The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of broadening the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state.. Lori Brack is an author who has worked in programs and publications for the Salina Art Center, as a college and community writing teacher, and as the director of a funded artist development project. by the foundation in Salina. She lives in Lucas.
Clara Hatton is “arguably the most important forgotten Kansas artist of the 20e century”, and if you doubt it, Bill North is here to change your mind.
Daughter of Russell County farmers, Hatton was educated in Kansas, Michigan and England in ceramics, bookbinding, calligraphy and letterpress, printmaking, weaving and jewelry making. Today, his legacy is protected by the Clara Hatton CenterLindsborg’s newest downtown art venue, and what appears to be the only museum in Kansas dedicated to the work of a female artist.
Like the Hatton family’s stone farmhouse, now a habitat for fish underwater in Lake Wilson, women’s accomplishments too often remain submerged until a scholar like North took the time the pandemic offered to think and imagine. Before North established the Clara Hatton Center as director, he was senior curator at Kansas State’s Beach Museum of Art for 17 years and executive director of the Salina Art Center for seven years. He is a specialist in the history of American prints of the 1930s and 1940s.
“In this one-room museum, everything that happens in a big museum will be here,” North said.
It provides a study space for printmaking, programming for all ages, artists in residence and original art exhibitions. These will include works by Hatton, his contemporaries and living artists whose creations overlap in themes, methods and materials. North is enthusiastic about the two large bay windows at 105 N. Main St., where he envisions visible studios focused on books, printing, and calligraphy.
Hatton’s connection to Lindsborg includes a 1969 exhibition at the Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery and commissions she undertook to bind historic Lindsborg books such as the Greenough Family Bible. Last year, the Sandzen Gallery mounted a retrospective in winter after spring and summer exposure at Colorado State University celebrated Hatton’s significance as a teacher from 1936 to 1966 and as the founder of the university’s Department of Art and Art History. The visual arts gallery bears his name there.
Looking back is compelling. But why now, in the first decades of the 21st century, is Hatton’s work being reborn?
An answer can be found in the center’s upcoming exhibition, which opened on Monday and will run until January 29. from 19e and 20e centuries.
“We have Clara’s letters to her family from Europe when she studied there in 1935 and 1936,” North said. This work and its values of the dignity of labor, craftsmanship and the creation of objects of beauty for everyday life are highlighted at a time when North believes that “we are reliving 1935 and 36 in some respects on the plan cultural, social, economic, even global”. .”
In 1935, Germany’s rearmament began, and Hitler’s ultra-nationalist government continued its territorial expansion into the Rhineland, an area established as a buffer between Germany and France. In the same year, the Nuremberg Laws denied citizenship to Jews and limited the work and social life of Jewish residents of Germany.
In Britain, where Hatton studied, occupation was not seen as a threat. She returned from her stay there with by British artist Emery Walker handle letters, a hand-cut type case for tooling leather book bindings.
Walker was an important Arts and Crafts printmaker and photographer. His letters will be part of the exhibition, along with Hatton’s bindings, woodcuts and copperplate engravings, calligraphy and typography. Many works of art were collected and preserved by Hatton’s niece, Ora Hatton Shay, of Austin, Texas. She spent years finding works by Hatton that were sold at a Salina auction after his death there in 1991.
Hatton is 20 years olde The century’s roots in Russell County included book clubs, musical study and performance, and a community life that encouraged reflection on how to live well. North has a similar ambition for a rural but rich cultural life in “that little world on a main street in the middle of Kansas.”
Hatton’s practical work ethic in Kansas, and her abilities and accomplishments as a creative polymath have their place in a small museum not much larger than the one-room schoolhouse on the Prairies where she taught at the ‘adolescence.
“We really have to think about new and different ways of doing things,” North said. “Clara is always on my shoulder. I ask ‘What would Clara do?’ ”
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