Makers and Shakers
Makers and Shakers
"We believe very strongly that these works belong in a fine arts museum where they can be seen, integrated with other works of fine art and sculpture," Melvin and Leatrice Eagle say of their recent gift of 160 masterworks of modern and contemporary craft to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. With strength in West Coast ceramics (think names like Arneson, Frey, Mason, Voulkos), but also encompassing fiber art, furniture, jewelry, metal-work and glass, it's a collection "notable for its high level of quality, progressive aesthetic and focus on the leading practition-ers in the field," says museum director Peter Marzio.
The Potomac, MD, couple began collecting as newlyweds in 1960, when they bought a piece by the Ohio ceramist Jane Parshall at the Cleveland Museum of Art's May Show. Later, looking for something to do outside of homemaking and motherhood, Leatrice Eagle took up ceramics herself. She got deeply involved in the field, met and befriended some of America's finest potters (Robert Turner, Toshiko Takaezu, Don Reitz), organized clay art seminars and launched a successful ceramic supply business. She and her husband began to seriously collect and advocate for craft, which led to her 2003-06 tenure as chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Craft Council. Today she's a busy art appraiser, while he's a consultant to the federal government on health-related communications.
Under Marzio and decorative arts curator Cindi Strauss, the Houston museum is committed to cultivating world-class holdings of studio craft (and has scored two other major coups, the avant-garde jewelry collection of Helen Williams Drutt and the ceramics collection of Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio).
For the Eagles, it's a case of right place, right time. "We've had the pleasure of living with the collection for years. It's time for the artists to be appreciated by the large audience of museum-goers."
Carpenter on Carpenter
Toward the end of his nearly five-decade career, the iconic (and aptly named) furniture maker Art Carpenter set out to articulate in a memoir his experience of working in wood. He was eloquent, but writing didn't come easily. Still, he persevered.
"He spent years fiddling around with it," recalls his son, Arthur Espenet Carpenter III, known as Tripp. "He had one of the first Macs, with floppies, did one-fingered typing. In the end, he was fed up."
Four years after Carpenter's death at age 86, Tripp has published his father's writings in a deeply inspirational book, Arthur Espenet Carpenter: Education of a Woodsmith (zhibit.org/espenetfurniture, $55). "Basically it's his philosophy and evolution of becoming a woodworker.
"Dad lived very close to nature. He believed in bringing nature into your environment," says Tripp, who grew up in the spectacular round house once featured in Life magazine that Carpenter built in the rustic coastal town of Bolinas, CA. At 55, Tripp now crafts some of his father's designs, plus his own lathe-turned vessels, in the same woodshop where he played as a child.
The book includes a foreword by scholar and American Craft essayist Glenn Adamson, who writes of Art Carpenter, "I held him in greater respect than any craftsman I've ever met."
What does Tripp think was his father's essential message? "Keep going, no matter what. If you have the enthusiasm and passion, keep going."
Columbus gets a Sandoval
The Columbus Museum of Art, renowned for its vast trove of 19th-century American coverlets, has made a boldly contemporary addition to its textile collection: Pattern Fusion No. 6, a multi-colored quilt of auto-industry Mylar and library microfilm made in 2005 by Arturo Alonzo Sandoval.
Turning everyday stuff into art may be fashionable now, but Sandoval, a professor at the University of Kentucky, has been exploring the concept for more than 30 years. His early quilts were minimalist, with a limited palette that emphasized pattern and materiality. Then his mentor, famed textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, suggested he take the idea further by using mundane, unexpected materials, such as Lurex and laundry tags. This he did in a critically acclaimed late '70s series, Cityscapes, one of which ended up in New York's Museum of Modern Art. His recent works, such as the Ohio museum's piece, continue that direction in a new range of color.
Wintering in Florida? Check out The Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg, a 10,000-square-foot building designed by architect Alberto Alfonso to showcase the art of superstar glass maestro Dale Chihuly . . . The New York International Gift Fair is offering a new "Maker-to-Market" scholarship for emerging artisans in memory of craft marketing expert Carol Sedestrom Ross, who died last June . . . The influential jeweler and teacher J. Fred Woell, whose work is known for sharp political and social commentary, is the newest inductee into the National Metalsmiths Hall of Fame, maintained by the Florida Society of Goldsmiths . . . As a tribute to its director emeritus, the Bellevue (WA) Art Museum announced the new annual Michael W. Monroe Emerging Artist Award-$10,000 and a chance for a solo show at the museum-to be given to an up-and-comer in craft.