ARt In Odum
Come join us on October 28, 2011 at the Odum Library and meet the Artists!
Ross Rosenberg was born in Syracuse, New York in 1941. he grew up in Rochester, NY, and attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a degree in English Literature and Art History. From that time until now, he has lived and worked in New York City. He studied drawing at the University of Michigan, drawing, painting, and sculpture at Parsons, drawing and printmaking at the School of Visual Arts, and papermaking at Dieu Donne. His work is in corporate and public collections, including the New York Public Library, and here, at Valdosta State University. His work was first displayed at Valdosta State University in a VSU Art Gallery Show “Works on Paper” and several of his smaller works were purchased at that time. Mr. Rosenberg has exhibited around the country and his large drawings series, of which this is a selection, were exhibited previously at MIT in Cambridge, MA, and at various exhibits in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
Mr. Rosenberg has described his large drawings and sculptures:
I am drawn to commonplace subjects such as chairs and houses because they are comfortingly familiar but at the same time they allow me to express feelings of mystery and foreboding. It is the ambiguity that involves me.
Most of the images are based on early childhood memories. The rounded chair, for example, comes from a memory of being in a dark living room at night. There is a dim light coming from down a long hall. I hear someone in the hall and I climb up onto the chair and hide between the arms on the seat.
The upright chair image is connected to the memory of watching my father making a chair for me when I was four years old. When I sat in it, my back rested against its back, my seat on its seat, my legs by its legs. Now I am both the chair and the one who makes the chair.
So although I do not work from a conscious program or a theoretical base, there are clear emotional lines running through all of my work.
There are three main genres of Rosenberg’s work on display in Odum Library. What follows is a discussion of each genre and a representative piece from it.
The paintings of this rounded chair are seen from a child’s eye level and they put an adult in the same size relationship to the chair in the painting that a two-year-old has to a real one. As this series developed, I began to focus more and more on discovering different ways to create texture. So some of them are as much about how they were made as why they were made.
The Dream Series consists of 15 drawings, all done between January, 1992 and March, 1993. The series came about through a happy accident. One day he was designing a large drawing, and he was going to draw it out on a small scale first. So he took some paper (Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper) and began laying down a ground—lightly shading an area with graphite. As he shaded, he noticed something that looked like eyes coming through from the texture inherent in the paper. Then he drew what he saw there. The Dream Series is an exercise in “stream of conscious” drawing and texture. The faces, the animals, the faces turning into animals, all emerged from slight differences in the texture of the paper which he then accented. Rosenberg said that whenever he tried the make the process thoughtful, and perhaps fill in a blank spot, the drawing failed. Compare these small bits of texture study with the large paintings, also texture studies, hung all around the library.
Pencil on Paper
Donated by Ross Rosenberg
Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections
In the words of Ross Rosenberg, artist:
The chair sculptures were created with the intention of emphasizing this relationship between the chair and the human body. The upright chair image is connected to the memory of watching my father making a chair for me when I was four years old. When I sat in it, my back rested against its back, my seat on its seat, my legs by its legs. Now I am both the chair and the one who makes the chair.
According to an art critic, writing about Mr. Rosenberg’s works in the “Great Big Drawings” Show at MIT in 1982,
Ross Rosenberg’s dark, rolling contours suggest a cold and vacant nocturnal landscape; only gradually do they reveal themselves as the plump, domesticated curves of an overstuffed armchair. The artist is interested in conveying not the profile of a friendly and familiar household object, but instead, with the scale dislocation of a nightmare, the disquieting invitation of this dark…maternal embrace. (Kathy Kline, “Great Big Drawings,” Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982)
Mr. Rosenberg donated his large drawings to Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections in 2008-2009. You may see photographs of all his collected works owned by the VSU Archives and Special Collections in our Archon System at http://www.valdosta.edu/library/find/arch/findingaids/index.shtml , by searching under Rosenberg.
The VSU Archives and Special Collections and Odum Library are glad to share these canvases, drawings, and sculptures with the campus community. Over the last three years, we have spent a lot of time with these pieces, cleaning them, cataloging, photographing, and describing them, researching them, and getting them ready for exhibit. When we first opened the big shipping crates our reaction was “Chairs, and they are really big.” As we unrolled, cleaned and photographed them, we were struck by the “weirdness” of them, and the up-close impression of a lot of paint. The longer we lived with them, the more they captured our imagination. We realized why they were so big—to simultaneous evoke childhood safety and vulnerability, we needed to be small in relation to them. And we realized that we could never really see them in the tight photographs we took—we were photographing in a relatively small room—or standing over them spread out on the floor. We were glad to be able to create this exhibit on the large walls of the library, and it was not until they were hanging that we could fully appreciate all the facets of these “Great Big” works.
We thank Ross Rosenberg for donating his works, both large and small, and we thank the Valdosta State University Art Funding Pool committee for funding some framing and stabilization of the collection. Carla Penny of Classic Art and Frame was invaluable in helping us decide how to hang such large canvases. VSU Carpenters hung all the pieces and built the sculpture bases. The Odum Library Art Committee, Deborah Davis, Chair, Maureen Puffer-Rothenberg, Denise Montgomery, Julie Bowland, Stacey Wright, and Elizabeth Barwick designed and researched all the exhibits. VSU Archives and Special Collections Student workers assisted with cleaning paintings and sign layout. We hope you enjoy these works.
Amalia Amaki is an artist, art historian, writer, film critic and visual studies scholar. She is currently Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Alabama, having previously taught at the University of Delaware, North Georgia College and State University, and Spelman College.
She has exhibited work in over thirty one-person shows including a retrospective at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC, 2005), and more than 100 group exhibitions throughout the United States and in Europe, Africa, and South America, most recently in Paris, France (2010). She has been a National Endowment for the Arts fellow; an artist grant recipient from the Georgia Council for the Arts, Fulton County Arts Council and the City of Atlanta; and has received commendations for her contributions to the arts from Georgia Secretary of State Lewis Massey, Governor Sonny Perdue, and First Lady Laura Bush. She has been awarded art commissions from the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, US General Services Administration – Sam Nunn Federal Center, The Coca Cola Company, Coca Cola Enterprises, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (3), The Contemporary (formally Nexus Contemporary Art Center), Seagrams Gin, Miller Brewing Company and Absolut Vodka. Her work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum for Women in the Arts (Washington, DC); High Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Albany Museum of Art among many others. Amaki’s publications include Hale Woodruff, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet and The Academy (2007 with A. Barnwell-Brownlee) and A Century of African American Art: The Paul R. Jones Collection (2004), and has contributed essays to numerous anthologies and art journals. She is currently writing a pictorial history of Tuscaloosa, Alabama for Arcadia Publishing, and has a forthcoming book of artwork and poems, Homage, with Marquand Books.
This work, “For the Love of Books” is a three-dimensional, mixed-media piece made of buttons, paint, a reproduced photograph, and books. When we first approached the artist, she was just starting a piece she conceived of as “Dancing with Books.” After research and discussions that piece became “For the Love of Books.” A close look at the work reveals elements of both inspirations. The children dance between a solid bottom foundation of books, surrounded by a plethora of buttons. The books include child psychology and education books as well a literature, history and even dictionaries. Buttons are mundane treasures; any child whose mother sewed can remember playing with these domestic “jewels.” The children, dressed as dancers with button jewels reach towards a book in the top right corner called “The Sky’s the Limit.” This is a happy composition, full of promise. As a tribute to Bill Mobley and VSU, Amaki situated a book about Mobley in the center of the work, and buttons surround the small postcard of Odum Library on the right. She also added books by local authors to the foundation (see if you can spot them). Suddenly a universal piece about joy, support, aspirations, and promise, is wedded to the specific: here, locally, through books donated by Mobley, through the library and the university, the sky becomes the limit of student aspirations. We are very excited to add this work to Odum Library’s art collection. In addition, Dr. Amaki will be donating books on African Americans and Art to the Odum Library.
This painting was purchased with funds from the family and friends of William H. Mobley and from the Valdosta State University Art Funding Pool. The painting was selected by the Odum Library Art Committee.
Patronage of William H. Mobley IV
William H. Mobley IV was a Valdosta native who worked for thirty-five years at the Library of Congress until his retirement in 2000. He was selected the Library’s Principle Evaluations Office and curator of the Library of Congress Archives. He also edited the Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt papers for the Presidential Papers Project as well as being appointed by Valdosta State University to select books through the Library of Congress Surplus Book Program. Over twenty years, Bill Mobley was responsible for bringing in almost 1 million dollars worth of books to the Odum Library. When he died in 2010, the library lost a dear friend. Family and friends of Bill donated funds, matched by a VSU Art Funding Pool award to purchase a work in his honor. The VSU Library Art Committee commissioned a work in his honor by Dr. Amalia Amaki.
Lamar Dodd (1909-1996) was not just the owner of most of the works in this collection that bears his name, but had personal links with several of the artists. He was a student of Jean Charlot at the Art Students League, he summered with Emil Holzhauer and Ferdinand Warren at Monhegan Island, Maine, and he encouraged Carl Holty, Ferdinand Warren, James Chan Leong and Jean Charlot to join him on the faculty of the University of Georgia, which resulted in permanent benefits to their careers and in one case, to another college in the state. In the wider realm of the art world, his legacy is two-fold: he left a rich body of work extending over decades that depicts everyday life in Georgia, and through his skill as an administrator and his eye for recruiting talent, he built the art department of the University of Georgia into one of the largest and most comprehensive in the United States, an effort that the University memorialized by naming the department the Lamar Dodd School of Art in his honor. He has also been described as “the most influential Georgia artist of his generation.”
Lamar Dodd was born in Fairburn and began his artistic training at LaGrange College, then a women’s college, at the age of twelve when he made a deal with the Dean for art lessons in exchange for shoveling coal and other chores. He studied briefly at Georgia Tech before going to the Art Students League in New York, where he studied with George Luks, an adherent of the Ashcan School, a movement that flourished in the first decade of the twentieth century and concentrated on depicting daily scenes of real life in sober colors. He was also influenced by John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton, who also celebrated American themes intheir work. Upon returning South, he followed these principles in his own work, which showed the landscapes, history, and people of his region to such an extent it was noticed by a reviewer in his first show in 1932. In 1937, as part of a national movement to get working artists into universities, Dodd was appointed to the faculty of the University of Georgia. Within three years he had not only consolidated all the visual arts into one department, but he had started a master’s program. He would remain there till his retirement as head of the department in 1976.
Although he continued to paint scenes of his native state, his subject matter expanded as he ranged further in his travels. In the 1940s, he began summering at Monhegan Island, Maine, adding the Maine coast as a source of inspiration, and in the 1950s, he began traveling abroad, first to Europe, where he studied the old masters and his more recent predecessors such as the Impressionists and Cezanne and painted European landmarks. He was later appointed by the State Department as a Cultural Emissary, and in that capacity visited Asia, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union.
The next two decades of his career saw a radical shift in subject matter: in 1963, Dodd was named as official artist by NASA on the Mercury Astronaut-9 project and also served as a NASA artist for many other launchings including Apollo 9. Some of his works were done as triptychs, with a bold, expressionist style, and in some cases using black and white to depict lunar glare against the darkness of space. In 1978, inspired by his wife’s open heart surgery, he did a series called “The Heart”, which the surgeon asked him to do in the operating room to capture the dramatic immediacy of the procedure, as well as the realistic details of the procedure. In preparation for the series, Dodd did extensive reading and interviewed physicians, spending eight years on the project, and producing sixty paintings done in an abstract realist style, using circular shapes and religious symbolism.
The last ten years of his life saw a return to the local scenes of his youth, but with a changed style. Gone were the somber colors and realistic look in oil; instead he worked in watercolor in short, bright crisp strokes of color.The coastal shores around Monhegan Island were once again a favored subject, as well as familiar landscapes in Europe and the United States, but a year before he died he showed he was still in touch with the times by painting a picture of O.J. Simpson’s bloody glove in a highly abstract style.