, the night sky was full of stories. Looking up, people did not see balls of gas burning light years away. Instead, they saw shining pinpoints of light that formed shapes when joined together--shapes of hunters and wild beasts, sailors and ships, fair maidens and handsome heroes. Each culture brought their own stories to the various clusters of stars, and often they named them after a character or location in the story.
Around 2,000 years ago, the astronomer Ptolemy mapped and named many constellations, linking them with the Greek and Roman myths popular in his time. Constellations: Stories in the Stars explores many of the myths Ptolemy and other ancients paired with the stars. Featuring objects from the Wichita Art Museum's permanent collection, the exhibition brings the myths of the night sky to life.
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 will design a gallery installation to evoke 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.