"I want, I want, I want ... but that's crazy"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Treasure of Southwest Texas

If your travels this summer are taking you to the region of Orange, Texas, don't miss out on the Stark Museum of Art.

The Stark Museum is home to one of the finest and most extensive collections of 19th and 20th century Western American art and artifacts anywhere in the United States. The museum also has an extensive collection of American Indian art, as well as the Decorative Arts collections of primarily glass and porcelain, and rare books and manuscripts.

Stark's Western Art collection features the work of 19th-century explorer-artists who travelled across the continent recording and documenting the lives and customs and American Indians, pioneers and Wild West cowboys, as well as the grandeur of the untamed Western landscapes. Into the 20th century, artists portrayed an idyllic West in their depictions of the Pueblo peoples, Hispanic culture and a landscape affected by atmospheric light. The collection includes the works of - among many, many others - such great artists as John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington and Thomas Moran.

The American Indian Art collection comprises works created by members of the tribes of the Great Plains, Southwest, Eastern Woodlands and Northwest Coast. The collection includes examples of Plains clothing, body ornaments and elaborate beadwork. Also exhibited are the baskets from major basket-producing cultures of the West, Pueblo pottery, kachina dolls of the Zuni and Hopi, and a notable collection of Navajo rugs and blankets.

The Decorative Arts collection comprises mainly glass and porcelain works, including numerous items of Steuben Glass - most notably, the only complete set of The United States in Crystal, a series of bowls engraved with scenes representing each of the 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Union. Another highlight of the collection is a series of porcelain birds by Dorothy Doughty and a series by Edward Marshall Boehm.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts collection features The Birds of America by naturalist John James Audubon. The five double-elephant folios depicting the birds of North America belonged to the artist himself. The publication is widely considered to be one of the finest illustrated books of all time. Also featured in the collection are letters and journals by Audubon and artist Paul Kane, as well as seven Books of Hours manuscripts, and more.

Admission to the museum is free. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Sunday and Monday, New Year's Day, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The founders of the Stark Museum also established the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation in 1961 to improve the quality of life in Southeast Texas by encouraging, promoting and assisting education, the arts, and health and human services. The foundaton carries out its mandate through the programs of the Stark Museum of Art, as well as other Southeast Texas venues.

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