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In the October Issue:
- Our painting of the month
- Upcoming gallery exhibitions
- "Recently acquired" since our last issue
- Reflections of an Artist's Son, by Philip Meador
- Once Upon a Time: When Government Invested in the Arts - the WPA Artists
- List of museum exhibits relating to Early California Art
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|October Gallery Exhibit:
The Landscapes of Joshua Meador 1911-1965
including works from the Meador family collection
October Painting of the Month "Stewart's Point"
Oil on canvas, 24 x 34
|Up Coming Gallery Exhibitions|
California Impressionists of the Southland
right: Dedrick Brandes Stuber
The California Desert Painters
|Among our "Recently Acquired"
since our last issue
Reflections of an Artist's Son
by Philip Meador, son of Joshua Meador 1911-1965 | email Philip
One of my favorite recollections of my father is the trips that we took as a family in the late 1940’s through the mid 1950’s. Josh had purchased a tear-drop trailer and we had a station wagon to pull the trailer with. Since I was in school, I went with my mother and father on school vacations, such as Easter Week, Christmastime and during the summer. We would go to such places as Bishop (the High Sierras), Carmel, Bodega Bay, the deserts of California and Nevada, the Northern California coast, Oregon, New Mexico. and occasionally back to his birthplace, Mississippi. We would stop at some beautiful spot next to the ocean or a creek and make our camp for the duration of our stay. Separating the car from the trailer, my dad would take off to find some idyllic location for a painting, while my mother and I photographed, rock-hunted, fished or just goofed off. One half of the station wagon was my bed and the other half of the back of the station wagon held my father’s paint box and his canvasses. So the car was filled with the pleasant odors of oil paints and turpentine. He had a unique way of stapling the freshly painted ones face to face, so they could be easily packed in the car. My father joked that we were on paid vacation as long as he painted a few paintings for his next showing.
The story of how he came to the Disney Studios is one of my favorites. He and my mother were married and he was working in Chicago doing murals for post offices and various businesses after graduation from the Chicago Art Institute. A friend of his, Richard, told him that Walt Disney was hiring artists to animate a feature production, Snow White, and Richard was going to Los Angeles to apply. My father and mother wanted to come to the West Coast because the opportunities in commercial art were better here. They signed up to convoy a couple of new cars from Michigan to California, this being before new cars were transported by rail or truck as they are today. Josh began to look for work and Richard was preparing his portfolio for Disney. Just for the fun of it Richard invited Josh to come along to the interview with Disney. In the end Richard’s portfolio was rejected and my father was working for Walt Disney. Richard went on to become a well-known creative director for an advertising firm. My father became one of the foremost effects animators in the business, receiving credits on Snow White, Bambi, Fantasia, Song of The South, Make Mine Music, Cinderella, various True Life Adventures and many other Disney Features and Featurettes.
Romance of the Bells
Beginning October 23, and running through March 15, 2008, the Irvine Museum is exhibiting the paintings depicting scenes of California’s twenty-one Spanish Missions.
Just read any roadmap of California, and you’re reading the history of this state.
From San Diego to Sonoma, the cities on today’s Hwy 101 were founded as a chain of Spanish Missions along the El Camino Real, “the King’s Highway.”
The idea was to extend a chain of missions along the coast, each about a day’s ride from the next, allowing for easy travel and communications. Each mission along the chain was to extend the colonial, commercial and cultural influence of the Spanish into this new land. They taught Spanish to the local indians, secured their participation in local industries and agriculture, and brought them into the church.
Today, these missions are open to the public, and they tell the tale of California’s heritage. California artists have helped by creating numerous paintings of the missions, and the Irvine Museum will be exhibiting a number of them in its upcoming show, Romance of the Bells, The California Missions in Art. The Irvine Museum, 18881 Von Karman Avenue, Irvine, CA.
Charles Wesley Nicholson 1886-1965
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Oil on canvas laid down on board, 9 x 12
Joshua Meador 1911 - 1965
"El Patio de San Miguel"
Oil on canvas, 22 x 30
Davis Francis Schwartz 1879-1969
Mission San Antonio de Padua
Watercolor, 11 5/8 x 16 5/8
Thelma Speed Houston 1914 - 2000
Bell Tower San Luis Rey
Watercolor, 8 14 x 10 1/8
Government, a Patron of the Arts? What do you think?
In an age of huge outlays of government spending for foreign wars, military uses and tax cuts, many feel it is preposterous to increase government support of the arts and artists. But here is a brief story of success, a story of government investing in the arts and the people who create art. Here the story of the W.P.A.
Between 1935 and 1943, our government invested in people during the depression, putting millions of the unemployed, including artists, to work for the common good. In 1933, the problem facing President Franklin Roosevelt was how to put America back to work. Bread and soup lines were long, citizens were short on hope, and answers were needed. One idea was to spend government moneys on public works and to hire the jobless to do it. They would earn enough to live, and as they spent their hard earned money, the economic turnover would benefit other businesses and create even more jobs.
So, the W.P.A. was born, the Works Progress Administration.
In the large picture, the WPA hired millions of Americans and affected almost every corner of the nation. Public buildings went up such as libraries, post offices and city halls. Airport runways, streets and roads were laid down, dams rose and created new lakes and water resources, sewer lines provided growth opportunities for new communities. New parks with newly constructed paths, attractive bridges, and fancy lodges became the crown jewels of our public lands.
Although citizens working for the WPA didn’t earn much more than the going hourly wage, workers learned new job skills while earning enough to feed and clothe themselves during arguably the toughest economic times in our history. These workers built 650,000 miles of roads, built 78,000 bridges, laid down 700 miles of runways, and built 135,000 buildings.
In a small corner of the WPA was a program to put artists to work. In literature, sculpture, theater, music, and painting artists were hired to adorn new buildings, educate, and inform people of the importance of people pulling together, working to make America work. From this corps of artists, citizens were encouraged to help rebuild America. A quarter million concerts were presented, writers produced plays and articles often used to encourage American workers to be productive and make a meaningful contribution, and murals and paintings depicting Americans working graced newly constructed government buildings. Unlike other paradigms of government hourly workers leaning on shovels, the WPA never suffered criticism for graft or waste among the working ranks. The efforts of WPA art encouraging and depicting Americans at work is, in part, credited with fostering this sense of communal effort and shared responsibility.
George Biddle, a talented painter and a close friend and classmate of President Roosevelt, was touched by the unfortunate members of the artist community. In depression times, food and clothing came first, and money for the arts disappeared completely. So, room was made to employ 5,000 artists to put their talents to work. To be hired, artists would have to prove their financial need, submit their work, resume and exhibition records. They earned from $23 to $35 dollars per week, and had to wait on line to receive their checks. But with the need for work, the artists applied and brought their talents to bear.
They created work, often of their own choosing. Many artists shared their skills by presenting art classes to their fellow citizens in community centers and neighborhood houses. Murals were painted in many public places, and many of these are prized by communities across the country to this very day. Sculptures were placed near newly constructed WPA buildings and parks. This month's featured artist, Joshua Meador, painted murals in Post Offices before coming to California and submitting his portfolio to Walt Disney.
On the negative side, at the end of the WPA era, artwork done by the artists belonged to the WPA. Over a short period of time, this large volume of art was first warehoused and then mislaid, lost, or sold off by the pound.
On the positive side though, artists gained experience and developed life long friendships with other artists -- often while waiting on line for their pay checks. The public gained a growing awareness of art, and art schools and art education experienced a renaissance. Because of the WPA, new art styles emerged. California WPA style watercolors influenced by Millard Sheets still dazzle art lovers, but the WPA also influenced surrealism, abstract expressionism, pop art and minimalism. Twenty-five years after the WPA ended, the U.S. Government established another program to promote the arts, the National Endowment for the Arts.
So, government investing in art and the artists who create it? Is it a bad idea? I think our national experience confidently proves it isn't. The success of the WPA certainly invites healthy debate of the idea. What do you think? When it comes to art appreciation and education in our country, what, if anything, do you think needs to be done? You may send your email responses to BBHGallery@BodegaBayHeritageGallery.com and we will be pleased to publish your thoughts in upcoming newsletters.
Current Museum Exhibits Relevant to Early California Art
Desert Painters, ongoing (Palm Springs)
Benjamin Chambers Brown, October 10 2007 - January 6, 2008 (Pasadena)
Botke, DeRome, Rider & Wendt to October 13, (Irvine)
California Mission, October 23 - March 15, 2008 (Irvine)
William F. Ritschel, The Poetry of Waves, to December 9 (Monterey)
Impressionist Giverny, to October 14 (extended) (San Diego)
Permanent gallery of historic art (Oakland)
Grace Hudson permanent collection (Ukiah)
Rotating history gallery (Santa Rosa)