Burchfield painting part of nationwide show

SALEM – The image of a Salem backyard garden captured by famed hometown artist Charles Burchfield in 1917 is now part of a nationwide show that is sharing great American art with the masses.

“Noontide in Late May” will join 57 other pieces of American art showcased this month on billboards and on posters in bus terminals, subways, airports, movie theaters, malls and inside buses across the country, including in the Pittsburgh area.

Burchfield’s work made the cut with the likes of Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can” from 1964, Roy Lichtenstein’s “Look Mickey” from 1961 featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Grant Wood’s classic “American Gothic,” a painting from 1930 showing a farmer holding a pitchfork and standing with his unwed daughter.

Known as Art Everywhere US, the large art show is a collaboration of five U.S. art museums and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, along with artists, estates, foundations and rights agencies- all aimed at celebrating the history of American art with the American public depicted in many of the pieces.

“I’m delighted that the advertising people have discovered Burchfield,” Burchfield Homestead Museum Director Dick Wootten said, adding that Burchfield’s inclusion in the show gives his work large scale exposure.

The Burchfield Homestead Museum at 867 E. Fourth St. in Salem is the site of the artist’s boyhood home, where he worked on his skills and transferred his visions of neighborhood life onto the canvas. He lived there from 1898 to 1921 and graduated from Salem High School.

Many of the homes depicted in his paintings remain standing and remain a part of the neighborhood today, including the home with the horizontal window featured in “Noontide in Late May.”

The painting is part of the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art located in New York, which is one of the five museums involved in the Art Everywhere US project. Other museums involved include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the National Galley of Art in Washington, D.C.

According to information about Burchfield and “Noontide in Late May” on the Whitney museum website at www.whitney.org, “In this painting, his neighbor’s backyard becomes an enchanted landscape of spring flowers in bloom in the bright sun of midday. The painting suggests the sensations of the garden in visual terms, as if you can also feel and smell the surroundings. On the back of this painting, Burchfield penciled: ‘The heat of the sun streaming down & rosebushes making the air drowsy with their perfume.’”

Wootten observed that the neighboring home in the painting stands to the southwest of the Burchfield home. The garden is no longer there, but the horizontal window remains visible on the back of the house which fronts on East Third Street. The home is depicted in more than a few Burchfield paintings.

When it comes to Burchfield, Wootten has become somewhat of an expert on the artist’s life in Salem and his significance as an artist and water colorist. He said this show can broaden his art and fame.

“I’ve always felt that he deserved more attention historically,” he said.

Directors from the five museums participating in Art Everywhere US submitted 20 pieces each for consideration, then the public voted online for their favorites. The list was then cut in half and the museums added eight pieces to come to 58. All 100 works submitted can be found on the project website at www.arteverywhereus.org, along with details about the selection process and the reasoning behind the show.

“All in all, the 100 works in Art Everywhere US bring us face to face with the story of our nation, told by the visionaries who captured our essence at the time they lived and worked , and who to this day compel us to find our place in the evolving story of America,” a press release on the Art Everywhere US website said.

To learn more about Burchfield, visit the Burchfield Homestead Museum website at www.burchfieldhomestead.com or visit the museum in person from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays through August or by appointment on other days throughout the year.

(On Monday, read about Burchfields visiting the Burchfield home)