Thursday, November 5, 2015


Having just returned from an inspiring lecture given by Christopher With, (a lecturer recently retired from the National Gallery of Art), in the Mitchell Gallery, my appreciation for Chagall’s long and successful survival, not only as a victim of world politics, but also as a pilgrim in a vastly changing art world, was enhanced significantly.

The Fish and the Fisherman, 1927
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) The Little Fish and the Fisherman, 1927. Etching
I was talking with our docents last week about how much easier it would be to talk about Chagall if he hadn’t lived so long! After all, in his lifetime (1887-1985), one could list the various “isms,” i.e. Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, Modernism, etc. and apply the litany of influences in his near century career.  I ask (and visitors have asked me), “Where does Chagall fall in these movements?” The answer really is, “None of them.” Mr. With touched on that point briefly, as Chagall deliberately avoided style designation or alignment with any particular movement. His work certainly bears that evidence but, personally, I find a number of  Fauvist influences in the etchings included in our current exhibition.

The les Fauves, or “wild beasts” was a loose group of early twentieth-century artists led by Henri Matisse  and AndrĂ© Derain. Their works, influenced by Impressionism, use arbitrary colors over realistic ones, and representational, but free flowing shapes and contours. Though the Fauves’ flame was brief (1900-1910), its fire was powerful enough to enable  artists to think in possibilities beyond strict representational compositions and color. Some of these elements are evident in Chagall’s etchings as each continuous line finds a delicate contour to outline a face that might be recognizable, but also allows the flexibility to be a loose geometric shape integrated to the composition's particular and general details.

Seen in Chagall’s etching, The Little Fish and the Fisherman from La Fontaine’s "Fables," is a floating fish with the profile of the fisherman. In some ways the illustration seems child-like, but when one looks closely to the attention and dedication he has given to each line and shape, the composition is balanced between the variation in contrasts from light to dark, thick to thin line, and the seemingly carefree contour he has given the fish and fisherman. No explanation is needed about the work's content, but it is enhanced by the fable that accompanies the image. Further, Chagall makes no explanation, apology or judgment. Sometimes the simple message is the best one.

Come see for yourself! There are many events taking place throughout this exhibition which remains on view through December 17, 2015. See our website:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gerald Hawkes (1943-1998) The Man Who Loved the Stars/The Peanut, 1979.
Matchsticks and glue. Collection of The Banneker-Douglass Museum.

Matchsticks as Medium 

Can you possibly guess how many wood matchsticks artist Gerald Hawkes (1943-1998) used to create his extraordinary sculpture, The Man Who Loved the Stars/The Peanut? I don't have a clue, but we have had a number of visitors who started to count and gave up, with good reason! Thousands and hundreds of thousands, would be my best guess, but probably many more than that.

Hawkes, the son of Ernest Hawkes, a crane operator at Sparrows Point, and Luvenia Hawkes, a homemaker and "visionary" of sorts, was born and educated in Baltimore. Both parents were church deacons, as Gerald  also came to be as an adult. After attending Carver Vocational-Technical High School, Hawkes taught at Merganthaler Vocational-Technical High School and worked as a printer in Baltimore and New York. Printing is a precise business and this precision dovetails well with his interest in the geometric matchstick form because, in printing, "Everything has to line up."1 Along with his career in printing, Hawkes had a stint in the U.S. Army and received medical training for which he held a position as a medical technician and then at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. 

Hawkes began his matchstick creations sometime in the early 1970s and by the 1980s his sculptures began to be noticed by galleries nationwide and beyond. The matchsticks, which have the sulpher heads removed by either burning or washing, are stained with various solutions such as berry juice, coffee, tea, etc. and put together with Elmer's glue. The sequences of his life were without major incidence--working full-time, creating matchstick sculptures, church participation and service in the National Guard--until August 1984. Hawkes was driving home from a late night shift at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center when his car broke down. He got out on North Avenue to telephone for assistance and was attacked and severely beaten by men with pipes and sticks. It left Hawkes with frontal lobe brain damage, affecting his short term memory and the inability to taste or smell. Hawkes further described this event saying, "I lost everything…But I think God set me aside to send a message. I'm not possessed or anything, but I am just amazed at this stuff as everyone else."

Following this traumatic event, Hawkes's life fell apart in many ways, but his sculptures remained a constant source of comfort and creativity. The range of matchstick sculptures are fascinating and intriguing. Busts, tables, lamps, boxes with drawers--an assortment of objects are all veneered with carefully culled matchsticks. The sculpture on view in the Mitchell Gallery gives homage to two prominent African Americans: Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), an African American surveyor, astronomer and author who was instrumental in the rights of slaves, and George Washington Carver (1864-1943), scientist, botanist, inventor and educator who is probably best known for his many uses of the peanut. Colorfully stained matchsticks, pieced and glued together in perfect smooth alignment, make up the portraits. In Banneker's portrait there is a contrasting section of broken pieces in random positions next to the North star. The vision, the number of little sticks, and craftsmanship involved in this work is amazing and is certainly an honorable tribute to these African Americans who also struggled to find sense in life and recognition for the importance of their work.

It is worth noting that Hawkes includes the letter "H" in his works, standing for health, happiness, and Hawkes. Count the matchsticks for yourself. Be grateful. Be inspired.

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Art Educator
September 26, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Defence of Ft. M'Henry

Published by John Gruber and Daniel May, Hagerstown, Maryland.  The National Songster, Defense of Fort McHenry, 1814. Gift of William W. Baldwin, New York, 1978. Collection of the U. S. Naval Academy Museum .
The Mitchell Gallery at St. John's College opened its season on August 23 with an exhibition titled, Annapolis Collects: The Mitchell Gallery Celebrates 25 Years. Through the generosity of 27 lenders, the gallery is filled with art and artifacts in a full range of periods from private collectors and historic houses in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. There are many interesting pieces with much to research and discuss, but I couldn't resist writing about the copy we have of "The Defence of Ft. M'Henry" we have on loan from the United States Naval Academy Museum. Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was an alumnus of St. John's College and founded the college's alumni association. I won't go into the poem's history, as that is generally known, but there are some interesting less known factoids about the poem/song's publication and journey as the national anthem, now known as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Key initially shared the poem with his brothers-in-law, the Honorable Roger B. Taney (later a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) and the Honorable Joseph H. Nicholson (of whom we have a miniature portrait in ivory also on display). Apparently Nicholson was so impressed that he had the poem printed on handbills and commercial advertising and eventually it was typeset and printed by the "Baltimore American" newspaper on September 21, 1814. 

The small volume of The National Songster we have on view was printed in 1814 in Hagerstown, Maryland  by John Gruber and his partner, son-in-law, Daniel May. Included in the volume is "The Defence of Ft. M'Henry and other songs dedicated primarily to American Naval Victories. This volume was the very first songster to include the song. It is also worth mentioning that Gruber was known for producing the Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack, [sic] the second oldest almanac in the country and still published by his descendants.

St. John's College welcomes its alumnae for homecoming weekend today--a perfect tribute to Key and all of our alumni. Be sure to see this special exhibition in the Mitchell Gallery, which is on view through October 12, 2014.

Submitted by:
Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Art Educator

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dialogues: Words and Images in Art, 1500-1924

K.[V?] Kealey, Women of Britain Say--"Go", 1915. Lithograph.
Courtesy of Georgetown University Library, Special Collection
When the exhibition opened in the end of January, someone asked me "What, exactly, does the title mean?" It was  a good question because it's a title so tied to the exhibition, that once one actually "sees" the works, the understanding is there. The 47 works in this exhibition all have a relationship to the written word. Some messages are direct, some implied, and others based on cultural or social knowledge.

One example of the direct message is through E. [V?] Kealey's recruitment lithograph Women of Britain Say--"Go".
Frank E. Schoonover, Evangeline, 1908. Oil on
panel.  Courtesy of the Schoonover Collection.

The information to explain the image with the text is there. This poster, one of many issued during World War I,  expresses the dire need to encourage men to enlist for military service.  Kealey was one of several in a team to create art promoting the war effort, and, interestingly, very little is known about him--even uncertainty about his full name! Obviously, it is the poster's message that is important, not the artist's name recognition or association with the British government. But with the marriage of text and image, the viewer gets the point.

In  contrast to the Kealey lithograph, is Frank E. Schoonover's colorful oil painting based on the poem, Evangeline. Henry W. Longfellow wrote this poem in 1847 and it was considered, (although not without criticism), the first important piece of American poetry based on an American subject. No text is included, only a smoky sky in the background, a crucifix, and a mournful maiden holding a Breton bonnet. The viewer understands the full meaning of the painting only if they are familiar with Longfellow's poem.  Clearly, Schoonover read the poem, as the heroine is wearing the blue garment and earrings, and holding a bonnet described in the verse:

Wearing her Norman hat and kirtle of blue, and the earrings, 
                             Brought in the olden time from France...

The background might depict the verses found further in the poem following the death of her father, Benedict Bellafontaine.

Pallid, with tearful eyes, and looks of saddest compassion.
       Still the blaze of the burning village illumined the landscape…

Both of these images are striking and allow the viewer opportunity for contemplation and questions. Does the artist reflect the intentions of the writer? Does the artist care if their depictions are accurate? Do images always need words to be understood? 

Come have your own dialogue with these works! This exhibition, curated by David Gariff, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer at the National Gallery of Art,  remains on view through April 6th.

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Curatorial Assistant

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chasing the Moment:
Works from Annapolis Senior High School

January 10-19, 2014

We are well into our exhibition of student artworks from all of the art programs at Annapolis Senior High School and I am deeply touched by the personal side of this exhibition. No bucolic landscapes. No strict bottle/cloth/fruit still lifes. Instead, portraits that confront issues, collages that address personal struggles, and ceramics of function and whimsey.

  Julie Nolker, Antelope Canyon, 2013. Digital photography.
This special exhibition has been possible due to a Special Strategic Impact Grant from   the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. In September 2014, the Arts Council sought proposals for projects that fell outside the standard mission or budget. The Mitchell Gallery wrote the grant with the mission of providing students a museum exhibition experience of their work. Quality was the goal, and quality is what we got. 

The three-dimensional works in this exhibition are varied--stoneware vases and decorative pieces, as well as an installation made from a wood pallet.

  Joel Balch, Untitled, Acrylic, 2013
Drawings in oil pastel and charcoal include portraits and literary ideas, while the paintings refer to celebrity personalities, abstract ideas, and things close to the heart. Photography is included in the exhibition, and I am impressed with the attention to composition and detail and the fact that most do not have their images digitally altered--a temptation in the photography world.

As always, thanks to our Mitchell Gallery members, admission is free. The gallery is open every day except Mondays, noon to 5 p.m. This exhibition of works from Annapolis Senior High School remains on view through Sunday, January 19 and we hope you will set aside a bit of time to see the works of these talented young artists. 

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Art Educator

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Moving On

crate interior
One of the fun aspects of my job is the installation of an exhibition. I confess there is a level of stress associated with installing and deinstalling an exhibition, but it is gratifying and we have a solid product at the end.

We are currently in deinstallation mode  and we are surrounded by crates, preparators, shippers, and lots of paperwork to make sure the "children" get to their respective destination safely. Deinstallation is always quicker than installation, in part, because we are familiar with the way the objects were packed, how they fit in the crates, orientation, and other particulars important to their safety.

If you have never seen a fine art shipping crate, it is a level of carpentry and artistry of its own and we have our own laundry list about what constitutes a good one. We appreciate having feet on the base--short leg blocks on each corner that are a little higher than the bottom of the crate, and it also nice to have a wood bar across each end of the crate to serve as a handle. These features make moving things much easier. Even the hardware makes a difference--large bolts with washers and metal plates or locks make the crates seal properly. Crates are custom made to protect the art from abrasions or breakage, but also ward off damp conditions, vibration, and shifts while they are being moved. Foamcore, styrofoam, Tyvek (a DuPont product that is a non woven product consisting of spun bond olefin fiber) are all part of the interior architecture. It is not part of my job to  know the chemical breakdown of these products, but it is helpful to know why or how to use them. 

We follow a protocol for deinstalling exhibitions. Each work is analyzed to assure they are in the same condition in which they arrived and those observations are noted in the "Condition Report Book." (The next venue that receives the exhibition also goes through this same process when the art arrives and before it departs). 

If the crates have not been kept in climate controlled storage, they are usually brought into the gallery at least 24 hours before they are packed in order to "acclimate"--that is, come to the gallery temperature. This allows the works of art to go into their containers without any kind of temperature shock, which can damage the art. The works are then wrapped to protect the frame, paint surface, glazing, etc. and then placed in their allocated slot in the crate. Each work is checked off of the master list as it is placed in the crate and once the crate is completely loaded, the crate is sealed and marked. 

When the fine art shippers arrive--special shippers dedicated to moving works of decorative or fine art-- their trucks are climate controlled, but also have compensations for vibration and shock, and the necessary dollies, lifts, straps and other hardware to move the crates and keep them in place during transport. The crates have an orientation for their direction, be it upright or horizontal, and that orientation is maintained throughout the process of loading and shipping. Fine art shippers are an amazing professional team who do more than move crates and drive trucks. Their knowledge about crate construction, handling works of art, getting in and out of loading docks, and coming up with creative solutions for difficult doorways, surfaces, etc. is impressive.

Today we have put our Venetian prints on the road and we are  preparing the walls and retrieving hardware for our next exhibition which opens January 10, 2014. I hope you will take the time to see the new exhibition titled, Chasing the Moment: Works from Annapolis Senior High. This selective exhibition is comprised of works from students in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate Program, Honors, and other art programs. Our mission is to provide the students with the experience of having their works hung in a museum space, complete with climate control, framing, metered lights and everything else we do for our standard exhibitions. We are so pleased to have the support from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County for this event. 

Best wishes for the holiday season and hope to see you January 10-19 for the students work.

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Art Educator

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Artist's Love of Venice

As we are in the last days of the exhibition, Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1945, I am beginning my parting thoughts about the exhibition moving on to another venue. How one is attracted to a piece of art is very personal. And since the works from this exhibition came from a private collection (as a promised gift to Dickinson College), the works acquired are very personal and are chosen for a variety of reasons:  adding a piece for fun, a rare find, or serves as a complementary piece to another work or artist in the collection. But there is a cohesiveness about this collection--the sort of "chain of command" from Whistler to Menpes and Bacher, to Roth and Arms, Mauroner and Brugnoli--the legacy.

Fabio Mauroner, Trattoria "La Vida" (Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio), 1924.
Etching. The Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, 2011.42
One of the things that has struck me most is the artists' intimacy of the subject and the etched line. The delicate line is more than scratching out a depiction of a doorway, canal, or gondola. These works are labors of love. Favorite walkways and trattorias, like that of Fabio Maruoner's Trattoria "La Vida," are places the artists knew well. In spite of their need, commercial or otherwise, to create a unique view of a city well represented by a litany of artists over the centuries, their dedication to their love of Venice and their medium is foremost.

The influence of the artists looking at each others' work is revealed as one walks about the exhibition. It is interesting to note that Fabio Mauroner had a collection of thirteen prints created by Roth, many of which have individual greetings. John Taylor Arms owned some of Ernest Roth's prints. And certainly these are not isolated incidents of artists collecting other colleague's works.
 Fabio Maruoner,  Il Traghetto, 1907. Etching and drypoint. The Trout 
 Gallery, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. 2011.3.1

Mauroner, a native of Udine, is one of the most intriguing artists in the exhibition. He arrived in Venice in 1905, around the same time as his close friend Ernest David Roth and they produced similar views of churches, plazas, cloisters, and other sites. Mauroner's early works are close to Whistler's and Roth's approach of aspects of Venetian life, scenes more familiar to residents than visitors.  Il Traghetto, shown in mirror image, depicts one of the gondola ferries used at strategic points along the Grand Canal to take people to the opposite bank and is a good example of the portrayal of everyday life. Mauroner  achieved some recognition in the United States through the exhibition of the Chicago Society of Etchers in 1925, the Ehrich Gallery in New York City, and the Seattle Fine Arts Society in 1926.

Although many artists in this exhibition did not receive the "red carpet star" fame as other artists of their period, their contributions for the artistry of etching and our appreciation of their work is no less diminished.  I hope you will have the opportunity to see these works before the exhibition closes on December 13.

Denker, Eric.  Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940, edited by Phillip Earenfight. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012.