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Rockland County Arts Council | The Women of South Mountain Road

PRESS RELEASE

RoCA / Rockland Center for the Arts

27 South Greenbush Rd, West Nyack, NY 10994

845 358 0877,  www.rocklandartcenter.org

contact:      Barbara Galazzo

                  [email protected],  mobile 914-815-3133

For immediate release: (West Nyack, NY October2022)

The Women of South Mountain Road

October 17-November 23, 2022

Opening reception Saturday, October 22, 2:00-5:00pm

Free to the Public

Open Mondays-Saturdays, 11am-4pm

Bessie Breuer                            Lucille Corcos Levy

Mary Mowbray-Clarke               Anne Poor

Ruth Reeves                             Martha Ryther-Kantor

Eva Zeisel

Rockland Center for the Arts (RoCA) is proud to present for its 75th Anniversary year, The Women of South Mountain Roadan exhibit in partnership with the Historical Society of Rockland County. This exhibition was inspired by Susan Deeks’ lecture on the subject and was curated collectively by Susan Deeks, Daly Flanagan, Barbara Galazzo and Jonathan O’Hea.

During the first half of the 20th Century, South Mountain Road and its environs were home to many of the top artistic talents in the country, including playwright Maxwell Anderson, composer Kurt Weill, his singer and actress wife, Lotte Lenya, and actor/ producer John Houseman. It was also home to many painters, sculptors, ceramicists, textile and glass artists, some of whom were quite well known in their day, and whose prominence in their respective fields today still remains.

The Women of South Mountain Road spotlights the extraordinary accomplishments of the female artists, many of whom were more than early adopters of Europe’s Modernist vision, they were also game-changing innovators in their crafts.

Many prominent artists and intellectuals were introduced to the area by John and Mary Mowbray-Clarke, artists and political activists who lived on South Mountain Road since 1907 at the home they dubbed, The Brocken. John, a sculptor, along with Mary, was a co-founder with the painter Arthur B. Davies of the 1913 Armory Show, the famed New York City avant-garde exhibition that introduced the Modernist vision to America. Eventually, a growing assemblage of artists followed the Mowbray-Clarkes in purchasing property on South Mountain Road—for many, largely due to relationships forged at Mary’s Manhattan bookshop, The Sunwise Turn. Many of those individuals would become the core members of the Rockland Foundation, which would later become the Rockland Center for the Arts. 

A relentless talent filled with energetic drive, Mary Mowbray-Clarke was a woman who was central to championing the arts in Rockland County. In 1934, Mary designed and supervised Rockland County’s only WPA project, the Dutch Gardens. Sharing the grounds of the county courthouse in New City and showcasing the craftsmanship of Italian artisan, Biagio Guggliozzo, the Dutch Gardens achieved national recognition in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens as an “unusual example of landscape architecture,” won Sears Roebuck’s annual civic beautification contest in 1965 and in 1966, won the “Showcase of Beauty” award in 1968 by Reader’s Digest Foundation. Though it’s been struggling with restoration issues, the Dutch Gardens remain a beautiful landmark and powerful testament to the abilities of its creator.

One of the founding artists of the South Mountain Road collective as well as the Rockland Center for the Arts, Martha Ryther Kantor was renowned locally and in the New York City art world. She lived her life as a painter making profound inroads in her chosen field while also espousing a profound philosophy in arts education for the young. She instructed young children at RoCA for over 25 years. Her development took her through the varieties of painting until she discovered her own talent in painting on glass, a particularly difficult medium to work requiring multiple layers of paint and great patience. Ms. Kantor’s scenes typically featured group gatherings or a single figure in a room, as well as still life subjects and landscapes, all given an element of fantasy or nostalgia. 

On display will also be work by Ruth Reeves, one of the most renowned American textile designers of the first half of the 20th century. Reeves trained as a painter and textile designer at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League in New York City as well as in Paris with Fernand Léger. During her time in Paris, she pioneered the use of vat dyes and the screen print process for home fabrics.  Her best-known work is the carpeting and wall coverings at Radio City Music Hall, which she created in 1932. 

Eva Zeisel was a Hungarian-born American industrial designer known for her work with ceramics, primarily from the period after she emigrated to the United States. Her now familiar forms are often abstractions inspired by the natural world and human relationships. Zeisel declared herself a “maker of useful things”.

Zeisel’s works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum; Brooklyn Museum; New York Historical Society, Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the British Museum; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and others in the US and abroad. In 2005, Zeisel won the Lifetime Achievement award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Lucille Corcos Levy was celebrated as one of the foremost “modern primitivist” painters in America, creating revealing composite urban scenes, often depicting her own home as well as her neighbors on South Mountain Road. An artist with a sense of humor and a contrarian streak, herwork was often comprised of detailed, densely inhabited private and public spaces with interior cutaways showing activity on the inside of a space as well as its exterior.

Lucille’s commercial work included magazine pieces for Vanity FairFortuneLifeVogue and Cosmopolitan. Her illustrated books, popular with children and adults, became immediate classics such as Illustrated Treasury of Gilbert & Sullivan (1940) and A Treasury of Laughter (1946). She also wrote and illustrated her own books: Joel Gets a Haircut (1952) and later, The City Book (1972). Her paintings which revealed the imagined activities of interior spaces would go on to inspire and be imitated by other artists. Her works were whimsical X-Ray exposures filled with a humorous look at human activity inside public buildings and home interiors.

Anne Poor came from an artistic family: her father was a painter and mother was a novelist. Her stepfather was Henry Varnum Poor, who she assisted on murals for the Departments of Justice and the Interior in Washington, DC. She also worked on a number of commissions for the WPA during the Depression and throughout the Second World War. During the War, Anne enlisted as a member of the WACs, the Women’s Army Corp. She did a series of drawings of the evacuated wounded in the South Pacific. The duration of the war, she served as one of only two female artist in the Army Air Corps allowed to artistically document the war. She would continue to do independent commissions for the WPA. 

Anne served as one of the directors at Skowhegan School, started by her stepfather, Henry Varnum Poor, she also taught there until 1967. She served as a trustee from 1961 to 1983. In 1987, Anne was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She was also a member of the National Academy of Design. Her work can be found in the collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Bessie Breuer, married to Henry Varnum Poor, was a novelist and a short-story writer.  She began her career as a reporter for the St. Louis Times and The New York Tribune.  In the closing years of WWII, she was national director of publicity for the American Red Cross.  She wrote for The ladies’ Home Journal, feminism articles for Harper’s Magazine and the Pictorial Review.  Her first novel, “Memory of Love,” was published in 1935 and was made into a film in 1939 titled “In Name Only” starring Cary Grant and Carole Lombard.  Other novels include “The Daughter”, “The Actress” and “Take Care of My Roses.”  She won four “O Henry Awards” between 1943 and 1947.  Her screenplay, “Sundown Beach” was presented on Broadway, directed by Elia Kazan and starring the you, then-unknown actress Julie Harries.

Also on view in Gallery One & Two: contemporary artists living on South Mountain Road, sculptor Doris Laughton and textile designer/painter Carolyn Ray.

Free exhibition-based programs accompanying The Women of South Mountain Road include:

On Nov. 3rd at 7pm, Susan Deeks, executive director of the Historical Society of Rockland County, introduces ten of these gifted female artists of South Mountain Road—Mary Mowbray-Clarke, Ruth Reeves, Lotte Lenya, Bessie Breuer Poor, Martha Ryther, Marjorie Content, Anne Poor, Hesper Anderson, Eva Zeisel, and Lita Hornick—to explore their unique achievements and make a case for why they should have a more prominent place in the history of American arts and letters. 

On Sunday, November 6, 1-4pm, Naomi Vladeck, creativity and transformational coach and author of “Braving Creativity” will conduct an interactive workshop for women artists.  Participants will explore the unique relationship between creativity and the periods of transition in your lives.

 For information on our free exhibition-based programs accompanying this exhibit visit www.rocklandartcenter.org

The Women of South Mountain Road exhibition and related programs are made possible thanks to the essential support from Kenneth Jay Linsner in Memory of Dr. Carole Weaver-Linsner.

This exhibit was made possible thanks to generous loans from the following individuals and institutions: Suzanne Colletta, Justin Duerr, Cora Ginsburg LLC, Historical Society of Rockland County, Collin McIntyre, Martha & Paul Newman, the Collection of Christine Isabele Oaklaner, Ph.D., Jonathan O’Hea, Anna Poor, Lindsay Pracht, Jean Richards and Yale University.

RoCA gratefully acknowledges support for its programs from The Rea Charitable Trust, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation, M&T Bank, The M&T Charitable Foundation, The Dorothy Gillespie Foundation, Peter & Rebecca Lang, Walter Cain & Paulo Ribeiro, Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C., The Pearl Family Foundation, Luxury Kitchen and Bath, Golden Artist Colors, Inc., QuietEvents, the Estate of Joan Konner, Lighting Services Inc., Sarah and Stephen Thomas, the Mark and Jessie Milano Foundation, Zaklin Family Charitable Fund, The County of Rockland, Simona and Jerome Chazen, Art Services Group, RoCA members, donors and business members.

RoCA’s programs are made possible, in part, with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature. Funding is also made possible by the County of Rockland.