Here’s another way to draw large crowds to a museum: Take a popular painting, like Andrew Wyeth‘s “Christina’s World,” and create an exhibit around it — even if you can’t get the actual painting! (In fact, the painting’s traveling days are over, given its fragile condition at MOMA.)
Of course you can only get away with this if you are the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. The Farnsworth actually owns the Olson House in nearby Cushing, Maine — that’s the house where Christina lived, with her brother, Alvaro. The house was named a National Historic Landmark on July 1 of this year.
This exhibition features approximately 50 watercolors and drawings depicting Alvaro and Christina Olson. The works include interior and exterior views of the house and the surrounding land, as well as 12 preparatory drawings and drafts of the famed work. All the works, with the exception of a select group from the Farnsworth, are from the collection of the Marunuma Art Park in Asaka, Japan, and are rarely seen in the United States.
Christina suffered a crippling childhood disease but was too proud to use crutches or a wheelchair, instead using her arms to drag herself around. Wyeth was so moved when he first saw her moving around this way outside her home.
While you’re at the Farnsworth,
Four in Maine: Drawings is an exceptional exhibit worth seeing. With drawings by Mary Barnes, Emily Brown, John Moore, and T. Allen Lawson, the show demonstrates the wide variety of approaches to drawing present not just in Maine, but in contemporary art in America. Barnes employs a variety of materials, including ink, Mylar and sometimes collage elements in her mixed media drawings to create “different sounds in a composition,” which may even include marks upon both sides of the work. Brown, who lives in Philadelphia and summers in South Montville, Maine, draws and paints in and about the inland landscape she loves. She has recently combined some of her drawings and prints with small collected objects in a series of collages.
Moore, formerly a professor of art at the University of Pennsylvania and a resident of Belfast, Maine, has developed a body of large-scale charcoal drawings of old factories and other evidence of urban decay. More traditional in subject matter and materials, they are nonetheless evocative works that depend for their impact on manipulation of texture, light and mood, enhanced by their large size.
Lawson, a Wyoming native who lives in Rockport, is primarily a landscape painter and draftsman whose carefully observed and elegantly rendered compositions refer to the natural world around him. Nonetheless, the spare use of line and shading, in combination with a meticulous technique, charge these otherwise realistic works with an abstract power.