Take Two, Part Two

As mentioned previously, the museum is closed until September 25, when we reopen with a new exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West. The exhibit will feature 17 paintings from Catlin’s Second Indian Gallery. But wait, who is George Catlin and what are his Indian Galleries?

George Catlin (1796-1872) was a self-taught, self-supporting and self-motivated artist, author, showman, promoter, entrepreneur, and ethnographer. Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and trained in the law, he chose art instead. Having the foresight in the 1830s that American Indian cultures were vanishing, he made it his lifelong mission to create a record of all native life in the Americas for future generations.

“Buffalo Chase––Bulls Protecting the Calves,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 153) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 1/2 x 25 1/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Buffalo Chase––Bulls Protecting the Calves,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 153) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 1/2 x 25 1/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Catlin’s First Indian Gallery

He painted 500 Native American portraits and scenes of everyday life of 48 Indian tribes—buffalo hunts, dances, games, amusements, rituals, and religious ceremonies—that he witnessed on summer excursions in 1832, 1834, 1835, and 1836. The prolific painter was tireless in publicizing his work; he continually sent letters of his travels to be published in newspapers, and he gave lectures showing Indian costumes and artifacts.

He thought his Indian Gallery deserved government patronage. But when he failed to persuade Congress to buy his paintings, Catlin left America at the end of 1839 to find a new audience and new prospects abroad. He would not return until 1871.

Despite the promise of a French king’s commission for Catlin’s La Salle Expedition series, he was unable to find a patron and faced bankruptcy in 1852. Joseph Harrison, a Philadelphia industrialist, paid Catlin’s debts and held the first Indian Gallery as collateral. Catlin was never able to retrieve the Indian Gallery.

Catlin’s Second Indian Gallery

Alleged to have traveled extensively to a number of countries principally in South America from 1854 to 1860, he then settled in Brussels, Belgium. From 1860 to 1870, he completed a second Indian Gallery, which he called the Cartoon Collection. He called these oil paintings “cartoons,” explaining that they were yet unfinished. Relying on his memory of experiences with the American Indians in the 1830s, he drew from images in his first Indian Gallery, adding new subjects from the 1850s to the 1860s. Of the estimated 600 cartoons that he painted, there are 351 in the Mellon Collection, 17 of which are presented in Take Two.

Catlin exhibited the Cartoon Collection in 1870, first in Brussels, then in New York and Washington, D.C., where, in bad health and nearly deaf, he died in 1872.

“Mandan War Chief with His Favorite Wife,” George Catlin (1796-1872),  (Cartoon No. 30) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 5/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Mandan War Chief with His Favorite Wife,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 30) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 5/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Catlin’s Astonishing Visual Legacy

Although Catlin never secured government patronage, his dream of creating a comprehensive visual record of native life in the Americas was nearly fulfilled after his death. In 1879, Joseph Harrison’s widow donated the first Indian Gallery, more than 500 paintings, to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. In 1912, Catlin’s heirs sold the Cartoon Collection to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1965, the late Paul Mellon, philanthropist and board member of the National Gallery of Art, purchased works in the Cartoon Collection offered for sale by the American Museum of Natural History. Of the paintings that he purchased, he donated 351 to the National Gallery of Art, located just a few blocks from the Smithsonian.

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:  The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133: The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West

Autumn is just around the corner, and with a new season comes a new exhibition. Sunday, September 14 is the last day of Western Treasures, after which time the museum will be closed in preparation for an exciting new exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West. The 17 paintings in the exhibition portraying eight American Indian tribes are from Catlin’s Cartoon Collection on loan from The Paul Mellon Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Thirteen of the works have never before been exhibited in Texas.

In addition, a rare Deluxe edition of the most famous book published in the 19th century on the American Indian, Catlin’s Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, and two of Catlin’s American Indian portfolios will be on loan from a private collection. Selections from the portfolios will be on display and rotate throughout the exhibition.Catlin Book CollageCatlin Portfolio Collage

Driven by his lifelong mission to create a record of all Indian cultures in the Americas for future generations, George Catlin (1796-1872) was the most influential 19th century American painter of American Indians. He completed more than 1,100 paintings and drawings of everyday life of Indians that included buffalo hunts, dances, games, amusements, rituals, portraits, and religious ceremonies. His pictorial history is the most complete collection of paintings that show Native American cultures in the West in the 1830s. There is no body of artistic images of the Indians comparable to Catlin’s in terms of being early and influential because of his exhibitions and books.

Catlin is a natural fit for our museum. Two of the preeminent artists of the American West, Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, also devoted themselves to Western themes, painting with a sense of nostalgia for a West that was then passing or had already passed. Catlin, who recorded the cultural life of the Native Americans he encountered on his travels west of the Mississippi in the 1830s, painted anticipating a time in the future when the manners and customs of the American Indian would be lost.

Catlin visited 48 Indian tribes in the 1830s and completed some 500 paintings known as the Indian Gallery. He had to forfeit the Indian Gallery to industrialist Joseph Harrison in 1852 to pay off his creditors. He then started working on what became known as his second Indian Gallery, which he referred to as his Cartoon Collection, explaining that the paintings were preliminary.

The title of this exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West, refers to Catlin’s recreation of his first Indian Gallery. Relying on his memory of experiences with the American Indians in the 1830s, he drew from images in his first Indian Gallery, adding new subjects during the 1850s and 1860s, until he completed his second Indian Gallery of more than 600 paintings.

The guest curator for Take Two is Brian W. Dippie, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Dr. Dippie is a specialist in the history of Western American art and has published extensively on George Catlin. “This second take on his subjects is important in understanding his circumstances and in understanding the enlarged record of the American Indian that he provided,” said Dippie. “The two goals of the exhibition are to illuminate the guiding principles behind Catlin’s entire enterprise and to focus on Southern Plains subjects with a Texas twist.”

The exhibition includes the Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa tribes (Texas tribes that Catlin encountered in the Arkansas Territory) and the Cheyenne, Mandan, Ojibwa, Pawnee and Sioux Plains Indian tribes.

Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West opens Thursday, September 25, 2014.

Meet & Greet: Leslie

Today’s post concludes our summer blog series, Meet & Greet. We’ve enjoyed sharing our staff with you and hope you’ve learned a little more about the Sid Richardson Museum. For our final introduction, let me tell you a little bit about myself, Leslie Thompson, Adult Audiences Manager.Leslie Collage

Describe your job.

I work within the education department, primarily with our Adult Programs. I design and implement dynamic programs for adults to provide engaging experiences aimed at enhancing visitors’ relationships with the artwork. In addition, I organize continuing education for our docents and manage special events hosted at the museum.

What does any average day entail?

Every day is different, but usually I am planning or preparing for an upcoming program, which often involves conducting research about a certain topic related to our collection, gathering together all necessary materials, and coordinating with staff. And I’m always looking for a fun fact or behind-the-scenes detail to reveal to our audiences through social media.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is having the opportunity to not only learn about a variety of subjects, but to be able to share this wealth of knowledge with the public and engage with fellow art enthusiasts.  I’m also fortunate to work with such an amazing staff who are supportive and open to new ideas.

What’s the most interesting fun fact you’ve learned about the collection/museum?

As I read more about the artists represented in our collection, I’m continuously amazed at how adventurous these men were, especially during a period when transportation was not the easiest. They traveled everywhere! As a teenager, Russell moved from the established city of St. Louis to the uncharted Montana Territory. Remington traveled from New York to Cuba, and William Robertson Leigh journeyed to Africa – twice! Several of them toured Europe, as was the custom of artists at the turn of the century – both Leigh and Charles Schreyvogel studied in Munich and Edwin Willard Deming in Paris. And of course, each of these men traveled to the American West, as best captured in their artwork.

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

I love watercolors, which is why I’m naturally drawn to Russell’s The Scout. Russell thought he was a better watercolorist than a painter of oils, which is probably why a third of his artistic output was in watercolors. Watercolor is a difficult medium, so I admire anyone who can produce a good watercolor painting. Because Russell was self-taught, he practiced several techniques that most trained watercolorists wouldn’t do. For example, Russell layered the watercolors to create a thicker buildup of paint, as if they were oil paints. But above all else, I like the simplicity and elegance of this painting.

Charles M. Russell | The Scout | 1907 | Watercolor, pencil & gouache on paper | 16 3/4 x 11 5/8 inches

Charles M. Russell | The Scout | 1907 | Watercolor, pencil & gouache on paper | 16 3/4 x 11 5/8 inches

Happy Birthday, Edwin!

Today marks Edwin Willard Deming’s birthday, another artist in our collection. Born on a family homestead in Ohio in 1860, E.W. Deming grew up on the prairie lands of Illinois. As a child, Deming experienced his first encounter with Native Americans when the Winnebagoes would travel down from Wisconsin to hunt and trap nearby.

Edwin W. Deming | Indians (Indian Attack) | c. 1910 | Oil on canvas | 20 1/8 x 28 1/8 inches

Edwin W. Deming | Indians (Indian Attack) | c. 1910 | Oil on canvas | 20 1/8 x 28 1/8 inches

In the late 1880s, Deming went to live with the Crow Indians near Little Bighorn River, the site of the infamous defeat of General Custer. The artist made many studies of the Crows and their homes and land. Thus began the next thirty years of traveling among Indian groups all over North America, becoming friends with the likes of Gall, a Sioux leader, and Rain in the Face, Flying By, Iron Tail, Big Moon, the Cheyenne chief, and others. Deming even received Sitting Bull’s permission to photograph one of the dances of the Ghost Dance ceremony.

The artist was much beloved throughout his career and made friends with many, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, who was a collector of Deming’s work. His paintings were placed in many well-known public institutions during his lifetime, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, and the American Museum of Natural History, which had commissioned the artist to complete a series of murals for their Plains Indian Room. Often known as “the painter of the Indian soul,” Deming painted in an Impressionist manner and imbued his canvases with a diffused softness. The artist also worked in sculptures and produced several bronzes of wildlife and Native Americans. In 1934, Deming became the first living artist to have a painting reproduced on a U.S. postage stamp.

Edwin Willard Deming, Moose Hunt, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 33.875" x 60.25", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, Moose Hunt, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 33.875″ x 60.25″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Deming is the focus of a current exhibition on display at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Art with Purpose features 30 works from the museum’s collection. Illustrating the evolution of social thought and perceptions of Native Americans, Deming’s work reveals a man who painted with purpose to capture the daily life of these cultures. To learn more about the exhibition, visit the Gilcrease website.

Edwin Willard Deming, Return of the Lone Survivor, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 23.625" x 33.875", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, Return of the Lone Survivor, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 23.625″ x 33.875″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, The War Song, Dakota, Oil on Canvas, 43.75" x 71.875", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, The War Song, Dakota, Oil on Canvas, 43.75″ x 71.875″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Meet & Greet: Debi

Have you enjoyed getting better acquainted with our staff this summer? Our Meet & Greet series is nearing the end. But first, let’s catch up with Debi Carl, Visitor Services and Store Liaison.IMG_4199

Describe your job.

I am usually the first person visitors meet when they enter the Museum.  I greet visitors, distribute gallery guides, answer questions pertaining to the Museum or Mr. Richardson and can give directions to almost anything in Fort Worth/Tarrant County. I also assist store staff, if needed.

What does any average day entail?

My daily duties will vary.  Most of the time I am in my place at the entrance to the gallery.  Occasionally I will work upstairs answering the phone.  I make sure the front desk is fully stocked with gallery guides, maps, etc. and that the brochure rack is full.  I order brochures from other Museums as needed.  I am always available to assist any other staff member with any project they may have.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is getting to meet and visit with people from all over the world who come into the Museum!  I am capable of having a heavy Texas drawl on occasion.  When we have international visitors I tend to exaggerate that drawl to make them smile.  I almost always wish visitors “Happy Trails” when they leave the Museum. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard them singing that song as the door closes behind them.

What’s the most interesting fun fact you’ve learned about the collection/museum?

The fact I enjoy the most concerns Mr. Sid and Amon Carter.  They both used the same art dealer from New York, Bert Newhouse, to help them acquire their artwork.  Mr. Newhouse would come to town to sell paintings and whichever man he met first got the sales pitch for the art piece.  Mr. Newhouse would then make an appointment with the other man and do the same sales pitch.   Mr. Sid & Mr. Carter got together over dinner shortly after these meetings and decided among themselves which one would purchase the artwork.

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

My favorites have changed over time.  When I first started working in the Museum I was quite drawn to Charles Russell.  Over the years I now appreciate the work of BOTH of the primary artists in our collection – Charles Russell AND Frederic Remington. However, my favorite painting at this time is Bears in the Path by William Robinson Leigh.  I love the expression on the hunter’s face as he rounds the bend to find a mama bear and her two cubs.  The horse’s expression is great too…both of his ears are straight up!  The question begs to be asked: which one will back up?  The hunter or the bears?

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

Sister Cities

This week we had a visit from a group of high school students from Nagaoka, Japan. Here at the Sid Richardson Museum, we’re excited to give these students an opportunity to learn and be creative.

As part of the Fort Worth Sister Cities program, these young scholars toured various cultural institutions around the city, and the Sid was lucky enough to be included. I had a chance to talk with a representative from Fort Worth Sister Cities International to learn more about the program.IMG_4333

What is Sister Cities?

Sister Cities is an international organization that facilitates peace and prosperity around the world. Fort Worth has 8 sister cities, located in Japan, China, Germany, Swaziland, Italy, Indonesia, Mexico and Hungary. The students coming to Sid Richardson are part of an exchange we have been participating in for many years with Nagaoka, our Japanese sister city. This exchange is called the Harashin Scholarship Program, and has been generously funded by the Hara family. The program shares the name of the Hara family’s company, Harashin Co., which is a chain of supermarkets in Japan.

What is the goal of this program?

The exchange is intended to promote education and cultural sharing between the Japanese and Fort Worth students. It is also intended for the students to reach out to the community. For example, while the students are here, they will be volunteering at Teen Times at the FW Central Library.

What other activities are planned for these students?

We are so excited! Their week in town is full of events. They will attend a rodeo, take many tours including the George Bush Presidential Library and the JFK 6th Floor Museum, TCU campus, the Log Cabin Village, Bass Hall, the stockyards, and AT&T Stadium, and will be carrying the Japanese flag onto the field for Japan-America friendship night at the Rangers Ballpark.

Why did you choose to include the Sid Richardson Museum?

We included a tour of the Sid Richardson Museum because we feel that by visiting your establishment, our scholars will become more informed about the history and culture of our wonderful city, as well as be fascinated by the lovely art that is featured.IMG_4341

Sister City CollageIMG_4380

Visit the Fort Worth Sister Cities website to learn more about the program.

The Luckless Hunter

Yesterday the museum hosted our final Art of Story workshop of the summer. The museum houses a wealth of narrative imagery in our collection. During these workshops, the kids explore elements shared by narrative images and the stories they inspire. Another favorite story is one inspired by Remington’s painting The Luckless Hunter.

Frederic Remington, The Luckless Hunter, 1909, Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 28 7/8 inches

Frederic Remington, The Luckless Hunter, 1909, Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 28 7/8 inches

There once was a man who went out on a hunt. His family was hungry and desperate for food. He hunted alone – not the way of hunters. He made camp near the place of the tall trees. He slept fitfully and awoke in the night to the sound of wailing. A ghost appeared before him, hovering in a long, white deerskin dress; white moccasins; and with long, white hair floating around her head. The ghost groaned and wailed in the voices of the hunter’s woman and his children. Another ghost appeared, dressed as a man mourning for one who had died in disgrace. The hunter ran. He left behind his arrows, bows, and spear heads. He ran into the darkness.

As he fled, he ran headlong into another ghost. This was an older woman resembling his mother, and she was floating high in the air. She was dressed in white and cried white tears which fell down on top of him like snow. Her white hair blew around her as her form floated to the hunter. He fell to his knees, keeping his head down. The white ghost woman floated over him crying. The hunter did not move.

A howl filled the air. The white woman ghost shattered with the sound. The howl grew louder and louder. A man approached the hunter and then spoke to him. The hunter could not understand what the man was telling him. He watched the feet of the man walking around him as the man spoke. The feet moved round and round and round and round the hunter. The man spoke harshly, and the hunter closed his eyes. When he opened them, a wolf was pacing round and round and round and round him.

The night air was still, and Brother Moon was only half-way across the sky. The hunter had disobeyed the rules of his people. Ghosts were sent to kill him. The wolf lifted his jowls and grabbed the hunter’s belt with his sharp, white teeth. The wolf growled, tugging on the belt, and the hunter stood and followed. The wolf let out a yelp. The hunter followed the wolf to another camp.

There were hunters from another tribe, and they needed another hunter. The wolf pulled the hunter to the ground and moved into the clearing near the others. As the wolf walked to the fire, his shape turned into that of a man. The man spoke with the others. They listened and nodded, smiling. The man turned and beckoned the hunter to enter the clearing and meet the others, which he did. As the hunters talked, the strange man stepped back into the forest. He returned to the shape of a wolf.

The wolf lifted his head and howled, disappearing in the night. The hunter was adopted into this group and was treated well. He became the best hunter of them all, and he never hunted alone. Whenever he returned from the hunt, he would leave meat outside the camp. In the morning the meat was gone, and there were only the paw prints of one lone wolf.

From White Wolf Woman and Other Native American Transformation Myths by Teresa Pijoan

Meet & Greet: Renee

Continuing our summer blog series, Meet & Greet, let’s catch up with our Administrative Assistant, Renee Green.

Renee Green: front left

Renee Green: front left

Describe your job.

I provide administrative support to the Director by assisting with exhibitions, scheduling meetings and coordinating related tasks from making logistical arrangements for museum professionals to maintaining the shared Museum calendar. I also prepare reports and databases for museum projects and proofread staff-prepared material.  I answer the Museum’s incoming telephone calls and interact with the Director, Visitor Services/Store Liaison, all of our wonderful staff members, volunteers and the public.

What does any average day entail?

I multi-task every day, but an average day usually begins with a quick, informal meeting with the Director to discuss the day’s events and calendar in order to clarify and prioritize the day.  No two days are ever the same.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is doing many different tasks and learning new things from our various exhibits. Museum exhibits are planned a year or more in advance so on any given day, we are planning for the future. While working on some aspect of a future exhibit, I will receive a phone call or question about an existing exhibit, and then in the next minute need to refer to a past exhibit for any number of reasons.

The other wonderful thing about my job is getting to work with such an amazing and caring staff. Each and every one of them is professional and possesses numerous talents that make working at the Sid Richardson Museum a joy.

What’s the most interesting fun fact you’ve learned about the collection/museum?

There are so many fun stories about Remington and Russell, the collection, Amon Carter and Sid. But one of my favorite stories about Sid Richardson is the one about him and his father making a trade when Sid was just eight years old. On a previous occasion, Sid’s father had given his son a lot in downtown. “When Sid subsequently accepted his father’s offer to trade a bull for the lot. Sid realized he now had a bull, but no place to keep the animal. Sid recalled as an adult that, ‘My daddy taught me a hard lesson with the first trade – but he started me tradin’ for life.’”

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

That is a tough question. I have several favorites and the longer I work at the museum, the more I have begun to appreciate various works for different reasons. When I first came to the museum, my favorite painting was Indians Hunting Buffalo. This was an odd choice for me because the painting depicts a buffalo being shot with arrows, and I am such an animal lover. However, the white horse in this C. M. Russell painting is gorgeous and to this day reminds me of the Greek mythological white horse, Pegasus, minus the wings of course. “IHB,” as we lovingly refer to this painting, still holds my fascination some 8 years later.

Charles M. Russell, Indians Hunting Buffalo (Wild Men's Meat; Buffalo Hunt), 1894, Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches

Charles M. Russell, Indians Hunting Buffalo (Wild Men’s Meat; Buffalo Hunt), 1894, Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches

The Great American West Adventure

It’s that time of year – summer camp! Our American West Adventure Summer Camp introduces children to the time period known as the Great American West. Each day is themed around a different subject matter represented in the museum’s collection consisting of Native Americans, explorers and pioneers, cowboy culture, and artists, such as Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington, who forever captured the essence of life in the 19th century America. Offering a 5-day camp provides students the chance to explore these themes in a deeper, more meaningful way than they might in a typical 45 minute school tour.IMG_3683

Each day of camp features a balance of gallery tours, sketching from the collection, and art-making activities that allow campers to learn about and make their own responses the collection. A few activities we have planned include:

  • oil pastel landscapes based on a painting from the collection
  • designing a cowboy hat band with Conchos
  • metal tooling
  • painting
  • rattle making
  • creating a personal brand design just like a real cowboy

IMG_3776IMG_3867IMG_3915

Whenever possible we try to use authentic art making materials and tools, such as acrylic paints and stretched canvas, to give our visitors a sense of what Remington, Russell, and today’s professional artist use to create art. One of our goals is to expose children to materials they might not have access to in school or at home. At the end of camp, each camper gets to take home a kit of paints, brushes, and paper along with their sketchbook and artwork to continue the imagination process at home.IMG_3855

Overall, we hope that students walk away with a greater appreciation for art of the American West and an understanding of the communities that helped shape this adventurous time period. Our visitor-driven approach aims to impart students with a balance of information, tools, and exploration so that they can make their own personal connections and artistic responses to the museum’s collection. Everyone sees and experiences artwork and art making differently. We try to create an environment that makes children comfortable to learn, feel safe creating ideas, and have fun!

Meet & Greet: Mary

Continuing our summer blog series, Meet & Greet, let’s get acquainted with Mary Burke, our Director.Mary Collage

Describe your job.

I lead a team of professionals who are talented, dedicated and creative and work well together and with our visitors. They make our collection of late 19th – early 20th century art of the American West accessible, inviting and relevant to the community, via the museum’s exhibitions, resources and programming for students, families and adults.

What does an average day entail?

“Average” varies, but normally it involves planning and organizing the upcoming exhibition, overseeing operational aspects of the museum and communicating with team members about the exhibition, resources, volunteers and programs, particularly regarding the development of school and public programming.

What’s the best part of your job?

Experiencing the professionalism of the museum’s team and seeing our amazing docents in action in the gallery. We have enthusiastic volunteers who dedicate many hours preparing for, and leading, tour experiences that help visitors make personal connections with our collection. And, I love working in the heart of Sundance Square!

What’s the most interesting fun fact you’ve learned about the collection?

The Bohlin Parade Saddle, a gift to Sid Richardson from Amon G. Carter and his son, bears a plate indicating Sid was the “Mayor of Primrose, Texas.” The gift represents the sense of camaraderie between Sid and Amon, as Primrose was actually a railroad cattle loading stop on Richardson’s Dutch Branch ranch. When the saddle was presented to Sid, it was accompanied by a plaque which read, in part, “To our mayor, the Hon. Sid W. Richardson, so that when he rides forth to inspect his vast ranges and huge cattle herds he may do so in comfort and the residents thereof, whether quadrupeds or bipeds, may be properly impressed and show to him the deference and due one of his official position.”BOHLIN SADDLE 019

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

Frederic Remington’s The Dry Camp.  Brilliant in color, it is ripe with ambiguity and tension, and for me, symbolic of moments in life when we are at a crossroad, not knowing exactly where a choice may lead us. Since Kat Yount previously selected this as her favorite work, I’ll mention my second favorite, Nai-U-Chi, Chief of the Bow, Zuni 1895 by Charles Francis Browne. There is quiet dignity depicted in this portrait. Nai-U-Chi seems contemplative, ready to offer sage advice. Come see it soon, because when our Western Treasures exhibit closes on September 14, the portrait won’t be on display again at the museum until the summer of 2015.

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches