art

WEDNESDAY: Art in the Park Season Finale

Lafayette Parks and Recreation hosted the 1st annual “Art in the Park” summer art and music series this year, a free family event held in Lafayette’s historic Columbian Park. Located on the recently fancified Memorial Island in the center of the Columbian Park pond area, Art in the Park features local artists, musicians and food trucks. It’s kind of like a mid-week mini-Mosey (without the drunken shenanigans) but with a focus on the arts and on family entertainment. It’s a great regular Wednesday evening event, one where you can take the kids, get a snack, play on a gorgeous playground, and catch a live music show in one fell swoop.

I asked Parks Coordinator Alex Dewitt what the Parks Department wanted to see when they started this free event. “[We] wanted to bring families together outdoors, inspire creativity in children and build an appreciation for local arts and culture,” she said. Early in the season, the Parks Department decided to clean up the old Memorial Island area, and discovered that under all the old craggy shrubbery were networks of lovely old rock gardens and flower beds. They revived the old gardens with new landscaping, generally cleaning up the island and stage area. It’s a handsome venue today. This was definitely a goal for the Parks team. But most importantly, Dewitt said, “we wanted to provide a safe, beautiful environment for the community to come together” and appreciate the arts.

On a personal note, it was great to see city-sanctioned events held in this public space. Growing up in Lafayette in the 80s, Columbian Park was kind of a dead area in town, but after years of development and imagination, Columbian Park is a clean, vibrant community hub again. Folks wandered in and out of the event area with kids big and small, tapped a foot to music, got some shaved ice from the Kona Ice truck, or a taco from the Lkora truck. On the nights I was there, my family saw a special 1960’s cover set from local cool kids Popular Ego, and on another night, a vibrant and smooth session from Clive Caribe. Folks like artist Stacy Bogan and the sublime crafters from Blue Monday were out selling their wares. Really, it is a stellar way to spend a Wednesday evening over the summer.

Art in the Park’s season finale is happening this week, and the Parks team plans to end the inaugural season with high fives all around, more great bands, and more great art and food vendors. Get out there and support the local arts.

THE DETAILS:
Wednesday, August 20, 2014, from 6:30-8:30pm
Cost: FREE
Memorial Island Stage, Columbian Park
Featuring: Traveling, Broke, and Out of Gas & The Prannies

Follow Art in the Park on Facebook to stay current on future information and dates.

Hilda the Pin-Up: Chunky but Funky

The allure of Hilda is not that she’s sexually available, but that she is active, curious, adventurous, and unconscious about her zaftig body. She had a full and romantic (if fictional) life, was kind of a goober, and possessed the magnetic, sexy goodwill that comes from living a life of happiness, much like many of the magnetic women you may know. Imperfect, and yet perfect in their imperfection.

 

Who Was G.G. Drayton?

dolly dingle christmas party_edited-1If you’re local to the Lafayette, Indiana, area and you’ve eaten at Arni’s, you are probably already familiar with G.G. Drayton’s art without realizing it. She was well-known in her time for creating the “Dolly Dingle” and “Kaptain Kiddo” characters, including an extremely popular line of paper dolls — which are featured in jumbo size in the back room of Arni’s toy room in Lafayette’s Market Square.

I didn’t know her name until recently, when I purchased a pair of watercolors that I knew were probably special, without actually knowing what they were. Once I got them — for a pittance — and got them into the car and into decent cell reception, I looked them up and just about wrecked my car. I had just picked up two original Grace Gebbie Drayton paintings, framed, in excellent antique condition. I was first attracted to the little orange cat, which looked like a mid-century, mod piece. When I saw the little bulldog, it read Victorian to me and I realized the pair was probably much older than I originally thought.

"Tigerey", G.G. Drayton
“Tigerey”, G.G. Drayton
"Bull-Doggie", G.G. Drayton
“Bull-Doggie”, G.G. Drayton

So, score!

But wait a minute, who the heck is G.G. Drayton?

I did some research and found out she was a pretty cool person. An Edwardian clothes horse and the most famous of a family of lady artists, Grace Gebbie Wiederseim Drayton was an early comic book artist and entrepreneur whose work wasn’t often taken seriously because it was “overly-mannered” lady stuff. Regardless, she worked surrounded by a generation of young female artists who were fighting to change the perception of women in the male-dominated art world, not to mention the perception of women in general. Many of these folks were early suffragists and bohemians and early flappers.

5424855413_714d5803a1_zIt’s ironic that she was often dismissed as an illustrator because she penned some of the most iconic advertising images of the early 20th century. Not only was she famous for her Dolly Dingle work, her work is the basis for the early Campbell’s Soup campaign. Those apple-cheeked babies with the stubby noses and fat little legs were her hallmark.

Drayton’s early work often focused on the lives of children, and she drew extremely stylized children and animals. When adults showed up in her drawings, it’s notable that they were far more elegant, stern, and refined than the chubby babies that dominated her imagination. Note below, the huge, round, stylized baby in comparison with the young, slim, beautiful mother in Victorian fashion. Her comics that appeared in fashion magazines were decked in Art Nouveau flourishes.

image027

Her animals have the same round, tiny faces and round eyes as the babes. They are also just as naughty, guarded and precocious, frequently friends and equals to the children. In Drayton’s world, kids and animals were sweet, mischevous darlings, and the adults around them were stern, stiff-backed, and shallow.

OldDesignShop_3KittensGraceWiederseimDraytonPC

From what I can gather, Drayton was extremely prolific, drawing for Campbell’s, Dolly Dingle, collaborating with her sisters, and doing many of the one-off prints like the ones I purchased by chance this month. She drew ads and Valentines and postcards and also completed many fine art portraits of elegant women in fine Edwardian dress.

The paintings I picked up are deft little paintings, simple and practiced. Reportedly, in Drayton’s later life, she was an alcoholic who tried to capitalize on her early fame to keep herself financially afloat by painting these simple one-frame characters for children and collectors. Equally likely is that she was just a single old artist trying to make ends meet during the Great Depression.

For me, this was — as a Twitter pal put it — an Antiques Roadshow moment. Getting the back story is nearly as gratifying as making the score.