Thursday, January 20, 2011

On the Web: Ottumwa Artists at Stone City

With the recent re-launch of Mount Mercy University’s Stone City Art Colony research website (what a great resource!), I’ve discovered additional interesting students who studied under Grant Wood at the colony. Today I focused on Ottumwa artists, so many may recognize their names.

Newton W. Roberts (1881-1974)
Newton Roberts was a lawyer-turned-painter. One day, while his daughter and wife were away, he picked up his daughter’s paint brush and began to experiment. Without formal training, his connections with other Ottumwa artists lead him to the Stone City Art Colony. Clicking on the above link will give you an impressive list of his artistic successes, as well as several images of Roberts and his work.

Marion Gilmore Hulse (1909-1984)
Marion Gilmore, who later went by Mion Hulse, became quite an accomplished artist. Her mural Band Concert, done for the Corning, Iowa Post Office, shows cheerful children playing and friends chatting. There is a true Regionalist feel to this work, which realistically depicts Corning’s square and adds a certain optimistic glow to the event.

Other work by Hulse is very different stylistically, but still focuses on human interaction. Examples can be viewed below her brief biography.

Joseph Townsend Funk (1901-1985)
Joseph Funk was employed by Ottumwa’s Union Bank and Trust. He hosted Edward Rowan while the Little Gallery’s satellite was in Eldon. He began as a painter, but eventually gravitated toward industrial design and color engineering. Those interests lead him to help companies select colors for products and make decisions about the structural elements of buildings. Funk helped design the Ottumwa Armory-Coliseum and launch the Ottumwa Community Art Center.

Bertha Graves Morey (1882-1962)
Like many devoted natives of Southeast Iowa, Bertha Morey was a talented multi-tasker. Her interests were broad, including landscape painting, photography, silk, jewelry and bookplate design. She was curator for a traveling watercolor exhibit in Ottumwa and operated her family’s clay company after the death of her father and brother. The Morey Clay Products Company produced roughly seven million paving bricks each year. Morey’s father was also an artist of sorts, designing and building one of the world’s largest continuous kilns.

Bernard LaMarr Ferguson (1911-1977)
Bernard Ferguson assisted with the opening of five Iowa art institutes, and possibly the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery. He was chosen for Carnegie-sponsored training with Hungarian painter Jaroslav Brozik. During this time he met Johh Sharp and others he would study with at the Stone City colony.

Grant Wood had a lasting impact on Southeast Iowa. Sure, he immortalized a simple piece of architecture in 1930. The painting enhanced Iowa’s image and reputation across the nation, and has quite an economic impact each time it travels to its home state. The American Gothic House Center, which of course wouldn’t exist without the painting, brings 10,000 people through Eldon annually. Grant Wood’s brush with Eldon is still affecting our daily lives 81 years later.

Wood’s presence in this portion of the state extends beyond American Gothic. He is alive in stories told by locals who remember seeing him doodling on the street or speaking with him. Many have personal relationships with his sister Nan, model for the iconic painting. His legacy is carried on by all the artists he taught, and those they taught, and so on. Lucky are we to have so many from Wapello County who studied with him at the Stone City Art Colony.

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