By: RYAN L. GRUENWALD
Wolfson Press celebrated the release of their newly published book, “Fine Arts of the South Bend Region, 1840-2000” with an art exhibit at IU South Bend’s Art Gallery. The show highlighted many of the local artists documented in the text.
A reception was held at the gallery on Friday, Jan. 17, featuring Dean of the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts Marvin Curtis, Associate Professor of English Ken Smith and artist Harold Zisla.
Zisla, a driving force behind the book’s publication, gave a memorable speech to an appreciative audience. Zisla is former director of the South Bend Museum of Art (SBMA) and retired professor of art at IUSB.
According to Smith, director and editor for Wolfson Press, a large community featuring artists and individuals from colleges, area museums and other art communities was involved in the creation and fundraising of the book.
“The group cared for the fine arts and thought it was time to tell the history of the arts in the city,” Smith said.
They gathered a large list of artists who have lived and worked in the region and distilled from them about 100 notable individuals. The list reaches back as far as the 19th century and is a testament to the talent and variety of the region’s artists.
The new publication immortalizes these local artists through written biographies and over 150 of their artworks reproduced in color. Some current and former IUSB faculty members were included, like Ron Monsma, associate professor of fine arts; Alan Larkin, recently retired associate professor of fine arts; and Tuck Langland, former sculpture instructor.
The cover of the paperback reveals a photo of the SBMA embraced by a bold sunset and a calm mirror-like St. Joseph River at the top of the falls. The text documents the history of the museum as well as other area institutions.
The book comes with three DVDs containing 12 interviews of leaders in South Bend’s arts community that were conducted by local artist and filmmaker Michael Beatty.
Meant for a “general audience,” Smith said the book “captures a lot of history, a lot of important people…it captures a lot of the accomplishments of the fine arts community in our region.”
One of the oldest paintings that was on display in the gallery was created in 1887 by the artist L. Clarence Ball and titled “Cows in a Landscape.” It’s a richly colored work illustrating a peaceful rural scene that was perhaps more commonplace near South Bend in its era.
In contrast was Julie Tourtillotte’s fiber art titled “Night Lights,” from 2006. It’s a quilt-like wall hanging constructed of materials including shibori-dyed and discharged linen. The work is of a night sky filled with a plasmic field of stars created with antique buttons. The sky is bordered by textile squares resembling feminine sexual regions.
In “Night Lights” Tourtillotte appears to have drawn inspiration from artists like Faith Ringold and Miriam Shapiro to create a feminist dialogue with Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.
Wolfson Press is part of the master’s level liberal studies program at IUSB and publishes books about the region’s history, arts and culture.
A future project for the Wolfson Press is telling the struggle of housing desegregation in South Bend.
For more information about the book and Wolfson Press, visit www.wolfson.iusb.edu.