04 September 2009

Before there was Modern

I saw this article in today's NY Times Weekend Arts section on the incredibly talented but practically unknown muralist, Hildreth Meière. Art Deco is probably my least favorite visual arts movement – too much scary stylization in its depiction of humans and animals, and the complicated visual 'buzz' of the surface designs that I always want to peel away to see the pure forms underneath – but I have a deep appreciation for how Art Deco artists interpreted the world and sort of 'coded' it for their times. The style is so perfect for visual story-telling – and that seems to be what Hildreth Meière did, and did so well and in so many media.

She designed and installed incredibly complex ceiling and floor mosaics, painted panels, wood inlay, terra cotta reliefs, and of course the 18' diameter enamel medallions on the façade of Radio City Music Hall. She designed theatrical costumes and executed lovely drawings and gouache paintings. Pretty wonderful accomplishments for a divorced mother living in New York City in the 1930s! The flat, decorative style of Meiere's Art Deco paintings for religious venues is so similar to late Medieval Christian painting. Check out the Asbestos Man from the 1939 Worlds Fair.

Her daughter, Louise Meière Dunn and HER daughter maintain the website of Meière work and life, and live right near us in Meière's summer house in Stamford, CT. What seems to be the first real exhibition of her body of work, “Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière,” opens next week at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, NY, near Buffalo. – GF

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