Welcome to Off the Wall. We’ve skimmed the news around the museum, and want to share the highlights with you.
Written while trying not to freeze to death in the cold museum.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” -William Shakespeare. Make your father cry this Sunday by giving him a year membership to the FJJMA.
FATHER KNOWS BEST
THE SET UP
This Sunday is Father’s Day. Do you remember Father’s Day growing up? Specifically, do you remember Father’s Day in comparison to Mother’s Day? I do. On Mother’s Day, we started off the day by waking her up way too early. Like, “Hey, mom, it’s your special day! Wake up, it’s 6 a.m.!” Then, we would continue this strange torture by destroying the kitchen. Every dish was used. Every egg was cracked. Batter was spilled down between the wall and oven, destined to rest there until the end of time. After this senseless destruction, we would go back to where mom was maybe starting to fall asleep again and wake her up again. We presented her with a weird, undercooked egg, a limp piece of turkey bacon, a glass of expired orange juice and coffee–which she would immediately spill down the front of her flowered nightgown as one of her daughters leapt onto the bed in Zaboomafoo fashion. That’s how Mother’s Day starts, and ends.
Now, consider Father’s Day. Mom shushes us as we loudly clatter into the kitchen with, “Be quiet, your father’s sleeping.” The great patriarchal grizzly bear would then proceed to sleep until well after 10:30 when, at last, he would stumble into the kitchen. Waiting for him would be a beautiful, fragrant, perfectly prepared presentation of all of his favorite foods. Fluffy pancakes stacked as tall as our dog; scrambled egg casserole with real steak sausage; freshly brewed coffee. And, best of all, the TV would be on…in the morning! If that is not the very lap of luxury, I really don’t know what is. So, in honor of all the grumpy, stoic, loud, short-tempered, mild-mannered, wise, or overly-opinionated fathers, we’re going to highlight some of the museum works that give a shoutout to these strange creatures.
One of the works that hangs in our second floor Adkins Gallery depicts a terrifying and touching moment between a father and daughter. Night Rider is an intensely dark work, that requires a careful eye and attention to detail to piece together what is taking place.
William Robinson Leigh began to paint the American West soon after his training concluded at the Munich Akademie de Bildenden Kunste in 1888. His works of the time period were frequently compared to those of Frederic Remington, the acknowledged master in the field, and Leigh admittedly turned to nocturnes following Remington’s success with with the theme. Leigh’s Night Rider differs from Remington’s nocturnes in its use of cool blues and violets, although the suspenseful ride at night had been treated by the elder artist. Leigh’s rider pushes the endurance of his horse, suggesting the affliction of the unconscious girl he cradles in his left arm may be life-threatening.
Another work depicting a father-child relationship is Man and Boy Practicing Target for Hunting. Andrew van Tsihnahjinnie spent much of his career painting the culture of the Navajo. He began his artistic education at the Santa Fe Indian School from 1932 to 1936 and continued it after service in World War II at the Oakland College of Arts and Crafts. By the 1960s, the influence of abstraction had led to a change in his work, and he began to use fluid, sinuous lines and non-representational color.
Man and Boy Practicing Target for Hunting dates from that period of his career and depicts a Navajo boy honing his archery skills under the tutelage of an older relative. Tsihnahjinnie focuses on the action of the scene, limiting the surrounding landscape to the barest of details. I never got the opportunity to learn the ancient art of bowhunting from my father, but he did attempt to teach me to play tennis–an ordeal that dissolved into him throwing tennis balls at me while I ran back and forth dodging them and crying. Ah, memories.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: ARTISTS WHO BEGET ARTISTS
Can you imagine studying the same field as your father? How about the same field as your father AND your mother, and several of your other relatives? As the youngest daughter of the noted potters Sarafina and Geronimo Tafoya, Margaret Tafoya experienced this exact situation. She learned to make pottery by working alongside her mother and father. Margaret’s formidable ability to shape the clay became one of her hallmarks. Margaret and her husband Alcario worked together in clay making and firing the work, and he often carved the design. As she grew older, younger family members assisted her. Her legacy is her own extraordinary work and the impact of her work on her family and puebloan pottery. This wedding vase has an outstanding presence, achieved by her sense of scale and proportion in both form and design.
Another work in our collection, Anasazi Gathering, was created by the son of an artist. Joe Hilario Herrera, son of famed painter Tonito Peña, received both formal and informal training as an artist. Anasazi Gathering was likely done in his later years as part of a series that modernistically interpreted historic Pueblo rituals. The image is created through a complex use of both abstraction, as in the stylized tabletas that form one of the upper horizontal rows, and realism, as seen in the detailed basket designs held by the row of women in the background. Herrera’s broad knowledge of tribal ceremony and history of his Pueblo people are evident through the individualized details of each figure. Many of Herrera’s works are in our collection, as well as his father’s works, as seen below:
Another father-son artist duo found in our collection is Allan Houser and his son, Bob Haozous. We have many Houser works included in our collection, including this bronze sculpture that can be found on the University of Oklahoma campus.
His son created several works within our collection as well, one of which is this happy little chicken dubbed Chicken #18.
Bob Haozous uses sculpture to comment on politics, society, and the environment, often with sarcastic wit. Haozous, who has retained the traditional spelling of his surname, has remarked that his work continues to be inspired by practical issues of land and cultural loss. Originally a 72-piece installation titled “Haozous Does Chickens,” Chicken #18 was part of the flock to illustrate that we are all chickens, especially when dealing with environmental issues.
INSPIRED IDEA OF THE DAY: If the arts were truly appreciated in the world, KFC would release a 72-piece chicken combo honoring this installation, with all proceeds going to environmental awareness.
DID ARTIST FATHERS DEPICT THEIR CHILDREN?
There’s this one artist, you might have heard of him: Pierre-Auguste Renoir? He’s in the group of artists known as the French Impressionists. He’s also in a group I like to refer to as the Artists Who are Famous Enough that Even People Who Know Nothing About Art Recognize Their Names. He had a precious little son (as seen in this portrait) named Claude, who was lovingly nicknamed ‘Coco.’ From the 1890s on, Renoir returned to his softer coloristic style as seen in this work. Coco was the third and youngest son of the artist. Renoir also had another son, Jean, who actually became a famous film director. Jean recalled that after Coco was born, he replaced Jean as their father’s favorite model. I’m sure there’s no bitterness there. This work is actually a study for a portrait of Claude Renoir that is now in a private collection in New York.
ARE THERE OTHER KINDS OF FATHERS IN YOUR COLLECTION?
You know, it’s funny that you ask that, because there are. The image below is called Father Sky and Mother Earth. This work depicts two of the ‘Yei,’ or Holy People in Navajo cosmology.
As representations of the cosmos, both figures are included in important sand paintings, which are compositions composed of colored sand that are used during ceremonials. Although Mary Morez, the artist, did not replicate a sand painting precisely, she may have been interested in its curative powers, since she struggled with the effects of polio most of her life.
Native art often represents father figures, both in the form of spiritual beings, and honored members of society. The work below depicts a Navajo elder.
The heightened naturalism of R. Brownell McGrew’s paintings won him acclaim in the post-World War II period. A disciple of James Swinnerton, McGrew used an expressive palette and high polish to depict the Navajo. Navajo culture represented a retreat from modernization and urbanization for the artist, and his Hosteen is clearly a token of respect for the Navajo elder pictured.
REPEAT AFTER ME…
WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE KIDS BUT YOU’RE STILL A FATHER:
Cézanne. Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne is considered to be the ‘Father of Modern Art.’ His work actually was largely influential for Oscar B. Jacobson, the first director of our museum.
THINGS TO KNOW
Free Admission: One of the most common dad-isms is, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” This Father’s Day, show your old man just how savvy you’ve gotten with your finances, and take him to the museum for FREE. Come by the museum and see if you can find the works featured in this blog, or try to find a few father-related works of your own–I didn’t get them all! Admission isn’t just free on holidays; it’s free every day that we’re open. You’re welcome, America.
artists born several years ago this week:
6/15 Lillian Bassman, Nicolas Poussin | 6/16 Jim Dine, John Linnell | 6/17 M.C. Escher | 6/19 Cornelius Krieghoff | 6/20 Kurt Schwitters, Magdalena Abakanowicz | 6/21 Henry Ossawa Tanner