This collection took months to put together. Kris and I messed around with different frames. We tried chunky wood finials. A shiny orange vase. Worn baskets. I can't tell you how many iterations we attempted. Probably twenty. We got close a couple of times, but after stepping away for a day or so, we would come back, growl in frustration, and begin again.
The screenprint, titled "Winter Sun", is the work of Milwaukee artist Miriam K. Eaton who passed away in 2008. In 2013, I bought a large box of her prints and old posters without knowing much about her. This abstract piece, in bold hues and dramatic forms, is the best in the bunch, I think. The color registry is crisp and strong. This is the work of an artist who is adept at etching.
When I finally settled on framing the screenprint in simple high-gloss black, the collection started to take shape. I bookended the abstract with brass candlesticks shaped like elongated pyramids or swooping obelisks. Classic with a twist, and with a beautiful worn patina. I like to think of them as little parenthetical symbols containing the chaos depicted in the artwork.
But it was still a few weeks before I found the final element -- the polished stone cubist sculpture. Cubism uses only geometrical figures, yet still depicts something that is recognizable. This sculpture is a mother cradling a child.
And when I added it to the collection, I was done. (It's newly listed at Finder Not Keeper. More information here.)
Certainly, I strive to create collections that are visually cohesive. But this one is also spiritually cohesive. Because of Miriam Eaton's story. Or to be more specific, because of her tragedies.
During WWII, Miriam was a young mother with a baby when her husband was killed in the Philippines in 1945. Her son, Robert Ellison, grew up to become a photographer. Before he even graduated from college, he made a name for himself as a freelancer for Ebony, photographing the march on Selma and many other civil rights marches.
After college, Robert Ellison and his camera went to Vietnam. He was a civilian photographer without a press pass, but he used a case of beer and a box of cigars to bribe his way onto a helicopter headed to Khe Sanh. On March 6, 1968, he died when his cargo plane was shot down. He was 23.
Two weeks after his death, his image of an explosion in Khe Sanh made the cover of Newsweek. You can see it here. Ellison was posthumously recognized with the Overseas Press Club award.
Two weeks after that, Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. Ebony eulogized Dr. King and Robert Ellison in the same issue. Ebony described Ellison as "the young white photographer who lived free of prejudice, full of understanding and respectful of the rights of men."
Miriam Eaton, his mother, is more of a mystery. Her obituary mentions that she was a human rights activist and a founder of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Organization of Women. Did she become an activist after losing her son or was her activism an example that her son followed?
Miriam's obituary also lists her best friend, a woman named Miriam Sweeney of Milwaukee. Last year, Miriam Sweeney donated to the Sojourner Truth House in memory of her old artist friend. I thought, "Yes! A living source who can tell me more about Miriam Eaton!" Further googling revealed that Miriam Sweeney passed away last week. She was 93.
So I am posting this collection without a thorough understanding of Miriam Eaton. But perhaps we know enough. This woman lost a husband and a son in war. She must have lost a part of herself too. But she made art and it lives on.
Photos of Winter's Sun by Renn Kuhnen. More information on purchasing the collection here.
Thank you for reading. Next week is a wonderful post about a remarkable woman who will delight you with her super sharp wit and her intoxicating joie de vivre. Subscribe below so you don't miss it!