Spring Break: Spend it at the Michener

Looking for something exciting for the whole family to do during spring break? Spend the day in Doylestown, and be sure to top it off with a visit to the Michener Art Museum!

 On view:

 Ali and Elvis: American Icons

Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer

Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon

Through May 15, 2011

Photographer Al Wertheimer chose to capture 21-year-old Elvis Presley on the threshold of super stardom not because he was a fan, but because he was a student of human nature. What is so remarkable about Wertheimer’s documentary portraits of Elvis is how fresh and contemporary the pictures still seem, utterly unlike any other portraits of this endlessly scrutinized figure. Forty large-format Wertheimer photographs chronicle Elvis’s dazzling emergence in a pivotal year, 1956. Created by master printer David Adamson, these 37-by-42-inch prints radiate a richness and depth that make Elvis’s road to fame palpable. With cinematic luminosity, the Wertheimer photographs document a remarkable time when Elvis could sit alone at a drugstore lunch counter. We are there, before Elvis became an icon and constant security created walls between him and his fans.

 Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon chronicles the life and times of a now-iconic figure who was simultaneously the most beloved and most hated man in boxing and who still engenders a strong emotional response from people almost 50 years after his initial rise to public prominence. The exhibit provides a glimpse of rarely seen moments of his personal life as well as more famous episodes from his career. These images not only illustrate the enormous changes that he went through—from a patriotic Olympic champion to a draft-resisting member of the Nation of Islam to a figure of racial reconciliation—but also show that Ali’s gregarious, funny and likable personality remained intact even as a super-charged political atmosphere swirled around him. This exhibition tells the story of an American hero who has come full circle in the hearts and minds of people throughout the world, and features more than 50 photographs by such distinguished photographers as Annie Leibovitz, Gordon Parks and Art Shay.  

Elvis at 21, Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer was developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and Govinda Gallery, and is sponsored by HISTORY™. Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon was organized by Art2Art Circulating Exhibitions. 

Add Sugar and Stir: Cookbooks and the Lives of Women

March 19—June 26, 2011 

To artist Kirby Fredendall, a cookbook is more than a collection of recipes—it’s also a form of literature written by and for women that says much about the everyday lives of women throughout the centuries. “I have a photograph of my hands resting in a work-smoothed, limestone bowl near a Pueblo Indian cliff dwelling,” says Fredendall. “I remember crouching there, wondering what her hands looked like—the hands that ground the corn in that bowl, day after day, to make tortillas for her family.” Fredendall’s cookbook collection includes an 1882 volume entitled Our Home Favorite, owned by Miss Edith Mills of Saratoga Springs, New York. “I have held its covers, thick with kitchen dirt, and wondered if Edith ever tried the lemon pie recipe.” An equally worn 1945 version of The Joy of Cooking owned by one Sarah Marshall also has a lemon pie recipe, and both books call for lemon, sugar, water, flour, eggs, and cornstarch.

 From ancient pueblos to post-war America, cookbooks and the tools of cooking tell the story of women’s lives, both the living and breathing women who owned them and the larger story of the roles women play in family and culture. The pictures and objects in this exhibition use text and illustrations from actual cookbooks as the source material for complex and imaginative works of art. Focusing especially on the World War II era, Fredendall assembles images and collages that explore her response to a particular cookbook or advertising icon, sometimes burying words and photographs within layers of wax and paint. “The viewer must engage in a search,” she says. “Visual ‘openings’ provide spaces through which one might travel, as if through time.” Fredendall thus invites us to imagine the dreams and difficulties of women from a previous era (was cooking always a joy?), while quietly urging us to re-imagine our own era in light of the lessons learned and insights gained from something we look at every day but rarely see—our cookbooks.

Facing Out, Facing In: Figurative Works from the Michener Art Museum Collection

Through May 1, 2011

Say the phrase “20th-century art,” and what comes to mind? Perhaps Jackson Pollock dripping paint on a blank canvas with unconscious fervor, or Marcel Duchamp’s famous “Nude Descending a Staircase,” which one misguided critic referred to as “an explosion in a shingle factory.” History often remembers the innovators and pioneers, and when the tale of 20th-century art is told, it usually focuses on the rebellion against “objective” art: art that “looks real.”

While the abstract painters tend to get the headlines, there were many 20th-century artists who quietly explored the human figure as the primary source of inspiration and expression in their work. Many of these figurative artists loved the ancient art of portraiture, which looks beneath the surface, to the core of our individuality, and tries to capture that elusive quality that makes each of us unique. Other artists were gifted storytellers who used their work to comment on both the comedy and tragedy of life, as well as celebrate the experiences that define us as a culture and a nation. Some figurative artists faced inward, toward the personal and the intimate; others faced outward, toward the grand dramas of war and politics as well as the revealing moments that often go unobserved, that sometimes say more about the experience of being alive than a battle or a parade.

Drawing on the Michener’s extensive holdings of figurative art, especially in paintings and photographs, this exhibit explores this temperamental and stylistic dichotomy in figurative art, and includes work by such well-known regional painters as Louis Bosa, Daniel Garber, and B. J. O. Nordfeldt; photographers Emmet Gowin, Edmund Eckstein, David Graham, Andrea Baldeck and Susan Bank; as well as works on paper by Werner Drewes, William A. Smith and Ben Solowey. Also featured are selections from the collection of John Horton, a recent bequest to the Michener that contains important Depression-era canvases by painters William S. Schwartz and Guy Pène duBois.

As a regional art museum whose principal focus is Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the Michener Art Museum collects both historic and contemporary American works, with a focus on the art of Bucks County. In its first two decades, the Museum amassed a permanent collection of more than  2,200 objects that reveal the rich artistic and cultural heritage of the Bucks County region. From Thomas Hicks’ and Jonathan Trego’s mid-19th-century portraits, to Edward W. Redfield’s 20th-century impressionist landscapes, to the family photographs of contemporary artist Emmet Gowin, the Museum’s permanent collection documents the changing relationships of artists to their physical and cultural environments as well as the technical and conceptual innovations that are part of the vibrant and colorful history of Bucks County’s visual arts.

The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, Pa. Museum hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm;
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday noon to 5 pm. Admission: Members and children under 6, free; adults $12.50; seniors $11.50; college student with valid ID $9.50; ages 6-18 $6; under 6 free. For more information, visit www.michenerartmuseum.org or call 215-340-9800.

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