Gautier after Bingham, Stump Speaking (detail), c. 1856, engraving.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Art Exhibition at MU Student Center

"Mise-en-scène: Artistic Interpretations of Campus Scenes" 
February 9, 2015 to March 10, 2015
First Floor, MU Student Center

A new exhibition on display at the MU Student Center examines the ways in which three different artists interpret three different scenes of our campus in three different artistic media. Mise-en-scène, the title of the exhibition, refers to the arrangement of actors and scenery on a stage for a theatrical production. Mizzou's campus is the setting of life for our students, a life that can be banal or dramatic or comedic depending on the day. These art works draw attention to the diversity of settings in which campus life plays out.

Byron Smith (American, b. 1960), "Saturday Afternoon - Memorial Union", c. 1980-82, Lithograph, 2014.060, Unions Purchase

An Artist's Vision of a Familiar Landmark 

Quick, energetic strokes form an image of a bustling campus hub, providing a glimpse of the life swirling around the campus grande dame.  The animated lines indicate the freedom with which the artist’s hand meets the paper.  Miniature figures, dominated by the Gothic tower, rush across the foreground, traversing Hitt Street, a path which has guided generations of students through their college years.  The artist takes advantage of the rough, scratchy drawing technique used in lithography to accentuate the contrasting planes of the building, highlighting the texture of the stone decorations and deeply recessed hollows of the tower’s windows.

A Columbia native, Byron Smith grew up in a cityscape dominated by the spires of Memorial Union. Displaying the versatility of an artist, he is both a painter and a printmaker. His typical subject matter is the landscape of central Missouri, which he paints on site. Smith says, “When I paint from nature, I express myself by depicting the landscape elements I both see and feel. As a result, every painting is different.” (Columbia Missourian, 2013) Smith created Saturday Afternoon – Memorial Union during his years as a student in the MU art department.

"Weingart", Under Providence Road, c. 1990s, Dry Pastel, 2012.053, Anonymous Donation

Do you know this artist?
The unknown artist, "Weingart", has captured a view of the natural beauty hidden beneath a busy street, contrasting the man-made with the organic. The scene depicts the creek alongside the pedestrian underpass that is part of the MKT Trail, a popular site for MU students seeking to exercise in a natural setting. The heavy lines of the concrete underpass frame the deep, shadowed underworld of the creek. The creek water reflects the light of an early fall day.

Pastel, a stick made of pure powdered pigment and a binding agent, is typically applied to the surface by hand. It is an unforgiving medium that does not allow an artist to correct mistakes. In this work, the pastel medium allows the artist to endow concrete and stone with soft and velvety edges. The medium is also ideal for achieving the brilliant color of fallen leaves and still-green grass.
This pastel was donated to the Student Unions sometime during the 1990’s, possibly by a student. The artist has signed it using only their last name, so information about the work and the artist is limited.

Keith Crown (American, 1918-2010), Missouri University Dairy Farm, c. 1989, Watercolor with airbrush, 2011.028, Unions Purchase

Hidden Landscapes 
In this watercolor, Keith Crown depicts views of the University of Missouri’s dairy farm in northwest Columbia. The upper-half of the painting portrays farm buildings atop a grassy hill, while inverted trees and power lines fill the lower-half of the composition. The two perspectives are divided by the slightly curving white line that runs across the center of the picture plane, which represents a road. The painting is interspersed with patches of translucent and saturated color, created by varying the amount of water mixed with pigment. Crown created the most saturated areas of color using a dry brush technique in which the pigment is not diluted. The vivid colors he chose for the landscape and the airiness he was able to achieve through the use of watercolor communicate feelings of warmth and tranquility that transport the viewer to the sunny countryside.
The Foremost Dairy Research Center is not a part of campus that most people see on a regular basis, but it is the center of innovation and exploration of dairy science.  Mizzou professors and students began the study of dairy science in the 1880s and a chair of dairy husbandry was established in January, 1901. For more information on CAFNR's dairy center, please visit

Blog post authored by Sarah S. Jones, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History, University of Missouri.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Celebrating Black History Month at the MU Student Center

This year’s exhibition in honor of Black History Month explores several themes related to the story of African-American students, faculty and administrators at the University of Missouri. Sections focus on student activism that resulted in positive changes on our campus, administrators and athletes who broke the color barrier, and the early pioneers that challenged the university’s admission policy.  Organizations highlighted in the exhibition include the Legion of Black Collegians, a branch of student government that serves as the voice of MU’s black students, and the MU chapters of African-American fraternities and sororities.
Visit the Lower Lounge in the MU Student Center to learn more about Black History at Mizzou!

Here are some highlights of the exhibition: 

Gus T. Ridgel, MU's First Black Graduate

Gus T. Ridgel and other students spend time in Read Hall, the former home of the Student Union in 1951. (2013.030, Donated by Dr. Gus. T. Ridgel)

The first African-American student to earn a graduate degree at MU, Dr. Gus T. Ridgel, earned his Master’s degree in economics in 1951. Dr. Ridgel was born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He graduated from Lincoln University magna cum laude in 1950 with a degree in Business Administration. Dr. Ridgel later on went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and did postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago, Indiana University, Duke University and other schools. In 1960, he was hired as head of the Department of Business at Kentucky State University where, other than a few years in the 1980s, he served until he retired in 1996 as vice president for finance and administration. In 1987, the Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship was established at MU to assist qualified underrepresented minority graduate students in any field.

School Officials who Broke the Color Barrier

Early African-American administrators include Dr. Mary F. Lenox, the first African-American female to serve as a dean of an MU college, and Elson Floyd, the first African-American president of the UM system.

Dr. Mary F. Lenox, Dean of the School of Library and Information Science (Savitar 1987)

Mary F. Lenox began her career at the University of Missouri in 1978 as an Associate Professor in the School of Library and Informational Science. She became the first African-American woman to hold the position of dean at UMC when she assumed the position of Dean of SLIS in 1984. Mary Lenox served as Dean until June 1, 1996, when the independent School of Library and Informational Science was administratively placed under the College of Education and retitled the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies. After the reorganization, Lenox returned to the classroom as an professor, but retained her administrative role as an associate dean in the College of Education. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Chicago State University, Master of Arts degree from Dominican University, and Doctorate in Education from UMass Amherst College of Education. She has completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard University and was a visiting professor at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa. 

Dr. Elson Floyd served as president of the UM system from 2002-2006. (Image: Washington State University, Office of the President)
Dr. Elson Floyd became the first African-American to serve as the president of the UM four-campus system in 2002.  According to a Maneater article written upon his resignation, "During his tenure at the UM system, he won praise as a hard-working, charismatic and visionary leader for his university while dealing with tough budget issues. Floyd also endowed 266 new need-based scholarships and developed tuition guidelines aimed at holding increases to the inflation rate." (Maneater, Dec. 13, 2006)  A native of Henderson, N.C., Dr. Floyd holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science and speech, a master of education degree in adult education, and a doctor of philosophy degree in higher and adult education, all from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has also served as a senior administrator at Eastern Michigan State University and Eastern Washington University. Dr. Floyd is currently the president of Washington State University, where he has served since departing Missouri in 2006.

African-American Athletes find success as Tigers!

 The first African-American athletes in Mizzou football and basketball are included to draw attention to the achievements of black students outside of the classroom and Pan-Hellenic settings. Anthony Peeler, former Tiger basketball star and retired NBA player, shows the success later generations of African-American athletes were able to achieve because players like Al Abram, Mel West and Norris Stevenson.

In 1958, Al Abram, Jr., was the first African-American athlete to receive a scholarship to play for Mizzou. Abram was a very unassuming man who by all accounts dealt with the unfortunate situations that would arise with class and dignity. (MU Athletics Hall of Fame biography) Abram was inducted into the MU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004. (Image: MIZZOU, 2013)

Anthony Peeler, former Tiger basketball player, spent 13 years in the NBA. In 2006, Peeler was named to the Missouri's 30-member All-Century team, in honor of the school's 100th year of competition. In this Mar. 12, 1992 photo, Anthony Peeler is hoisted by teammate Nathan Buntin after a 65-60 win over Kansas State in the Big Eight title game. (Image: Columbia Missourian)

Other Firsts

Mort Walker (BA, 1948) recognized the changing atmosphere of the armed forces when he added an African-American character to his celebrated Beetle Bailey comic strip in 1970. Lieutenant  Jackson Flap has been called “effortlessly cool”. Walker stated in a 1984 interview that, “People were a little concerned when I started doing it, because they thought I was going to do a funny stereotype.  And after a while they realized that I wasn’t making fun of him, he’s just a funny character.” (Nemo Magazine, no. 5, 1984)
Lieutenant Jackson Flap by Mort Walker, MU alum and world-renowned cartoonist 

For more history, see our previous blog post at Black History Month 2014.

Authored by Sarah S. Jones, Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, University of Missouri

Friday, October 17, 2014

Two Exhibitions Celebrate the Art of Missourians Living with Disabilities

Color Me Brilliant: Missouri Artists Living with Disabilities

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for. – Georgia O'Keeffe

Artists use color for many purposes: to replicate reality, to create depth and space where there is none, to express their vision of the world. The artists showcased in the exhibition, “Color Me Brilliant: Missouri Artists Living with Disabilities,” use color and form as expressive factors. Color can create multiple moods and evoke all sorts of emotions in a viewer; color is a tool for communication between artist and viewer.

Two new additions to the Missouri Student Unions art collection are on display for the first time on the first floor of the Missouri Student Center. Janice Atkins, an artist from Kansas City, painted the two still life compositions. Atkins was born in California and moved to Kansas City when she was eighteen. In high school, Atkins was diagnosed with schizophrenia and experienced her first major episode at twenty-seven. She received a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of Missouri – Kansas City in 1981.  Her work is included in the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and she has been featured in many gallery shows in the Kansas City area.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that occurs in one percent of the general population.  The disorder may be caused by an interaction between genetic factors and environmental factors that affect the chemistry and structure of the brain. Symptoms of schizophrenia can include hallucinations and delusions, thought or movement disorders, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior. People with schizophrenia manage their disorder through lifelong treatment with medication and psychosocial therapy.

Red Roses in a White Vase (undated) is categorized as a still life, an image depicting inanimate objects, either alone or in a group, as the primary subject matter. With the dawn of Modernism at the beginning of the twentieth century, painters Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse used still life compositions to explore the relationships between form, color, texture, and space.  These artists were exploring the concept of art itself rather than mimetically reproducing objects as they appeared.

Like the Modern painters, Atkins uses the still life genre to uncover the beauty in the patterns and colors of a commonplace scene of flowers in a vase. Like Cézanne’s famous still lifes of fruit on a table, Atkins abstracts the image, releasing it from the bounds of strict representation of a real space.  She skews the perspective of the surface under the vase in order to emphasize the brightly colored pattern of the tablecloth. Her use of vivid colors recalls the abstract collages of Matisse’s later career. The vivid red and green of the stylized roses openly contrasts with the white of the vase and background. The abstract blue outlines converse with the blue cross designs in the tablecloth continuing the rhythm of color radiating around the composition.  Atkins’ composite style blends abstraction and the figurative in order to push the viewer to see the beauty in the ordinary.

Janice Atkins (American, b. 1947), Red Roses in a White Vase (undated), 22 3/8" x 15", acrylic, ink, watercolor on paper, Missouri Student Unions purchase, 2014.030

Atkins uses still life to symbolize an abstract concept – beauty. She also uses the still life genre to discover the potential of pattern and color as aesthetic elements, tools for communicating the concept of beauty. In Irises in Chinese Vase – For Richard (2005), her use of shallow perspective forces the objects – vase and blanket – forward into the viewer’s space, presenting their decorative patterns as amalgamations of color, lines, and spaces. The patterned shapes in the background can be read as floating, alien characters in a green-gold sky. The bat design on the candle holder enhances the whimsy of the bright color scheme.

Janice Atkins (American, b. 1947), Irises in Chinese Vase - For Richard (2005), 22 3/8" x 15", watercolor, ink on paper, Missouri Student Unions purchase, 2014.029

A painting by David Kontra, Rainfall (2013), is the accompaniment to the works by Janice Atkins.  Originally from Ohio, David Kontra lives and works in rural south-central Missouri in the small town of Norwood. Kontra is legally blind. He was diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa when he was still a child and began drawing as a way to cope with depression. 

In Rainfall, Kontra creates a dynamic composition that showcases the gestural quality of his brushstrokes. The white paint, representing rain, rhythmically dances across the vibrant abstracted landscape that depicts a pond and a house in the distance. In addition, the rhythmic quality of his brushstrokes produces an aural effect that evokes the sound of rain. Kontra often paints as a means of releasing his frustration with politics and the world around him, especially ignorance and discrimination towards people with disabilities. Kontra, who is himself legally blind, is an advocate for inclusivity and accessibility of the arts for people with visual impairments.  For more information on David Kontra, please see our previous blog post:  David Kontra: Blind Missouri Artist

“Color Me Brilliant: Missouri Artists Living with Disabilities” will be on display on the first floor of the MU Student Center through the end of December, 2014.

"Color Me Brilliant: Missouri Artists Living with Disabilities" at the MU Student Center until December

The 2014 Director's Creativity Showcase

Also on display at the Missouri Student Center, the “Director’s Creativity Showcase,” a traveling exhibition supported by the Missouri Mental Health Foundation (MMHF), features the artwork of people served by the Missouri Department of Mental Health.  Patty Henry, the executive director of the MMHF, explains that “making the art available for public viewing is just one of the ways we can help reduce stigma associated with mental illness, developmental disabilities and addiction disorders. The artwork is inspiring and shows the amazing talents of many individuals faced with mental health issues.”  The “Director’s Creativity Showcase” is on display in the Lower Lounge of the MU Student Center until October 31, 2014.
2014 Director's Creativity Showcase, Lower Lounge, MU Student Center, now through October 31, 2014
These exhibitions are presented as part of Mizzou’s Celebrate Ability Week. Celebrate Ability Week, organized by MU’s Disability Center, began as recognition of the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and continues to allow the MU community to promote inclusivity and awareness of people who are differently abled. For a schedule of events and more information, please visit

Blog post authored by Sarah S. Jones, Curator of Public Arts, Missouri Student Unions

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Celebrating Latino Heritage at Mizzou in 2014

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. In celebration of the event, the Missouri Student Unions has installed an exhibition showcasing the history of Hispanic and Latino students at Mizzou. Hispanic American heritage has been recognized nationally since 1968, but Hispanic and Latin American students have had a presence on our campus since the mid-nineteenth century.

This year’s exhibition highlights notable alumni of Hispanic and Latin American descent and campus organizations that support and advocate for students whose heritage is based in the Latino culture.

Here are just a few of the people who have contributed greatly to the history of Hispanic and Latino heritage at Mizzou.

(Photo credit: Kalamazoo College, Boiling Pot, 1981)

Dr. Betty Rita Gomez Lance of Costa Rica attended MU in 1949 as a graduate student. She went on to become Professor of Romance Languages and Literature at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Amongst her publications is Vivencies (1981), a volume of poetry in Spanish. 

(1930 Savitar)
An international student, Sucre Perez (PhD Journalism ’31) returned to Ecuador after completing his doctorate and became the director and managing editor of El Universo, Ecuador’s largest newspaper. During his time at MU, Perez was active in the International Club and the Spanish Club. 

(MIZZOU Magazine, Winter, 2003)
Dr. Christina Vasquez Case (PhD Rural Sociology ’04; Lt. Col. Army National Guard) researches studies of diversity and demographics.  She also works to find wealth-building strategies in the Latino community. Case is now the director of Alianzas for the University of Missouri Extension, a group that advocates for Hispanic/Latino Missourians and works to ensure the recruitment and retention of Latino faculty, staff, and students. 

(1924 Savitar)
The Spanish Club was first organized at MU in 1920. While many students in the early years joined the club as a way to practice Spanish as a second language, some were native Spanish speakers. The Spanish Club’s president in 1924, Manuel Marcelino Mortola (B.J. ’25), was an international student from Argentina.  Mortola was also the president of Sigma Delta Pi, a national honorary Spanish fraternity, and editor of the Gold and Black, a Spanish language student magazine.  After receiving his degree, Mortola returned to Argentina where he became an executive in one of the first international offices of the J. Walter Thompson Agency, a world-renown marketing firm.

Missouri Student Association Officers (1976 Savitar)
Linda Martinez (B.A. ’76 - top left) entered MU as pre-med hoping to follow in her father’s footsteps, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico for his medical residency where he met and married her mother, a nursing student. It was only later that she realized law was her true calling. While at MU Martinez was very involved in student government (shown here with the Missouri Students Association). In 2009, Governor Jay Nixon appointed her director of the Missouri Department of Economics. Martinez has worked as an attorney in St. Louis for the last three decades.

Celebrating Latino Heritage at Mizzou is on view now until October 13, 2014, in the University of Missouri Student Center.

You can view the exhibition in Lower Lounge of the MU Student Center to learn more. For information about MU’s diverse community, visit the Multicultural Center on the ground floor of the MU Student Center or at

Also, read about our previous Latino Heritage exhibition at:

Authored by Sarah S. Jones, Curator of Public Arts, Missouri Student Unions