Art Education — Part II


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.

* * * * * * * *

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


5 Responses to “Art Education — Part II”

  1. Nancy Says:

    ok…this is really my own post, rather than a comment. Hope you don’t mind me horning in on your blog, Louise.

    I had to comment, when I saw that your mom’s favorite painting was Diego Rivera’s “Flower Vendor”. I only discovered his work after our kids came home from Guatemala. So though your mom’s reasons were not the subject, mine was the subject/culture that was their first, as well as his use of color and strong design. I love the colors and bright flowers and of course the people .of Guatemala

    I also have ties to Christian Petersen’s works. My mom knew Christian and Charlotte Petersen. They lived in Gilbert for some time, where we kids attended school. I only remember meeting Charlotte and visiting her in her apartment in Ames. She also directed a short play I was in for Girl Scouts once.

    My mom and dad both have ties with the Petersens. Mom was instrumental in getting a seated Lincoln statue for Gilbert School. The statue was the plaster cast, painted to look like metal, if I recall. Mom recently told me that the Petersen Museum on campus purchased that plaster cast and had a statue cast of metal for the school in return. Mom also very recently donated some memorial money received after my brother’s death in 2005 to put lighting on the statue in the commons area. The statue was always in the trophy case, along with sports trophies. I think it was moved across the hall to an old phone nook next. Mom had a plaque made to tell of the donation in my brother’s name. I’m anxious to see the final results.

    My dad, a plumber all of his life, actually helped with Christian’s last piece, “Dedication to the Future”, the large statue in Marshalltown at the Fisher Community Center. Mom said she was talking to the Petersen’s about aquiring the seated Lincoln statue, when Christian said he didn’t know how he would be able to finish the project. He was quite ill with cancer by then. Mom wondered aloud if my dad couldn’t help, as he was a welder. So that’s how my dad came to weld the armature for the last piece Christian Petersen created, just before his death. Dad says he would weld some pipes, Christian would hold up his “plumb bob”, as plumbers call it, and he might have to bend the pipe more or less, until it was to Christian’s liking. I’ve always been proud of the fact that my dad helped create a piece of artwork for Christian Petersen.

    Aso, for a time, because Charlotte Petersen was asked to remove her husband’s things from the Vet Quad on the ISU campus, where his studio was, we stored about four of his plaster cast works in our unfinished basement. It’s a wonder to me we didn’t throw a ball and knock one of them over! Mom also says she had the chance to purchase the original plaster cast model of Christian’s “Wedding Ring” sculpture for $25. Charlotte was selling some of his pieces. Mom knew my dad wouldn’t be happy for her to spend $25, so she didn’t buy it. Wow…wouldn’t that be nice to have that now? She said it was maybe the size of a large round platter.

    So, sorry for my own blog post, but I wanted to share!

  2. Clara Hoover Says:

    Nancy: Your connections to Christian Petersen are so interesting. I’ll have to relate mine. I was in summer school at Iowa State in 1964. Mother had learned that Charlotte Petersen was going to sell many of CP’s pieces. Mother sent me with $100 to purchase something at the sale, which was in one of the exhibit hall buildings at that time along Bessey Drive–behind Marston. I drove Grandma’s (DeElda Gunderson) Mercury to the hall. I selected one piece, August Bang (a Danish journalist friend of CP”s who spent some time in the U.S.). I paid the $100, wrapped August Bang up in an old blanket to take to Rolfe. I also purchased some replicas (Boy with Dog, Gentle Doctor) to pick up later.

    When the replicas were ready, I drove to Charlotte Petersen’s home in/near Gilbert, talked with her and picked up the replicas. Hal remembers when my father first saw August Bang (at that time painted bronze) at Gunderland. My father asked, “Who’s the doorstop?” Mother eventually had August Bang painted white. Mother gave August Bang to me for Christmas 1997. Sometime 1968-1972 when I worked at the Iowa State University library, a good friend and library co-worker lived in an apartment building across the street from Clyde Williams Field. Charlotte Petersen lived in the same building, so I had another opportunity to meet her.

  3. Clara Hoover Says:

    Nancy: On Saturday morning I walked to, around, and back from campus for two hours. I took my little digital camera and took all kinds of pictures, including many of Christian Petersen pieces. The CP Museum is in the basement of Morrill Hall, but it wasn’t open. On the west side of Morrill Hall, in between that building and what we called The Hub, is a very small courtyard will several replicas, including Lincoln and the library’s boy and girl reading. Since I don’t have your e-mail address, I’ll e-mail the Lincoln photo to Louise and ask her to forward it to you. Clara

  4. Nancy Says:

    Thanks, I’d love the photos via Louise.Clara! Fun to read of your connections with Charlotte and Christian Peteresen’s work. “Who’s the doorstop?” is a great line from your dad! It’s great you have him now. I’ll have to look him up. Mom has a couple of books mom about “CP” works. I’ll have to look up your “doorstop.”

    My mom has been to Morrell Hall to the Petersen Museum. I have yet to. Next trip, I’ll take her again, and she can tell me more of their connections.

    That little apartment near campus is where I visited Charlotte with my mom. I remember lots of books and also some small sculptures around. I always loved the little girl with braids, The Gentle Doctor and the rest of the reliefs at the Vet Quad. Our daughter Marcie lived in Elm, so I got to see the life-size students leaning on the brick wall near her dorm often. Classic. A modern sculpture of students now would have them sitting side by side, texting!


  5. Marti Carlson Says:

    Clara, thanks so much for taking the time to write your postings for the blog. I’ve really enjoyed them and relate so much to what you ahve written. And Nancy, thanks for doing your postings too. It’s really added so much to my enjoyment of the subject.

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