Josephine Tota ( 1910-1996 )
Inside the Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester, New York
Too hot and humid to work in the studio, I made up my mind that I would be better off going over to the Memorial Art Gallery to see their new shows and hear from the curator of "The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota". Josephine who? How often does our museum here in Rochester - introduce us to a totally new figure - a self-taught artist who died in obscurity but left her family a copious amount of small scale paintings that tell a large story worth sharing.
Questions and answers about Josephine Tota
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Josephine Tota's art at the MAG
Jessica Marten is the Curator in Charge at the MAG and she spent part of her afternoon talking with her audience in the museum auditorium about how she first encountered the art of Josephine Tota, and how this art offered a rare opportunity to open a new chapter for these paintings which had never been seen at all by the public. Josephine Tota had experienced psychological problems and had virtually withdrawn from her work as a seamstress but forged ahead with her art at home. Josephine Tota probably never expected her paintings to be given such an arousing welcome as we have here at the MAG.
Josephine Tota's paintings tell stories...
Josephine Tota lived in Rochester, New York, so her story has resonance with an audience gathered for the opening of the show. She could be considered a naive artist - but the sentiment and emotion expressed in her art has more of a surreal context and an illustrative quality to it. The 90 pieces on display owe more to an earlier century of European art, especially the flattened patterns of medieval manuscript paintings that Ms. Tota so enjoyed during her life.
On this Sunday afternoon, I stay to hear Karel Ann Marling speak about Grandma Moses, another self-taught painter who was a star in her own right - I grew up looking at her artwork often published in the 1950's and 60's - which had some influence when I was a child.
Karel Ann Marling is a very interesting speaker having spent years working up her biography of Grandma Moses, and I am very taken with the images, history, and cultural effects that her paintings had, and one can wonder if Josephine Tota will have that kind of impact once her paintings become more well known.
Nancy Jurs at the MAG
Nancy Jurs is a sculptor and installation artist who is well known and respected here at the MAG. Her show has a title: "My Life Has Gotten So Busy That It Now Takes Up All Of My Time". Her sculptural works are mainly fired ceramics - some like the grouping installed at the Rochester Airport years ago are quite large. In this present selection her art is often found in sequence - hanging here under a scrim - which reads almost like a filmstrip.
Model for Airport Installation by Nancy Jurs
Down the hall in the Lockhart Gallery, Larry Merrill has a selection of photos on view that he has made of classical sculpture. Some of the sculptural pieces come from the Memorial Art Gallery permanent collection and measure only an inch or so across. In Larry Merrill's photos the lighting gives these objects a real presence, and a viewer can take in nuance that may not be really evident when seen as a real 3D experience. The photographer's eye captures something else, a quality often of decomposition - some of the unsettling aspects of looking at antiquities from a more analytical perspective. We really get a sense of how the years have gone by, the depth of history, and the vulnerability even of artwork carved in stone.
Larry Merrill presents: "Wards of Time"