reframe-the-conversation

Dow Walling and the Comic World Of Skeets

The Whatcom Museum’s online virtual exhibitions feature a variety of historic photographs, artwork, and ephemera that visitors can view at their leisure. Recently, the Museum has uploaded new virtual galleries, which can be viewed HERE. Scroll down mid-way through the virtual galleries to learn more about one special exhibit featuring the comics of local talent, Dow Walling.     

Dow Walling and the Comic World Of Skeets

Dow Walling (1902-1987) was a self-taught comic creator and illustrator whose full-page color strip “Skeets” ran on Sundays in the New York Herald Tribune and in national syndication from 1932 until 1951. Walling was born and raised on a farm outside of Bellingham, Washington, and in a 1934 interview with the Literary Digest, describes his spunky young protagonist as “growing up in Bellingham – my home town….an average-size town in America [that] typifies the home town of the average boy.”

In the comic strip, Skeets rambles through fields and strolls down streets and alleys with his pal Button-Nose, cousin Eggy, and others while avoiding his nemesis Cue-ball Benson. Walling drew from events and places of his own childhood and featured locales such as Battersby Park and Whatcom Creek swimming holes in his illustrations.

Early Years

Walling was the youngest of four siblings who grew up in a farm outside of Bellingham. He describes his youth as always including “a desire to draw” and with the financial help of his sister, he completed the London School of Cartooning correspondence course at the age of thirteen. His first professional experience in illustration came when he was brought on as cub reporter by the Bellingham Herald where he also created and submitted cartoons and illustrations for the paper.

In 1919, Walling enrolled at the University of Washington and quickly became an accomplished student and athlete while also working as staff artist for the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Working on a degree in Economics, Walling also created comic strips for the UW comics magazine, the Sun Dodger, and acted as their art editor. His work was well-received and while still a student, Walling was invited to become a member of the Hammer and Coffin, a national comic publication fraternity.

Growth of a Career

Directly out of college, Walling moved to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cartoonist in the footsteps of his childhood idols George Herriman (“Krazy Kats”), Bud Fisher (“Mutt and Jeff”) and Billy DeBeck (“Barney Google”). As a member of the UW crew team, he had been to New York for the annual Poughkeepsie boat races and was no stranger to the big city. Walling’s first break was when he landed a position with Johnson Features, a comics syndication company, and created an original series called “Campus Cowboys.” For this strip, Walling borrowed heavily from his experiences as a college graduate and athlete, and the strip was lauded for its youthful perspective. It was at this time that Walling acted as assistant to both Milt (“Gross Exaggerations”) Gross and H.T. (“The Timid Soul”) Webster.

After Johnson Features was sold, and left without any immediate gainful employment, Walling moved to Hollywood in 1928 to try his hand at script writing. One year later he was back in New York and started to sell cartoons to Life, Judge and College Humor. In 1931, Walling signed up with King Features Syndicate and worked on a variety of existing strips including “Nutty News” and “Room and Board.” Within the year, he was approached by the New York Herald Tribune about creating a new strip and “Skeets” was born.

In 1937, Walling married Helen Pickrell, a teacher at Bellingham High School, and she joined him in New York after a four-month road trip across the country. Though the couple never had children, Walling often referred to Skeets with paternalistic affection and credited his own childhood as providing a wealth of material to keep Skeets busy. “Skeets” enjoyed a 20-year run in weekly national syndication making it one of the most beloved comic strips of the 1930’s and 40’s.

In 1946, Walling received the Freedom Foundation Prize for the strip “Jimmy’s Jobs” which he created to help ease tensions in labor relations. Known for his affable personality, that same year Walling was offered his own variety television show on CBS called “Here’s Dow,” although the run was short-lived. Walling was a founding member of the National Cartoonist Society and was recognized by his peers through the years with many honors and awards. After retiring, Walling created drawings for publications of businesses including the Union Carbide Corporation and the International Business Machines Corporation. Walling passed away in Pelham, New York, in 1987.

Walling’s work is now held in numerous archives and museums including the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, Northwestern University Library Special Collections and the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Whatcom Museum holds the original artwork for about 60 complete “Skeets” and “Room and Board” strips, a small number of character studies/sketches as well as some of Walling’s personal items.

Sources

http://www.reuben.org/members/in-memoriam/ (then select Dow Walling from directory)

https://www.lambiek.net/artists/w/walling_d.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/01/28/obituaries/dow-o-walling.html

The Pelham Sun, Thursday, May 6, 1948, “Comic Strip Character Growing Up….”

Drawing Practice: Bellingham National Juried Art Exhibition and Awards

Kelly Bjork; Tiger Overhead, 2016; Gouache and pencil on paper, 19 x 15 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Reposted from June 20th, 2017 Seattle Art Museum Blog

Catharina Manchanda, the Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, juried this year’s Bellingham National Juried Art Exhibition and Awards, on view now through September 10 in the Lightcatcher building. Barbara Matilsky, Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum, describes the biennial art exhibition and award as relatively new. “The Whatcom Museum’s first biennial was inaugurated in 2015. Patricia Leach, the Museum’s director, envisioned Bellingham National as a way to bring the rich variety of art created around the country to our region. Although the Museum is committed to supporting Pacific Northwest art, it has increasingly embraced a wider, cultural scope,” says Matilsky. “Bellingham National has attracted the attention of Washington artists, which means that their work is well represented here. Community reaction has been as varied as the works of art on display. One thing that I have noticed: The exhibition challenges people to think about art in new ways, which is ultimately a good thing. It also offers the invited curator a unique opportunity to explore ideas related to a particular theme or medium of her/his choice.”

This year’s call for submissions focused on drawing, an activity and mode of expression that seems overdue in light of our ever-increasing attachment to electronic devices. Catharina Manchanda’s interest in exploring how contemporary artists are approaching the medium is at once a reaction to new media art forms and an acceptance of drawing that utilizes new media. “As we are clicking and tapping away, drawing and writing are becoming increasingly rare. Drawing has an immediacy and material quality that registers differently under these digital conditions. Its very ‘slowness’ becomes significant at a time when a flood of imagery and information keeps shortening our attention spans. From a more linguistic and conceptual vantage point, drawing connections, drawing on memory and history, and drawing understood as notation and trace, opens distinct possibilities for artists,” Manchanda states. “Not surprisingly, artists submitted work in a variety of mediums—from pencil drawings to annotated collages, videos, and sound recordings.”

Matilsky embraced what visitors may find a somewhat unorthodox perspective on drawing. “I share Catharina’s expansive view of drawing and was delighted that she was able to identify artworks that further pushed the boundaries of the medium. The sound and video pieces that she selected surprised me and added to the complexity of the exhibition.”

Featuring more than 60 works from 29 artists around the country, below Catharina Manchanda offers a glimpse into a selection of the works on view. Get yourself to the Museum and see this spectrum of artistic positions with, and about, drawing.

Margie Livingston, Seattle, WA; Dragged Blue Drawing, 2016; Watercolor and mixed media on paper, string. Courtesy of the artist.

Margie Livingston, Seattle, WA
The artist arrives at these lyrical compositions with controlled chance operations. Heavy sheets of paper are tinged with color and then dragged on the studio floor or the street where the movement creates a chance image. Embedded in the surfaces are dust and dirt, portions are rubbed and worn and yet the overall drawings have a quiet lyricism.

 

Kelly Bjork, Seattle, WA; Splayed Produce, 2016; Gouache and pencil. Courtesy of the artist.

Kelly Bjork, Seattle, WA
Kelly Bjork’s quiet interiors are beautifully rendered with an eye for crisp color and form. Embedded in her compositions and titles is a sparkling sense of humor—Tiger Overhead and Splayed Produce project an element of danger and adventure that’s there for you to discover.

 

Lou Watson, Portland, OR
The artist takes the most ordinary traffic patterns and movements as occasion for artistic intervention. For Bellingham National, she chose a spot along I-5 and ascribed a musical note to each of the lanes. Every time a car went past a traffic sign, it triggered a tone—a little car a short note, a long truck a longer one. With this, she composed a minimalist score from the monotonous back and forth of highway traffic. The movement of the cars along the road is linear like a drawing and her paper prints give insights into her process.

 

Masha Sha, Boulder, CO; New Now, 2017; Colored pencil on tracing paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Masha Sha, Boulder, CO
Sha’s vivid, large-scale pencil or crayon drawings spell out phrases that invite free association. Whether you see her bright red  “New Now” today, tomorrow, or in ten years, it will always be the now of the moment. Drawn with intensity, we may interpret that now in personal, communal, social, or political terms and it will mean different things to each of us.

 

Kirk Yamahira, Seattle, WA; Untitled (stretched); 2017. Acrylic, pencil, unweaved, deconstructed on canvas, 67 x 67 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Kirk Yamahira, Seattle, WA
Kirk Yamahira deconstructs the fabric of a  canvas—he carefully lifts individual threads—to arrive at abstract lines and patterns that read like three-dimensional drawings. In some instances an additional tilt of the stretcher results in objects that are utterly transformed.

La Calavera Catrina: Mexico’s Eternal Feminine Muse

José Guadalupe Posada, (1852-1913), Mexico City, Mexico; La Calavera Catrina (The Grand Dame of Death), 1913. Etching on zinc. Courtesy of The Mexican Museum, San Francisco, CA.

Written by Susanna Brooks, Director of Learning Innovation, for our exhibition, Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art & its Mexican Roots

A wide-eyed lady skeleton donning a large, lace brimmed hat festooned with flowers and feathers flashes a broad toothy grin. The smiling dandified dame is La Calavera Catrina, a corpse with a lively aristocratic air and fashionable dress to match. Oblivious to the current state of her demise, she clutches nonchalantly to her long lost human existence. When artist, illustrator, and satirist José Guadalupe Posada (1852 – 1913) created this droll caricature, the Mexican revolution was in full swing. For Posada and his countless disenfranchised countrymen and women, champions of the rebellion, the humorous image of La Calavera Catrina symbolically, and derisively, served as an epitaph for the wealthy privileged classes. Her stylish appearance and amusing, naïve sensibility endeared her to the disgruntled masses, and she quickly became a satirical emblem of the sins of vanity and greed and the folly of government corruption that had long held sway over Mexico’s impoverished, hard-working citizens.

La Calavera Catrina was among the first of many animated skeleton characters Posada created to populate his tongue-in-cheek, pro-revolutionary broadsheet illustrations, and the most popular and enduring. The chic, chapeau-wearing lady skull became a kind of national folk icon. While Posada’s myriad skull figures cleverly and comically mocked the social and political venality of the time, La Calavera Catrina took center stage and led a nationalistic parade celebrating the tiny sliver of thread that holds sway over life and death. With La Calavera Catrina at the helm, Posada’s charming corpses wittily danced and sang their way into the hearts of Mexico’s working-classes, taking a prominent place on altars during Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities. It would be popularly understood that these whimsical animated skeletons occupied a surreal space between life and death. Their message espousing that no matter how much wealth and power human beings strive to achieve during their brief worldly existence, all that they chased and acquired was meaningless in the afterlife. Rich or poor, all people meet death equally and alone.

The Origin of La Calavera Catrina
When Posada conceived his elegant skull lady he named her La Calavera Garbancera, a derogatory term for Mexicans who rejected their indigenous roots and passed themselves off as hailing solely from European pedigree. For poor, indigenous Mexicans repressed by President Porfirio Diaz’ regime, La Calavera Garbancera both eased and stirred their disdain for the rampant political greed and oppression that blanketed the working class backbone of the country. Under the prolonged presidency of Porfirio Diaz (1830 – 1915), a term he held for thirty-five years, the Mexican government basked in fields of wealth alongside the privileged landowners they helped grow at the expense of the farmworkers, which delved deeper into poverty and despair. The vast social class divisions and unfair distribution of wealth collided head on, culminating in the 1910 revolution, around the time Posada renamed and published his skull La Calavera Catrina.

The origin of Posada’s skeletal dame is rooted in Aztec mythology. La Calavera Catrina draws inspiration from Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of death and guardian of human remains in the underworld. Centuries ago this goddess presided over annual Aztec festivals honoring the dead, long before Mexico adopted the fanciful calaveras designed by Posada that are ubiquitously attached to Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations.

Learn more about the influence of Posada’s Calavera Catrina on Mexican and Mexican-American artists such as Diego Rivera and Alfredo Arreguín in our Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art & its Mexican Roots gallery guide, available at the Lightcatcher.

Focus on 50 Celebrates History of Whatcom Community College

Written by Bob Winters, Arts & Humanities Division Chair, Whatcom Community College

The Whatcom Museum is pleased to present Focus on 50, an exhibition dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Whatcom Community College. A stroll through the exhibition on the first floor of Old City Hall tells the story of how the country’s first “college without walls” grew to become a college without limits, now ranked among the top 150 community and technical colleges in the United States.

The exhibit features a photo archive of the college’s experimental roots: classes held in an abandoned supermarket on Marine Drive; a tin shed in Boulevard Park turned “crafts studio” (the current site of Woods Coffee); the “Whatcom on Wheels” bookmobile that toured the county. Included are artifacts from the college’s past: the first computers introduced to the college almost 40 years ago; early examples of Whatcom’s course catalogues and advertising; the original hand-carved wooden signs that identified Whatcom’s rented spaces from Blaine to Bellingham. With its mission to provide access to a college education to everyone in Whatcom County, and its promise to always put the student first, Whatcom Community College evolved from its decentralized “satellite centers” to a beautiful 72-acre campus in Bellingham’s Cordata neighborhood. Come see and hear the stories of the creative educational pioneers whose vision guided the college from a radical concept to a nationally recognized center for innovation in liberal arts, technology, and professional fields.

If you live in Whatcom County, the odds are strong that either you or someone you know has been touched by Whatcom Community College. Whether it was in its experimental “alternative learning” days in the late 1960s and 1970s, or during its consolidation and growth in the ’80s and ’90s, or more recently, as the college is poised to take education into the future through cloud-based, mobile, and online learning—Whatcom has been transforming lives and building our communities for 50 years. Come share the story of the college’s remarkable journey and celebrate a half-century of turning dreams into reality.

The exhibition remains at Old City Hall through May 31. It then moves to Whatcom Community College’s campus. Learn more about WCC’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration at whatcom.edu/50.

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: 5. Sheila Klein

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?”, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose artwork is featured in our collection throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month). This is the last one of the series! Follow us on social media and share our post with your followers, or tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Sheila Klein; Stand, 2000; Nylon, Lycra, spandex and steel, 13 x 13 x 9 ft. Whatcom Museum, gift of the artist.

Artist #5: Sheila Klein

Sheila Klein fearlessly defies prevailing styles and trends. Acclaimed nationally for her public art installations, including Underground Girl (2000, Hollywood-Highland Metro Station, Hollywood, CA) and Comfort Zone (2004, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA), she has devoted her career to transcending the boundaries of art. Her smaller-scaled artworks deserve greater recognition, and the Whatcom Museum’s sculpture, Stand, highlights this other side of the artist’s practice.

Stand was the first artwork to be exhibited in the courtyard of the Whatcom Museum’s new Lightcatcher building as part of the exhibition, Show of Hands: Northwest Women Artists, 1800-2010. Klein’s interactive sculpture, which forms gigantic pairs of men’s stretch pants, invites visitors to explore an unusual portal into space and the artist’s imagination.

Photo by Clara Senger.

Inspired by an experimental approach towards materials and ideas, the artist welcomes the unexpected. Recognizing her unique vision, Klein was recently awarded the 2017 Arts Innovator Award, funded by the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation. The artist has exhibited at a wide range of venues, including  PS 1/Institute for Art and Urban Resources, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Museum of Art and Design, New York.

Born in Pittsburgh, Klein is a self-taught artist who moved to the Skagit Valley in 1976. During the 1980s, she worked in Los Angeles as a member of A2Z, an award-winning, collaborative art and architecture firm. She returned to Washington in 1995 and has since been living on a farm outside the town of Edison with her artist-husband Ries Niemi. Her large studio is a melting pot of ideas for grand projects as well as more intimately-scaled objects.

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: 4. Mary Henry

Mary Henry; Linear Series #5, 1966; Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 72 in. Gift of Suzanne and John Rahn, Whatcom Museum 2010.57.1.

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?”, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose artwork is featured in our collection throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month). Follow us on social media and share our posts with your followers, or tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Artist #4: Mary Henry

Barbara Matilsky, our Curator of Art said, “I sometimes wonder about the kind of recognition the artist Mary Henry (1913-2009) might have received had she chosen a different path at a critical junction in her career.” After studying with the pioneering Bauhaus modernist Lazlo Maholy-Nagy (1895-1946) at Chicago’s Institute of Design in 1945, she was invited to join the faculty, the first women to be so recognized. Instead, she chose to follow her husband and relocate to Arkansas.

Mary Henry, after receiving the Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, 2006. Photo by Alice Wheeler.

Divorced in 1964, Henry returned to her native Northern California, where she painted bold, hard-edge, geometrically constructed compositions inspired by her mentor. She was among a small group of women, including British artist Bridget Riley, who contributed to the movement that came to be known as Op (Optical) Art. For Henry, geometry was not purely aesthetic, but was pursued to invoke the spiritual in art. She excelled in graphically conjuring distinctive patterns in black and white, as in Linear Series #5, as well as brightly colored shapes that often evoke landscape elements.

In 1968,  Henry’s paintings displayed at San Francisco’s Arleigh Gallery were nationally noted in Artforum magazine. She moved to Washington State in 1976 to be near her daughter, and lived on Whidbey Island from 1981 until 2009. The Whatcom Museum organized the first solo museum exhibition of Mary Henry’s artworks, curated by John Olbrantz, in 1988. By the time of the artist’s death at the age of 95, other Pacific Northwest museums had introduced her work to an appreciative public. Her outstanding contribution to abstraction has yet to be nationally acknowledged.

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: 3. Elizabeth Colborne

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?”, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose artwork is featured in our collection throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month). Follow us on social media and share our posts with your followers, or tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Sunset Over the Elizabeth Colborne; Bellingham Bay, c.1930; Color woodcut, 9 x 6.75 in. Gift of the Bellingham Public Library, 1976.62.103.

Artist #3: Elizabeth Colborne

The Whatcom Museum holds the largest collection of work by Elizabeth Colborne (1885 – 1948), heralded as one of  Pacific Northwest’s greatest print makers. This birds-eye view of Bellingham Bay, at its most seductive time of day, directly confronts the duality of nature’s majesty with the economic realities of the logging industry. With smoke stacks rising up in the foreground, the abstract compositional influence of Japanese prints is apparent.

Living alone in a cabin, Colborne studied both man-made and natural landscapes in magnificently detailed drawings. She often poignantly portrays the intrusion of the human footprint by strategically focusing on old growth stumps in the forest. Colborne’s work can be appreciated for both its artistry and as a chronicle of the region’s history.

Elizabeth Colborne at 23 years old, featured in the article, “Women of Genius,” 1908.

Born in South Dakota and orphaned at a young age, she moved to Bellingham to live with her maternal aunt. She lived alone in Whatcom County most of her life, except for attending Pratt Institute and spending part of the year in New York City, which nurtured her career as a graphic artist. Colborne developed a reputation for children’s book illustrations and landscape views that catered to New Yorkers’ interest in the beauty of the Northwest.

Colborne’s work was rescued from oblivion by her sister, who donated a treasure trove of material to the Bellingham Public Library. In 1976, this work was transferred to the Whatcom Museum and supplemented by later Museum purchases and private donations. It was not until 2011 that the Museum featured a retrospective exhibition, Evergreen Muse, The Art of Elizabeth Colborne, curated by David F. Martin, and accompanied by a publication that quickly sold out. National media coverage quickly followed, assuring Colborne’s rightful place in art history. The Whatcom Museum will be lending six fabulous Colborne drawings to the new Cascadia Art Museum in Edmunds for an upcoming exhibition, Botanical Exuberance: Trees and Flowers in Northwest Art.

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: 2. Vanessa Helder

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?”, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose artwork is featured in our collection throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month). Follow us on social media and share our posts with your followers, or tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968) Eastern Washington Landscape, 1936-40; Watercolor on paper, 19 x 23 in. Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of the Liberty Mutual Group.

Artist # 2: Z. Vanessa Helder

The Whatcom Museum recently acquired a watercolor by Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968), who was born in Lyndon to one of the earliest pioneer families in Whatcom County, and attended Bellingham High School. This enigmatic work, featuring abandoned buildings with no signs of life, suggests the economic hardships of depression-era America.

Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968), ca. 1940. Courtesy Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane, WA.

Nationally recognized in the 1930s and 1940s for her magic realist drawings, Helder was selected to participate in the Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, American Realists and Magic Realists (1943), alongside luminaries such as Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth.  However, once Abstract Expressionism seized the limelight, her work was largely forgotten. In 2013, the Tacoma Art Museum organized an exhibition of Helder’s work, reintroducing it to the public.

Helder is best known for a series of watercolors (housed at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, Spokane) that interpret the building of the Grand Coulee Dam, a project that she completed for the Federal Art Project. She also painted several murals for public buildings that have not survived.

The Whatcom Museum is thrilled to own one of her watercolors, which are quite rare. Unfortunately, the art in her estate was privately sold without any trace of the buyers’ identities. To date, the majority of her works have not been found. The Museum’s drawing is especially significant to its collection because Helder probably studied with Bellingham-based artist Elizabeth Colborne (1885-1948), whose art will be featured next, so stay tuned!

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: 1. Anne Eisner

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?”, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose artwork is featured in our collection throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month). Follow us on social media and share our posts with your followers, or tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists. We start this challenge on March 8, International Women’s Day, to celebrate the contributions of women in the arts.

Anne Eisner; Two Mbuti Pygmies, 1956; Oil on canvas, 40 x 25 in. Gift of the Estate of William J. Eisner, 1975.110.12.

Artist #1: Anne Eisner

The Whatcom Museum houses several paintings by Anne Eisner (1911-1967), an under-recognized artist who made an important contribution to both art and anthropology.

Anne Eisner Putnam painting in the Congo.

In 1946, Anne Eisner journeyed from New York City to the former Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), where she painted, transcribed more than 200 legends, and maintained ethnographic notes on the Mbuti Pygmies. The first white woman to live in Pygmy camps, Eisner introduced  the anthropologist Colin Turnbull to the people portrayed in his widely-read book, The Forest People (1961). Although he used Eisner’s notes (with her permission), Turnbull rarely mentioned her in his writings. Lost to history, the artist finally came to light in 2006, when Harvard University’s Houghton Library featured 9 years of her work in an exhibition, Images of Congo: The Art and Ethnography of Anne Eisner Putnam, 1946-1958, which was accompanied by a publication.

It is a mystery how the Whatcom Museum received Eisner’s work, which was donated by her father, also an artist. William Eisner was one of the first manufacturers of wax paper and director of New York City’s Art Students League. The Whatcom Museum owns work by Eisner’s father as well as her sister, Dorothy, an accomplished painter in her own right. An added bonus in this bequest was a drawing by Diego Rivera of Two Workers, which was inscribed to Anne Eisner by the artist in 1938. This drawing is featured in the Whatcom Museum’s current exhibition, Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots.

Affirming Culture and Resisting Oppression: Selected Works of Chicana/o Art

By Amalia Mesa-Bains, Artist, Scholar, and MacArthur Fellow

The exhibition Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots has its foundation in the Chicano Art Movement known as “El Movimiento.”  From the 1960s on, the Chicana/o Movement of both political and cultural development galvanized a generation of Mexican-American youth committed to civil rights. The Chicana/o Movement was at its deepest level a movement of social justice and cultural identity, where the right to land, language, education, and working wages was marked by an overriding theme of cultural reclamation.  Many of these issues surrounding immigration, border politics, and cultural citizenship have arisen again today in a new era of immigrant concern.

Diego Rivera; Two Workers, 1938; Ink on paper, Collection of the Whatcom Museum, gift of the estate of William J. Eisner, 1975.110.39.

Within the context of the Chicana/o Movement for social justice, artists took their places in creating images and forms of art that would help enlist others in this movement for human rights. The work of individual artists and collectives was often anchored in community-based organizations such as the Galeria de la Raza, The Mexican Museum of San Francisco, Self-Help Graphics, the Social and Public Art Center, Plaza de la Raza in Los Angeles, and Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego. Across the country, the Guadalupe Center in San Antonio, the Mi Raza Center in Illinois, and later the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Chicago, as well as El Centro de la Raza in Seattle, provided a base for individual artists and collectives. The seminal exhibition, Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation of the early 1990s, brought many of the artworks, centros, and collectives to a broader national awareness. Read more