It’s been a while . . .
We got back from France and almost immediately I had to fly to St. Petersburg for the consulting work I am doing and then we went to LA to see the children and grandchildren and then to Arizona to see family and friends. Somehow, with all of that (and a small, soon to be resolved mini crisis), I just couldn’t blog.
I am back from all that traveling and going through mail, the accumulated stuff in my so called “in box”, and generally trying to get back into a groove.
In the “in box” was a map of the Montclair Art Museum in Montclair, New Jersey, which we visited last June. I had written a whole bunch of names of artists in an exhibit there, part of the Bank of America Art in Communities Program, on the map.
Turns out that BofA owns a ton of art — photographs, paintings, etc., that they have organized into groups and give — free — to small museums throughout the US to exhibit. The one we saw in Montclair was entitled, In a New Light: American Impressionism 1870-1940, Works from the Bank of America Collection.
The exhibit was amazing, filled with paintings by artists I had never heard of, including a number of women artists painting in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.
As I started to think about this exhibit and doing the research on Jane Peterson (see below) I also thought about the movie we saw last night, Hidden Figures. This Best Picture nominee is about the African American women “calculators” who worked in the early days of the space program. They were called “calculators” because in the days before the widespread use of computers, they did the complex mathematical calculations by hand (well, there was a big cumbersome calculating machine that also helped.) There were hundreds of them and until the book by Shetterly, they were pretty much unknown. Despite the fact that they were crucial to the success of the Mercury program.
They were unknown because they were African American AND they were women — in the 1950’s and 1960’s when African Americans and women were barely tolerated. Being both was a double wamy of monumental proportions.
But as the T shirt says, “They Persisted.”
The unsung story of the artists in the Bank of America exhibit seemed similar. They did not struggle as the women did in Hidden Figures — many of them had solo exhibits, sold their paintings, and built a reputation, but like those “computers”, they remain at the periphery of art history.
Here’s some work that I love by Jane Paterson, 1876-1965, one of the artists in the Bank of America collection.
The last one is just luminous.