Irvine, California. The Irvine Museum is proud to shine a light on early California women artists in the exhibition “Inner Visions: Women Artists of California” on display from March 17th through June 7th. This exhibition will display works by women working in California in three major periods: the Tonalist style of the late 1800s; the Impressionist period of the early 1900s, and the Regionalist style of the 1930s and 1940s. The central attraction in Inner Visions will be the 7 foot by 26 foot mural by Jessie Arms Botke, a gift to The Irvine Museum from The Oaks at Ojai, for which the mural was painted in 1953.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, California had more women artists than other regions of the country. In the East, the entrenched art establishment had existed for more than a century and it consisted solely of men artists. It was deemed inappropriate to have women earning a living and pursuing a career in the arts. By contrast, there was no entrenched art establishment in Los Angeles as both men and women artists began arriving at the same time. Artists who lived in Southern California in the early 1900s were part of a close circle of friends and included men and women. Artists featured in Inner Visions include Jessie Arms Botke, Meta Cressey, Anna Hills, Donna N. Schuster, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, among others. The main attraction for Inner Visions is a mural from the venerable Oaks Hotel in Ojai, a generous gift to The Irvine Museum in 1992 from the Oaks at Ojai.
The mural was painted in 1953 by Jessie Arms Botke, with assistance from her husband Cornelis Botke. It is a large work, measuring nearly 7 feet high by 26 feet long and it represents a scene in the Everglades, with a large variety of bird life and flora set on a gold-leaf background. The mural graced the ballroom wall of the old Oaks Hotel for nearly forty years when, in the course of renovating the hotel, the decision was made to tear down the wall in order to enlarge the room. Mindful that this was an important work of California art, the hotel offered the mural as a gift to The Irvine Museum with the condition that the museum assume the costs of removal and restoration of the work. Fortunately, the mural was painted on two large pieces of canvas, and not directly on the wall. The mural was carefully removed and restored to its full glory.
At the time The Irvine Museum received the mural, the museum was in a large suite on the 12th floor of its current building. As such, it was impossible to bring the mural into the museum because it would not fit into the elevators. So, for more than eighteen years the mural was displayed at Joan Irvine Smith Hall, at the University of California, Irvine. A few years ago, the museum relocated to the ground floor of its current building, thus making the elevator restrictions moot. The museum is finally able to display this majestic and magical mural. Since the museum does not have a single wall that measures 26 feet, the mural will be displayed in its two parts for Inner Visions, one measuring 14 feet long and other 12 feet long. They will be shown on opposite walls so the viewer will, in effect, be in the middle of the scene.
Opened in January 1993 and dedicated to the preservation and display of California art of the Impressionist Period (1890-1930), the Irvine Museum is embracing a principal role in the education and furtherance of this beautiful and important regional variant of American Impressionism that has come to be associated with California and its remarkable landscape. The Irvine Museum invites you to share this experience and to enjoy the splendor and power of art as it relates directly to our beloved California. Much of what originally made California a “Golden Land” was directly linked to the environment, especially the land and water that nurtured and sustained a rare quality of life. Over a hundred years ago, the splendor of nature fascinated artists and compelled them to paint beautiful paintings. As we view these rare and remarkable paintings, we are returned, all too briefly, to a time long ago when the land and its bounty were open and almost limitless. Today, with the renaissance of the glorification of nature in art, that spirit is motivating enlightened people in the same way it energized artists of the past. The common bond is the deep reverence for nature and the common goal is to preserve our environment, and no statement is more eloquent than the silent testament of these magnificent paintings. Each generation, in its turn, is the steward of the land, water and air. The Museum itself is housed in a lovely hacienda style building, reminiscent of the Golden Land’s early days. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.irvinemuseum.org