Three new exhibits open at the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery on Saturday, Aug. 6, with a reception that evening from 5 to 7 p.m., with remarks at 5:30 p.m. Featured exhibits include the 2016 Artist Self-Portrait Invitational; color etchings by former Prairie Print Maker, Maurice Bebb; and blown glass by Lindsborg native Helen Koons Gragert of Stillwater, Okla.
The Artist-Self Portrait Invitational was the brainchild of Sandzén Gallery show committee member Michael Jilg. His reasoning behind such a show was that it would, first, give visitors a personal glimpse at many of the artists in the region and, second, make many of those artists stretch beyond their comfort zones. Additionally, it would require each artist to make a new piece specifically for the exhibition. With 89 artists involved, there is an astonishing range of mediums and styles – from painterly representations of physical selves to whimsical abstractions. A 20-page color catalog will be available that documents the exhibition.
Though largely self-taught and coming to printmaking later in life, Maurice Robert Bebb (1891–1986) of Oklahoma established a national reputation as an exceptional color etcher. He created more than 220 print designs and provided three gift prints for print societies of which he was a member – including the Prairie Print Makers in 1960. The Wichita-based Prairie Print Makers society was established in December 1930, when eleven artists met in the home studio of Birger Sandzén (1871–1954) in Lindsborg. Sandzén created the first Prairie Print Maker gift print in 1931. Bebb’s White-Breasted Nuthatch was the thirtieth, with the very last gift print issued just a few years later in 1965.
The Sandzén Gallery presents the first Maurice Bebb retrospective exhibition, as well as the debut of a 260-page, full color catalogue raisonné, Birds & Beyond: The Prints of Maurice R. Bebb. The hardcover book is published by the Sandzén Gallery, distributed by Pomegranate Press, and will be available at the opening reception.
The exhibition includes almost 100 etchings, displaying the full span of Bebb’s career with a variety of subject matter and style, including exquisite Christmas cards. Most of the prints in the show are loaned from the Mallery Collection of Overland Park, and generous support for the exhibition and catalogue has been provided by the Bebb Family and by Jack and Georgia Olsen of American Legacy Gallery, Kansas City.
Helen Koons Gragert is a native of Lindsborg and credits the rich artistic environment of the community and schools for her vocation and avocation. Growing up, Gragert and her mother, Kathleen Koons, frequently visited the Sandzén Gallery, and those memories have served to inspire and motivate her blown glass work. She has been blowing glass for more than 30 years and has operated and maintained a private studio for nearly 19 of those years. Most glassblowers work with assistants, but Gragert has chosen to be the sole operator of her furnace, glory hole, and other glassblowing equipment. Although the arrangement proved frustrating and challenging at times, she has taken pride in her accomplishments.
Gragert’s exhibition, Celestia, has evolved over the last several years to serve as a personal tribute from the artist’s heart to her loved ones. Many of the pieces were inspired by the music so many of her family members have been involved in. One piece, Eternity, is a richly filled palette of sparkling colors and a swirling strand of white. It expresses Gragert’s deep gratitude to her husband for all of their years together. Merry Weather Skies is a tribute to her grandmother. When initially formed, it was like the reflection of a magnificent sunrise – the type of morning sky Gragert’s grandmother always told her the fairy godmother, Merryweather, had painted just for them.
The Sandzén Gallery is located at 401 North First Street in Lindsborg. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Gallery is closed on Mondays. Admission is free, with donations welcome. Docent tours for groups are available by two-week advance appointment with the Gallery. For more information about Birger Sandzén and the Gallery visit the website www.sandzen.org or telephone (785) 227-2220.