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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!




  • Curatorial beats with a Western connection

    by Johanna Blume | Apr 18, 2013

    picture of guitars in Eiteljorg exhibit

    Throughout the run of Guitars!: Roundups to Rockers, we’ll highlight the top five guitar picks from an Eiteljorg employee and find out whether there’s a Western connection! This week’s playlist comes from Johanna Blume, Assistant Curator of Western Art, History and Culture.

    Assistant Curator Johanna Blume

    My music taste has often been described as “eclectic,” so you may not see a lot of rhyme or reason in my picks. Instead, think of them as five songs that I think feature particularly beautiful or interesting guitar playing:

    1. “Losing My Religion,” R.E.M., Out Of Time, 1991
    2. “Down By The Water,” The Decemberists, The King Is Dead, 2011
    3.  “Land,”Patti Smith, Horses, 1975
    4. “Modern Girl,” Sleater-Kinney, The Woods, 2005
    5. “Rainbow Connection,” Willie Nelson, Rainbow Connection, 2001

    You can hear the influence of the band R.E.M. on The Decemberists’ most recent album, The King Is Dead. In fact, Peter Buck, R.E.M.’s lead guitar player, contributed guitar to several tracks, including “Down By The Water.” When you listen to “Down By The Water” and “Losing My Religion” together, keep an ear out for the guitar and mandolin parts in particular.

    Patti Smith is one of the most influential acts in rock. Her 1975 album Horses was at the very forefront of the punk movement in the United States. In “Land”, Lenny Kaye created mesmerizing and surprising sounds with his guitar.

    On a more personal note, growing up in Western South Dakota, my friends and I didn’t have access to a lot of non-Top 40 music on the radio or through live performances. Thankfully, my best friend had friends in the Pacific Northwest who shared the amazing music happening in their neck of the woods with him, and he in turn shared it with me. Sleater-Kinney was one of my first introductions to punk and riot grrrl music.

     

    I can’t help but think of high school and my once turquoise and purple hair whenever I listen to them.

    On another personal note, one of my all time favorite songs is “Rainbow Connection,” first sung by none other than Kermit the Frog, and played on his little frog banjo. This version, performed by Willie Nelson, features some beautiful guitar playing, instead.

    So what do these songs have to do with the American West? In the case of The Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney, and Willie Nelson, the immediate connection is that they’ve all called the West home (Oregon, Washington, and Texas, respectively). But the connections run deeper than just where these artists have lived. Sleater-Kinney grew out of the vibrant riot grrrl and punk scenes that developed in the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s and 1990s. The Decemberists have been an integral part of the indie-folk-rock boom happening in the Pacific Northwest today. And, well, Willie Nelson is one of the defining acts in “outlaw country.” Even Patti Smith and R.E.M, while not from the West, are connected to our story. Both have influenced generations of Western musicians including The Decemberists, Nirvana, and a host of others.

    funk and brownstein guitars

    If you haven’t had a chance to see Guitars! Roundups to Rockers yet, or if you’re thinking of visiting again, be sure to keep your eye out for the guitars played by Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, and Chris Funk of The Decemberists.

    Johanna Blume
    Assistant Curator of Western Art, History and Culture

    Go comment!
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