Wendy Chidester: Giving Relics New Life

Painting of a dress form

Adjust o Matic Dress Form by Wendy Chidester

About a year ago, I read about Wendy Chidester’s paintings in an art magazine and found out that a gallery in Boston was showing them in person. After seeing the vibrant images in the magazine, I just had to see and experience them in person. I was not disappointed! They were even more captivating in person because you can see the variations in colors and brushstrokes. I was amazed out how inanimate objects could look so alive.

Painting of Books by Wendy Chidester

Painting by Wendy Chidester

Wendy’s work causes the viewer to pause and linger a little while, to reflect upon simpler times, and most importantly, to smile when positive memories flood one’s consciousness. Even though her paintings are of relics and antiques, they still have a contemporary feel plus a touch of playfulness and whimsy. I certainly felt a little happier when I walked away from the gallery.

Painting of Pool Balls by Wendy Chidester

Painting by Wendy Chidester

After my visit to the gallery, I wanted to know more about Wendy. Wendy actually started her career as a landscape and figurative artist. One rainy afternoon, she ended up painting an antique camera that she borrowed from a local antique shop, and something clicked. She has been painting items from a bygone era ever since. Her goal is to show appreciation and respect for their years for service.

Painting of a Vintage Record Player by Wendy Chidester

Painting by Wendy Chidester

Wendy loves imagining the story behind all of these old things – who they belonged to, where they might have been, or how the person used them. She wants to honor the human ingenuity and craftsmanship that went into making each piece. She finds color fascinating and often uses saturated colors that she adds patina to so she can gracefully show their age.

Painting of Vintage Cameras by Wendy Chidester

Painting by Wendy Chidester

Wendy usually paints from life, borrowing pieces from antique shops or inheriting old pieces from family and friends. She works out of her studio in Draper, a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you are interested in learning more about this artist, please visit http://www.wendychidester.com/

10 Things to Know about Nina Evans Allender

I first learned about Nina Evans Allender while watching a PBS special about the women’s suffrage movement. The episode was set at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington D.C., the headquarters for the National Woman’s Party. The entire episode was riveting, but I really sat up and paid attention when they mentioned that Allender was the main illustrator for the movement. This led me to do some independent research because I wanted to see more of her work and learn about her involvement with the movement. I decided to compose this blog post based on the information I found. Most of the content covered in this blog post came from the Sewall-Belmont House archives and Wikipedia.

Nina E. Allender (Cartoonist) Planning Cartoon Exhibit for Congressional Library–1921–Page #4

#1 Nina Evans Allender was an American artist, cartoonist, and women’s rights activist (December 25, 1873 – April 2, 1957).

#2 Allender studied art with William Merrit Chase, a famed American Painter and founder of the Chase School (which would later become known as Parsons The New School for Design).

The Spirit of 76! On to the Senate January 30 1915

#3 Allender considered herself a painter, but Alice Paul convinced her to try drawing. She wanted her to create illustrations for the suffrage paper known as The Suffragist.

#4 After Allender began drawing for the paper, she was quickly elevated to the role of the official cartoonist for the National Woman’s Party. She is known for creating the “Allender Girl”, a young woman who was portrayed as being capable, stylish, dedicated , and attractive (the previous portrayals of the suffragettes were less than ideal). During the course of her career, she contributed 297 political cartoons to The Suffragist newspaper, and changed the way that women were perceived going forward.

Our Hat is in the Ring April 8, 1916

#5 Allender sued her husband, Charles, for a divorce in January 1905 after he ran off with another woman, and she won. This was unprecedented for that time period. Women did not get divorces (the horror), and they certainly didn’t try to sue their husbands (the scandal).

#6 Allender was president of the District of Columbia Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1912 and president of the Stanton Suffrage Club in 1913.

The Suffragist June 21 1919

#7 Allender studied abroad in Spain and London for several years before returning to Washington, D.C.

#8 Allender designed the “Jailed for Freedom” pin, which was bestowed on women jailed for campaigning and picketing for the cause.

Allender PC67: September 1920, No Caption. [“Victory.”]

#9 The cover of the September 1, 1920 issue of The Suffragist featured Allender’s Victory to announce to the world that women attained the right to vote. Many women fought long and hard to attain this right, so I can only imagine how elated they must have been.

#10 Allender’s original drawings were housed in the Library Congress until the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum reclaimed them. There is now an extensive archive of Allender’s illustrations available on the website for the National Woman’s Party http://www.nationalwomansparty.org

In honor of Women’s History Month and to gain a better understanding of our shared history, the website for the National Woman’s Party is definitely worth checking out in its entirety. I am in awe of the sacrifices these women made to give us a right that we now take for granted. Whenever I need to remember how important it is to exercise my right to vote, I only need to look at information like this to put me on the right track.

The Harmon Foundation: Champions of the Harlem Renaissance

I have been conducting research on artists who were active during the Harlem Renaissance, and I stumbled upon a documentary called Against the Odds: African-American Artists and the Harmon Foundation. I learned so much about how this one foundation was responsible for launching the careers of so many prominent African-American artists.  Although the foundation recognized African-Americans in  different fields, I have chosen to focus on the fine arts category for this post to highlight some of the artists who do not always receive the recognition they deserve.

The Harmon Foundation was founded by a wealthy real estate developer, William Elmer Harmon, in 1922 to offer recognition (including cash awards) to African-Americans for distinguished achievement in business, education, fine arts, literature, music, race relations, religious service, and science. Harmon was encouraged to start the foundation by Alain Locke, a professor at Howard University and editor of the New Negro publication. The stated mission of the foundation was to “assist in the development of greater economic security for the race”. The first awards were presented in 1925, and thereafter, the foundation held annual programs.

The program got off to a slow start when only a few people in each category applied the first year, but as it gained recognition, the program received a large quantity of high-quality works of art. In order to foster the careers of the artists who submitted work, the Harmon Foundation began organizing large-scale exhibitions to provide an opportunity for the candidates to show and sell their work to a broader audience. These award exhibitions gained even more national attention when they traveled to art museums, colleges, public libraries, and community organizations across the country Hale Woodruff and Palmer Hayden were the very first recipients of the William E. Harmon Foundation award for Distinguished Achievement among Negroes for fine arts. I have included a gallery of the artists selected by the Harmon Foundation during the years it was in operation. Below, I have uploaded one painting to showcase the talents of these fine artists. For more information on The Harmon Foundation, please refer to Anne Evenhaugen’s excellent article written for the Smithsonian Libraries in 2013 called African-American Art and the Harmon Foundation here

"Children at Ice Cream Stand" by William H. Johnson

“Children at Ice Cream Stand” by William H. Johnson

"Mother and Child" by William Eduoard Scott

“Mother and Child” by William Eduoard Scott

"The Building of Savery Library" by Hale Woodruff

“The Building of Savery Library” by Hale Woodruff

"Little Brown Girl" by J.W. Hardrick

“Little Brown Girl” by J.W. Hardrick

"Girl in Green Cap" by Laura Wheeler Waring

“Girl in Green Cap” by Laura Wheeler Waring

"Baltimore" by Palmer C. Hayden

“Baltimore” by Palmer C. Hayden

"The Octoroon Girl" by Archibald Motley

“The Octoroon Girl” by Archibald Motley

"Cabaret" by Albert Alexander Smith

“Cabaret” by Albert Alexander Smith

The Fascinating History of Chanel No. 5

Chanel Biarritz livre Patricia 000

Over the Christmas break, I read Tilar J. Mazzeo’s engaging biography “The Secret of Chanel No. 5”. I am conducting research for my novel which includes a perfumer during the 1920s, so this book provided fantastic information about the industry and how Chanel No. 5 became a cultural icon of both the past and present. I wanted to share some of the fascinating facts I learned about this delectable perfume with all of you.

The heart of Coco Chanel’s style arises from her time spent at the orphanage called Aubazine in France, a Cistercian order which prized simplicity, cleanliness, and purity. The monks also used perfumes and ointments in prayers and rituals of purification. Although she was deeply unhappy there as a child, she carried it with her always because it was essentially her first home.

Aubazine sur les traces de Coco Chanel

Photo Courtesy of http://www.lefigaro.fr


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New Posts Coming: My Writing Life


I have decided to start posting about my writing life on this blog as well.  As a writer, I have quite an active life – for instance, here is a sample of the activities I participate in outside of blogging and working full-time:

  • Member of Grub Street – a wonderful writing organization offering classes and events for writers in Boston; in addition to being a member, I also serve on a committee that puts together writing events to keep members engaged
  • Member of a Writing Group called Impetus – this is a four member writing group where we read and critique short writing pieces; we discuss poetry, plays, short stories, essays (I’ve been working on poetry lately)
  • Literary Events – New England is a literary locale, and I am constantly attending excellent workshops, conferences, and readings
  • Journal – I keep a daily journal in which I write long hand on my musings related to writing and the creative process; I will share content that I think will be helpful to you
  • Research – I am constantly conducting research on writing, creativity, art and the like
  • Reading – I am always, always, always reading (this is as necessary as air and food for me); books, essays, blog posts, writing magazines, and much more, which I will share in the hopes that you will find the content interesting as well

I will definitely continue to post content related to the Jazz Age; this is my first passion and the reason I started this blog in the first place.  Now, I will just be expanding upon this and offering you more to love.  I tried creating separate menu items for these categories on my main page, but I did not like the fact that “pages” are static on WordPress (very difficult to add posts to these static pages).  If the content will be based on current topics relevant to my writing life, I will label them as “On Writing”, “On Reading”…. you get the picture.  If the content will be related to the 1920s, I will continue to post as usual.  I attended a lot of festive events this past summer, so you will be seeing quite a few posts over the coming weeks.