Meeting in Houston for our semesterly retreat has become somewhat of a tradition as of late. It’s no surprise that we have grown accustomed to the bustling heart of Houston’s Art District and could now recognize Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Column” from a mile away. This, in fact, was our rendezvous since we all arrived in separate vehicles for a change. Once all accounted for, we took our signature “LEAP photo” in front of the towering Anish Kapoor sculpture….
…in front of the Glassell School of Art before entering the building, beginning our day, and tacking a semester’s worth of activities.
Arthur Turner Exhibit and Reception, Glassell School of Art
by Sawyer Massie
We were there to attend the opening reception of a gifted artist and native Houstonian: Arthur Turner.
To our surprise, Arthur Turner was actually among those in attendance as evidenced by the swarm of art-connoisseurs surrounding him. It took some time to get to the front of the line to introduce ourselves to him, so we wandered around the spacious gallery in the meantime.
Colorful watercolor pieces hung on the walls and beautiful butterflies fluttered about within the confines of the frames. Turner’s focus as of late has been flying insects of the sort….
…but his abstract work is not to go unnoticed. We were mesmerized by the effortless strokes and color blending that he employs in his work. If any of us had attempted something similar, it would end up a messy, blotted atrocity.
Once the procession surrounding Turner dissipated, we hurriedly introduced ourselves and asked for a picture with him to which he kindly accepted.
He was very nice, and he spent some time with us discussing his art and his familiarity with Huntsville’s Wynne Home Art Center and SHSU (he went to SHSU for a semester in the 1960s).
We also bumped into Betty Moody on our way up to the 2nd floor. She recognized Makayla, who had been to her gallery (aka her house) before. Ms. Moody has been a gracious friend to LEAP students, from offering guided tours of her gallery to introducing the students to new artists, and it was good for most of us to meet a woman about whom we had heard much.
After parting ways with Ms. Moody, we came to the top of the stairs and were met with a collection of familiar paintings dotting the walls in front of us. Familiar, since they were painted by students of Arthur Turner but different in that each artist had their own vision and unique style.
It always impresses me to see what someone close in age to myself can do with a bit of artistic talent. One thing’s for sure, I could never paint anything close to what they did. We were all impressed.
After meandering from painting to painting for a bit, we decided it was time to go across the street and see…… more art. This time, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Norman Rockwell, Well…Rocked!
By Quinn Kobrin
After experiencing the Turner exhibit at the Glassell School of Art, we made our way to the Museum of Fine Arts, where we met up with Mark Burns, and got to tour the Norman Rockwell “American Freedom” exhibit.
Featuring an extensive collection of Rockwell’s art, the exhibit walked us through the time in Rockwell’s career leading up to and following World War II. Guided by an audio narrative, we followed the artwork of Rockwell and his contemporaries, and were immersed into the mixed feelings of dread, fear, hope, and national pride which developed as the Second World War evolved.
In the gallery depicting the Great Depression, there was a cartoon by Denys Wortman, which showed an older sister reminding her younger siblings, “When mother says ‘More?’ Say no, ‘cause there’s just a little left for her.” Albeit a simple sketch, I found it deeply moving.
From there we moved into the section dedicated to Rockwell’s iconic work throughout the duration of World War II. To have the ability to elicit feelings of comfort, pride, hope, and rage, while maintaining a commitment to humor and personal style is quite a feat, and Rockwell did it time and again. One aspect of Rockwell’s humor that makes his art timeless is his tendency to paint himself cameoing in various scenes. Often appearing as if he is photobombing a picture, it becomes a fun game of “Where’s Rockwell?” as you search for him and (perhaps) his iconic pipe.
In this room, of course, we came to the namesake artwork of the exhibit. Depicting President Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of the post-war four freedoms – The Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Worship – Rockwell conveys the hope many Americans felt for a brighter, safer future. Coming out of the Great Depression and World War II, there is no doubt that Rockwell’s paintings served to inspire Americans, and mitigate their fearful uncertainty for what the future would hold.
Among these displays were some fun artifacts, including renderings of the Freedom of Speech painting from various angles, as well as the jacket worn by Rockwell’s neighbor…
…who served as the model for the primary figure in the painting.
We then passed through a section containing artwork depicting women in the workforce, including the famous Rosie the Riveter poster so prevalent in WWII. Linked to this were various artists’ renderings of post-World War II life, which featured men returning to simple chores like peeling potatoes with their mothers, and soldiers suffering from shellshock (PTSD).
At last, we made our way to the end of the exhibit, which concluded with dozens of powerful creations which emphasized civil rights. By happy accident, our viewing of the exhibit happened to be the day before MLK day, and we were reminded, through Rockwell’s art, both of the suffering, violence, and fear, and of the love, unity, and hope that coursed through the veins of the 1960s and onward.
While a brilliant painter and artist, it is clear from his work throughout this exhibit that Rockwell was also a champion of decency, kindness, and human rights.
After spending some time in the gift shop, we made our way to the second floor, where we saw art that ranged from realism to impressionism, and I got to see a few firsts, including my first Monet, Picasso, and Edvard Munch.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Museum of Fine Arts, and we are excited and ready to begin another semester at SHSU. My biggest takeaway from Norman Rockwell’s exhibit, and from all of the art I have experienced through LEAP, is that when you look at art, you get much more than a painting or a sculpture or a picture. You are presented with the history, sentiment, emotions, and struggles of the time it was created, and get a glimpse into someone else’s life and perception. Personally, I am excited to experience more art, and learn about more artists!