The team during the Opening Reception in front of the mural display
From left to right: Sarah Mills, Kirsten Nicholas, Molly Nuanes,
This year our North Gallery has been handed over to Dan’s Curatorial Practicum class. Over the last nine weeks students have learned the different aspects of creating an exhibition—choosing a theme, selecting and preparing works for display, catalogue and label writing, and communicating ideas about the art and the artist. Their first exhibition opens tomorrow, John Edward Thompson: Colorado Modernist. I’ve asked the student curators, Kirsten Nicholas, Molly Nuanes, and Sarah Mills, to enlighten us on Thompson’s work and some of their ideas behind the show as countdown to Thompson continues.
KL: What do you find most interesting about Thompson?
KN: I find Thompson interesting because he seems to be a lost artist. All the articles you read about Thompson that come from his time period praise him as a world-renowned, innovative artist who helped shape Modernism in Colorado.
MN: What I find most interesting about Thompson is that he was able to create in a variety of styles. He was classically trained, so he could execute fully modeled figures and objects. He was inspired by Cezanne, so he incorporated modernist techniques into his works, especially his landscapes. He was also inspired by Aristide Maillol and the 1930s neoclassical movement, which led him to create very rounded female bodies with exaggerated hips.
SM: I think Thompson’s travels in Europe are so fascinating. He rubbed elbows with some of the movers and shakers of his day. He lived with Thomas Hart Benton for a year in Paris while they were both studying at the Acadamie Julian and apparently their mistresses did not get along. He studied at an exclusively French artistic academy, the only American to do so. His time abroad forever influenced his life and work.
KL: What piece in the show is your favorite?
KN: I have two favorites in the show– Organization of Rocks and Trees and Study for Paris Rooftops. The first piece incited quite an uproar when it debuted in 1919 and his study shows his creative process and ability to realistically render the world around him.
MN: My favorite piece is probably Organization of Rocks and Trees because the colors are stunning; he painted it in Pine, Colorado.
SM: My favorite is the quick painting of a nude Thompson did on the back panel of a framed portrait that he also painted. It was obviously done quickly as a demonstration or study of some kind. But it expresses his innate talent; the nude figure is beautifully classically modeled.
KL: What is the theme of the show? What should we be looking at?
KN: We are trying to illustrate how Thompson’s academic background and time in Paris allowed him to find his own personal, modernist vision.
MN: He was also really good at adapting his style to his particular audience. A viewer should really be looking for his ability to create art in so many different styles, all rooted in his classical training.
SM: The theme is really biographical. …A viewer should be aware that Thompson’s career is similar to many artists of his generation; he had trained diligently in traditional academic methods, but he was drawn to the expressiveness and freedom of the modernist movements. The viewer will hopefully develop an interest in someone who literally worked in our backyard.
Have your own questions for the curators? Leave us a comment and will answer ’em right here on the blog. John Edward Thompson: Colorado Modernist opens tomorrow, Thursday, November 12th at 5:oo p.m. The gallery will remain open until 8:00 p.m for the reception. Make those iPhone alerts and dust off your party shoes.
See you on the flip side.