Happening nearby: Cascadia Art Museum launching tribute to Cornish College

Wayne Albee (1882-1937): Portrait of dancer Caird Leslie in costume, 1917 (Gelatin silver print Courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts Archives)
Wayne Albee (1882-1937):
Portrait of dancer Caird Leslie in costume, 1917. (Gelatin silver print courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts Archives)

Starting Thursday, Jan. 14, the Cascadia Art Museum reflects on the lasting legacy of the Cornish College of the Arts and its founder, Nellie Centennial Cornish, with a retrospective of the 101-year-old, internationally recognized institution.

Drawn from years of research by consulting curator David. F. Martin, the exhibition weaves together the tale of the opportunistic collaboration of some of the Northwest’s most celebrated artists of the 1900s as told through the display of ephemera and works rarely if ever seen before. Key Cornish figures include John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Robert Joffrey, Bruce Inverarity, Ebba Rapp and Mark Tobey.

On view will be paintings, sculptures, photographs, performance programs, costumes, videos, and puppets culled from Cornish archives or loaned by the friends and families of those that taught and studied there.

The exhibition, “Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Centennial Tribute to the Cornish College of the Arts,” opens Jan. 14 and is on view through May 1, 2016.

Featured works and artists:

· Mary Ann Wells, the founder of the dance department in 1916, was the driving force of early modern dance in the region. Her influence extended internationally through her most noted pupil, Robert Joffrey. On view will be photographs and related materials that reflect the early dance origins of the school.
· Modern dance instructors Adolph Bolm, Michio Ito, and Martha Graham.
· Wayne Albee, who documented most of the school’s productions through his internationally renowned, pictorialist photography.
· A series of stage and costume designs recently discovered through the estate of drama department figures Burton and Florence Bean James. Tobey himself performed in several dramatic plays at the school with photographs by Wayne Albee documenting his participation.
· Contour drawings by Mark Tobey of students in Martha Graham’s classes at Cornish from the collection of the University of Washington.
· Works by other well-known visual artists who taught or studied at Cornish include painters Louise Crow, James Edward Peck, and Frank Okada.
· Two rare watercolors by WWII combat artist and Cornish faculty member, Mitchell Jamieson, from the U.S. Navy Collection and on view in the Northwest for the first time.
· Puppetry was a very popular medium for artistic performance throughout the world and especially at Cornish. Student and later faculty member, R. Bruce Inverarity, produced a Surrealist Sci-fi puppet production titled “Z-739” performed in the late 1920’s. The original puppets, made from found objects, recently located by the Northwest Puppet Center and will be displayed publicly for the first time along with two puppets by the region’s beloved iconoclast, Helmi Juvonen.
· Artist Ebba Rapp was the founder of the sculpture department, and with Walter Reese, was instrumental in bringing printmaking to the art department. On view are two large-scale paintings Rapp created in the late 1930’s, with Cornish modern dance students Syvilla Fort and Merce Cunningham as models.
· Karen Irvin, who directed the dance department, and her partner Mea Hartman, along with artist Malcolm Roberts, were the driving forces of mid-century dance at Cornish and for over a decade produced stage sets, costumes, and posters. Filmed performances by the Cornish Ballet dating from the 1950’s and 60’s are projected during the run of the exhibition. The University of Washington’s Special Collections digitalized the films.
· The exhibition closes with a painting by recent Cornish alumna, Aleah Chapin. The work entitled “Auntie” won the distinguished BP Portrait Award in 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Chapin is the first female American artist to win this prestigious award.

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