Restored Monterey mural goes on exhibit for first time in 40 years, along with other historic works.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
To describe the vast Sacramento storage rooms that contain troves of artifacts, Kris Quist, the Monterey district museum curator for State Parks, invokes the most famous of archaeological heroes.
“It’s this Indiana Jones warehouse with all kinds of stuff in it,” he says.
Among the stuff to recently emerge: a 1934 mural painted by Evelyn McCormick as a Works Progress Administration project. And at the second annual Art in the Adobes, an ambitious celebration of art, architecture and history in Old Monterey, McCormick’s “Shrimp Fishermen” will be on exhibit for the first time in more than 40 years.
Last month, historians found the canvas rolled up along with old wallpaper and maps. Two private donors (including Art in the Adobes co-chair Teresa Del Piero) and State Parks pooled $5,000 to have the work refurbished.
A Sacramento conservator flattened the painting and attached it to Tyvec sheeting, then used water-based paint so his touch-ups can be undone, in case better conservation tools come about in the future.
“There was some serious repainting that needed to happen,” Quist says. “You have to fill the cracks with something, or they keep opening up and flaking off.”
The mural, which was painted in Monterey, shows men working on nets. Labor was what WPA sought to celebrate in funding the arts through the Depression, and it got McCormick out of her usual focus on structures in this rare piece depicting figures.
The restored painting will be on display in the Stevenson House along with three other 1934 WPA murals: “The Artichoke Pickers” by Henrietta Shore, “Fishermen” by August Gay and “Trailing/Cattle Drive” by Will Irwin.
They fit with Art in the Adobes’ theme: Rediscovery: Monterey Peninsula Artists at Home and Abroad. Curated by UC Santa Cruz Professor Emerita Julianne Burton-Carvajal, the collection – displayed as a self-guided walking tour in Monterey’s historic adobes – shows how local scenery made its way onto artists’ palettes. McCormick spent part of her career painting out of a Custom House studio.
Unearthing forgotten gems of history is quickly becoming a unifying theme of Art in the Adobes in its second year, Del Piero says: “[We can] bring to life artists who have been forgotten by the public, maybe because their work wasn’t sold and the family has most of it, so it hasn’t been in the public.”
In that spirit, the festival honors not only influential impressionists, but State Parks’ extensive collection. “There is already museum-quality art hanging in the adobes,” Del Piero adds. “To expand on what’s already there is just natural.”
There’s also a place for living artists at the festival – along with lectures and tours, plus a plein-aire contest and chalk painting for kids – who can begin creating new Monterey-inspired works.
ART IN THE ADOBES runs Thursday through Sunday Sept. 13-16. $25/day for adults; $20/day for students, military, seniors; free/children 12 and under; $95/all-access pass. 241-5504, www.artintheadobes.org