Demonstrating artistic range and influence | Arts & Appetite

By Maria A. Montalvo | Aug 23, 2018
Courtesy of: Cascadia Art Museum "Demolition," Yvonne Twining Humber (1907-2004), circa 1948, oil on board. Private collection.

Growing up, I was surrounded by visual art painted by women – the majority by my mother, but I also vividly remember constantly studying art books with Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keefe and finding works by Berthe Morisot at the Barnes Collection near our home.

My mother would sit with me as I leafed through the books with images of Cassatt’s work, and helped me verbalize how I understood the subjects but not necessarily their expressions.

One thing my mother never talked to me about was women artists versus artists. There were great artists and the rest, but gender was not a qualifier. I was unaware then of the distinction and limitation that plagued certain artists throughout history ¬– being women.

In Edmonds, we are able to view examples of the great work of two artists from the Northwest because of our very own Cascadia Art Museum, and both happen to be women. The museum’s current exhibit, “Drama and Design: Yvonne Twining Humber and Blanche Morgan Losey,” has been open for just over a month and cannot be missed.

Both women painted most prolifically from 1930 to 1950 and were influenced by and participated in the WPA’s Federal Art and Theater Projects. As is always the case at Cascadia exhibits, through this show, patrons learn more about how our regional art reflected current events.

Losey’s paintings are featured, but a portion of the exhibit is dedicated to the set and costume designs she created for the Negro Repertory Company of Seattle and the Seattle Federal Theater Project, being “shown publicly for the first time,” said curator David Martin.

Losey had visual presence, featured in paintings by other artists and photography of the time, and her work is enthralling. Her detailed watercolors of street scenes and bucolic settings took an interesting turn when she became influenced by surrealism in the late 1940s.

Her “Tired Harlequin” from 1945 is fantastical but also somehow captures exhaustion in the slump of a shoulder and droop of an arm. The precision of her earlier work lingered in her presentation of the contradictions of a changing society in the middle of the 20th century.

It is almost possible to see her transitioning in her 1943 piece, “Bombardier’s View,” with a lovely watercolor of a farm as it would have been seen by the person about to drop a bomb.

At the same time, Humber was being recognized locally and nationally, including several awards and a solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum in 1946. She was originally from the East Coast, and her works realistically depicting working life in urban and rural settings are still featured in museums across the country, including the Library of Congress.

“City View” and “Old Houses at Night,” from 1945, are displayed next to several representations of carnivals, and each detail within the pieces are intriguing individually and even more so as part of the scenes as a whole.

Her range across decades as a painter highlights her skill and underlies the influence she exerted within Realism.

Had I grown up in the Northwest, my mother would have undoubtedly known of Twining Humber and Morgan Losey and shared their art with me. We are lucky to have the opportunity to view the brilliance of these two prominent, award-winning artists at Cascadia Art Museum.

The exhibit continues through Sept. 30. Cascadia Art Museum is a Salish Crossing, 190 Sunset Ave. S, Edmonds. It is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. More information: www.cascadiaartmuseum.org.

 

 

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