Monday, April 30, 2007

Two American Landscapes

At the Museum: Two American Landscapes
by Jill R. Chancey, PhD

As you enter the American Gallery of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, it’s likely that the painting that first catches your eye is Thomas Moran’s “A Glimpse of Long Island Sound from Montauk.” Painted in 1907 and purchased by Lauren Chase Eastman in 1908, it hangs centered at the far end of the gallery. Its vibrant sunset (or is it a sunrise?) glows in oranges, reds, and yellows over rolling hills and verdant fields. The swirls of color might bring to mind the paintings of the 19th century British artist, J.M.W. Turner, who was a great inspiration to Moran. Turner was a master at depicting the vortex of flame, cloud, and smoke. Light and air were Turner’s inspirations, and clearly they inspired Moran as well.

In the near distance, a small creek surrounded by rocks leads the eye to the intermediate wetlands, which again lead the eye to the waters of Long Island Sound, shimmering in the distance. Long Island has been inhabited for centuries, by Native Americans and then by Europeans, but this pretty piece of landscape shows no intervention by human hand. The mossy rocks, verdant greenery, and gnarled trees appear to be arranged by nature only. Today, Long Island is densely inhabited, but in 1907, it was best known as a summer retreat for city-dwellers. Moran and his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran (whose work is also in the LRMA collection), had a summer home in East Hampton. This scene was painted near his home, and is one of many works inspired by his surroundings. When Mr. Eastman purchased this painting, Moran wrote to him, saying, “I think it among the best of my works. The picture was painted from the north shore of Montauk, L.I. [Long Island] looking across the sound toward the Connecticut shore.”

Moran is best-known for his panoramic paintings of the American West, which were instrumental in persuading Congress to establish Yellowstone National Park. Interestingly, the rather placid landscape of Long Island is rendered with the same visual drama as Moran’s views of the wild and untamed beauty of the West. It may be instructive to compare Moran’s view of Long Island with William Merritt Chase’s “Shinnecock Hills,” which also hangs in the American Gallery. This subdued but exquisite view of Long Island, from only a few years earlier, captures the quietness of the sandy rolling hills, without the drama of Moran’s vivid sunset and rich greenery. Chase, another artist-resident of Long Island, frequently painted “en plein air” (outdoors), so this little panel was likely painted on the spot. In contrast to the Moran, one does see evidence of human habitation: a dirt road and, possibly, a bit of black in the far distance indicates a building in the distance. Where the colors of the Moran call to you from across the gallery, the Chase calls for closer, more intimate looking. Stand a minute in front of the Chase and one can almost smell the salt air, feel the sand beneath one’s feet, imagine the rough surface of the rocks strewn about.

Moran rejected the Impressionists, seeking representational accuracy, while Chase, in this small format, treats color and form optically, as did the French Impressionists. In other words, if he saw a smudge of green in the distance, he didn’t paint in leaves, branches, and twigs he could not see from that far away. Instead, he painted the green as he could see it. Moran, while not obsessively detailed, delineates one plant from the next, one tree from the next. Both artists, however, use the landscape as an expressive subject. “A Glimpse of Long Island Sound, Montauk,” evokes the sublime moment just before sunset; “Shinnecock Hills” evokes a more meditative, peaceful moment in nature. Both artists, like the Romantics before them, had an emotional relationship to their surroundings and were sensitively attuned to the varieties of natural beauty.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Check the website for upcoming Summer events and classes. For information about LRMA exhibitions and programs, call (601) 649-6374 or check our website at

This article appeared in the Laurel Leader-Call on Sunday, April 29th.1

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Call for Papers

I think this Call for Papers deserves wide dissemination:


National Women's Studies Association Journal

New Orleans:

A special issue on gender, the meaning of place, and the politics of displacement

The editors of a special issue of the NWSA Journal seek contributions from a variety of disciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives offering feminist analyses of the meanings that New Orleans as a place has assumed in both historical and contemporary contexts-especially the contexts created by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. New Orleans has long evoked a unique sense of place, a distinctiveness that was spotlighted and arguably hyper-realized in public discourses surrounding the disaster.

Since the fall of 2005 New Orleans, as a place-name alone, prompts debates around race and class and has come to stand in for a host of issues and topics that go beyond the physical space to which the name refers. We invite scholars as well as artists, writers and poets to submit work that explores the specifically gendered dimensions of the experience of place endured by inhabitants of the city of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and other affected regions as it relates to the hurricane. We also welcome contributions that use feminist analytical tools to illuminate the varied meaning of New Orleans as a place set in various historical, comparative, and global contexts.

Potential topics include:

* Nationalism, regionalism, public history, public art and heritage in New Orleans
* Sexualized and gendered associations with contemporary and historic New Orleans women, architectural engineering/design in New Orleans and the Gulf region

Send one e-copy and two print copies of your manuscript (20-30 pages, doubled spaced), with parenthetical notes and complete references page formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style to:

Laura Gelfand

Myers School of Art

The University of Akron

Akron, OH 44325-7801


Antiquities and the law

Reprinted from an article in the Laurel Leader-Call:

At the Museum: Antiquities and the Law
Jill R. Chancey, PhD

Many objects in museum collections, including those at the LRMA, are what we might call “stand-alone” objects; many modern paintings, for example, are self-contained and make just as much sense in a museum as in a gallery or private home. Yet certain objects require context for understanding. For example: an altarpiece designed for a specific church loses some of its meaning when transferred to the secular environment of a museum or gallery. Why? Perhaps the altarpiece painting includes images of the patron saint of the church, or the church members who paid for it. Perhaps it was designed to complement the church’s architecture and decor. If the altarpiece winds up in a museum because the church is gone, or perhaps the church fathers decided to replace the altarpiece with something more up-to-date, then the viewers should be aware of the original context of that painting. This kind of contextual information contributes to the understanding and appreciation of artworks once they have been removed from their original locations. Placing artworks in context is one of the primary activities of the art historian and museum curator.

Going farther back in history, even the most ordinary objects, such as spear points, arrowheads, and pottery sherds, are valuable sources of information if we know where they came from. How deep was that arrowhead buried? What was it buried with? How many layers of material were above it? Were there ashes, animal bones, or other organic material in the same layer as the arrowhead? Where exactly was it buried? The answers to these kinds of questions contribute to the body of knowledge about human history, and the development of culture. Unfortunately, an artifact without this kind of information represents a real loss of cultural knowledge. This is true of all antiquities, from marble statues to stone tools.

This is why, then, that Mississippi state, federal, and international laws do not allow anyone to “injure, disfigure, remove, excavate, damage, take, dig into, or destroy” mounds, graves, or archeological sites. “Pot-hunting” might sound like a fun Saturday afternoon for a history buff, but only a trained archeologist can legally get a permit to dig for artifacts, even on private property. The kind of cultural information that is lost when an amateur digs up a site belongs, properly, to the community, which is why a permit for digging must come from both the government and the property owner. An archeologist is trained to gather all of the data that would be lost otherwise; once the artifact has left the ground, the data is lost forever and cannot be reconstructed.

This kind of cultural information is so important that museums cannot ethically collect antiquities that have not been acquired with governmental licensure and approval. In fact, several major museums in the United States have recently had to return antiquities to Italy because they were bought from dealers who acquired the items illegally. International dealers in antiquities, and at least one high-level museum curator, are finding themselves facing prison time and hefty fines due to their flouting of these laws. Fortunately, here at the Museum, we do not collect antiquities so we do not have to worry about disreputable dealers selling us looted artworks. We do, however, ensure that our Native American acquisitions come to us through legal, ethical channels, conforming to the multitude of state and federal laws that cover Native American cultural property. Awareness of the developments in cultural and antiquities law is one of the many responsibilities of museum staff in the US and abroad. However, it’s important for citizens to be aware that important historical and cultural information can be lost if amateurs don’t leave the exploration of archeological sites to trained professionals.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. For information about LRMA exhibitions and programs, call (601) 649-6374 or check our website at

Monday, April 23, 2007

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith - only one more week!

If you've been meaning to visit Made in America, this is the week to do it. The exhibition closes on Sunday, April 29th.

Visitor hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am - 4:45 pm, and Sunday from 1-4 pm.

Guest Blogger

Today, an article from guest blogger, Tommie Rodgers, Registrar at the Museum. This article also appeared in the Laurel Leader-Call:

May Day: Saving Our Archives

The phrase “May Day” can reference a day of fun around the maypole as people celebrate the arrival of Spring or it can mean a call for help from pilots and ship captains. But for museums and libraries, it means a little of both. The Heritage Emergency National Task Force asks institutions to celebrate May Day on May 1st to remind us to be prepared for natural disasters that could occur during the upcoming hurricane season or any time of year. Cultural institutions are being asked to set aside this day to take action to be prepared for unknown disasters. And while our preparations are different than the preparations you might take at home, I ask that you also set aside this day to plan to protect yourself, your collections, your family photos, your home, and most importantly, your family from natural disasters.

Here at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, I am currently working on revising our Disaster Plan and incorporating the new information that we’ve gleaned from our past hurricane preparations. We’ve learned that our building is a fortress against powerful winds and we can offer temporary storage assistance to museums along the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We’ve become quite efficient in knowing which art objects to move, where to move them and when to tie down or move outdoor sculptures. During the 2005 hurricane season, we “prepared” the collection for a hurricane four times during that Summer but Katrina became our only real threat.

We also learned that being in downtown Laurel, we are fortunate enough to receive the needed electricity quickly to keep the collections at a reasonable temperature to prevent mold and mildew from growing. And, while meeting with other museum and library staff across the state in the past year, I’ve become aware that our own circumstances are much better than many other institutions.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is also in the preparation phase of re-accreditation by the American Association of Museums. This process requires us to address, review, update, or create policies every ten years. One step in updating the Disaster Plan includes the purchase of disaster supplies. Most supplies such as plastic sheeting, cardboard sheets, flashlights, garbage cans, plastic bags, etc. are usually here but not necessarily put in one place. There are other items that need to be added to the list such as extra mops, masks, extra batteries, rubber gloves and boots. Items such as waxed paper for wet paper documents and plastic crates for wet books are materials that we may need. According to the recommended list, there seems to be no way to have on hand all the extras for every possible disaster, so we’ll have to make choices in what we obtain.

Now there’s another issue of having a staff member on site during the disaster. We don’t normally keep a stocked kitchen, but someone may need to stay here for days at a time if another hurricane threat is favorable, so food and bedding will be supply items as well.

Here are a few tasks that you can do on May Day to prepare yourself:

Make sure your insurance records, birth certificates, social security cards, and other important documents are in plastic and can be retrieved to carry with you to another location and have a set of copies in a different location.

Stock your food pantry with non-perishables.

Stock up on bottled water.

Put family photos in a lidded plastic container that can be moved away from the floor, basement, attic or upper room.

Have a month’s supply of medication in a zip-lock bag.

Make an evacuation plan and contact out-of-state family in case you need to leave the area.

Keep a full tank of gas in your car and don’t wait until the last minute to fill up.

Have a family drill and discuss your actions.

Stock up on batteries and flashlights.

Buy a portable radio.

These are a few things you can do to remind yourself that taking the threat of a disaster seriously is important and being prepared is smart. Remember to celebrate May Day with positive thoughts of knowing that you’ll be ready should you be in harm’s way in the future.

May Day is a project of The Heritage Emergency National Task Force and is co-sponsored by Heritage Preservation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tommie Rodgers is the registrar at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Audubon's Animals of North America

Next January, we'll be featuring an exhibition of 70 hand-colored lithographs by John James Audubon. At the moment, however, the American Museum of Natural History is exhibiting a selection of those lithographs, and the oil and watercolor paintings that were the precursors to the prints.

Learn more about the exhibition here.

Read a New York Times review of the exhibition here.

Grandma Moses on tour

LRMA's Grandma Moses painting, The Daughter's Homecoming, has been on tour for a while, and is currently on exhibit at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC. For more information, click here.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith video

Our pal and video-master, Kevin J, has posted a video on his Myspace page that features artworks currently on display at LRMA.

Check it out.