Jepson Center for the Arts, Savannah

This Moshe Safdie building, opened in 2006, is the Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, Georgia. While the emphasis here is on more contemporary art, which entirely complements the structure, the strongest part of the museum is in its rotating exhibits rather than permanent collection.

Here, William Christenberry’s ‘Painted Male’ and ‘Painted Female’

Keith Sonnier’s ‘JOB’

Cedric Smith’s ‘Freedom is a Road’

Anne Ferrer’s ‘Hot Pink’

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We spent hours in their ArtZeum space which is geared for children, and the boys played in their large workshop making many pieces of art.

This is the Walden, The Game — and it was written up this week at Hyperallergic

Walden, a Game takes a seemingly absurd premise — transforming Walden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau into a video game — and makes it a surprisingly thoughtful experience about finding balance in life. Players can devote all day to wandering the shore of the titular pond, listening for owl hoots or watching hummingbirds flit around flowers, but their Thoreau character will start to starve, and his firewood supplies will run dangerously low for the approaching winter. Yet spend too much time chopping wood and planting beans, and his inspiration will dwindle, the color seeping out of the digital landscape and the birdsong becoming quiet.

When they first sat down at the keyboard, I thought to myself “knowing Thoreau, this isn’t exactly going to be Mario Kart Rainbow Road” but they enjoyed it.

We were very fortunate to be there just before the end of the Nick Cave exhibit


Of the current and upcoming exhibits listed, I’d most like to come back to see Kahlil Gibran and the Feminine Divine which will be on exhibit through January 2, 2018.

Telfair Museums boasts the largest public collection of visual art by Kahlil Gibran in the United States, donated in 1950 by his lifelong supporter and mentor, Southern native Mary Haskell Minis. This exhibition concentrates on works that capture Gibran’s enduring belief in the oneness of all things, often characterized in his paintings and drawings as the feminine divine.

Rural Museum Neighbors: Jesse Owens Memorial Park, And Oakman Indian Mounds Education Center

A super-friendly staff is here to help interpret the exhibits at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park in the Oakville/Moulton area of north Alabama. Though the Owens family moved from the region to Ohio when Jesse was still a young boy, the community takes pride in his accomplishments — and what he was able to overcome when just a small child here.

Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Here, the Owens family donated this telegram from the Philadelphia Tribune Jesse received at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. “America justly proud of your outstanding victories we join with the sport lovers the world over who are acclaiming you the world’s greatest athlete.” 

Here, a replica of his Olympic uniform. He won four gold medals in those Olympic games, and was the first person to ever do so.

and a track time program from the ’36 Olympics

While many of the items on display are replicas, that doesn’t subtract from the experience
Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Adidas also donated items to make up an exhibit on the differences in track conditions and equipment to show that even in Jesse’s time, his 10.3 second 100 meter was less than .4 seconds slower than the more contemporary Carl Lewis…when track technology now plays much more in favor of the athlete, with aerodynamic uniforms and track surfaces and such.

Outside, there’s a long jump area at which visitors can see how far they can go compared to Jesse, and what was most powerful — a replica of the small home his family lived in
Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There were two bedrooms — one for the parents (and I imagine where newborns would have slept too)
Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

and another for the children. A button one may push along one wall activates a recording of one of Jesse’s brothers telling about life here. In this room, the children slept in both directions of the bed, which is why there are pillows at each end. Jesse was the seventh child — and it should be noted that at this time, he went by the name J.C. It wasn’t until the family moved up north that the teacher misunderstood and called him ‘Jesse’.

Jesse’s father was a sharecropper and his mother took in washing, but he was too sick to help much like his other siblings did, as he would fall sick and stay that way for long periods. When well enough, though, he enjoyed running and by high school, was able to turn it into a real sport, and found much success in those years.

Ohio State recruited him although they didn’t have a track scholarship to offer, and he took on all kinds of jobs to support himself and his wife Ruth through the college years. After attaining so much success in the Olympics, for decades Jesse traveled the world giving motivational speeches and served as corporate consultant. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Posthumously, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990.

President Carter said about him:
“Perhaps no athlete better symbolized the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry. His personal triumphs as a world-class athlete and record holder were the prelude to a career devoted to helping others. His work with young athletes, as an unofficial ambassador overseas, and a spokesman for freedom are a rich legacy to his fellow Americans.”

Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


Only five or so minutes away from the Jesse Owens museum is the Oakman Indian Mounds Education Center, which from the outside belies its striking interior, with its centerpiece being this statue of Sequoyah, with a plaque about his life and the alphabet he developed

…surrounded by case after case after case of arrowheads and other tools
Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

One thing that especially makes this museum different is that it is actually owned by the local school system.
Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Other displays included taxidermy and these hides, but inside there wasn’t as much as one would expect about the moundbuilders and what we know about the mounds they constructed just outside
Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Of the exhibits, though, there was one case with a civil war diorama. In fact, its label was a simple typewritten sheet by the author which begins, “Hello, this is Robert Hughes speaking! I made everything in this display by hand, it took three years…”

further, “…The reason for showing a Civil War Display in an Indian Museum is because Native Americans fought on both sides of the conflict…”
Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

and further along still “…Each figurine, each building, each tree, and everything you see before you were hand made. The tiny soldiers were crafted from one-eighth wooden dowels, solder wore and dental plaster. Each head was carved from an 8mm wooden bead. No two faces are just alike. I have 300 tiny soldiers and other figurines in this display…”
Diorama, Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Diorama, Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There’s a road around the property, and just behind the museum is this Copena burial mound. The historic marker here reads:
Copena Indians built this mound with baskets of dirt some 2000 years ago. The Copena name was derived from their use of copper and galena (lead ore) found in their burials along with gorgets and celts. The mounds were a burial site with the dead encased in a plaster of clay covered with layers of soil. The many burial mounds within a few miles are evidence of an extensive cultural center. The perennial springs and fertile lands encircled by West Flint Creek contributed to a large population. The Copena society flourished here for hundreds of years and they raised a variety of domesticated crops. some 17 miles north of here the Tennessee River provided an inexhaustible food supply of fresh water mussels. In the mid 1800’s settlers were buried on the mounds under false stone crypts. In 1924, Smithsonian archaeologists noted three other burial mounds in the areas that were being leveled by farmers.

Atop this mound are graves from the 1840s with box tomb monuments (I don’t go up on burial mounds, but you can see the monuments in this image)
Copena Burial Mound, Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Another historic marker for this mound:
Rising 27 feet high, this is the largest woodland mound in Alabama, with a base covering 1.8 acres and a flat of over one acre. Built by prehistoric Copena Indians, the mound is 2,000 years old and constructed from earth probably carried one basket at a time from the Oakville pond area, 300 yards to the east. The Copena, named for their use of copper and galena, were prolific mound builders, as shown by the remains of over 20 mounds in the surrounding area. They were primarily farmers and hunter~ gatherers who engaged in ritual burials, with the dead often encased in a putty mixture of clay, ash and crushed shells. They were great traders in conch shells, marble, greenstone, copper and galena, all of which were found as mortuary offerings during the 1924 Smithsonian excavation of the Alexander Mound four miles to the southwest. Although the Oakville mound has never been excavated, it was the center of the Copena society of the Moulton Valley and was used for ceremonials, religious, social and cultural purposes.
Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Raising Museum Lovers

Really looking forward to our next visit to the Dallas Museum of Art — the ‘México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde‘ exhibit opens March 12.

The boys are going to be even happier, because Dallas has their favorite area for kids to do their own thing — the Center for Creative Connections — and I’m so happy to see that our regular museum visits, beginning when they were babies, have (so far) completely worked out, because they think nothing of going and always look forward to it. And I love it, because their heads are getting filled with big ideas and they realize how different and wonderful the world is. Aaaaahhhhh.
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Last time, they asked us to go to the Dallas Museum two days in a row (and we did) — they spent *hours* making things

Meanwhile, Av reads with them and I get to see every single thing on display

Stephen Antonakos Neon

Fernando Campana Banquete Chair with Pandas
Fernando Campana Banquete Chair with Pandas, Dallas Museum of Art//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Miss Blanche chair by Shiro Kuramata

Also opening this spring: The Keir Collection of Islamic Art Gallery, beginning April 18. It’s the ‘largest public presentation in the history of one of the world’s most important private collections of Islamic Art.’ and for only three months beginning May 21, ‘Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion‘ will be on display. 

Go: Ragnar Kjartansson’s ‘The Visitors’

Though Hunt Slonem’s ‘Antebellum Pop!’ at the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge was my favorite exhibit of 2016, Ragnar Kjartansson’s ‘The Visitors’ at the Frist in Nashville was a close second — and it was so beautiful and haunting that it made me cry (not alone), so there’s that.

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Its last day at the Frist is Sunday, February 12.

Done in nine video projections over the course of about an hour, eight screens (the ninth on the veranda) show a musician in a room of an old, shabby-gorgeous New York home playing an instrument and singing with all the others — all in one incredible take. They can’t see each other until the end as they come together on the veranda and then walk down the valley.

Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Over and over, the refrain “once again, I fall into my feminine ways” is sung — it comes from a poem Ragnar’s ex-wife wrote.

Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

From criticisimism:
…Kjartansson made this piece to reflect, as he says, a period of his life coming to an end…

A choir is gathered on the veranda and as the piece crescendoes one resident sets off an ornamental cannon. It’s the 1812 Overture rewritten for some protracted marital strife…

As Sebastian Smee of the Boston Globe had it:
The work seems to me to be a generational masterpiece. When it screened at the Luhring Augustine Gallery in Manhattan last year, it was a tear-away success. Years from now, it may even be remembered as having helped trigger a change in the climatic conditions of contemporary art.

Aside from anything else, “The Visitors” is a triumph of tone. Alive to the preposterousness of its premise — a bunch of hipster musicians from Iceland squatting in a grand home on the Hudson (shades of the Rolling Stones recording “Exile on Main Street” in a mansion on the French Riviera) in order to perform a repetitive, rather unremarkable song — it somehow transforms latent irony into sincere and open-hearted expression.

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From Art in America:
After you’ve heard the “feminine” refrain about 40 times it seems almost liturgical, evoking a state where sorrow, resignation, acceptance and elation coexist. Near the end, the performers, still singing, vacate their separate spaces to move outside, joined by others from the porch. All of them—accompanied by two excited dogs—parade down the hill directly into the spectacular Hudson Valley landscape, and it’s heartbreakingly gorgeous: a sublime musical troupe in the capital of the American sublime.

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From the John Curtain Gallery in 2015:

Not to miss. If we bump into each other at the Frist between now and Sunday, we can have a good therapeutic cry together, then walk out joyously into the valley (or at least down Broadway). See you then.

The LBJ Library, Austin

We made a visit to the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, designed by Gordon Bunshaft
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Here, a display of pens (fountain and otherwise) he used to sign various bills
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

…there’s even an animatronic LBJ

Besides the imposing architecture, the interior is stunning — a 4-story view of the glassed-in archives

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The common area can feel quite vast, but there are more intimate spaces for evaluating other exhibits

Here, the missal he used to take the Oath of Office in 1963 — it was a gift to President Kennedy
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Oval Office replica, to 7/8 scale
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, University of Texas at Austin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

But the best, Lady Bird’s cha-cha mod office, with a tiny sign that says ‘Can Do’.


HBO’s 2016 film ‘All the Way’ on LBJ

Madame John’s Legacy, Newcomb Pottery Exhibit

The Madame John’s Legacy museum in New Orleans — in simplest terms — is an example of how homes were built in late 1700s New Orleans, as it is believed to have been built in 1788 and survived the 1794 New Orleans fire. The home is French West Indies Colonial Creole, and due to flooding concerns, the nicer living areas were designed for the second floor, where one enters even today:

This green color paint is true to the era in which the house was originally built, when such colors were limited — this is a mixture of white paint and earth pigment.

The home’s name was inspired by the George Washington Cable 1874 short story “The Poulette” which features a character who is bequeathed a home on this same Dumaine Street.

It was constructed brick-between-post

In 1820, the home was bought by Madame Marie Louis Patin Roman — her daughter had the plantation Le Petit Versailles which no longer exists (description), and her son had Oak Alley (all this from Plantations and Historic Homes of New Orleans). Another son became governor of the state.

In the mid-1920s, it was sold to Stella Hirsch Lemann who recognized its architectural importance, and she made the house something of an artists colony. Some of the artists paid Ms. Lemann’s generosity back by making their own likenesses of the home. She eventually gifted the home and it operates as a Louisiana State Museum.

A great Google virtual tour of the museum here.

An exhibit of Newcomb Pottery is on permanent exhibit
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Madame John's Legacy, New Orleans LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Madame John's Legacy, New Orleans LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Louisiana Old Capitol Museum, Baton Rouge — And Its Glass

Louisiana’s Old State Capitol Museum was a very short walk from the downtown Baton Rouge Hilton

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It was built when the capital was decided to be moved here from New Orleans, from 1847-49. The design, neo-Gothic castle, was both loved and hated. James H. Dakin, the architect, called it “castellated Gothic”.

From the Historic Register paperwork:
Like a cathedral, the Capitol has a cruciform plan. The east-west axis
is comparable to a nave and contains the House chamber on the west end
at the second floor and the Senate chamber in the apse, each with a giant
stained glass window behind the now vanished rostrum. The transepts
continue in use as office space. Each arm of the plan terminates in two
towers; those at the west are octagonal, the others square.

It suffered many destructive phases, including being used as a prison during the war. In the 1880s, the interior was redone, which is when the gorgeous interior rotunda was designed by architect William A. Freret.

It was used until the state government moved to the new capitol building in 1932.

One of the more unexpected aspects is the approximately 12-minute kitschy 4D film that explains its history.

There’s of course plenty about Huey P. Long,

One more intimate room plays ‘In Memoriam’, an original by Castro Carazo, composed for and played at Huey Long’s funeral. The room includes the pistol supposedly used to shoot Long, and this bullet mystery:
Old Capitol Museum, Baton Rouge LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

It’s no wonder that the space is often rented out for weddings and other big celebrations

Old Capitol Museum, Baton Rouge LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

What serve now as ballrooms were the spaces for the House and Senate
Old Capitol Museum, Baton Rouge LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Fall Pilgrimage Decatur, And The Jesse Owens Museum

The Alabama Historical Association had its fall pilgrimage last month in Decatur, and the first tour that many of us attended was that for Pond Spring, the General Joe Wheeler home in Hillsboro. Wheeler was commander of cavalry for the Confederate Army of Tennessee, served as a member of Congress, then returned to serve the US during the Spanish-American War. He was the only person known to hold the same position in the CSA and then later the US Army — in his sixties, he fought alongside Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba where he is quoted as saying, “Let’s go, boys! We’ve got the damn Yankees on the run again!” (which was included in Ken Burns’ excellent Roosevelts doc series) — and is one of only two former Confederate generals to be buried at Arlington.

Pond Spring is an 1870s Federal style that was recently restored. It sits on a 50-acre site that includes another circa-1830 Federal-style, some farm outbuildings, three cemeteries, a small Indian mound (which I’ll explore next time), gardens including a boxwood garden (they loooooved boxwoods — there’s an annual plant sale), and this ~1818 dogtrot log house, where the original settlers first lived:

As part of the pilgrimage, we also visited historic sites in Decatur including the Old State Bank,

downtown,

the circa 1829 Dancy-Polk House, which is a private home now

from its historic marker:
The oldest home in Decatur still standing, this Early Classical Revival mansion was built by Frank Dancy and was a private residence until 1872, when it became a boarding house and hotel. During the Civil War, the home belonged to Dancy’s daughter, Caroline Wood, and occupied the front center of Union fortifications during the October 1864 Battle for Decatur, and was used as Federal officer’ quarters. Tradition holds that a Confederate 6-pounder cannon ball, fired from the Confederate lines south of here, struck and dislodge one of the chestnut columns on the lower front porch. The column was subsequently repaired, and the patch can still be seen today. Local legend also maintains that the main staircase was damaged by Federal cavalrymen during its occupation. The house passed to Dancy’s granddaughter, Lavinia, in 1869, after she married Captain Thomas G. Polk, a nephew of late Confederate General Leonidas Polk and cousin of late U. S. President James Knox Polk. One of a handful of structures in Decatur to survive the Civil War, the Polk House, as it was later known, became a popular stopping point for train passengers. Joseph Wheeler, a Confederate General, later a U. S. Congressman and U. S. General, and a resident of Courtland west of Decatur, is known to have stayed at the Polk House. Noted outlaw Frank James allegedly stayed at the Polk House under an assumed name in 1883. James later said that he never committed any robberies in Decatur because “there was nothing worth carrying off.”

featuring a handrail damaged by a Federal soldier who apparently found out it was harder to destroy than he thought
Dancy-Polk House, Decatur AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

the circa 1836 Burleson-Hinds-McEntire House which served as a military command post – more in the home’s National Register paperwork

from its historic marker
This Greek Revival mansion belonged to Dr. Aaron Adair Burleson and his wife, Janet, during the Civil War. Part of an original 778-acre land grant, the brick home covered by Flemish bond, features 18-inch thick walls and contains one of the significant Federal period interiors in North Alabama. The iron fence work surrounding the property is original and Union soldiers used it for drying blankets as seen in the accompanying photograph. The original gates, however, are missing and are thought to have been taken by soldiers for use as fire grates. Before the war, Burleson served as the first President of the Tennessee and Central Alabama Railroad which became part of the Nashville & Decatur Railroad – a vital north-south transportation link. Burleson served as a physician with the rank of Major in the Confederate army. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston is thought to have stayed in the home while reorganizing his army here in March, 1862, although his headquarters were actually located in the office of the nearby McCartney Hotel. During the occupation of Decatur the Burleson family was well treated, and “got along with their guests with minimum friction,” according to relatives. Janet Burleson received passes to travel between the lines until she was caught smuggling quinine to injured Confederate soldiers, which she accomplished by putting the medicine in holes bored into her surrey and sealing them with beeswax. When Union Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered citizens to evacuate Decatur in early 1864, the Burleson family’s possessions were piled in the street and burned. Among those possessions were books from Dr. Burleson’s library. A volume of “Byron’s poetic works, “ stolen from the fire heap by a Federal soldier and then confiscated by Lieutenant L. N. Weeks of the Federal army, was returned to the family in 1900. The home was sold in 1869 to Jerome Hinds, a former Union soldier from Illinois. It was here that Hind’s niece, Grace Hinds, was born. She later married Lord Curzon, who at one time was England’s Viceroy of India. After the Hinds’ occupation, the home was used as a boarding house and hotel before standing vacant until its purchase in 1895 by R. P. McEntire for use as a private residence. The home remains a private residence, and the privacy of the family should be respected.

There were plenty of other sites to choose from, but especially for those of us who went out to Pond Spring, it would have been just another thirty minute drive to have visited the Jesse Owens Museum in Danville and the Oakman Indian Mounds. This isn’t a criticism — the pilgrimage was great — it’s just that these two other spots were so close that I made my own trip to visit them and hope they can be considered in some upcoming meeting when AHA again meets in that part of the state.


We’ve been to the park several years ago, but this week on my way to a meeting in Huntsville, I stopped and was able to go in the museum and the replica cabin where Jesse Owens lived until his family moved to Ohio when he was in elementary school. It’s there in Ohio, when the teacher misunderstood him saying that his name was ‘JC’ for James Cleveland that he started being known as ‘Jesse’.

The museum is well done, and includes a 40 minute movie
Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Many of the items featured are replicas, like his 1936 Olympic uniform featured here and his Congressional Gold Medal and Medal of Freedom, but the Owens family donated many other items of note, like a track time program from the games.

Adidas sponsored a display of track equipment then, and now.

Outside, the monument

and a very short walk away is the replica cabin where Jesse spent his earliest years, with the walkthru narrated by a recording of his brother
Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The parents’ room served as the main room of the house
Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The children — Jesse was the tenth child — slept on the floor in this fashion in another room. Jesse’s health was poor as an infant and toddler, and was unable to go to the doctor due to finances as the family were sharecroppers. Despite these conditions, the museum explains that he found tremendous freedom as his health improved and he was able to run. The school the children attended was nine miles away.

In high school, Jesse’s skills were discovered and he joins the track team, going on to break world records. At Ohio State, he proves himself as a track star, being undefeated in 42 events.

The museum tells the story of Jesse meeting Babe Ruth right before the Olympics:
Jesse meets Babe Ruth at a dinner honoring the Olympic athletes. When Babe Ruth asks Jesse if he is going to win at the Olympics, Jesse replies, “I will try.” Babe tells Jess, “Everybody tries, I succeed. Why? Because I know I’m going to hit a home run just about every time I swing the bat. I’m surprised when I don’t. Because I know it, the pitchers, they know it too. Know, Jesse, that you will win!”

Jesse wins four gold medals. His accomplishments after becoming the world’s most famous athlete go on and on.

Today, his granddaughter speaks on his legacy, recently at a college campus for an ‘Embracing Our Differences’ program.

Jesse Owens Museum, Danville AL

Whitney Plantation: The Only Plantation Museum in Louisiana With A Focus on Slavery

Last summer, we visited Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana. I think one of the best ways to make sense of the experience is from this CBS video
http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf

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This isn’t another ‘big beautiful plantation house’ tour. John Cummings, a New Orleans lawyer, put $8M into what started as in investment and instead led him to develop the ‘Nation’s First Slavery Museum’. It’s a guided tour (admission: $22/adult, plus guide gratuity) — and there’s no going about the grounds on one’s own. First stop: Antioch Baptist, moved to this site.
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The statues of children here and elsewhere on the tour are by Woodrow Nash (more about him in an upcoming post). Their presence and positioning here is striking.
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Here, the ‘big house’ — home to the Haydel family
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Very little of the tour is spent in the house — maybe ten minutes of the 1.5-2 hour tour.
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Yes to tester beds and the like, but the furnishings on display are not the resplendent luxe that one usually sees on River Road mansion tours. It’s just not the focus here.

The murals around the home are by Milan-born Dominico Canova, an important New Orleans-based painter who worked in homes, hotels, and churches. He and Antoine Mondelli painted the ceiling at Our Lady of the Lake; Canova also painted frescos at St. Alphonsus and is believed to have painted at St. Louis Cathedral, but there’s inconclusive evidence. He’s believed to have painted the murals at the San Francisco plantation (though probably not unaided) and here at the Whitney:
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There are so many stories to tell here, but the museum is such that I really implore you if you ever have the opportunity (and it’s only about an hour from New Orleans) to visit and hear these first-hand. They can’t possibly be done justice here.

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

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Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

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Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

Carriage House
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Here, the types of cells that slaves would have been imprisoned in; these cells were manufactured in Philadelphia. These were brought here when the grounds were being set up for tours — they aren’t original to this plantation. Part of the narrative given to us here is that northern companies knew what was going on, profited and aided the south in this awful business.

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

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Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

Rows of slave homes
Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There were 22 slave cabins on the site (downriver from the ‘Big House’) prior to the War, and most were destroyed in the 1970s when the road was made wider. Two of these houses are original to the plantation, and the others were brought here from Myrtle Grove Plantation in Terrebonne Parish.
Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

This sculpture, The Longboat, is by Ed Williams of Houston. The longboat was used in situations in which the large slaveships couldn’t reach (shallow depths to land, up rivers, etc).

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

Here, the Allees Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, the names of 107k people held in bondage in Louisiana from 1719-1820, with the research on those names done by the aforementioned Ms Hall.
Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

When I asked our guide where the slaves here were buried, he laughed at me (seriously, he looked right at me and laughed). He said there was no such thing as a cemetery. I explained that while I wasn’t expecting some well-manicured lawn with impressive monuments, surely there was some plot/strip of land here or elsewhere close by that was used for the purpose, and where that might be. He thought it was a ridiculous notion that the slaveholders here at the plantation would designate any land for such a purpose for the disposal of dead slaves. I let it drop. But surely there is some place at Whitney or nearby which served as a cemetery in any definition. Perhaps an archaeological survey could take place if it can not be located. There’s one ongoing at Mount Vernon.

From April in the NYT: Why Slaves’ Graves Matter

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

The last stop is back inside the welcome center, where people are encouraged to leave their thoughts on post-its

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Whitney Plantation, Wallace LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Folk Couture: Fashion and Art Exhibit at the Huntsville Museum of Art

Only a bit before it closed this summer, I got to see at the Huntsville Museum of Art the Folk Couture: Fashion and Art Exhibit, which was organized by the American Folk Art Museum in New York. They had it on exhibit in NY during the early part of 2014, and since it left Huntsville, I have been unable to locate if the exhibit has been returned for some period, or will be on loan to another museum in the near future.

Folk Couture Exhibit at Huntsville Museum of Art//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

From the exhibit’s site:
Fashion has always found inspiration in unpredictable sources: art, life, history—there are no boundaries. In this spirit, the American Folk Art Museum explores the relationship between inspiration and creation. Thirteen established and emerging designers have created original ensembles inspired by artwork in the museum’s collection.

Here, a Bibhu Mohapatra dress, inspired by the rare Tattoo Pattern Book.

Creatures of the Wind dress by Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters — Vogue has their Fall ’16 RTW show here.

Niiiice:
https://player.vimeo.com/video/179234512?color=ffffff&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0
Just One Eye and Creatures of the Wind from Shannon Bellanca on Vimeo.

Fall 2016 show:
https://player.vimeo.com/video/155698217?color=fa5616&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0
Creatures of the Wind Fall 2016 from Creatures of the Wind on Vimeo.
The outfit at 2:12 is just delicious in such a weird way. And 2:21, yesss.

John Bartlett wallhanding inspired by unidentified artist’s ‘man with green shirt and white suspenders’ that’s believed to be either Canadian or US.

Anniversary Tin: Man’s Top Hat and Eyeglasses, made sometime between 1880-1900 in Gobles, Michigan

Michael Bastian ensemble with Angel Gabriel weathervane circa 1840

Jean Yu dress with David Alvarez porcupine

Seated Jackalope by Alonzo Jiminez

Sam Doyle seated dog

Yeohlee Teng dress — she took snapshots of carved animals (the Sam Doyle dog, Jiminez jackalope) in the museum’s storage area and used these as print tiles on kraft paper

This is a Quaker friendship quilt by Elizabeth Hooten (Cresson) Savery and others made in 1844 Philadelphia

the quilt inspired this threeASFOUR laser-cut flower-print patent leather over Spandex power mesh dress

Spring-Summer ’16:
https://player.vimeo.com/video/143647429?color=ffffff&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0
INTERDIMENSIONAL Spring Summer 2016 from threeASFOUR on Vimeo.

left to rigth: Chadwick Bell, Fabio Costa, Catherine Malandrino dresses
Chadwick Bell, Fabio Costa, Catherine Malandrino dresses//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Gary Graham ensemble, with fabric woven from a loom at RISD

https://player.vimeo.com/video/83943939?color=ffffff&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0
Weaving the Jacquard Coat, 2013, Courtesy Gary Graham, New York from American Folk Art Museum on Vimeo.


From the NYT review:
“Though fashion may be the lure, the art shines. Even at their most outré, the outfits complement rather than distract from the many gems of the American Folk Art Museum’s collection.”

and

“Folk Couture” also proves that museums can explore fashion on a budget, without the need for celebrity designers, brand sponsorships and elaborate set pieces. Not every show has to be McQueen at the Met or Gaultier at the Brooklyn Museum.