Off the Wall

Off the Wall showcases pieces from our permanent collection individually so you can learn a little bit more about the pieces in our museum one at a time.

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Landshapes
Orville M. Running (1910-2012)
Color woodcut on paper, circa 1960. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. R. J. Zimmer. 1993.12

Orville Magnus Running was born in 1910 in  South Dakota to Rev. Alfred Running and Sophia Olsen Running. He graduated with a Bachelors Degree from St. Olaf College in 1931 and attended the Luther Theological Seminary, graduating and being ordained in 1934. Running served as pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Washington, and later moved to serve at the Christ Lutheran Church in Chicago, where he renewed his interest in art by attending night classes at the Chicago Art Institute.

In 1946, Running signed a contract with Luther College to “instruct in art and religious education,” and for the next thirty years worked as head of the art department helping to build a viable art program at the college. After the faculty senate voted to institute an art major at Luther College in 1957, Running helped expand the faculty and equipment for the department.  Along with Dean Schwarz, former Art Department faculty member, Running handcrafted forty-two potter’s wheels using a design by master potter Marguerite Wildenhain. He also helped build easels for painting and tables for drawing. Running oversaw construction of a kiln house and designed a press that allowed the College to offer classes in printmaking.

Running also managed the Fine Arts Festivals, an annual festival for the arts at the College, which extended from 1957-1966. Eighty-one works in Luther’s collection were purchased from these festivals. As an ordained Lutheran minister, Running also taught courses in the Religion Department, delivered chapel talks, and preached in area churches. In 1976 he retired from full-time teaching, but continued to teach printmaking at Luther for the next decade. Running passed away on February 6, 2012, in Decorah, Iowa.

Known primarily for his colorful and highly popular woodcuts, Running was also an accomplished painter and draftsman who created liturgical commissions in wood and metal, fine calligraphy, and musical/theater backdrops. His work was shown in many college and university exhibitions throughout the Midwest and was included in a traveling exhibition of relief prints organized by the Iowa Arts Council in 1970. 

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Michigan J. Frog
Chuck Jones (1912-2002)
Animation cel (original hand painted with hand-made background), 1980. Gift of the Clark Family in honor of Beje Clark. 2006.1

Charles Martin “Chuck” Jones was an American animator, cartoon artist, screenwriter, producer, and director of animated films, most memorably of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts for the Warner Bros. Cartoons studio. He directed many classic animated cartoon shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Pepé Le Pew, Porky Pig and a slew of other Warner characters.

In his autobiography, Chuck Amuck, Jones credits his artistic bent to circumstances surrounding his father, who was an unsuccessful businessman in California in the 1920’s. His father would start every new business venture by purchasing new stationery and new pencils with the company name on them. When the business failed, his father would quietly turn the huge stacks of useless stationery and pencils over to his children, requiring them to use up all the material as fast as possible. Armed with an endless supply of high-quality paper and pencils, the children drew constantly.

During his artistic education, he worked part-time as a janitor. He worked his way up in the animation industry, starting as a cell washer. While at Iwerks, he met a cell painter named Dorothy Webster, who later became his first wife.

During World War II, Jones worked closely with Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, to create the Private Snafu series of Army educational cartoons. Jones later collaborated with Seuss on animated adaptations of Seuss’ books, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in 1966.

Jones created characters through the late 1940s and the 1950s, which include Claude Cat, Marc Antony and Pussyfoot, Charlie Dog, Michigan J. Frog, and his three most popular creations, Marvin the Martian, Pepe LePew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner.

With business partner Les Goldman, Jones started an independent animation studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions. In 1963, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contracted with Sib Tower 12 to have Jones and his staff produce new Tom and Jerry cartoons as well as a television adaptation of all Tom and Jerry theatricals produced to that date.  As the Tom and Jerry series wound down Jones produced more for television.

MGM closed the animation division in 1970, and Jones once again started his own studio, Chuck Jones Enterprises. He produced a Saturday morning children’s TV series for the American Broadcasting Company called The Curiosity Shop in 1971From 1977–1978, Jones wrote and drew the newspaper comic strip Crawford for the Chicago Tribune-NY News Syndicate.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Jones was painting cartoon and parody art. Jones died of heart failure on February 22, 2002.

Jones was nominated for an Academy Award eight times and won three times, receiving awards for the cartoons For Scent-imental ReasonsSo Much for So Little, and The Dot and the Line. He received an Honorary Academy Award in 1996 for his work in the animation industry. Jones was a historical authority as well as a major contributor to the development of animation throughout the 20th century. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Jones has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Azteca Yellow Persian Set with Black Lip Wraps
Dale Chihuly (b. 1941)
Blown glass, 2000. Museum Purchase Funded by Lena Keithahn. 2001.6

Dale Chihuly, a native of Tacoma Washington, is famous for his dazzling artistic glass creations.  Orbs, cylinders, spikes and spirals – Chilhuly’s work appears to defy gravity.  After receiving an undergraduate degree at the University of Washington in Interior Design, he later received a Master’s degree in Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin – Madison where he has studied under the famed glass artists Harvey Littleton in 1967.  On a Fulbright scholarship in 1968 he traveled to Venice and received a Masters of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design.  He founded his own glass school in 1971, named Pilchuck (pill chuck) Glass School, located in Standwood, Washington.

Due to a personal injury to his shoulder sustained in a body surfing accident, Chihuly was forced to give up glass blowing himself, relying on assistants to do the physical labor, while he served as artistic director.  He explained his role as “more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor.”  In the 1970’s he began to use a team approach to glass blowing which allowed him to achieve massive glass sculptures that would have been impossible for one artist to accomplish alone.

In recent years, he has made his artwork a household name by his entrepreneurial ventures that include retail stores in high-end areas, documentaries, and artwork prints made for commercial purposes.  His team approach made it possible for him to create large works that now reside with many companies who want large-scale impressive instillations in their building.  In 2012 the Chihuly Garden and Glass center opened in Seattle.

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Blue Light
Stephen Greene (1918-1999)
Oil on linen, 1994. Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Hassam, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Funds 1996. (1996.1)

Stephen Greene was born in New York, where he studied at the National Academy of Design from 1935-1936. He continued his studies at the Art Students League, the Richmond Division of the College of William and Mary, and then at the State University of Iowa under Philip Guston. The work of Northern European Renaissance painting and Max Beckmann were also early influences.

Stephen Greene’s 1950s paintings of classic religious themes meld the precision and spirituality of the great Renaissance masters with the moody, stylized symbolism of postwar Existentialism. Of his early figurative work, Greene has stated, “I was essentially involved in a psychological state, a prison-like configuration that mirrored contemporary ideas…In painting the events of Christ’s passion, I, in the twentieth century, was not returning to another period’s aesthetic mode, but dealing with the possible meanings of hallucinations.” Greene universalized his religious themes to speak to a post-war culture of anxiety.

The paintings from Greene’s first three solo shows at Durlacher Brothers (1947, 1949, 1952) are his best-known figurative work. Of the fifteen paintings from the 1952 exhibition, nearly half are in museum collections, including the Tate Gallery, London (The Return); the Whitney Museum of American Art (The Shadow); the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City (The Kiss of Judas); and the Art Museum, Princeton University (The Massacre of the Innocents). Greene was selected for the inclusion in the 1955 traveling exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Decade: 35 American Painters and Sculptors.

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Going Home From Church
Anna Mary “Grandma” Moses (1860-1961)
Oil on pressed wood, 1948. Museum Purchase Using Funds from the Robert and Lois Bergland Acquisition Fund.

Grandma Moses was an American artist known for her pastoral landscape paintings. Anna Mary Robertson was born in 1860 and grew up on a farm in upstate New York. She worked as a hired girl, helping neighbors and relatives with cleaning, cooking, and sewing. Her father encouraged her to draw on old newsprint, and she used berry and grape juices to brighten her images. She married when she was 27 and moved to a farm in Virginia, where she raised five children.

Grandma Moses did not start painting until she was 78 years old and looking for something to do “to keep busy and out of mischief” after her husband died. Years of representing scenes through the flat patterns of cross-stitching, imbued her canvases with naïve perspectives and decorative color schemes. She painted nostalgic scenes of American life and sold them at country fairs alongside her prize-winning pickles. In 1939 a collector saw her paintings in the window of the local pharmacy and bought them all. Later that year, three of those works were included in the “Contemporary Unknown American Painters” exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. This led to a solo exhibition at the Galerie St. Etienne in New York in 1940 and over 100 more shows in the following decades. She died at 101, after painting more than fifteen hundred images.

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Squint
Robert Arneson (1930-1992)
Color lithograph on brown paper, 1981. John and Mary Pappajohn Endowment Fund Purchase. 1986.4

Robert Arneson was born in Benicia, CA in 1930.  Between the years of 1949 to 1951 Arneson was going to the College of Marin in Kentfield, CA.  Three years later in 1954 he received his BA from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA.  In 1958, Arneson got his MFA from Mills College in Oakland, CA.

He is well known for his work in Ceramics.  He is known as using the ceramics as a vital medium for contemporary figurative sculpture.  Many of his pieces of work are found at numerous museums and sites in Hawaii, Japan, California, Ohio, Australia, New York City, Illinois, and many other locations.

One thing that stands out about Robert Arneson is at the Palo Alto Art Center in Palo Alto, CA.  He has over 90 ceramic Marquette’s on display.  They date from 1964 to 1992 and are between 2 to 14 inches in height.  It shows his more expressing nature with clay with these Marquette’s.

In 1985, Arneson was given the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI.  Two years later in 1987 from one coast to another in CA he was awarded again the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute.  In 1991, he was awarded the Academy-Institute Award in Art and the next year he joined the Fellowship American Craft Council.  In 1992, Robert Arneson died of cancer in Benicia, CA, but will be remembered for his artwork in the world of Ceramicists.

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Revolt on the Amistad
Jacob Laurence (1917-2000)
Screenprint in color on Bainbridge 2-ply paper, 1989. Museum Purchase using funds from the Kelly Paulson Memorial. 2010.2

Jacob Lawrence is known for his use of aesthetic elements for social means and the remarkable composition of his works.  In 1941 he received widespread recognition for his narrative series, Migration of the Negro.   During a time of legalized and institutionalized segregation, he became the first African American artist to receive sustained support from mainstream art museums and patronage outside the black community.

Using the power of semi-abstract forms, Lawrence addressed many of the great social and philosophical themes of the twentieth century especially as they pertain to the histories of African Americans.  His work made visible the everyday lives and contributions of black Americans and provided a compassionate counterpoint to stereotypical images.

The tangle of arms and machetes in Revolt on the Amistad communicates the chaos of the slave rebellion on the ship, which precipitated a Supreme Court ruling that advanced the abolitionist cause

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The Train
Romare Bearden (1911-1988)
Color etching and aquatint on Arches paper, 1975. Museum Purchase in Memory of Frank and Helen Jeffrey. 2012.1

The MacNider Museum is pleased to have  acquired a signature work by 20th century African American artist Romare Bearden.  A lifelong student of literature and philosophy, Bearden worked in a variety of media including a stint as a songwriter.  He is best known for the way he employed collage in unique and innovative ways.

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and growing up in New York during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, much of Bearden’s work references his southern childhood and northern upbringing. He made art from observation and memory; the sights, sounds and feelings of his personal history. His art is characterized by images that portray life’s universal journey in terms of authentic black experience.  He found his voice in the imaginative collages he made from 1964 on, using a fragmented style inspired by the rhythms of jazz and assembled using magazine clippings in dreamlike invocations of the myths and rituals of African American life.

Bearden did not take up printmaking until the late 1960s.  Many of his prints are based on existing collages and monotypes.  In The Train he recast a 1964 collage by adding new textures and colors.  This was accomplished by using mesh screens and photography to generate the photogravure plate, which was subsequently cut up so colored areas could be inked separately and reassembled jigsaw style for printing.

 

Bearden’s images abound with affection for his birthplace in the South   For him trains were weighted symbols.  They signified the black migration north after slavery. Charlotte, his birthplace, was a hub for railroads.  “I never left Charlotte except physically,” he said.

The train of this print’s title is a small detail in the upper left, but it nonetheless invokes larger issues of migration and segregation.  As Bearden stated, trains “could take you away and could also bring you to where you were.  And in the little towns it’s the black people who live near the trains.”

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Resting Goat
Morris Graves (1910-2001)
Oil on alfalfa sack, 1935-6. Museum Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston and the MacNider Art Museum. 1967.3

Northwest artist Morris Graves was a passionate observer of the natural world whose work is characterized by the blending of reality and symbol.  The MacNider has two early works by Graves, Resting Goat and Snake and Moon.  Both are images infused with his unique vision of the natural and mystical world.

As a young man working on American mail line ships sailing the Pacific, Graves fell in love with Japan and the spare Japanese aesthetic.  His commitment to his craft was such that he once flew to Kyoto to secure a specific rare and fragile paper he needed for his work.  In the 50s and 60s, he spent a decade living in Ireland developing a body of sculpture based on his observations of the night sky.

Though self-taught and living in isolation at his Puget Sound island studio, Graves was anything but provincial. When he left his studio to spend time in Seattle, he gained minor notoriety for outrageous pranks and some of the first Northwest art “happenings.

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Dancing Duos
Bil Baird (1904-1987)
Wood and fabric, 1965. From the Estate of Bil Baird. 1987.6.1-6.3

Mason City is home to many talented residents, several of whom have gone on to famous careers.  One of the most well known is Bil Baird.  Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, in (year), his family moved to Mason City when his father was hired to work for the American Crystal Sugar Company located in Mason City.

Bil began to develop a creative passion for puppetry as a child. By age 14 he was creating his own marionettes and putting on puppet shows such as Treasure Island.  In 1921, his life changed forever when he saw traveling puppeteer Tony Sarg perform Rip Van Winkle at the Mason City High School.  Bil immediately knew then this was the career for him.

After graduating from High School, Bill enrolled at the University of Iowa.  During this time, he continued to make puppets and put on shows with the university band.  After graduation from the University of Iowa in 1926, he moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for a year, and later traveled to Europe.

He returned to the U.S. in 1928 and landed a job in New York with his original inspiration, Tony Sarg.  Prior to Bil, Sarg had been America’s most prolific puppeteer and he worked with Sarg for six years. He created The Bil Baird Marionette Theater in 1934.  The troupe toured, worked clubs and fairs, theaters, and gained momentum.  Hard work and talent paid off for Bil, who was able to make a living and support a family puppeteering.

In addition to storytelling, Baird’s puppets were often featured in the medium of advertising.  From the mid-1930’s till the 1980s when digital effects began to take the place of Baird’s characters, his puppets were associated with a variety of products. Examples of Baird’s clients included large telephone companies for whom “Telezonia” was created.  Chrysler Motors commissioned the “Blockettes” for the 1964/65 World’s Fair.

Baird also created puppets for television shows and movies such as Life with Snarky Parker,  Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf, and Davey Jones’ Locker, to name a few.  Baird puppets, regulars on television, depicted events such as the Moon Walk and launching the Gemini Capsule.  Bil’s puppets traveled to many countries such as Russia, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India as representatives of the United States.  The MacNider Museum’s collection of his puppets also includes a national treasure, his most famous work: the 1965 “Lonely Goatherd” in puppets from the Sound of Music.

Within his 50 + year career it is estimated that Bil created more than 3,000 puppets.  A master craftsman, his talents of sculpting, sewing, carving, and manipulation allowed him to create puppets from a variety of materials.  The MacNider’s collection contains over 500 pieces and is the only museum to have a comprehensive collection of Baird’s work.  Many modern puppeteers view Bil Baird as the father of modern American puppeteering, inspiring legions of future puppeteers and artists with his work.

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