Amon Carter was poor. When he was 13, his mother died and he left home to support himself with odd jobs. He eventually learned sales skills and built a Texas-sized media empire. A desire to provide opportunities denied him early in life led Carter to establish the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth in 1961. Now in this city’s impressive Cultural District, ACMoAA was initially built to show Carter’s Remington and Russell collections, but this free museum has grown to 200,000 works including familiar artists like Georgia O’Keeffe.
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s current show appealed to my taste buds, at first. Called “Art and Appetite”, its 60 paintings about food included a couple of familiar images like Norman Rockwell’s 3-generation family waiting to eat Thanksgiving dinner and paying no attention to the turkey that grandma is placing on the table. What I hadn’t realized is that its title is “Freedom from Want” and that it’s part of a series of 4 oil paintings Rockwell completed during World War II when food was rationed and folks were still remembering the Great Depression. When encouraged to look closely, I saw that the meal-to-be was basically humble. In addition to the turkey, this happy family was about to share what appeared to be celery sticks, a very small cranberry mold, and some apples and grapes. Hmmmm. Look to learn.
This exhibit also included Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”, 4 people in a well-lit diner. But, again, I was encouraged to look closely at this familiar painting to see that there is no food being eaten or served, the 4 humans are not interacting in any way, and the night outside is rather menacing. It, too, was painted during the war years, 1942. Hmmmm.
James Peale’s still-life, “Balsam Apple and Vegetables”, was accompanied by notes. Both Balsam apples & pears are poisonous! The pear, for example, is said to smell like a much-used gym shoe and turn toxic when ripe. Hmmmm. So I learned not to eat an orange-hued Balsam pear and to question Peale’s motive for making it look so edible.
Most of the other works in “Art and Appetite” were by unfamiliar artists, at least to me, and I learned to look at mouth-watering food but read about it with trepidation. Ruth, meanwhile, was seriously studying food’s cultural aspects and taking notes about our changing habits–Americans principle meal has moved from midday to evening, eating has become much more public, we experience more ethnic cuisine, etc. Tacos, anyone?
“Art and Appetite” is only at Amon Carter until May 18, 2014, and I’m sorry I didn’t blog about it sooner. The only other museum to schedule it was Chicago’s Art Institute, owner of “Nighthawks”, and it displayed it before it came to Amon Carter. Yale University Press has put out a comprehensive catalog that is already available on Amazon, used, for about $30.
Upcoming at AC are what appear to be some worthwhile shows. From May 10 until October 19, 2014, it will hang 20 paintings from the private collection of St. Louis’ Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, huge fans of Midwest art. The exhibit will include some works by popular artists–Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood–and some worthy but not well-known like Joe Jones. Before that exhibit closes “Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River” will open. A lot of Bingham’s paintings and drawings focused on America’s Midwest rivers when they were like today’s Interstate highways. The exhibit promises to explore both river culture and Bingham’s art.
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is always 5 Compass.