Building a Collection

January 11, 2003 - March 7, 2004

from the Wildling Art Museum America’s Wilderness in Art

December 18, 2003

Los Olivos ~ The winter exhibition at the Wildling Art Museum (January 11 through March 7, 2004) featured for the first time the Museum’s growing permanent collection of American wilderness art. Dedicated to a former Board member, the late Bruce S. McCurdy, and entitled “Building A Collection,” the exhibition was intended to both showcase what the Museum acquired thus far in its then short three year existence and to inspire patrons to give additional treasures. According to the Director, Penny Knowles, at that point the collection includeded about two-dozen paintings, prints and photographs, “but now that we have some secure off-site storage space, the Museum will begin to focus more of its energy on expanding this into a world-class collection of the art of America’s wilderness.”

The Museum was lucky to have acquired fairly early three paintings by John Fery (1859-1934), an artist originally from Austria who had studied in Europe and was commissioned in 1910 by Louis Hill, President of the Great Northern Railroad, to paint scenes which would entice Americans to “See America First, to ride the railroad and stay in his lodges and hotels. Among the many hundreds of paintings Fery painted for the Great Northern is the Museum’s large canvas “Cascade on the Firehole”(1912).

Measuring 54” by 80”, this painting represents a famous gorge in Yellowstone National Park, distinguished by a needle-like rock in the center around which the torrent swirls. Sun Valley, Idaho, is the subject of another large oil painting in the Museum’s collection by the contemporary artist Sheila Gardner. Gardiner, who studied at the Art Students’ League, the New School for Social Research, Pratt Institute and New York University, painted this 6’ by 7’ canvas in 1999 when she was represented by the Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum.

Paintings and photographs by artists from the Santa Barbara region: Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932), Douglas Parshall ( 1899-1990), John Gorham (1910-1985), Macduff Everton and Ines Roberts that have been acquired in the last several years were also on view.

A unique body of works owned by the Museum on display included the small linoleum block prints executed by the wilderness artist, Everett Reuss (1914-1934). As Reuss disappeared mysteriously in Escalante Canyon, Utah, when he was only 20 years old, and the original blocks from which these prints were made have been destroyed, Reuss’ prints are very rare. The Museum will exhibit one original executed by Reuss along with restrikes produced from reconstituted blocks, so that visitors can study the difference.

The exhibition “Building a Collection” opened with a public reception on January 11, 3-5 p.m. and continued through March 7. Public hours were 11-5, Wednesday through Sunday. Children 12 and under were free, but a suggested donation of $2.00 per person is requested of adults who are not Museum members. The Museum was located at 2329 Jonata Street in Los Olivos. That is between Mattei’s Tavern and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

John Fery, Blue Lake (Glacier Park)

John Fery, Blue Lake (Glacier Park)