Monday, June 30, 2008

Guest Blogger: Tommie Rodgers

At the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, we have the opportunity to look back at Laurel’s history in the making, as well as the personal glimpses into life in the early 1920s. While the Museum is abundant with photographs, letters, and historical documents that share important days in the lives of Lauren Rogers, his parents and grandparents, we can only imagine how life would have been different if Lauren had lived past the youthful age of twenty-three.

Museum photographs provide images of an oak tree-lined dirt road we now call Fifth Avenue. Mr. and Mrs. George S. Gardiner built the massive white house seen in the same image. The stately home now serves as St. John’s Day School.

The Museum’s founding family documents mark the era of growth in the timber industry, the founding of the Laurel Presbyterian Church, as well as the building of local schools and parks evidenced in the Catherine Marshall (Mrs. George S.) Gardiner papers.

Lauren Rogers’ great-aunt Catherine Marshall (Mrs. George S.) Gardiner left behind her legacy with not only her Native American Basket Collection, but also her desire to preserve the history she was making. Letters from Native American dealers and other collectors show us how harsh life could really be for Native weavers living in the early 1900s.

Other documents share the memorial services that were held for some of these early Laurelites. One such individual was Wallace Brown Rogers. Very little is known about Mr. Rogers other than he was Lauren’s dad. He worked quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes to help provide the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art its institutional stability and artistic heritage. We credit him with the building of the Japanese woodblock print collection and we have been recently introduced into his world of collecting in the 1920s.

On Wednesday, June 25 at 1:30 p.m., the community had the opportunity to hear a lecture by the essayist for the Museum’s newest publication The Floating World.

Dr. Hans Bjarne Thomsen of The University of Zurich presented a lecture titled "Images of the Floating World: Placing the Ukiyo-e Collection of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art." Dr. Thomsen researched the Museum’s collection of letters penned by Frederick Gookin to Mr. Rogers and has studied other collections amassed in the early 1900s by Gookin.

The Museum’s catalogue shares much information about collecting at that time and provides the reader with the knowledge that the founding family members excelled in drawing together a rich collection of fine art with the quality that can rarely be amassed today.

While Mr. Rogers went about his tasks without fanfare, his life was memorialized by Mr. W. S. Welch on the September 9, 1943 meeting of the Trustees of the Eastman Memorial Foundation. The statement began, "The great heart of Wallace Brown Rogers has ceased to beat. The love and esteem that we had for him will live always in the hearts of all of us.

His splendid mind was always at work on some project for the advancement of the interests of the community in which he lived. He was always generous. He was generous not only with the material things he possessed, but he was generous in what is vastly more important. He was generous with his very great talents and with his time. He was a thinker–an original thinker; and he never took things for granted."

The statement continues with more beautiful accolades than one could expect. "He was endowed with qualities of leadership and with a desire to be of service in the most self-effacing manner. He was always ready to give credit to another for what he alone had accomplished."

We thank Mr. Rogers for his foresight and generosity and for the legacy of this great collection representing beautiful images of Japanese culture.

The exhibition and catalogue are generously sponsored by Evelyn and Michael Jefcoat.

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

[Originally published in the Laurel Leader-Call]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Baby's First Steps

One of our most important European artworks is Jean-François Millet's First Steps (pastel/paper, c.1858, 12 3/4" x 17"). It is currently on display in our Asian Gallery for the summer, where I have put together a little show of works on paper from the permanent collection. Since all of the Japanese prints are downstairs, I thought I'd pull out some of our more delicate works and put them up. The Whistler pastel, the Homer print, and the Millet pastel are probably the highlights of this little group.

I ran across a blog post recently about images of "First Steps" in art, which includes our Millet and an image of the van Gogh's interpretation of it:

Les premiers pas dans l’art , le dessin, la peinture : voilà un sujet qui me semble intéressant !

[tr: First steps in art, drawing, and painting: here is a subject which interests me!]

Yes, yes, it is written in French, so dust off your French 101 and practice! Or, just look at the nice pictures.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blues Bash 2008

Over 400 people enjoyed beer, barbecue, and blues by Howl-n-Madd Perry and his band last Friday on the lawns of the Museum and the Rogers-Green House in historic Downtown Laurel.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Curating Art at Home

As a museum curator, I get a lot of questions about the art in people’s homes. In this column, I’ll be addressing some of the more common questions. For example, I am often asked: “How do I take care of an artwork I just [bought/inherited/had framed]?” Ideally, artwork should be installed in a climate-controlled building with 50% humidity, low or zero UV light, and a 24-hour security system. What’s that, you say? You don’t live in a museum? Okay, here are the basics. Artwork should not be hung in direct sunlight. When framing, choose acid-free matting and UV glass or plexiglass. Ask your framer for specific advice on materials and methods. Make sure the nails are well-anchored in the wall and the hanging hardware is solidly attached. Use a stud-finder (available for $10+) and a level when installing. A laser-level is a nifty gadget, but only necessary if you find yourself doing a lot of rearranging.

What about rules for decorating with art? Ideally, hang with the center at eye level or as near as possible without butting up against the furniture below. Slight asymmetry is better than strict symmetry. Think in terms of color families, composition or subject similarities rather than rigorous matching. You may want to group all of your pictures of flowers, for example, or everything with red in it, or four or five square things. These would make good groupings with perhaps unexpected results. I often find that I see an artwork differently when I hang it with new companions.

Don’t be afraid to rearrange when you get tired of your current look. You can often redecorate by shopping in your own home. Just take everything off the walls of one or more rooms and look through closets and behind doors for framed things or plaques or anything you may have stashed since you last decorated. Lean the works against the wall and start playing with them or use a large table to arrange groups. You could also measure each object, cut out a piece of craft paper in the shape of each one and tape them on the wall in the arrangement you’re considering. Rearrange until you’re happy with the look and only then start hammering nails.

You can also look for beautiful or sentimental items in your cabinets or on bookshelves and highlight them. You may have a plate or a jug hidden away that would look terrific on display. If you have a collection, honor it. Buy or make display shelving and bring out your collection of antique teacups or your family collection of embroidery or cross-stitch pieces. Children’s artwork can also be charming and need not be elaborately framed.

On the other hand, if you don’t love a piece of artwork, put it away for a while. You can always bring out that picture of a lighthouse again if you find you miss it terribly. It’s better to have a small quantity of artwork, decorative arts and photos on display that you really love to look at than a clutter of things you don’t care if you ever see again. Don’t be afraid of open spaces!

Framing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can certainly spend on custom framing, acid-free mats, and UV glass if you are framing a one-of-a-kind piece that is meant to last forever. In fact, I highly recommend it for original works of art. It’s sort of like making insurance payments on your new car; consider quality framing an insurance policy for your new work of art. However, if your budget is low and you’re framing something inexpensive, such as an LRMA exhibition poster, you can also find simple, reasonably priced frames at big box hobby stores. Sometimes I will buy inexpensive frames but pay extra for a nice custom mat that really suits the artwork, which is my frugal compromise. Here at the Museum, we tend to use simple frames in subtle metals or wood, painted black or white, with acid-free mats in neutral tones for contemporary works of art. If you use colored mats, you may find you need to re-mat the work in 10 or 20 years, as color trends will go in and out of style. On the other hand, at LRMA we are framing for posterity, and you are framing to please yourself.

If you are looking for art but don’t have a big budget, shop at the local frame shops, the LRMA Museum Shop and arts festivals such as Day in the Park, where you can support your local artists. You can often buy original works of art for less than the cost of framed poster-prints sold at outlets and decor stores. You can also buy inexpensive art at student shows such as those at Jones County Junior College and the University of Southern Mississippi. Above all, buy art that you love, and live with it for as long as you love it.

Jill R. Chancey, PhD
LRMA Curator

[originally published in the Laurel Leader-Call, 6/8/9]