The Edmond Sun

Arts & Entertainment

February 15, 2014

Taos painter brings West to life in OKC exhibit

OKLA. CITY — How do you like to get your information? If you’re someone who just wants the bottom line — the Readers’ Digest version — or an up-to-date-140-characters Twitter tweet, here’s the scoop.  “Amazing exhibit featuring Walter Ufer at the Natl. Cowboy & West. Heritage museum. One of a kind. Do not miss! Now until May 11.” If abbreviated sound bites leave you cold then read on.

Walter Ufer? I have to admit it wasn’t a name I recognized but it turns out that he was one of the 12 members of the Taos Society of Artists and widely acclaimed in his prime but relegated to relative obscurity following his premature death.

Ufer was born in Germany in 1876, immigrating to the United States when he was 4. He dreamed of being an artist and in 1893 returned to Germany to study there. In 1906 he married Mary Fredericksen, herself an artist, from a distinguished Danish family. In 1911, he went back to Europe to study more and concentrate on his art.

Disappointment was in store when he returned to the United States. His strongly Teutonic style — the somber palette, wet-on-wet technique and rigidity — was out of favor with American trends. Finally, in 1914, he was given a solo exhibition at the prestigious Palette and Chisel Club, Chicago’s oldest academy of fine arts.

Mary, as she did throughout their marriage, made every effort to support his career. As a result of her suggestions — and, probably, social connections — Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison became Walter’s first sponsor.

Carter, a talented photographer, had made a number of trips through Taos and it was at his and Mary’s urging, that Ufer made his first trip to Taos. According to Dean Porter, director emeritus of the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame and curator of this exhibition, “Munich taught him a method of dynamic paint application. New Mexico introduced him to color.”  Under New Mexico’s brilliant blue skies and surrounded by color, his palette changed completely.  By 1917, the Ufers were living in New Mexico.

Taos at that time was a sleepy little village whose population was primarily Hispanic and Indian.  There were only about two dozen Anglos in residence, but several of these were artists. Since the first visit to Taos by artist Joseph Henry Sharp in 1893, other artists had come to the area to paint. By 1915, six of them — Sharp, Ernest Blumenschein, Bert Phillips, Oscar Berninghaus, Irving Couse and Herbert Dunton — formed the Taos Society of Artists. It was basically a marketing co-op with the goals of encouraging one another, creating general interest in art and in promoting their works through traveling exhibitions.

Walter Ufer was elected to membership in July of 1917. Other members of the organization included Victor Higgins, Julius Rolshoven, Catharine Critcher (the only woman), Martin Hennings and Kenneth Adams plus several associate and honorary members.      

Harrison continued as Walter’s patron and adviser. He encouraged the painter to depict the Pueblo Indians realistically commenting, “Bows and arrows have been done to death.”    

The late teens and early ’20s were good years. Ufer’s works were winning major awards and selling well. Unfortunately, he was so passionate about his art that he forgot about practical finances. As one of the panels in the NCWHM exhibit states, “His lifestyle outstripped his earning capacity.” Mary, however, must have constantly worried about the family’s financial situation.  There are two portraits of her in the exhibition. One, painted in 1913, shows a vibrant woman, beautifully dressed. The second, painted only six years later, shows a prematurely-aging woman with graying hair and posture reflecting the burdens she was carrying.  

Walter Ufer was also a chronic alcoholic. It may have been the Prohibition Era, but there was never a shortage of alcohol available to the wealthy art buyers with whom Ufer associated. His art career was faltering and following the 1929 Crash and ensuing Depression, his family was facing penury. He was a physical and financial wreck. In 1934, he committed himself to rehab and became sober.

He never drank again. He continued to paint and to mentor younger artists. He produced some of his finest paintings during this period — works that received acclaim from the art world but were less enthusiastically received by collectors. An attack of appendicitis and subsequent peritonitis ended his life in August 1936. It is only in the last four decades that interest in his work has resurfaced and placed him in the pantheon of American painters.      

That’s his biography; his paintings speak for themselves. His evocative pictures of life and landscapes of New Mexico are richly sensual. You can practically feel the dust under your feet and smell the sage. Even with solemnly clad subjects, brilliant flashes of color bring scenes to life. Porter and the museum have done a masterful job assembling not only 50 of Ufer’s paintings but complementing them with examples of works of all the Taos Society 12. This exhibition is the first Walter Ufer retrospective with a critical catalogue. How many ways can I say it? This is a major coup for Oklahoma City. You don’t want to miss it.

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, 1700 N.E. 63rd St., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission: Adults, $12.50; Seniors (62+) and students with valid ID, $9.75; Children 4-12, $5.75. The exhibition “Walter Ufer: Rise, Fall, Resurrection” runs through May 11.

ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond-based travel writer.

 

1
Text Only
Arts & Entertainment
  • Oliver 7-29 Good Reads

    NOTE: Email dpeery@edmondsun.com to have your name entered into a drawing for the following titles: “Oliver and the Seawigs” and/or “The Strange Maid.” Deadline is 10 a.m. Aug. 28. Winner will be notified by return email. Winner is responsible for picking up the book at The Edmond Sun at 123 S. Broadway. All entrants must be 18 or older to win.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 80.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • Carpenter Square Carpenter Square Theatre Presents ‘Fibs’

    For two nights only, Carpenter Square Theatre presents Albert Bostick’s one-man show “Fabulous Fibs, Fables, and Folklore.”  Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 and 9 at the theater at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Science Museum Oklahoma to exhibit Power Play

    Designed to test strength, speed, stamina, flexibility and balance, Science Museum Oklahoma’s new exhibit — Power Play — explores human physiology and the power of the human body. Power Play is now open to the public.

    July 25, 2014

  • Discard the boredom of family game night

    We’re all about families having fun together, and game night is one of the best ways to do that. But playing the same games over and over can get a little stale. So in the interests of injecting a little more fun into your family’s game night, here are some great choices that will keep you and yours engaged and laughing.

    July 25, 2014

  • OBU dance team celebrates National Dance Day

    In 2010, “So You Think You Can Dance” co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe created National Dance Day in an effort to help people embrace dance and combat obesity on the last Saturday in July.
    This year, on July 26, Oklahoma Baptist University’s dance team will host a fundraiser that allows participants to dance all day for $30. The fundraiser will be in the Noble Complex on OBU’s campus.
    Cami Gower, an OBU junior and co-captain/co-founder of the dance team, said the team’s officers have been planning for their upcoming season since April. Gower is a graduate of Deer Creek High School.
    “Since then we have been coming up with better ways to reach the community with dance,” she said. “This day of dance was a great way to do it and help the team raise funds.”

    July 24, 2014

  • Never Girls Good Reads

    NOTE: Email dpeery@edmondsun.com to have your name entered into a drawing for the following titles: “The Never Girls: A Pinch of Magic” and/or “The Secrets of Tree Taylor.” Deadline is 10 a.m. July 28. Winner will be notified by return email. Winner is responsible for picking up the book at The Edmond Sun at 123 S. Broadway. All entrants must be 18 or older to win.

    July 22, 2014 3 Photos

  • garner4.jpg Family, friends remember Garner’s Norman roots

    Flowers started arriving at the James Garner statue at Main Street and Jones Avenue Sunday morning after residents learned of the famed actor and Norman native’s death Saturday night in California.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Banjo 1 American Banjo Museum offers look at past

    What do you call perfect pitch?  If you can throw a banjo through the window and onto the garbage truck!  My brother-in-law, a musician, told me this joke.  Boy, the banjo is the Rodney Dangerfield of instruments — it gets no respect.  Well, get ready to appreciate the banjo for its history and heritage — at the American Banjo Museum in OKC’s Bricktown. This cool museum takes you through 370 years of banjo history in eight minutes, then settles down to give you details which will keep you interested for many more.

    July 19, 2014 6 Photos

  • Enjoy affordable romance in Dahlonega, Ga.

    Nestled in the mountains of northern Georgia against the Chattahoochee National Forest lies a tiny town that offers an authentic peek at a time long past. The charm of yesteryear combined with the calm of nature, friendly locals and the fun of back country roads dotted with vineyards and tasting rooms results in the perfect getaway for couples in search of a romantic escape or honeymoon destination. Those headed to Dahlonega for an intimate weekend will want to consider the following itinerary items.

    July 19, 2014