Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More than Words and Southern Cooking

Last Saturday, the Georgia Museum of Art opened an exhibition -- More than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.

From the exhibition catalogue: "Words speak volumes, but, as every letter writer knows, there are times when they simply won't do. When the author happens to be a visual artist, he [or she] has an added advantage--one that transforms ordinary stationery into a canvas." More than Words "chronicles those occasions when words were not enough, and some of America's most revered artists turned their talents to illustrating their most intimate thoughts and feelings. ...Writing to wives, lovers, friends, patrons, clients, and confidants, premiere artists such as" Frederic Edwin Church, Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Philip Guston, and Andy Warhol, among many others, "picture the world around them in charming vignettes, caricatures, portraits, and landscapes." There are also illustrated thank-you notes, love letters, maps and directions, "bon voyage" wishes, and more.

Details of two of my personal favorites:

On the top, a detail of a letter, dated March 7, 1870, from Frederic Edwin Church to Martin Johnson Heade. From the exhibition: "In the late nineteenth century, landscape painters traveled great distances in search of exotic terrain. In 1870...Church wrote to...Heade, who was on his third trip to South America, where he painted the local flora and fauna against the spectacular backdrop of their tropical habitat. Church teases him for not finding the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria--the highest coastal mountain range in the world--when Heade was standing at its foothills."

Wrote Church: "I tell you--you have missed a big thing...lately an American Engineer studied the mountain and measured it--and here's one of our Artists--couldn't find it when he was actually sweltering at its foot. Perhaps the mosquitoes were in the way thus--" And Church draws the image of the view of a tiny Heade being blocked by a swarm of mosquitoes.

On the bottom, a detail of a letter, dated July 30, 1876, from landscape and marine painter William Trost Richards to his major patron George Whitney. "In his letters to Whitney, [Richards] would frequently enclose miniature landscapes such as this one, which he called 'COUPONS,' so that Whitney could see a subject in advance and order a painting."

Organized by the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, the exhibition remains open until October 14th.

This coming Sunday, the museum will also host a panel discussion on Southern food. Julie Phillips, in the Athens Banner-Herald, has the details [here]...and from the museum's web site [here]. From the site: "Nothing sums up the Southern experience more than its food, and this panel discussion will bring together some of the top culinary minds in the region. Charles Ramsey from Athens' award-winning Five & Ten restaurant, Linton Hopkins from Atlanta's famed Restaurant Eugene, Lee Epting from Athens' own Epting Events and Irene Smith, the author of Menus and Memories from Dixie Manor: The Pleasures of Entertaining at Home, will discuss the tradition and culture behind Southern cooking. Noted Athens historian Milton Leathers will serve as the panel's moderator.

Following the event, the museum will host a reception that shines the spotlight on Southern food companies, ranging from well-known brands like Moon Pie to smaller, family operated businesses like Aunt Ruby's Peanuts in Enfield, N.C. Also, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans is sending over a display of menus from Southern eateries across the country, and guests are encouraged to bring their own menus to donate to the SFBM."

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