Thoughts on Zelda, Museums, New Appreciations and Hope

This past Friday, I was a chaperon with my daughter’s fourth grade class field trip to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art. At first, while I was happy to spend the time with my child, I am ashamed to admit that I had a bit of a sorry attitude about going to the museum. This is after all, the museum I have been inside more than any other museum, and well, you know how it is, you always undervalue the places in your hometown. I mean, they couldn’t possibly be that great, right? I mean, other museums in other, larger cities must have so much more to offer, right?
Well, I was once again pleasantly surprised by our museum (see how quickly I now call it “our” museum?) Maybe it was the knowledgeable docent whom gave us the tour, but I left with a new outlook and appreciation of the artwork in the permanent collection here.
Whenever I visit other cites and I am asked to purchase a ticket to enter their museum I am a little conflicted over the issue. See, this museum I grew up visiting has no admission fee, and that has always seemed right to me. Art should be accessible to everyone. The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is so well supported by our city both privately and publicly that their exhibits are free to view.
The painting in the photo above is one by Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. She was born and raised in Montgomery, AL and in fact first met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a dance at the Montgomery Country Club. They married and lived in Montgomery at one point in a home around the corner from my showroom/studio. I had to snap this photo with my phone since I was surprised to learn “we” had three paintings of hers in “our” collection. Photos of Zelda and the Jazz Age she was a part of influenced my development of the limited edition Holiday 2011 Collection of exVoto.
The oil on canvas painting is titled, “Poppy” and was painted around 1938. At this time I believe Zelda was in an asylum in North Carolina suffering from mental illness and painting much of the time.
This particular painting is also interesting to me because it was donated to the museum by my father’s mentor, Charles Shannon, who has been called the father of the New South Art Movement. He was friends with Zelda and attended her parties when she came back to visit Montgomery. Mr. Shannon told my mother that Zelda could throw a great party and always invited the young twenty-somethings of which he was a member!
Charles Shannon and his wife gave me my first locket when I was born and, as you may have read from me before, included a hand-written blessing on a small card inside the box which read, “May your life be as beautiful as you are.” This blessing along with my locket have inspired me to create the blessing keepsake charms which fit inside the limited edition lockets.

The photo above is a Rothko in the museum’s permanent collection. In the light of this season’s color-blocking fashion trend, it is important to remember that Rothko may have been the original color-blocking master!

This is another one of Zelda’s paintings in the Museum’s collection. It is so beautiful in person. Soft and subtle. If you have ever attempted to paint in oils you can appreciate this nearly all-white painting. White is the slowest drying oil color and a novice struggles not lose the vibrancy of the white while mixing other colors into it carefully. The shapes of this painting are all organic. These shapes remind me of the trees we find here in the south which I have always heard called, “rain-pod” trees maybe because they create thousands of these fragile, hollow, papery, bulb-shaped pods and then they all rain down in strong winds. But maybe Zelda was inspired by the cotton of the south which has a similar shape. Either way, I think Zelda was thinking of home when she painted this since she gifted it to the Museum. She titled the oil painting, Hope, which makes me sad for her. Perhaps she was hoping she would one day be well enough to return home to the land of cotton fields and rain-pod trees and people who could appreciate her artistic talents and accept her just as she was.

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