“The Charter Oak is a symbol of the spirit of independence that began the American Revolution. In 1687, Connecticut stood alone in New England in defying James II’s orders to relinquish a 1662 charter that had given the colonies self-government. Legend has it that the candles went out suddenly at the showdown meeting and the charter vanished – into a hole in an ancient oak tree down the street which was said to have been a council tree of the Native Americans who watched for its leaves to appear in the spring to indicate the proper time for planting corn. When the tree was felled by a violent storm in 1856, a counting of its rings determined it to be almost a thousand years old.”
The painting depicts the grand old tree with a fence just beyond it and the tiny figure of a woman to its left.
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Julie Mehretu (Ethiopian/American, b.1970) is an Abstract printmaker and painter. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and moved to Michigan with her family in 1977. She began her education at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, and then went on to earn a BA in Art from Kalamazoo College, and a MFA from the Rhode Island School of Art and Design in 1997.
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Mehretu has lived and worked in New York, NY, since beginning her career in 1999, but she also has a studio in Berlin that she uses for part of each year. She produces large scale prints, drawings, and paintings that use heavy layering to create Abstract imagery from patterns and architectural photographs. Hundreds of thin and translucent layers of paint and paper cover the canvas of each painting. Critics have linked her work to nonliteral art movements ranging from Futurism to Constructivism. All of her works, regardless of format, involve symbolism drawn from graffiti, city maps, and comic book graphics. Explosions and sharp or arching line work are constant themes running throughout her body of work. Mehretu has drawn inspiration from the large-scale works of Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman.
One of the artist’s most widely known works is the 80-foot-wide mural located in Goldman Sachs tower entitled Mural. It is visible from the street, and was commissioned by the banking firm in 2010. Her painting Untitled 1is also popular and sold for over US$1,000,000 at Sotheby’s auction house in 2010. Mehretu’s drawings were included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York entitled Drawing Now: Eight Propositions in 2002. The Palazzo Grassi in Venice also hosted her work for their Praise Of Doubt exhibition in 2011. Her first major solo exhibition, Grey Area, took place at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2010. Her current body of work is part of a permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art. Representation for Mehretu is handled by Marian Goodman Gallery in New York and White Cube of London. She has received the Berlin Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Award, and the American Art Award. Mehretu lives and works in New York and Berlin, Germany.
Father Gregory Gerrer, a monk of St. Gregory’s Abbey in Shawnee, Oklahoma, achieved an international reputation as an artist, curator, and collector of art. Born Robert Francis Xavier Gerrer on July 23, 1867, in France in the Alsatian village of Lautenbach, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 he immigrated with his family to the United States. They settled in Bedford, Iowa. As a youth he displayed a talent for art and music, taking various jobs as a musician. Upon learning of a land opening in Oklahoma Territory in 1891, he traveled to Guthrie. In December he visited the community of Benedictine monks at Sacred Heart Mission, located in the southern part of present Pottawatomie County. He remained there and entered the novitiate in January 1892, taking the name Gregory.
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After being ordained to the priesthood in 1900, Gerrer traveled to Rome to study art. During this time he developed a reputation for portraiture. In 1904 he painted a portrait of the recently elected Pope Pius X (canonized 1954). Gerrer entered the painting in the 1904 World’s Fair at St. Louis, and it won a bronze medal. The original of this signature work is exhibited in the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art on the campus of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.
Gerrer returned to the United States in 1904 and taught at Sacred Heart and at St. Gregory’s, after the Benedictine community moved to Shawnee. Beginning in 1917 he spent fifteen years as a faculty member and curator at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He then returned to St. Gregory’s Abbey and resumed his teaching duties. He also continued to paint, both for income and to barter for artistic works and anthropological objects. Throughout his career he collected the art and artifacts that became the nucleus for the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. He was cofounder and first president of the Association of Oklahoma Artists. In 1931 Gerrer was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He died on August 24, 1946.
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