Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Busman's Holiday

Louise Nevelson
My docent duties at the South Bend Museum of Art were cancelled so I was left with a morning open for adventure.  I decided to visit the Midwest Museum of Art in Elkhart, Indiana, a place that has been on my local "bucket list" for a while. 

Grant Wood, 'Sheaves of Corn
Grant Wood
It was a pleasant 30 minute ride on mostly country roads to 429 North Main Street, a converted bank building in downtown Elkhart. I knew it was a pretty informal place when  the woman who greeted me couldn't seem to open the cash register so she told me to pay my $5 later.  I looked briefly at a Lincoln exhibit and then went on to the  galleries named for Richard and Jane Burns.

A work by Ed Paschke caught my eye because we have his strange portrait of a tattoed woman at the South Bend Museum of Art.  He is a Chicago artist--not surprising to find his work in Elkhart.  What was more surprising was to see works by Nevelson, Albers, Calder, Warhol, Rauschenberg,  Red Groom, Robert Indiana, Elaine De Kooning, and Grant Wood also hanging in the same galleries.. 

Ed Paschke

The docent who welcomed me asked if I had any questions.    When I mentioned how amazing it was to have these well known artists represented in their small museum, she said that she had scorned visiting the museum when she moved from NYC and said what will they have in the middle of those corn fields?  Pictures of corn growing? Now, she volunteers almost daily and her enthusiasm was obvious.

There is a large room upstairs with many lithographs of works by Norman Rockwell.  Some are the famous Saturday Evening Post covers but others were illustrations for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. 

Elizabeth Gray Overbeck, Mary Frances Overbeck, 'Vase (with birds & blossoms design)
Overbeck Pottery
 I was not as interested in them as I was in the next alcove which featured Overbeck Pottery, works done by three sisters in the early to mid 20th century in Cambridge City, Indiana.  There were six sisters in all, one who was the housekeeper, one who was the business manager, and one who was an early teacher of the others but died in 1911, the year the studio was founded.  Only one of the six married and had children who apparently still hold the secret to the glazes used.  I enjoyed their pottery and "grotesques" or little exaggerated figures, but also the idea of these  self-sufficient and creative women working in a small town in Indiana whose works won prizes and are displayed and valued in many places.
Anthony Droege

Later, Brian Byrn, the curator and as he said, the only curator, answered a question I had about white space in a painting.  He said it was intentional and probably was a magazine cover with space left for the title and contents just like the Norman Rockwell lithographs  He was eager to tell me about the Still Life exhibit--100 years of still lifes--both representative and abstract--that is just opening.  I was happy to see a Anthony Droege painting--again one of the artists at the SBMA. 

I browsed in the gift shop and decided to buy two tiny vases as a souvenir.  Byrn introduced me to the woman who wrapped my vases carefully.  Her name?  Jane Burns, the name on the gallery.  I was touched and said that while touring the museum, I was thinking about those who gave the money to buy this art and what a fine thing that was.  And here she was, wrapping my small purchase--and I could thank her personally.


  1. I love this, and your other reflections. Keep writing, Mary. And visiting museums. :-)

  2. Great post Mary. Plan to share with an artist friend who lives in SB.