Pastels & Utrillo: Great Art from Savannah to Paris

Kristina DeVega '11

Having a summer job has its obvious benefits, like having some extra money in your pocket for the little pleasures of life.   Working at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art gives you some chunk change and then some…

I enjoyed working at the Oglethorpe Museum because we had (and still have) some of the most interesting exhibitions, but, unfortunately, not enough people know about them. For example, while I worked there, we hosted the Southeastern Pastel Society Juried Exhibition until June 27, and Utrillo: The Magic of Monmartre through Sept. 5 of 2010.

When we were hanging the pastels, I was delighted to see artists from Atlanta, St. Simon’s Island, and Woodstock, Georgia. We have seen exhibitions from around the world, but nothing is more fun than to see artists who live right around the corner. I sometimes forget that great art isn’t always the highbrow work that appeals to the esoteric elite, but great art appeals to anyone who is willing to look.

One of my favorite pieces from the exhibit is called “The Blue Motorcycle” by J. Kay Gordon from Marshall, North Carolina. The painting is a close up of the chrome parts of a motorcycle where you can see a reflection of a pristine, all-American, baby blue motorcycle. I love  the distortion the artist used in the painting. You can see the blue motorcycle through different perspectives, and it’s amazing to see the swirls and curves of a warped motorcycle. The Pastels Exhibition was a collection of different artists who use pastels distinctive to each of their styles. It was refreshing to see a medium used differently in one collection.

Featured pastel artist, Kay Ridge of Stockbridge, painting an animal portrait at the museum.

I am an admirer of art who loves to learn from artists and other art enthusiasts. The wonderful members of the Pastel Society volunteered to have an artist paint each weekday while the exhibition was up. Even someone as shy and awkward as me asked them questions about their work, and they were more than happy to talk about pastels. Ms. Betsy Cozine, who painted “Tulips in the Spring,”  took me to one of her colleague’s paintings and described what she loved about his technique.  I also talked to Junko Ono Rothwell from Atlanta, who painted “Sand Dunes in October”, about working with pastels.

We also had another exhibition called Utrillo: The Magic of Monmartre which showcases artwork of Maurice Utrillo, one of the last artists born in the bohemian Monmartre of Paris. He is said to be one of the last impressionists, and this collection had never before been seen in public, which made this our little gem. Although I love impressionism, I think I enjoy the backstory on Utrillo most of all. He was born to a model who worked for several Impressionists such as Degas and Renoir, but his real father is unknown. Utrillo was somewhat of a mystery child until another painter, Miguel Utrillo, claimed him as his own. 20th century debauchery is so much fun.

When you visit the museum, it’s not only the paintings you will see, but a sense of community and a laid back atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else.