Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Art of Peril

The last time we met, I told you about Ogden Pleissner, Landscape Painter, a new rotation of watercolors in Pleissner Gallery. Today I'll introduce another show I've been working on for the summer season, one that takes destruction as its subject.

Back in 2011, when I was going through the print collection in storage, I noticed that there were quite a few prints focusing on catastrophes such as fires, shipwrecks, and railroad accidents. I've always been interested in historical disasters, so when I started finding these prints, I knew I had to do a show about them. 

The result of this initial interest is The Art of Peril: Fires, Shipwrecks, and other Disasters. It will open on June 22nd, and will be exhibited in the lower level of Webb Gallery.

The exhibit isn't finished yet, but the pieces are up on the walls now, and I'm currently working on labels for them.

Some of the prints that will be on view

Three-dimensional objects will also be included in the show

The fun part about this show is that I get to learn a lot of great history. Some of the disasters I'll be featuring, such as the Great Fire of Chicago of 1871, are still famous today, but other catastrophes have become obscure over time.

Currier and Ives with their take on the Chicago fire

Take the story of the Peacemaker, for example, which occurred in 1844. This was the worst peacetime disaster to occur in the United States up to that time, but chances are you haven't heard of it. I certainly hadn't.

The installation of the Peacemaker was an unintentionally explosive celebration

Here's the story. The Peacemaker was a newly-installed cannon on the U.S.S. Princeton, the most advanced American warship of the time. To commemorate the Navy’s achievement, a formal celebration was held aboard the ship, with attendees including President John Tyler, his fiance, and several members of the presidential cabinet. Unfortunately, the Peacemaker exploded during a firing demonstration. President Tyler survived, but six men, including two of his cabinet members, were killed, and several others were injured. 

You can read a more detailed account of the event here.

The Peacemaker accident is just one of several fascinating events I've been learning about. As I keep working on this show, I'll share a few more historical events with you to whet your appetite for destruction.

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