by Myrna Zanetell
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‘Gardens’ exhibit highlights Museum’s permanent works
For most, the term “garden” evokes a diverse selection of imagery ranging from exquisite creations such as those which surround European castles down to metropolitan sites which encourage leisurely recreation, or more commonly verdant flower beds or row upon row of edible vegetables. This same diversity can also be found in the world of art. Here compositions may suggest poetic atmosphere and mystery, symbolize concepts ranging from virginal chasteness to sensual abandonment, or simply serve as vehicles that explore the use of color and expansive brushwork.
Drawing upon the expansive options suggested by this garden theme, Patrick Shaw Cable, senior curator at the El Paso Museum of Art, has assembled an exciting exhibition entitled “Gardens of Earthy and Unearthly Delights,” which opens in Woody and Gale Hunt Family gallery Sept. 8, and will hang through January. Curated exclusively from the EPMA’s permanent collection of European, American, Mexican and contemporary art, this imaginative exhibition brings together more than 50 works of art with a variety of overlapping themes to present a rich exploration of the term garden, and its fertile connections to art, life and culture.
Cable relates, “I was first introduced to this theme through a Canadian exhibition entitled ‘The Feast - Food and Art.’ It was all about the rituals which surround the preparation and serving of food, and the symbolism of food in religion, for example ‘The Last Supper’ or the Eucharist. This thematic approach was enhanced by the fact that it included both historical and contemporary pieces.”
He explained that juxtaposing works from different time periods lets viewers see connections they would never have thought of before.
“Gardens have so many contexts in everyday life: leisure activities, symbolism, cultural and religious implications so I wanted to cover all these bases in a broad view of the term garden. For me, the challenge in curating this particular exhibition was developing the concept using what was available in the EPMA collection.
“The early 20th century gardens will primarily be flowers, whether painted impressionistically or more realistically. Our collection just happens to contain a number of wonderful canvases by 20th Century Rhode Island-based artist Mabel May Woodward, which fits the theme perfectly.
“I also want to touch on garden as symbol in which I will use religious works. For gardens as a site of leisure and life I have chosen an 18th century painting showing some figures in a cultivated park, and a nice piece entitled ‘For Dinner’ by Mexican artist Carmen Limas Garza, who paints in a naive, folk art style. We also have some beautiful charcoal drawings by (El Paso artist) Suzi Davidoff . In addition, I will touch on artists viewing landscape as gardens; the way they romanticize it. An example of this is a piece by Gustave Bauman of mountains in the background framed by hollyhock plants.
“One striking example of something really old next to something really new is an Early Italian Renaissance Madonna and Child (1467) from our Kress collection. The background of the image contains schematically rendered pomegranate groves. The virgin in the garden is symbolic of chasteness and fertility. This piece will be presented in proximity to one of our newest acquisitions, ‘Be Fruitful,’ which also focuses on themes of fertility and innocence. In order to create this work, video artist, Asya Reznikov, used a classic painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden as the backdrop for a video presentation in which she used her own baby to symbolize fruitfulness and new life.”
Complementing this show will be various educational and public programs such as, “Los Jardines Floral Celebration” Sept. 21, when local florists will create arrangements inspired by themes of the exhibition; and “Beer in the Gardens” Oct. 14, when El Paso’s Dead Beach Brewery will offer floral-infused beers.
The “Gardens” exhibit is just one example of how the museum gives the public an opportunity to enjoy the museum’s permanent collection, with contains more than 7,000 pieces ranging from paintings to works on paper, retablos, and sculptures, noted the museum’s new director, Dr. Victoria Ramirez.
“We have a very robust schedule for rotating works on display. For instance we will be opening an exciting new reinstallation of the Mithoff and Roderick Galleries which house our American and Mexican Collections. We are also looking at new plans for the Tom Lea Gallery and the Rogers Grand Lobby, both of which feature 20th and 21st century art.”
Ramirez emphasized that the EPMA collection in its entirety is stored on site. “We have climate-controlled areas for all the art including large sculptures, works on paper (including photography), retablos, and paintings. Each medium requires special storage to stabilize it and keep it in pristine condition. Rows of wire racks are used for hanging art, and works on paper are often stored flat in archival boxes.”
Cooler weather seems to be the incentive for the Fall Art Festival season to begin. With El Paso’s limited gallery scene, more and more artists are participating in a variety of diverse venues as a way to show and sell their art.
One of the longest running of these is the traditional Franciscan Festival of Arts held at the Franciscan Retreat Center in Mesilla Park each Labor Day Weekend. This year’s dates are Sept. 2-3.
A new addition to the calendar comes 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23: The Autumn Art Festival is a new venue for art shopping that will showcase the work of 18 of the El Paso Art Associations’s most dedicated artists. When the Sunland Art Gallery closed last April, Association members began looking for other ways to sell their work. Rachel Davis, a beaded cross artist, had always wanted to have a show at her home, 5737 Montoya in the Upper Valley. Supported by Candy Mayer and Nina Eaton, Davis turned that wish into a reality.
Artists in the show are: Rachel Davis, Beaded Crosses; Nina Eaton and Lisa Williams, Photography; Candy Mayer, Melinda Etzold, & Rachel Murphree, Paintings; Julia Cipriano, Rose Hines and Catherine Waterhouse, Jewelry; Romy Hawkins, Metal art; Audrey Alderete, Ceramic Yard Art; Cactus Mary, Soaps; Dave Wieters, Wood Turning; Terry Avalos, Glass Yard Art; Brenda Montoya, Wreaths; Lisa Craig, Glass Art; Lynda Carillo, Designer Organizers; and Juan Stockmeyer, Metalwork.
You’ll have to wait until November for two of the region’s biggest festivals that feature juried artists and artisans. Mark your calendar now for the 46th annual Renaissance ArtsFaire Nov. 4-5 in Young Park in Las Cruces; and for Las Artistas Art and Fine Crafts Show Nov. 18-19 at Epic Railyard Event Center, 2201 Mills Street in El Paso.
Myrna Zanetell is a freelance writer
specializing in the visual arts.
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