Tuesday, January 12, 2010

About the box: Performance art as tribute to the WPA

Curator's note: again, this is part of extending the Looking for Loci exhibit post-run. The story of this box is complex, but it's sweet history once you get into it.

Genius Loci: The Magafan Walkathon Performance
By: Anne Thulson, Denver

Posing as two WPA artists, Jenne and Ethel Magafan, we placed ourselves at two public buildings that house their murals. Anne started at Jenne Magafan’s mural “Women Settlers” at West High School, 951 Elati Street. Alli started at Ethel Magafan’s mural “The Horse Coral” at the post office at 225 South Broadway.

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We walked towards each other until we met. This happened to be at the 7 Eleven at Broadway and Third Avenue. Here we made a shrine to the Magafan sisters.

This walk mirrors the way in which the Magafan twins pieced together a living from one WPA mural commission to the next, all the way through the Great Depression with uncanny synchronicity and symmetry. It also acknowledges local work by local artists, especially the artwork done in Denver under the Treasury Department during the New Deal.

Note: From the NYT obit on Ethel:
"Ms. Magafan was born in Chicago and grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo. She and her twin sister, Jenne, an artist who died in 1952, studied with Boardman Robinson and the muralist Frank Mechau at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. In the late 1930's and the 40's, she painted Government-sponsored murals in post offices in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arkansas, as well as in two Federal office buildings in Washington and the chamber of the United States Senate."

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