Art connoisseurs converse about exhibits in Mulvane

Leia Karimul Bashar

A small group of artists and museum curators met at the Mulvane Art Museum 5 p.m. Tuesday for “Conversations: Connecting Art to Our Lives,” an ongoing series of discussions about the museum’s exhibits. Participants discussed artwork from “31 Works of Art: The Rich Legacy of 40 Years of the Mulvane Women’s Board.”

The exhibition honors the 40th anniversary of the Mulvane Women’s Board, which has purchased art for the Mulvane’s permanent collection since 1984. Reinhild Janzen, Mulvane interim director, spoke about the significance of the permanent collection. She said that many of the works in the exhibit, most of which were purchased at the Mulvane Mountain/Plains Art Fair, had to be approved by the Mulvane Women’s Board so they are often uncontroversial.

“Some of the art, it’s very safe art,” said Janzen. “It [also] reflects the best of what comes to the art fair.”

Carol Emert, facilitator of the event, said she could recall a time when several of the works in the collection were considered controversial, including Fritz Scholder’s “Possession #22,” which features an extraordinary representation of a Native American shaman.

“A woman came in and saw it and she was so incensed she went to the president,” said Emert.

Sherry Best, director of the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery in the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, then steered the conversation to the Mulvane’s diverse array of artwork for its current exhibits. She acknowledged the challenges curators face when deciding where to hang art in a gallery and she admired the Mulvane’s setup.

“None of these paintings were originally meant to be shown together,” said Best. “The public doesn’t realize how much work it takes to appear effortless because it looks like it flows so well.”

The “31 Works of Art” exhibit will be featured at the Mulvane until April 13 along with two other exhibits, “The Humanity of Christ in the Works of Georges Rouault” and “Visual Encounters with Paraguay: Celebrating 40 Years of Kansas-Paraguay Partnership.”

The next session of “Conversations: Connecting Art to Our Lives” is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 12. It will highlight the Rouault exhibit. The event is free of charge and everybody is welcome to attend.