Welcome to Off the Wall. We’ve skimmed the news around the museum, and want to share the highlights with you.
Written while reading about the Olympic Gold Medal for highest Pokémon GO phone bill.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Look at this photograph; every time I do it makes me laugh. How did our eyes get so red, and what the hell is on Joey’s head?” -Nickelback
Photography is arguably one of the most accessible art forms–almost everyone today has a camera in their phone, and if you were born in the last three decades you probably grew up snapping pictures on a yellow-and-black disposable camera. I still think about some of those incredible vacation moments that I missed because I forgot to turn that wheel with my thumb or prep the flash button. Our newest installation at the FJJMA focuses on this art form–but I’m pretty sure no disposable cameras were used. Visage: Photography from the Permanent Collection is a survey of portraits that focus on images of artists, celebrities, and professional portrait sitters. It’s a fascinating installation to wander through, because if you’re the kind of person who reads books or looks at art without looking up what the author or artist looks like, you might be surprised by a few of the faces.
HOW DID THE COLLECTION START?
In 1937, only a year after the museum was founded, photographer Edward Weston visited Norman as part of an exhibition hosted at the university. During his visit, Oscar Brousse Jacobson (remember him?) purchased three of his prints. Back then, photography collections were rarely seen in museums, and Weston was among the more innovative photographers working in the United States–a credit to Jacobson’s acumen. A few years later, in the 1940s, art professor Leonard Good brought the medium further into recognition by teaching the first art photography classes on the University of Oklahoma campus. The collection that started with three humble works has grown through the decades thanks to the stewardship and cultivation by Edwin Deighton, a former assistant director of the museum. A photographer himself, Deighton organized numerous photography exhibitions during his time at the museum, and grew the collection during a time when the market was more affordable.
HOW HAS IT CONTINUED TO GROW?
By 1980, the FJJMA’s photography collection boasted over 1,000 works–but the most significant gifts of photography were yet to come. Gifts from Bradley Camp in 1985 included works by photographers W. Eugene Smith and Berenice Abbott. In 1997, Dr. Richard L. and Ellen Sandor, two of the most prominent private collectors of photography in the United States, began gifting prints to the museum. Many of those works currently are featured on display in Visage. One of their gifts, a work by André Kertész (1926) that depicts Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian, is among the most important photographs in the FJJMA’s permanent collection. In 2005, Christian K. Keesee gave more than 200 photographs by influential modern photographer Brett Weston. If you’re wondering why the Weston name sounds familiar, that’s because he is the son of Edward, the photographer whose three works first started our collection. One of Brett’s works is featured in Visage, and depicts a telling portrait of the Weston family a short time before his parents separated. In recent years, Carol Beesley Hennagin, a local artist and emeriti faculty at the OU School of Art and Art History, has given multiple gifts to the museum (an exhibition of her gifted works was on display for six months a few years back). Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1947 portrait of author William Faulkner was a part of her first gift in 2009, and also appears in Visage. In recent years, Florence Deighton has made significant donations to the museum in order to continue the legacy of her late husband. The gifts made to our collection by these donors have deepened the museum’s photography collection in immeasurable ways. Simply exploring the works in Visage reveals how these donors have truly enriched the educational experience that the museum offers.
Visage: Photography from the Permanent Collection is on display in the museum’s mezzanine until December 4, 2016. We have no desire to see you “shake it like a Polaroid picture,” but if you would like to show up a few minutes from now and gradually fade into the museum we would be 100% behind that decision. As you explore the photographs, snap a few of your own to share on social media–and tag the museum on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @fjjma. You can also send us snaps @fjjmaSnaps!