Friday, June 22, 2012

Jesselyn Benson Zurik (1916-2012)

Newcomb Students, gouache on paper, 1935
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist
The Ogden Museum is saddened  to announce the passing of a talented artist whose work and spirit have played an important role in this institutions history. Jesselyn Benson Zurik passed away on Wednesday, June 20, 2012.

Life Study of Teacher, 1936, charcoal on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

Jesselyn Benson Zurik was born December 26, 1916 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She attended Lafayette School and the Arts and Crafts School of New Orleans before enrolling in Isidore Newman School in 1927, where she graduated in 1934. While at Newman School, she served as Art Editor of the Pioneer from 1931 through 1934. This early education in the arts prepared her for a lifelong journey through one of the most influential arts programs in the South and into a professional career as an illustrator, designer and fine artist.
Untitled, 1937, watercolor on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

In 1934, Zurik enrolled in Newcomb College at Tulane University, where she received a Bachelor of Design in 1938. She continued her studies at Newcomb from 1958 to 1960. During her time at Newcomb, Zurik studied under some of the great arts educators in the South at that time, including Xavier Gonzales, Will Henry Stevens and Caroline Durieux. Newcomb was a unique experience in the South of the 1930s. A staff of artists, hand-picked by William and Ellsworth Woodward, brought to the region a strong influence by the Munich School, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Rhode Island School of Design. The pottery studios created not only income for the university, but a legacy of design, iconic to this day. Will Henry Stevens, in particular, brought to the school a view of the natural world that was highly influenced by the Transcendental writers of the American Renaissance.
Women with Apples, 1935, gouache on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

After graduating from Newcomb College, Zurik worked as an illustrator, draftsman and designer for Katz & Besthoff Drug Company, Adler’s Jewelry Store, D.H. Holmes and Higgins Ship Builders. As an artist she has participated in over two-hundred-and-fifty group exhibitions, and has been the subject of over thirty singular exhibitions. As a mature artist, she is most widely known for her minimalist wood sculpture, but continued to draw and paint, even creating a beaded art car from a 1974 American Motor’s Gremlin in the 1980s.

Untitled, 1938, ink on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

An exhibition of her works -- drawn mainly from the gift of approximately eighty-seven paintings, drawings and archival objects from the artist to the Permanent and Study Collections of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art -- was mounted at the Reynolds Ryan Art Gallery in 2010, curated by Bradley Sumrall.  Jesselyn Benson Zurik: The Newman and Newcomb Years offered insight into the experience of a Newcomb student in the 1930s, and background to the career of an important American Minimalist sculptor.

Untitled, gouache on paper, 1937
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist

Southernaire 2, 2011, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella.

When Mark Messersmith first moved to Tallahassee, Florida in the mid-1980s, he was immediately struck by the wildness of the surrounding landscape, a wildness gone from much of America. In Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist, he continues his exploration of the tension between this wild, living place and ever-increasing human expansion.  Drawing on inspirations ranging from the Pre-Raphaelites, Martin Johnson Heade, Southern folk art and medieval manuscripts, the paintings of Messersmith are dense, radiant, and sculptural depictions of the flora and fauna of northern Florida struggling to survive.
Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum

With his large sculptural canvases, Messersmith creates a narrative where animals, insects and plants are in constant struggle – often with the natural cycles of life and the food chain, but more noticeably against the onslaught of human expansion. In this drama, the domesticated dog often represents the destructive nature of man. Logging trucks filled with fresh timber are as common in his surfaces as they are on the back roads of the rural South.

Edge of Town, 2009, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

These canvases are embellished with carved pediments inspired by medieval manuscripts that act to highlight the theme of the narrative. Along the bottom of each canvas, a series of predellas in the tradition of medieval altar pieces serve to expand the narrative. Yet each of these works, like all of Messersmith’s paintings, deals more with light and color than narrative.
From a Dark Twilight, 2012, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella.

Going out regularly into the wetlands and marshes south of Tallahassee, Messersmith documents natural performances – the changing light of a day passing in the wild – with his lushly-colored plein air landscapes. This obsession with light and the passage of time is carried into a series of totems. The six wooden totems in his most recent body of work depict the passing of a single day, from dawn till dusk.

They Fight, They Fail  (Six Hours of a Long Day) 1-3
2011 Oil and mixed media on pine

They Fight, They Fail  (Six Hours of a Long Day) 4-6
2011 Oil and mixed media on pine

Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum

Vespertine Sacrifice, 2006, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist opened on April 19th, 2012 on the fourth floor of the Ogden Museum's Goldring Hall, and continues through July 23rd.

Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum.

Mark Messersmith is Professor of Art at Florida State University, where he has taught since 1985. He received an MFA from Indiana University, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Ford Fellowship, four Individual Artist Fellowship Awards from the Florida Department of State, and a 2006 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting Award.
Wild as Angels, 2012, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alexa Kleinbard: Remedies

Night Blooming Ceres
Collection of Jill and Bob Harper

On April 19th, 2012, the Ogden Museum of Southern opened Remedies, an exhibition of shaped oil-on-panel paintings by Tallahassee artist, Alexa Kleinbard. A self-taught painter, Kleinbard has, for over thirty years, explored folk medicines, scientific advances, the environment and the unsettling role of humans in the balance of nature through her work. In this series of meticulously rendered and richly colored paintings, she has turned her focus to the wild medicinal plants of the Southeast and the endangered wetlands that sustain them. Sculptural portraits of these plants surround lush landscapes of their native environments, and seem to dance on gestural root systems.
Foxglove Digitalis

Informed by a background in sculpture and dance, Kleinbard has, over the past eight years, created a series of individual surfaces that move as if choreographed – a parade of medicinal plants in full bloom, involved in the act of creation. Each piece is an ecosystem of plant, pollinator, and wetland environment. Great filters of toxins, the wetlands heal the environment as they nurtures plants capable of healing humans.

Bloodlines: Pomegranate, Wild Rose, Evening Primrose and Ginger
But just as human expansion pushes native fauna into ever diminishing corridors of natural environment, the later Bloodlines paintings become filled with animals. These are not the calm pollinators involved in the act of creation as in the earlier works. Nests full of hatchlings and birds of prey are sounding the alarm that nature is under attack. The gestural roots are no longer dancing, but combined with depictions of Native American directional trees, point the viewer toward action.
Bloodlines: Passion Flower and Trumpet Vine

Alexa Kleinbard has been the recipient of several awards, including two NEA Endowment Grants and a Florida Fellowship Grant from the Florida Arts Council. She received her BFA in Sculpture from the Philadelphia College of Art, and received training in Dance from the Melia Davis School of Dance and the Ramblerny School of Performing Arts. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States. She lives and works with her husband, artist Jim Roche, in Tallahassee, Florida. In 2011, the Ogden Museum exhibited highlights from their collection of self-taught, outsider and visionary art.

Milk Thistle


Artist Statement:

Over the past twenty-two years, I have focused my work on what human beings must protect in the natural environment. As the fragmentation and division of wild lands all over the world escalates while ninety-six percent of all old-growth forest has fallen to the chain saw, I’ve been driven to work on paintings that hint at the potential silence that will be left in our remaining habitats if more and more species are lost forever, and man’s push toward more population and further stripping of nature’s resources is not somehow subdued.
Bind Weed
I hope to seduce the audience eye into healing views of faraway wetlands and aquatic serenity. As the thickened foliage, lushly painted with flowers and leaves of traditional healing plants, is pulled visually aside in a voyeuristic manner, a scene of natural glory and serenity is revealed. I try to offer a suggestive peek at what we must never lose. These shaped paintings are each a single character unto themselves; each one reads as a single medicinal plant, complete with dancing leg roots. Individual plant shapes have been cut from birch wood and feature leaves, blossoms, pods, fruits and insect pollinators, jaggedly silhouetted and painted with traditional oils. These healing plant cut-out shapes are a foreground through which the faraway horizon of water meeting sky is seen in deep space, carefully depicted with sunsets and reflections that imply hopeful and timeless beauty.
 This exhibition runs through July 22, 2012, and is located on the fourth floor of the Ogden's Goldring Hall.