Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Will You Sign This Petition ?

O.K -- perhaps it's a bit long-winded -- but everyone at the Palette and Chisel should consider joining Sue Lyon and Scott Burdick in signing the petition created by Miles Mathis regarding the National Portrait Competiton run by the National Portrait Gallery.

Here's the first paragraph:

We, the undersigned, have attached our names to this letter in order to protest the appropriation of the National Portrait Competition by a narrow political faction. This portrait competition is sponsored by the trust of the late Virginia Outwin Boochever. Ms. Outwin Boochever underwrote this prize because she loved figurative drawings, paintings and sculpture. From the earliest stages of planning for this prize, it was clear that her intention was to encourage art by the old definition: art as beauty, as subtlety, as depth, as direct emotion, as skill, as craft. She did not desire nor foresee that this prize would become another medal on the breast of the avant garde. She did not intend to subsidize further research into Theory or socio-politics, she did not intend to subsidize divisiveness or activism, nor did she intend to encourage victimhood and the culture of complaint.

If the members of the P&C won't stand up for aesthetic value in portraiture -- well --- who will ?

(By the way -- this cause is not restricted to political conservatives -- and, like myself, Mr. Mathis is something of a tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal. But effective advertising is one thing -- while great painting is something else.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Art Institute 1916: The Other Shows

As recorded here , the Palette Chisel had its 20th Anniversary exhibit in 1916 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

But while while I was looking that one up --- I was surprised by all the other exhibits that the A.I.C. hosted during that year: a total of 24 to be exact -- some of them showing a dozen pieces over a week's time -- and some filling the galleries with over a thousand works over the period of a month.

So..... what happened ? Why -- and when -- did the A.I.C. abandon its commitment to local artists, artisans, and architects --- as well as to a wide selection of contemporary art ?

This was the first exhibit that I found -- and it's hard to imagine anything like it today. Can you image the museum today giving an exhibit to a local 23-year-old ? And it was not a small exhibit -- with over 100 drawings and 30 sculptures. (and by the way -- although everything kept in the Warsaw museum given to him by Poland was destroyed in the war -- he is now recognized as among the leading Polish sculptors of the last century)

But that was just one show of many --- and here are all the others:

The American art show was a Who's Who of American painters and sculptors

... and as you can see by the last page of the catalog, it had over a thousand pieces

Wouldn't you like to see an annual exhibit of the best portrait painters in the country ?

Wouldn't you like to see an annual exhibit of works on paper ? (selected not just from the members of the Palette and Chisel -- but from all over the country)

And it wasn't just fine arts that got shown - there were ceramics, wood, glass -- the kind of things that today might go in S.O.F.A.-- except that it was pieces, rather than galleries, that got juried.

And whatever happened to the Atlan Ceramic Arts Club ? They were four years older than the P&C -- but now have almost completely disappeared.

Here's another Ceramics Club -- also now defunct.

The A.I.C. still has shows of hot, young, cutting-edge architects -- but I think this show drew from the larger field of all the leading designers working in Chicago. I wonder if this show did for builders what the McCormick Place show now does for auto makers ?

Then there's the Chicago Artists exhibit -- which later was called the "Chicago Vicinity Show" -- and finally was discontinued in 1985. Why ? Why has the A.I.C. not shown Chicago artists for more than 20 years now ?

And here's a few more artists from around the country -- including Wilson Irvine from the P&C. ( and BTW, John White Alexander was one incredible painter !

More on this painter can be found here

Other regions of American art were shown:

And artists from organizations in other cities -- like Ben Foster or Anna Hyatt (Huntington)

Special exhibits on the contemporary art of other countries were included. When was the last time the A.I.C. had an exhibit of contemporary painters from ANY country ?

When was last time he AIC exhibited the work of a on-going ceramics factory ?

All these things: decorative arts, portraiture, landscape painting, local painters, national painters -- these are all beneath the contemporary international artworld --so the A.I.C will have nothing to do them -- and will show common, African village clay pots before it will ever show any living European tradition.

This may have been the last time that the great Hovsep Pushman showed at the A.I.C --but his still-lifes can still be seen in Chicago --at the Union League Club.

I'm not sure why this Chicago/Brown County painter never joined the Palette and Chisel -- he fit the member profile - and he joined many other local artist organizations.

Here's one kind of show we still get: the display of someone's private collection -- conditional, one supposes, on their bequeathing some or all of it to the museum.

The point is -- if I haven't already made it -- that in 1916 the A.I.C. was a far different kind of community arts organization than it is today -- with no small credit going to its two founders and longtime leaders, Charles L. Hutchinson (board Chairman (1882-1924) ) and Martin Ryerson (Board treasurer) -- both of whom were "Life Members" of the Palette and Chisel.

With the opening of it's new wing in a few years, the A.I.C. will once again return to a focus on contemporary art -- but with the loss of any kind of ideals or aesthetic -- it will probably just serve the wealthy collectors of contemporary art whose collections will be validated in exchange for their gifts.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ted Smuskiewicz

After about 30 attempts to properly spell and Google his name -- I finally hit the right combination of letters and found Ted's website.

He's especially important to the recent history of the Palette and Chisel because so many current and/or famous members took his painting class at the American Academy (Scott Burdick, Nancy Guzik, Rose Frantzen, Scott Tallman Powers, Sue Lyon, etc)

But he's not as well known as our other famous teacher, Richard Schmid, perhaps because his paintings are more visionary than enjoyable.

But perhaps his day will eventually come.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rich Morrow Moving South

After more than 20 years at the Palette and Chisel, Rich Morrow is seen here moving the last of his things a few hundred miles closer to St. Louis, and the World Champion Redbirds.

One of the last things to go is this monumental portrait of Hall-of-Famer Carlton Fisk, one-time catcher for the White Sox

Unfortunately, the Sox never knew about this statue when they commissioned a (vastly inferior) cartoonish piece for Cellular Field.

Another of the last pieces to go was the above political tableaux -- commemorating the 1994 election for President of the Palette and Chisel.

To the left is one candidate, Cable Spence -- next to him - with a long pointy nose is Spence supporter Tor Muehl -- then comes his opponent, Georgeanne Gruenthaller in the blond fright-wig and Valkyrie helmet as she lands a right hook on the jaw of yours truly. (as his pants slide slowly down his skinny hips). Meanwhile, behind them all -- the partially obstructed head of the out-going President, Bill Trotter, can be seen (and is that a smile on his face ?)

It was all very dramatic and laughable -- with the first ballot ending up in an exact tie (since poor Mr. Muehl inadvertently used his proxies to vote for himself) -- but the second ballot delivered a resounding victory to Mr. Spence, who went ahead to completely remodel the basement -- build a program of classes -- and recruit a team of patron board members.

So... maybe the election wasn't so laughable after all.

One final piece, this bronze torso, may possibly be left behind on permanent display -- and why not ? Until the organization creates a policy for such things -- those who want the club to show a piece of work might as well install it themselves --- and then wait to see what happens.

Good luck, Rich ! His departure is really the end of an era.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Obsessive Misha Livshulz

An artist who's obsessive/compulsive ? That's hardly news, you might say.

But this endearing photograph of Russian emigre Misha Livshulz in his Skokie home studio -- surrounded by busts that look like him (probably because they portray his family) ---just had to get posted. And what's that small, erotic couple doing in the background ? Another one of his obsessions?

Are you a compulsive painter or sculptor yourself ? Please send us pictures of same -- for inclusion in this obsessively compulsive blog.

(note: Misha picked up his obsession at his father's knees. There's always an explanation -- isn't there ?)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Exhibit: Sam Knecht

Monday, December 04, 2006

Palette and Chisel At Madron LLC

Madron LLC recently opened a gallery of American painting in the upscaled southwest corner of the Lincoln Park neighborhood ( I used to live nearby -- back in its downscale days) -- and two P&C painters were hanging on the walls when I went:

Richard Schmid (shown above) -- and Wilson Irvine (shown below)

It's a nice space (conveniently located above a health food supermarket) - and, like R.H. Love gallery, seems to be specializing in early 20th C. non-modernist American painting -- so I'm sure many more P&C painters will eventually be found there.

(some other paintings seen at that show can be found here )

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ruth Van Sickle Ford: The First Woman Member


Is the legend wrong?

Legend has it that in 1961 Ruth Van Sickle Ford was the first woman admitted to membership at the Palette and Chisel.

But then I see an obituary in the Chicago Tribune for July 9, 1996, titled: "Rita Goldstein; 1st woman in Palette & Chisel Academy."

The obituary states that Rita "Rissie" Goldstein, 75, "a Chicago-area artist and art teacher, was the first woman to be admitted to membership in the Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts." According to the obit, Goldstein "studied under WPA muralist Otto Hake and Ruth Van Sickle Ford."

Ruth Van Sickle Ford was an eccentric, excellent artist and teacher. (I know one of her students from Aurora.) She was an instructor of Walt Disney. She gave birth to a child on a cross-country train trip. In 1949, along with her husband, she built a round house made of "anthracite coal, steel, glass, cedar, and hemp," and defied the curious burghers of Aurora who came by to gawk at the place, putting up a sign at one point that said, "We don't like your house, either." Here are some photos of her house:

Ruth Van Sickle Ford painted the girl with the piercing blue eyes--the one that the club has seen fit to hang in the basement. But was she the first woman member of the club? Or could it have been Rita Goldstein, about whom there is no legend?

The truth is more interesting than a story of dates.

History Quiz

What sitting president of the United States was extended an honorary membership in the Palette and Chisel Club?

Exhibitions: 2006

(note: this is a list of all exhibits that we've found -- and if we need to know about others -- especially ones that occurred before we began this blog, please let us know so that we can post them. Unless otherwise noted, all of the following exhibits took place at the Palette and Chisel gallery)

R.H.Love Gallery, December (Scott Tallman Powers, James Wisnowski, and many earlier members)

Rose Frantzen, November

Pascal Cruq at S.O.F.A., November

Max Ranft, Stuart Fullerton, Marci Oleszkiewicz, October

Five Point Perspective, October (Kathleen Newman, Antonia Franck, Lenox Wallace,Terri Niccoli, Liz Wall)

Richmond Jones & Christine Osada Jones, September

Kazuo Ooka, September

Platinum Show, August

Art of the Dance, April

Plein Aire Painters, March

Gold Medal Show, January