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MICA Presents a Centennial Celebration of Baltimore's Painted Screens, Dec. 13-March 16

"PICTURE WINDOWS" is the first exhibition to show painted screens alongside its antecedents, as well as today’s high-tech iterations

Posted 10.30.13 by MICA Communications

William Oktavec, "Red Bungalow," circa 1920, courtesy Maryland Historical Society.

BALTIMORE--MICA marks the centennial of Baltimore's tradition of painting vivid images on row house screens with the exhibition PICTURE WINDOWS ... The Painted Screens of Baltimore and Beyond from Friday, Dec. 13, 2013-Sunday, March 16, 2014, in the Fox Building's Meyerhoff Gallery (1303 W. Mount Royal Ave.), with an opening reception on Friday, Dec. 13, 5-8 p.m. Together with Maryland folklorist Elaine Eff, co-founder of the Painted Screen Society of Baltimore, MICA will present for the first time a comprehensive look at the history of screen painting-a functional and ornamental art with roots in 18th-century London, Victorian America and early 20th-century Baltimore.

PICTURE WINDOWS is the first exhibition of its kind to show this beloved practical folk art alongside its antecedents from Europe and America, as well as today's high-tech iterations. Included in the exhibition are window and door screens, festive masks, construction mesh and bus advertising-objects that can provide both privacy and ventilation.

"PICTURE WINDOWS examines a truly democratic impulse-an art of, by and for a community-the acid test for a true folk art," Eff said.

Beginning 100 years ago, the streets of East Baltimore became an outdoor museum of brightly colored paintings on woven wire window and door screens. Today, painted screens are recognized as a unique contemporary folk art found in great numbers only in Baltimore. The exhibition will examine the elements that make this homegrown work of art an important part of the city's streetscapes and how one-way visibility allows you to see out while no one can see in-a cherished secret of row house harmony.

The exhibition includes the work of four generations of painters and dabblers who turned block after block of their neighbors' row houses into works of art. Included in PICTURE WINDOWS are works by William Oktavec, the grocer who introduced the art form in 1913 by painting a still life on the woven wire door screen of his corner store in the heart of East Baltimore's Czech community.

Among more than two dozen artists featured in the exhibition, many have ties to MICA, including Richard Oktavec, William's son, who studied lettering and drafting; Ruth Chrysam Fahey '39 (costume design), who apprenticed with William Oktavec as a screen painter and continued her career later in New York as a fashion illustrator; Tilghman Hemsley '84 (painting), an employee of Oktavec family's church restoration business; and Ben Richardson, Dee Herget and Frank Cipolloni, all of whom took classes at Maryland Institute decades ago.

The Painted Screens of Baltimore: An Urban Folk Art Revealed (256 pages, 300 illustrations), written by Eff and published by University Press of Mississippi, becomes available this fall in area bookstores, including the MICA College Store (1200 Mount Royal Ave.) and the Ivy Bookshop (6080 Falls Rd.). Filmmaker John Waters called the book "an un-ironic (thank God) treasure-trove of amazingly researched information that elevates the most Balto-centric one-time row house kitsch to its proper place in art history."

PICTURE WINDOWS coincides with a second exhibition at MICA that celebrates Baltimore culture. From Friday, Dec. 13, 2013-Sunday, March 16, 2014, the Fox Building's Decker Gallery (1303 W. Mount Royal Ave.) will house The Amazing Johnny Eck, presenting a never-before-seen collection of personal objects, artifacts and artworks-including painted screens-by sideshow performer Johnny Eck (1911-1991), one of Baltimore's most famous citizens. In his youth, Eck studied art with Oktavec, and when he returned from his film career in Hollywood, he picked up where he left off, painting screens for his neighbors and far-flung customers and admirers.

Hours for MICA's galleries, which are free and open to the public, are Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, noon-5 p.m.

PICTURE WINDOWS is made possible partially through generous support from the Brenda Brown Rever and Lipitz Siblings Foundation.

MICA's exhibitions are supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non profit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities.


Top image caption: William Oktavec,
Red Bungalow, circa 1920, courtesy Maryland Historical Society.

The Painted Screen Society of Baltimore, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) educational organization with a mission to preserve screen painting and rowhouse arts in Baltimore neighborhoods. The Society was founded in 1985 by folklorist Elaine Eff and screen painter Dee Herget. Originally conceived as a guild for practicing screen painters, by popular demand, the Society became a membership organization of ardent supporters, neighbors and relocated Baltimoreans. The Society acts as a clearinghouse for information and classes, hosts workshops, tours, artist residencies in schools and museums, demonstrations, exhibitions and community and custom outreach efforts. www.paintedscreens.org

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 65 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. Redefining art and design education, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.


Programs accompanying PICTURE WINDOWS ... The Painted Screens of Baltimore and Beyond include:

Opening Reception
Friday, Dec. 13, 5-8 p.m.
Fox Building: Meyerhoff Gallery, 1303 W. Mount Royal Ave.
Visitors celebrating the opening of PICTURE WINDOWS can be the first on their block to discover what's old and new in the world of screen painting. Reception guests will learn the secrets to painting a screen for their own windows and doors.

Book Signing and Talk
Sunday, Dec. 15
Brown Center: Falvey Hall and Falvey Hall lobby, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.
2 p.m.: Booking Signing
Maryland folklorist Elaine Eff will sign copies of her newly released book, The Painted Screens of Baltimore: An Urban Folk Art Revealed (256 pages, 300 illustrations), published by University Press of Mississippi and available in area bookstores and the MICA College Store. Filmmaker John Waters called the book "an un-ironic (thank God) treasure-trove of amazingly researched information that elevates the most Balto-centric one-time row house kitsch to its proper place in art history."
3 p.m.: Meet the Screen Painters: A Conversation With Baltimore Originals 1940-2013
Screen painting masters and their inheritors share their stories, trials and rewards of being self-taught artists during the heyday of the tradition and today. Participating artists include: Monica Broere, Jenny Campbell, Dee Herget, Tom Lipka, Chrissy Maxwell and Anna Pasqualucci.

Collectors Circle: Bring Out Your Screens, Painted Screen Identification
With Elaine Eff and Artist Experts, Dee Herget and Tom Lipka
Saturday, Jan. 11, 2 p.m.
Brown Center: Leidy Atrium, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.
Bring in your painted screens, of any condition, to discuss conservation, artist identification and cleaning during this painted screens version of Antiques Roadshow.

Gallery Talks
Thursday, Jan. 30, noon
Saturday, Feb. 15, 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 15, 3 p.m.
Fox Building: Meyerhoff Gallery, 1303 W. Mount Royal Ave.
Elaine Eff, folklorist and curator of PICTURE WINDOWS ... The Painted Screens of Baltimore and Beyond, provides personal stories and revealing tidbits gleaned from four decades of fieldwork.

Local Film Screenings: The Screen Painters and Little Castles
Q&A With Artists and Filmmakers
Saturday, Feb. 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Brown Center: Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.
Guests can get a crash course in local taste and aesthetics, learning about painted screens and formstone, the topics of these films. This evening offers local film viewing and a Q&A discussion with the people who brought Baltimore these two traditions, as well as those who preserved their story for future generations. Panelists include: PICTURE WINDOWS curator Elaine Eff, The Screen Painters cinematographer Richard Chisolm and Baltimore-based independent filmmaker Steve Yeager.

Screen Painter Demonstrations
Sunday, Feb. 2, noon-4 p.m.: Pat Michalski
Saturday, Feb. 8, noon-4 p.m.: Anna Lipka
Sunday, Feb. 16, noon-4 p.m.: Pat Michalski
Saturday, Feb. 22, noon-4 p.m.: Anna Pasqualucci
Saturday, March 1, noon-4 p.m.: Anna Lipka
Sunday, March 2, noon-4 p.m.: Anna Pasqualucci
Fox Building: Meyerhoff Gallery, 1303 W. Mount Royal Ave.
Guests can watch the featured screen painter demo how the folk art is done.

All programs are free and open to the public. For updates on programming, including artist gallery demonstrations, visit paintedscreens.org.