Written by Clara Gunderson Hoover
(To view Part I, also written by Clara, click here.)
Clara in 1966 with a painting she created. (Click on image to enlarge.)
I was in 4-H for nine years. The focus changed every year: food and nutrition, clothing, and home furnishings, and then the cycle repeated. The home furnishings year included a picture study. In 1952/53, I scored 70% in the picture study contest. In 1955/56 I gave a picture study on Pileated Woodpecker, by John James Audubon, participated in the picture study contest and wrote that my favorite picture was The Dancers (painting and artist unknown to me now). My 4-H Record Book contains a certificate for having participated in the 1959 Picture Memory Contest. Clippings in my Record Book report the Garfield Gleaners visiting art museums in Cherokee and Des Moines. In addition, I wrote that my favorite paintings were Blue Boy (Thomas Gainsborough) and Pinkie (Thomas Lawrence). I have no idea if they were part of that year’s picture study but recall seeing them at the Huntington Art Gallery in San Marino, California, when we went to the 1959 Rose Bowl. One year we studied Grant Wood’s Stone City. What a treat to see the original at the Joslyn Art Museum after my husband and I moved to Omaha. I believe Grandpa’s (John Gunderson) favorite, The Horse Fair, by Rosa Bonheur, was also one of the 4-H paintings.
For many years, the Rolfe Public Library had a collection of art reproductions people could check out to display in their homes. Mother took us to the Blanden Art Museum in Fort Dodge. She exhibited there and participated in some of the museum’s activities. Later Mother attended art exhibits in cities throughout the country, sometimes with Rolfe friends and other times with her life-long friend, Betty Dix Kirley. During a 1991 trip to Minneapolis, Mother, Betty Dix and I visited the Walker Art Gallery and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
On the left side of this 1953 Rolfe Arrow page is a write-up about one of the art exhibits in which Mother (Marion Gunderson) participated. (Click once or twice to magnify the image/text.)
Mother had taken classes from Richard Leet, then director of the MacNider Art Museum in Mason City. During summer 1967, my husband and I lived in Charles City, so I drove the 30 miles to Mason City to take painting lessons from Richard Leet. I learned the importance of white in paintings. In summer 1973, I was required to take two courses to obtain a Nebraska teaching certificate. I chose an art history course and absolutely loved it.
Pictured here is Mother's framed print of Flower Vendor by Diego Rivera. If you click on this image, you'll see Mother's handwriting explaining that this painting was her lasting favorite and why. Her note is not dated.
Throughout her life, Mother introduced us to art and artists, including Christian Petersen, the Iowa State sculptor who had been one of her instructors at Iowa State; Diego Rivera, whose The Flower Vendor was one of Mother’s all-time favorites; Dale Chihuly and his colorful blown glass sculptures (even at the Joslyn in Omaha); and R.C. Gorman, whose Su-Sho-Ba hung above the dining table in our farm house for as long as I can remember. How thrilled I was to suddenly see Picasso’s powerful Guernica at the top of the stairs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. What fun to see real Calder mobiles in downtown Chicago and at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. One of my most memorable art experiences with Mother was in spring 1988 when we met in Chicago to see the huge, retrospective exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago. O’Keeffe had long been one of Mother’s favorite artists. When I discovered the O’Keeffe exhibit was going to be in Chicago, I called Mother to ask if she’d like to meet me there. The paintings were truly amazing.
Indeed, although I had no art classes in grades K-12, we had many opportunities to learn about art (at least art appreciation, if not production) in a variety of ways and from several people. It’s been fun to recall those experiences.
Thanks to my siblings for sharing their recollections. Thank you, also, to Penny Tilden, Rolfe Public Library librarian, and Lola DeWall, Pocahontas Public Library librarian, for their research.
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(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)