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  • "But what about Van Halen?" A peek at how we assembled GUITARS

    by Johanna Blume, Assistant Curator of Western Art | May 30, 2013

    guitars on display
     Guitars! Roundups to Rockers runs through Aug. 4 at the Eiteljorg Museum.

    It’s hard to believe Guitars! has been open for nearly three months! Since the opening, it’s been great to watch visitors interact with the exhibit, and to hear their comments and feedback. One oft-asked question is why we don’t have certain guitars in the exhibit. There are many reasons why you’ll see some guitars when you visit the Eiteljorg, and just as many reasons why you won’t find others. It's a complicated process that involves hunting, hoping, rejection and triumphs!

    THE HUNT...

    As a curator, I hunt for objects to include in an exhibit. Our team began with a dream list of all the guitars we would include if we had our pick of every guitar ever made. There were literally hundreds of guitars on that list, spanning time periods, geography, and genre. Of course, all exhibits are produced within limits on the time, budget, and space. So while our dream list was quite expansive, we knew we couldn’t accommodate every one of those guitars. And there was never any guarantee we’d even be able to find, let alone secure many of those instruments as loans. Obtaining an object for an exhibit is a complicated, multi-step process that requires finding the objects through research, filling out detailed loan paperwork, and arranging for objects located around the country to be shipped here to Indianapolis. It took more than a year for our dedicated exhibit team to work through all of these steps.

    THE HOPE and REJECTION...
    We spent months running down leads in the hope of securing guitars representing greats like Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Billy Gibbons, Eddie Van Halen, and Joni Mitchell. In some cases, we were never able to make contact with an artist in order to make “the ask.” But even when we did connect, the answer wasn’t always “yes.” Many artists use all of their guitars on a regular basis. To be parted from them, even for six months, was not possible. In some cases, important guitars are held by other museums and are crucial components of their own exhibits and programs. And some guitars have simply disappeared over time.

    THE TRIUMPH!
    But for all of the dead ends, “No ways!” and missed connections, there were just as many triumphs. One of my most exciting moments came when I stumbled across the email address for the management company of the band The Decemberists. I’d been hoping to include one of their guitars in order to talk about guitar music today, and the thriving music scenes in the Pacific Northwest.

                                              G&L Electric Guitar; Loan courtesy of Chris Funk.

    It seemed like a long shot, but I wrote up a request detailing what the exhibit was about, and sent it. After all, the answer is always no until you ask. Within two hours I’d received a warm note from their manager expressing Chris Funk’s enthusiasm for the project and willingness to loan a guitar. While  it took time to finalize the details of the loan and shipping, we had the guitar confirmed by the end of the week. As you can see from the picture, I was excited to finally unpack Chris Funk's guitar! 

    That’s just one example of how we obtained the instruments you’ll find in Guitars! We were incredibly fortunate to work with private collectors and museums over the course of our search. There wouldn’t be an exhibit without their willingness to loan the amazing objects you’ll find in the gallery. While the process certainly had its ups and downs, I’ve never had as much fun working on an exhibit as I have had with Guitars! In the end, we hope that we can create engaging, exciting exhibits that appeal to our visitors and deepen their appreciation of the art, history, and cultures of the American West.

    Johanna Blume
    Assistant Curator of Western Art

    Go comment!




  • Images of the Indian: New installations in the Gund Gallery of Western Art

    by James Nottage, vice president and chief curatorial officer | May 07, 2013

    Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer, James Nottage, blogs about the new installations in the Gund Gallery of Western Art.
              
    Joseph Brant When the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, asked about borrowing the Eiteljorg’s painting of The Burial of Uncas by N. C. Wyeth, we were happy to oblige.  The Fenimore is an important museum and they were producing a major exhibit on art of the extended Wyeth family.  Happily, several members of our staff went to graduate school in Cooperstown and had deep familiarity with collections of the Fenimore Art Museum.  One of their great paintings is by the artist best known for his portraits of George Washington.  We asked, while our Wyeth was in New York, if the Fenimore would consider loaning us their Gilbert Stuart portrait of an Iroquois Indian. Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828) was one of the most famed portrait painters of his time.  In 1786 he visited England and was commissioned to paint a portrait of Joseph Brant (1742-1807). Brant was in England at the time.  He had led the Iroquois against Americans in the Revolutionary War, supporting the British. This portrait is considered to be one of the finest depictions of a Native American done in the 18th century.  It clearly reflects the British sense of the Indian as the “noble red man.” The statesman-like pose shows Brant wearing a feathered headdress and he is wrapped in a blanket with a silver decorated shirt.  Time is limited to view this important painting. The Eiteljorg will feature this work, from the collection of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, from May 2 through September of this year. 

    In placing the Joseph Brant portrait on exhibit, we have taken the opportunity to more deeply explore the manner in which Native Americans have been portrayed by artists through the 1800s.  Visitors will see familiar portraits from our permanent collection by Charles Bird King, E. A. Burbank, and others.  We have also placed three other works in this section of the Gund Gallery that have not been shown.  The first is a new acquisition purchased with funds provided by the George Gund Foundation.  It is titled The Surprise, and was painted by American artist Louis Maurer in 1858.  Maurer had not traveled west or experienced Indian life in person.  In the 1850s, along with English painter A. F. Tait, he visited a library in New York to study books with Indian paintings by Carl Bodmer and George Catlin, who had traveled to the West in the 1830s.  Tait and Maurer created many paintings that were made into popular prints published by the firm of Currier and Ives.  These often violent images depicted Plains warriors as savages in mortal combat with frontiersmen.  Even though they were fictional, the prints created a fearful stereotype in the minds of pioneers headed west.  The Surprise was published by Currier and Ives in 1858. 

    Theodore Baur (American, born in Germany, 1835-1894)

    Two bronzes donated by Harrison Eiteljorg and newly conserved by a special intern, are being shown for the first time in many years.  Theodore Baur (American, born in Germany, 1835-1894), created Chief Crazy Horse, in 1885.  This heroic bust represents an important Lakota warrior known for fighting against U.S. forces at important battles including the Little Big Horn in 1876. Crazy Horse was killed by a soldier while trying to escape from imprisonment in 1877. Theodore Bauer originally conceived of this bronze as a portrait of Sitting Bull. When completed, it became an iconic representation of a sympathetically portrayed, but defeated Crazy Horse. 

    Adolph A. Weinman (American, born Germany, 1870-1952)

    Finally, we are pleased to present the Adolph A. Weinman (American, born Germany, 1870-1952), bronze of Chief Blackbird, cast in 1907.  Weinman’s depictions of the Indian are sympathetic and romanticized.  This bust portrait gives us the stereotype of the warrior-chief wearing an eagle feather headdress.  In the summer of 1902, the artist went to Coney Island and later to Madison Square Garden in New York to create images of Sioux members of Colonel Cummins’ Wild West Indian Congress.  Among them, Chief Blackbird and his wife were favorite subjects. The decorative bust of Blackbird is expressive of the artist’s observation that the subject was “a stoic, if ever there was one.”

    James Nottage
    Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer 

    Go comment!




  • Learn the history of the American guitar in a special presentation

    by User Not Found | Apr 26, 2013

    Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 5! That’s when C.F. Martin & Co. historian/guitar expert, Dick Boak, will take participants through an interactive journey of the history of the American guitar. Dick’s presentation will showcase the 180-year-old Martin company, as well as the evolution of its acoustic guitars.

                                                  (Left) 1834 Martin Stauffer, (Right) 1945 Martin D 45

    The presentation will be supplemented with demonstrative guitar "vignettes" of appropriate period pieces on an assortment of evolutionary Martin designs by acoustic guitarist Steve Reno of Reno's Music in Fishers, IN.

    Dick has been inextricably intertwined with C.F. Martin, in Nazareth, PA, for more than 35 years. He established and managed Martin’s Artist Relations and Limited Edition guitar program which produced signature models for more than 100 legendary artists, including Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, John Mayer and Sting. He is an accomplished guitarmaker, woodworker, musician, illustrator and writer. Following the discussion, Dick will be available to sign copies of three books, Martin Guitar Masterpieces, Martin Guitars: A History and Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference.

    Martin acoustic guitars continue to be prized for their tone, consistency, quality and attention to handcrafted detail. Professional and amateur musicians in every category of music hold Martin guitars in high esteem.

    The list of Martin players, past and present, reads like a "Who’s Who" of the musical world and includes legends such as Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Hank Williams, Sr., Jimmy Buffett, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Sting, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and countless others. In addition to guitarmaking, Martin is also one of the world’s largest manufacturers of musical strings.

    C.F. Martin & Co. was founded by Christian Frederick Martin Sr. in 1833. It remains the oldest surviving maker of guitars in the world.

    So, whether you’re a self-proclaimed guitar geek, novice string strummer, or just a fan of music history, come join us! Sunday May 5 is sure to be a very special afternoon with a man whose heart and hands have had a mighty influence on some of American’s favorite riffmeisters.

    While you're here, check out Guitars! Roundups to Rockers. More than 100 guitars—owned by greats including Roy Rogers, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Buddy Holly and others— are on display.

    Photos for this post are courtesy of C. F. Martin Archives.


    DeShong Perry-Smitherman, Eiteljorg Public Relations Manager
    Contact me at dperry@eiteljorg.com for interviews with Dick Boak or Steve Reno. Follow me on Twitter @DeShongPerry.

    Go comment!




  • Why there are 62 body bags inside the Eiteljorg

    by User Not Found | Apr 25, 2013

    MANITOBA
                                    Bonnie Devine (Ojibwa),Manitoba, 2010, 62 Pandemic Body Bags

    Bonnie Devine’s work, Manitoba, is a powerful piece that is not to be missed. A prominent Canadian First Nation woman and 2011 Eiteljorg Fellow, Devine is a multi-talented sculpture and installation artist, as well as a curator and writer. Devine’s work often deals with issues of her culture, the environment and the Canadian (mis)treatment of First Nations people. Her work, Manitoba, is created with the use of 62 body bags, sent to a reservation in response to request for help during a pandemic.

    Robert Houle (Saulteaux), another prominent First Nation artist and 2003 Eiteljorg Fellow states this about Devine’s installation:

    "Manitoba is a story of surviving influenza and how pandemic body bags were callously sent to the Cree community of St. Theresa Point First Nation in northern Manitoba in 2009. The government of Canada delivered an ominous message by sending dozens of body bags in shipments of medical supplies for the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Once again, in the spirit of solidarity, Devine confronts any obstacle to human dignity with the compassionate rigor of a warrior. As a mother would take pains to comfort a child, Devine takes trauma to heal societal inequities."

    As the label in the Eiteljorg gallery reads: “This act is reminiscent of Native peoples being given blankets that were full of smallpox. Governments are clever, but rarely compassionate, especially to the first peoples (Jennifer Complo-McNutt, Eiteljorg Curator of Contemporary Art).”

    Visitors are invited to interact with the piece in a very intimate way. They can walk amongst the bags and see the individual names of reserves in Manitoba. Every person’s reaction is different. Adults often stand back in reverence or horror, confronted by the meanings of the body bags. Children are often seen running in and out of the maze-like installation or talking with adults to try and better understand the work. While every visitor’s reaction to Manitoba is different, it is definitely an installation you do not want to miss experiencing in person.

    Manitoba is one of several works installed in our contemporary galleries by Canadian First Nations artists. On display in the Harvey gallery is Home and Garden, 2009, Edward Poitras’ (Gordon First Nation) large-scale installation. In the Hurt gallery, visitors can see Faye HeavyShield’s (Kainai-Blood) quiet but powerful piece, hours.

    Have you visited Manitoba? What was your experience? Let us know in the comment space below.

    Ashley Holland

    Ashley Holland
    Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art

     

    2 Comments




  • How We Made Noise with Guitars!

    by User Not Found | Apr 23, 2013
     

    Several pictures of Eiteljorg staff members talking to the media 

    On a chilly Tuesday afternoon in December 2012, I sat in the hot seat at the Eiteljorg. It was my second interview for a PR Manager job - and I was sitting at a boardroom table with curators, vice presidents and other decision makers. They all wanted to know whether I had what it took to get the word out about the upcoming Guitars! exhibit.

    Sitting there in my pinstripes, with butterflies in my belly, my goal was to make believers of this crew of quizmasters. As a longtime television news producer, I knew how to sell a vision. I knew this museum was about to install something very special - something that deserved placement on every local TV news and radio station and in every major print publication in this market. I also knew that upcoming exhibits and events like Indian Market & Festival and the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship ought to be on this city’s radar.

     

    I made promises and shared some of my personal strategies for reeling in media. Pretty soon I had a couple of them smiling. Others were bobbing their heads to the beat of my ideas. And the one inquisitor who threw me for several loops finally started easing off that deadly serious side-eye smirk! After my interview with CEO John Vanausdall, I learned I had landed this dream job. But now it was time to deliver --- and fast!

     

    I started February 1. Guitars! opened March 9. That gave me a month to get coverage commitments. But before I could do that, I needed to talk to our curators, programming team and collections director about schedules, photography rules and vault tour authorizations.

     

    Thanks to our curators, collections and public programming teams, the stories behind our treasured guitars were able to come to life in print, broadcast and social media. And my media Wall of Fame is growing! 


    TheIndianapolis Star did a fascinating tour of our vault with our curators. NUVO previewed, then reviewed the show. The Indianapolis Recorder ran a story I wrote about jazz man Charlie Christian’s fabled guitar and the late player’s legacy. And Lou Harry, from the Indianapolis Business Journal, wrote a kick-booty piece called “Eiteljorg shows how the West was strummed.”  Then, there were the endless radio interviews. James and Johanna talked Guitars! on Bob and Tom, WFYI (twice), WIBC, WICR (twice) "Indiana This Week" and HANK-FM. And, we welcomed all the TV stations in this market: WTHR came opening day, WISH did four segments with Dick Wolfsie, WRTV ran previews in three newscasts and FOX-59 produced morning segments with feature reporter Sherman Burdette, and WFYI showcased Guitars in a 30-minute show called "Art of the Matter."  Pretty soon, our museum, known for its quiet, calming personality, was making a lot of noise!

     
    Now, nearly two months after the grand opening, Guitars! is still a hit. We’re packed on programming days and seeing a 30 percent hike in visitors over last year, when we hosted the popular Steel Ponies motorcycle exhibit. People leave our home feeling excited, inspired and culturally rich.

     

    I’m overjoyed about being able to share in part of the success of Guitars! So glad I was able to get a smile out of “side-eye” that chilly December day.  

    DeShong Perry-Smitherman
    Eiteljorg Public Relations Manager
    (I'm pictured on the left. That's my equally fierce coworker, Registrar Christa Barleben on my right)
    twitter.com/DeShongPerry

    2 Comments
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