Cummer’s New ‘Reflections’ Exhibit Features Local Artists Gazing at Both Museum Art and the St. John’s River
When Cultural Fusion, an alliance of arts and cultural organizations in Jacksonville, declared 2015 “the year of the river”, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens decided to offer a spectacular illustration of the importance of the river to Jacksonville.
The result is the exhibition “Reflections: Artful Perspectives on the St. Johns River,” which opens Tuesday. About a year ago, the Cummer approached eight local artists and asked each to view a work of art – or in a few cases, multiple works of art – from the Cummer’s permanent collection and respond with their own work.
The Cummer assigned each artist the work they responded to. But there were “no instructions, no rules,” said Holly Keris, Cummer’s chief curator.
¦ Emily Arthur and John James Audubon: Audubon (1785-1851) was an American naturalist and painter best known for his “The Birds of America”. But he was interested in all species, as an 1841 pencil, ink, and watercolor on paper study of Florida rats demonstrates.
Arthur, now a professor of art at the University of Wisconsin after 14 years at the University of North Florida, responded with “Blackwater with Moth (for Audubon) No. 1” and “Blackwater with Bird (for Audubon) No. . 2”, somewhat abstract serigraphs with etching and lithography.
“My artistic practice is guided by a concern for the environment, displacement, exile and returning home after dislocation and separation,” she wrote on her website, emilyarthur.squarespace.com .
¦ Sarah CrooksFlaire and Frederick Carl Frieseke: Frieseke (1874-1939) was an American Impressionist who spent four years as a child in Florida. These years are reflected in his 1921 watercolor on paper, “The Saint Johns River”.
Flair responded with the ethereal “Meniscus”, created with acrylic, prismacolor, paper, water-based ink on American Masters Printmaking Paper, silk, polyester, wool, fake leather, feather, cotton, wood and a ballpoint pen.
¦ jim draper and Winslow Homer: Homer (1836-1910) was an American landscape painter best known for his seascapes such as his 1890 watercolor “The White Rowboat, St. Johns River”.
Draper, a Jacksonville painter known for his own landscapes, responded with the oil-on-canvas “Reflections from the White Rowboat,” which imagines what the occupants of Winslow’s White Rowboat may see.
¦ Doug Eng and Joseph Jeffers Dodge: Dodge (1917-97) made Jacksonville his home after becoming manager of the Cummer shortly after it opened in 1961. His 1994 painting “Osprey Nest, Silver Smith Creek” was a view of his home on Silver Smith Creek, a tributary of the Arlington River.
Eng, a photographer from Jacksonville, responded with several photos, including “Power Seat,” an archival pigment print from 2012, which looks down the St. Johns River toward JEA’s coal-fired power plants.
¦ Dave Engdahl and Herman Herzog: Born in Germany, Herzog (1832-1932) was above all a landscape painter who settled in the United States in the 1860s and regularly visited Florida. “Figure in a River Landscape”, a 1910 oil on canvas, appears to have painted on a North Florida river.
Engdahl has focused primarily on sculpture since his retirement from Haskell. But he used his architectural and engineering background to create what may well be a rendering for a waterfront development project with the fisherman of Herzog’s painting still there.
¦ Hiromi Moneyhun and Eugene Sauvage: Savage (1883-1978) was a realist painter and muralist. While vacationing in South Florida in 1935, Savage became fascinated with the Seminoles who lived in the Everglades, struggling to maintain their pastoral existence in the face of encroaching “civilization”. Over the next two decades he would regularly create paintings such as his 1935 oil on canvas on Masonite board “Study for the Orchid Hunter”.
Moneyhun, a native of Japan who moved to Jacksonville in 2004, creates elaborate paper-cut pieces, four of which have been included in the prestigious “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now,” an exhibit that opened last fall. at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. His “Savage Noble” is an enormous, intricate paper-cut image of a Seminole woman sprouting from the base of a cypress tree.
¦ Allison Watson and Martin JohnsonHead: Heade (1819-1904) was a landscape painter who spent the last two decades of his life in Saint-Augustin, He painted his oil on canvas “La rivière Saint-Jean” in the 1890s, a time when he was beginning to worry about how “progress” was encroaching on the natural world.
Watson, like Heade, is a landscape artist whose goal is “to depict endangered and vanishing wild places”. Heade’s “The St. Johns River” inspired his acrylic on canvas “St. Johns River”.
¦ Barry Wilson and Theodore de Bry: De Bry was a 16th century Belgian engraver who in 1591 published a book about Fort Caroline, the French colony founded on the banks of the Saint John River in 1564, which was wiped out by the Spanish in 1565. The book featured 43 illustrations based on paintings by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, one of the few survivors of Fort Caroline. The Cummer has four illustrated pages from the book that include images and text.
Wilson, an engraver, responded with 16 panels, half of them covered with text, half with abstract images.
¦ Brian Frus, professor of glass at the University of Jacksonville, was not assigned a piece from the Cummer collection. Instead, he created a glass sculpture of the St. Johns River. Poet Tiffany Melanson wrote a poem for “Reflections” and recorded it. It will play on a video screen.
A video screen will also play “A Vision Awakening – A Celebration of the Cummer Gardens and the St. Johns River”, a musical collaboration by Charlotte Mabrey, Philip Pan, Kevin Bodge, Barbara Colaciello, Gabriel Valla, Lis Williamson, Lon Williamson and Lee Hunter. CDs of “A Vision Awakening,” which is based in part on Ninah Cummer’s journal entries of her efforts to create the Cummer Gardens, will be on sale in the museum’s gift shop.
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413