As this is the Jackson Hole Art Blog, and not the Irish Artists Look at America Blog, I should probably begin this post with my “Art for Dummies” discovery that Thomas Moran, famed portraitist of Yellowstone, was not the only artist in his family. In fact, most of his immediate family were noted artists, a bit of art history I recently discovered.
Instead I’m opening by turning you on to Irish painter Tom Molloy’s exhibit at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. Located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the Aldrich is a gem, an “approachable” museum with great appeal. A friend cautioned that the Aldrich was, at the time of our visit, “between exhibits.” It was. Most galleries were closed, but the exhibition we viewed was so powerful it was worth the time invested and more.
The show’s title, Tom Molloy, is as spare as this exhibit first appears. It is unusual because Molloy is an Irishman living in Ireland whose work is largely about American events and issues. Akin to Pop Art, Molloy’s art utilizes real money, maps, other found objects and wordplay. His “surgically precise” drawings and scale are magnetic. Zoomed in, Molloy’s scathing opinions on global events, new world order and America’s role in global affairs reveal themselves. Messages are punch-you-in-the-heart clear.
A self portrait depicts Molloy holding a newspaper featuring a photo of an Abu Ghraib detainee holding a photo depicting one of the detention facility’s nefarious prisoner abuses. Map, one of Molloy’s best known works, is a cut dollar bill map of the world; not much larger than a dollar bill, we initially mistook the work for a wall doodle. Positioned at eye level, it is in fact a “….double-edged metaphor of American might and hegemony.”
Dead Texans, a series of fifty stamp sized portraits of death row prison inmates executed in that state during George W. Bush’s tenure as governor, captures each prisoner’s likeness, even providing glimpses of personality and fractured spirits. From a slight distance the portraits resemble inky thumbprints. These men are simultaneously stripped of personal identity and confirmed as unique, individual beings. Each regards the viewer straight on. Faintly visible penciled drawing grids further connote incarceration and the reality of fifty doomed destinies.
Standing in the gallery’s center, we realize that an exhibition as politically charged as this has yet to turn up in Jackson. With time, I believe we can open ourselves to exhibiting work with equal depth and commentary.
Tom Molloy remains on exhibit at the Aldrich until June 13 2010. Phone: 203.438.4519.
Went to dinner at my cousin’s house. She’s a master artist in her own right, she needs to exhibit and show, show, show.
As we talked, she pointed out a substantially sized etching hanging over the sofa. The work depicts a Pennsylvania open field, ringed by forest, and inhabited- Peaceable Kingdom style–by cows and other animals. She pointed to the artist’s name: Peter Moran (1841-1914).
My cousin found the etching at a flea market. She cleaned it up, and instantly spotted Moran’s signature.
Peter Moran, brother of Thomas Moran, favored Pennsylvania’s farmlands as subjects, but in 1890 he participated in the U.S. Indian census, and ventured into Yellowstone. “Grand Tetons View” was, according to Grand Teton National Park, most likely painted while he was on that expedition. A watercolor, this view captures the Tetons as they appeared from Idaho. It is part of the permanent collection of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Peter Moran, the youngest brother in the Moran family, is said to have become his brother’s best art student.
Peter was three when his family arrived in America. At age fifteen, he became a lithographer’s apprentice. His interest in portraying animals was life long. Moran’s efforts in this area are obvious; the Teton painting seems an exercise compared to his animal scenes, which are rich in detailed devotion.