20th Century, African American, Art, History, Minnesota

Gordon Parks’ Career Begins

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1938
Gordon Parks had moved to St. Paul as a teenager and struggled through the depression working at odd jobs. One day he buys a camera in a pawn shop and in a matter of weeks has his first show at Eastman Kodak in Minneapolis. Thus begins a long, distinguished career as a photographer, composer, novelist, and filmmaker.

Ears that hear and eyes that see-the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12

Gordon was born dead, or so the doctor thought, on November 30,1912 wrapped in a cloth and set aside. An observer had an idea to put the child in a tub of ice water, and gently rub ice over his body. Surprisingly, this homespun method worked, and he was revived! **

Parks was born the last child of fifteen to Andrew Jackson Parks and Sarah Ross. He worked on the family farm in Fort Scott, Kansas, and held a lifetime attachment to the land. Throughout his youth, he wrestled with the dichotomy of a place that was legally free, yet socially informed by the south. He went to a segregated school, and was discouraged from applying to college by his high school advisor because blacks “were not college material.” ** Sadly, Parks did not finish high school, but it didn’t stop his momentum.

About 1927, his mother died, and he was sent to live with his older sister in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Though she cared for him, Parks constantly fought with her husband, and eventually he was turned out of their home at age fifteen. He struggled with homelessness and poverty in the frigid winters, but survived by doing odd jobs working as a: porter, snow shoveler, busboy, semi-pro basketball player, and piano player for a brothel.**

Eventually, his life stabilized by getting steady work as a server on a train. This job had the fringe benefit of exposing him to different people, cultures, and opportunities. Inspired by the art exhibits of Chicago, he bought his first camera, a Voightlander Brilliant, from a pawn shop and began taking pictures.

Mr. Parks recounted that day saying: “Eastman Kodak developed the first roll of film…. and when I went for the prints, one of the clerks complimented me on my first efforts. ‘Keep it up and we’ll give you a show.’ I didn’t take him seriously and he realized it. ‘I mean it,’ he said. ‘You’ve got a good eye.’” ** He continued shooting, and they did give him the show as promised.

Spurred on by this success, Gordon went to the finest women’s clothing store in Saint Paul, Frank Murphy Fashions, and sought to demonstrate his skills in fashion photography. Though he double-exposed his first roll of film, the one photo that turned out was so elegant that they were willing to repeat the process.*** This began his acceptance in the world of fashion photography.
The success of his Murphy fashion shoots caught the eye of Marva Louis, the bride of the famed boxer Joe Louis. She inspired the Parks’ to consider moving to Chicago as there would be more fashion work for Gordon there. He ended up taking portraits of society women, but it opened the next door for them to move to Washington D.C.**ibid

In a strange turn of events, he was hired by the Farm Security Administration on the weight of an exhibition of his pictures of life on the life of city folks from Chicago’s South Side. Under the tutelage of Roy Stryker, he learned to tell stories in pictures that words could not convey. It was in this era that his most famous photo was born.**ibid

His first assignment given by Stryker was to buy and overcoat, get something to eat, and to catch a matinee. Thinking he had won the lottery, he went shopping, but the staff wouldn’t fit a black man. Next, he went to grab some lunch, but the diner refused to serve him unless he came to the back alley. He was shooed away from the theatre.

The coin dropped for himas he thought; “I can show the public what citizenship feels like as minority in the America of the 1940’s.” He later struck up a conversation with Eva Watson, an African-American janitor in his building the same day. She was willing to have her picture taken by Parks in the lobby of the FSA building, and “American Gothic, Washington, D.C.” was born.**ibid

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So here I am today, Lord, to watch and pray with You about Gordon Parks and his accomplishments in the arts. Let me reflect on how You are El Roi; the Strong One who Sees. You observe the events of time concurrently; past, present, and future. You see our externals, and our innermost thoughts and motivations.

I recall the promptings of the apostle Paul to the early church in Ephesus to use their hearts in “seeing”. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…” Ephesians 1:18 NIV**** I don’t know much about the spiritual life of Mr. Parks, but it is clear that You have downloaded this gift into him.

We give You thanks for this dualistic vision of Gordon Parks; to see people, places, and things in the light of eternity. We thank You that he instinctively saw value and meaning and dignity in the lives of those to whom society was blind. In his own way, he saw through the eyes of Christ.

Will You bless the inheritance given to Minnesota and the United States through the camera lens of Gordon Parks? Will You bless his figurative and literal children to see with the eyes of their hearts? Will You make us soft and receptive to these images of pain, beauty, unrest, and exaltation?

Forgive us, sweet Holy Spirit, we are flooded with images each day through our vices and devices, but we are still thirsty for one glance that inspires. Our conscience has cataracts and we don’t acknowledge the pure, the real, the noble, or Your pure light beaming into our eyes radiating from the faces of our neighbor. Help us, like Mr. Parks, to see because we have truly listened to the human actors in the drama of each day!

Come and heal our blindness! Come and let us hear! Open the eyes of our hearts in Minnesota so we can perceive the messages You are constantly sending to us through others. Open the apertures of our consciences so that we can also see inwardly. Add to our personal and cultural memory; click the shutter so we remember the moments when catch a glimpse of the Immortal and Invisible!

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** You Tube. “Half Past Autumn; The Life and Works of Gordon Parks”. Published by On the Road. February 8, 2017. Producer Craig Rice. Writer Lou Rother. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzeuL0d5Z_s
*** This photo can be viewed at the current website of Frank Murphy Fashions. http://www.frankmurphyfashions.com/about/history/
**** https://biblehub.com/ephesians/1-18.htm

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19th Century, 20th Century, Art, History, Native Americans

Pipestone National Monument Established

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“Pipestone Quarry on the Coteau des Prairies” George Catlin Oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum. 1985.66.337

Aug 25, 1937
Congress establishes the state’s first national monument–Pipestone National Monument–in southwestern Minnesota.*

Monuments typically are structures or markers that are placed to guide society to remember that something of significance. In this case, the item of importance is literally a type of stone specimens of a quality rarely found in elsewhere. Below is a brief excerpt, that gives us a little scientific footing to understand it.

“The Early Proterozoic Sioux Quartzite of southwestern Minnesota accumulated as sedimentary sand layers deposited by streams that flowed across an erosional surface developed on older Archean rocks. These deposits were metamorphosed by heat and pressure to produce the metamorphic layers of quartzite seen today. The thin 2 to 6 inch layers of reddish-brown catlinite – a metamorphic claystone argillite – is normally found sandwiched between layers of quartzite which is often found under an overburden of 10-15 feet. The catlinite deposits of southwestern Minnesota are estimated to be between 1.6 billion and 1.8 billion years old.” **

Most of the western world found out about Pipestone through snippets in the journals and writings of explorers like Lewis and Clark ca. 1814, or Philander Prescott ca. 1832.***
In 1836, American artist George Catlin – after whom Catlinite is named – recorded the Sioux legend of the origin of the pipestone as follows:
“At an ancient time the Great Spirit, in the form of a large bird, stood upon the wall of rock and called all the tribes around him. Taking out a piece of the red stone, he formed it into a pipe and smoked it, the smoke rolling over the whole multitude. He then told his red children that this red stone was their flesh, that they were made from it, that they must all smoke to him through it, that they must use it for nothing but pipes: and as it belonged alike to all the tribes, the ground was sacred, and no weapons must be used or brought upon it.”****
The mystery of this place was also recorded in the imagery of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry; “On the mountains of the Prairie, On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry…”.*****
However, those with the most memory of the place are those to whom it is most sacred; the Ihanktonwan Nation. This group of Sioux, a.k.a. the Council of the Seven Fires, are the sworn protectors of this holy ground, and the ritual pipes made from these stones.For what reason is pipe-smoking considered sacred and necessary for most tribal and family meetings, or at times of decision?******

The pipe ceremony is a sacred ritual for connecting physical and spiritual worlds. “The pipe is a link between the earth and the sky,” explains White Deer of Autumn. “Nothing is more sacred. The pipe is our prayers in physical form. Smoke becomes our words; it goes out, touches everything, and becomes a part of all there is. The fire in the pipe is the same fire in the sun, which is the source of life.” The reason why tobacco is used to connect the worlds is that the plant’s roots go deep into the earth, and its smoke rises high into the heavens.*******

So we turn to You in prayer, dear Father! We give You thanks for creating connections between the physical and spiritual worlds through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ! We thank You that the natural and supernatural is flawlessly joined in Your practical teachings and in the most sacred rituals proscribed in Your Word! You did not create and then negate; Your Spirit is with us, and guides our prayers and actions beyond the limitations of the present tense! You allow us to experience and connect with the great “I AM”!

We give You thanks for the creation of the Pipestone National Monument, and for its’ keepers; the Ihanktonwan Nation! We thank You for the protections offered by the states of Minnesota and South Dakota, indirectly, to the prayers of the Sioux Nations! We thanks You that You remember the smoke of the Ochethi Sakowin, the Dakota, and the Lakota peoples through time.

We ask that You forgive the separations of these people groups, and the latter residents of Minnesota and South Dakota. Where we sinned against You in this place, will You forgive us? Where we have failed to recognize You, will You open our eyes and our hearts? Where we have cursed the grounds in war, or broken relationships, will You lift the curse?

Sweet Holy Spirit, will You blow Your smoke over Pipestone, and connect us with our Messiah? Spread Your fragrance through us Jesus! You have carved Your image into our lives, may we pass that image on!

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** http://www.rocksandminerals.com/specimens/pipestonegeo.htm
*** http://www.lewis-clark.org/article/3161
**** http://www.rocksandminerals.com/specimens/pipestone.htm
***** https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/pipestone/rock.htm
****** https://www.yanktonsiouxtribe.net
******* https://www.native-americans-online.com/native-american-pipe-ceremony.html

Want more? Please read a primary source letter by Catlin regarding Pipestone. Catlin, George. “Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians”. Published London.1844. http://www.rocksandminerals.com/specimens/pipestonevisit.htm

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19th Century, Art, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota

Oscar Wilde Speaks in Twin Cities

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“Hear no evil, speak no evil-and you’ll never be invited to a party.” Oscar Wilde

Mar 15, 1882
The quotable Oscar Wilde takes his American lecture tour to the Twin Cites. The young Irish writer’s affected speech and knee breeches fail to impress local newspaper reporters who label him an “Ass-thete.” “Speaking at the Opera House, his subject “”was ‘art,’ consisting of a sort of lament that there was so little ‘art,’ especially in this country…. He was shocked by our buildings, by the mud in the streets, and especially by the rooms and furniture in the hotels…. The lecture was well worded, and at times quite poetical. It was certainly harmless and does not entitle Mr. Wilde to either abuse or ridicule. It was simply the smooth sentences of a languid poet, which strike the ear somewhat melodiously without arousing any overwhelming enthusiasm or creating sufficient excitement in the listener to cause him or her to burst a blood vessel.””
-St. Paul Daily Globe, March 17, 1882″

Lord, thank you for poetry and writing! Thanks for the “music of the spheres” and of the universe of words! Thank You for the talents of Oscar Wilde! How You must enjoy Your audacious children, especially Mr. Wilde?!
We often love our heroes, perhaps even worship them, and then are disappointed when to find out they’re human. Was this the case when Wilde toured here? Lord, will You forgive the artists and writers of Minnesota any judgments of Mr. Wilde? Will You forgive his assessments of our state, art, and writers? In any case, may we grow in forbearance to appreciate the creators of this world, and to see Your light in their talents though they stretch our provincial aesthetics?
Lord, I confess that we as a people love to put artists on a pedestal. We invest lots of time, energy, and treasure in those who move us. I believe You are the first artist, and that those who are talented in that arena move us because they wake our slumbering spirits. Jesus, we have made artistic brothers and sisters into gods. Will You forgive us this offense? Will you bless the artists of this state, their generations, and their creations?

Note: I once was a member of a much-beloved local band called “Romantica”. Check out the link to hear their tribute to Oscar Wilde?
https://romantica.bandcamp.com/track/oscar-wilde

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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19th Century, Art, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, music

Schubert Club Formed 1882

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Marion Ramsey

Forty St. Paul Women form the Schubert Club (named for the Austrian composer) “to give concerts and teach people about the joys of music.”*

What a gift You have given this state in the joys of music! Thank You for the diligence of these women, and their heart to bless others! May we excel in our hearts first, the mastery of instruments second, and the expressions of the stories You place within!

See what’s happened in the past 134 years? https://schubert.org

Learn about its namesake? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Schubert

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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19th Century, Art, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota

1st Public Art Gallery in Northwest 1879

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Lumberman Thomas B. Walker attaches an art gallery to his house and opens it to the people of Minneapolis—the first public art gallery in the Northwest.

He later deeds his collection and a building to house it to the city, thus laying the groundwork for the famous Walker Art Center.*

Thank you Lord that you created beauty for all to enjoy. Thanks that Mr. Walker decided to share his collection with the state of Minnesota. I’m still surprised to learn that the present Walker Art Center was started by a lumberman. Forgive my false assessments of him, and or the notion that “workman” fail to see or ponder what is beautiful.                                   It is also curious that Walker’s generosity seemed to be blocked, or otherwise doomed to failure from outside forces. The city of Minneapolis even refused the gift of his art, and donated land to build a public gallery?! You can quickly read a few more  of these rejections here :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._B._Walker

Lord, will You soothe the pain of this rejection past, and make opportunities to give publicly smoother and easier in the present and the future? You’ve given authority to city and county government, but forgive our leaders their short sighted choices, and failures of pride. We, too often, have loved things, and used people. Have mercy!

Will You forgive the false assessments made of artists, and artistic movements in Minnesota through the years. Lord, I invite You to re-open the Walker. Holy Spirit will You reside there and make it a praise to You? Will You lead our minds higher and to more reality through visual art?

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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19th Century, Art, Culture, farming, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, State Government

Laura Ingalls in Minnesota May 1874 to Jul 1876

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Seven-year-old Laura Ingalls and her family settle 1.5 miles north of Walnut Grove along the banks of Plum Creek. Charles and Caroline Ingalls settle on the property in May 1874, declaring their intent to homestead it. After three consecutive years of crop failures they decide not to complete the homestead process and instead purchase the land in July 1876 from the U.S. government and immediately sell it and move to Iowa.

In 1932 Laura Ingalls Wilder writes the story of the time that she, Pa, Ma, and sister Mary spent in their dugout house On the Banks of Plum Creek.*

It may strange to say, Eternal Father, but almost nothing helps me see You more than the story of another human being. How many readers have had their minds opened to this era because an ordinary girl recorded the stories of herself, her family, and their everyday life!?! To me, Ms. Ingalls-Wilder demonstrates that every life is an adventure, each day is a universe, and that You are there profoundly in the simple moments.

I praise You for Laura Ingalls; both the author and her story! Will You bless our writers in each generation to see the value of their lives, and to tell their tales with such similar and stark honesty as she? Thank You for shaping her Minnesota experience, and blessing her with a heart to share her story!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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19th Century, Art, Culture, education, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota

Emerson Speaks 1867

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Ralph Waldo Emerson braves sub-zero weather in an open sleigh to lecture in Winona. The poet and essayist–known to many as “the wisest American”–gives four other speeches in Minnesota before returning to Massachusetts.
“Mr. Emerson leaves to the world no system of philosophy, no orderly presentation of new or great truths; but he has done a a great and usually salutary work by stimulating the thought of two generations and by helping courageously to clear away the intellectual rubbish which the centuries had gathered. . . He has done the needed work of the iconoclast in so kindly and decorous a way as to hurt as little as possible the enduring good.” Minneapolis Tribune April 28, 1882 as cited by Hubert H. Hoeltje in “Emerson in Minnesota”
http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/11/v11i02p145-159.pdf
Lord, I have not experienced much of Emerson’s wisdom, but I ask that You bless him, his generations, dwellings, and property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! May we follow in his footsteps to do the intellectual work You have for us in this life. May we bless the future of Minnesota with “enduring good”!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

 

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