Women’s History Month: Esther Bubley

To commemorate Women’s History Month, The Phillips Collection will be celebrating female and female identifying artists during the month of March.

Esther Bubley (b. 1921, Wisconsin; d. 1998, New York) was a documentary photographer and photojournalist known for capturing everyday America. Her black-and-white or color photographs contained striking modernist patterns; one of her many strengths was the ability to construct subtle and complex narratives through sequences of photographs.

By 1942, Bubley was living in Washington, DC, and working at the Office of War Information (OWI). For OWI, Bubley was asked to document American bus travel, which had dramatically increased due to the rationing of gasoline and tires during World War II. For her 1943 photo story, Bubley spent over four weeks traveling on buses to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Chicago, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and back to Washington, producing hundreds of images of a country in transition from the Great Depression to a time of war. Bubley focused on the human dimension of mobilization. She carried a “to whom it may concern” letter describing the need for factual photographs of American people needed for progress reports about the war.

Esther Bubley (b. Phillips, Wisconsin, 1921 – d. New York City, 1998) The exterior of the Greyhound bus terminal (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) (Greyhound Bus Series) 1943 Gelatin silver print Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke, 2014

Esther Bubley, The exterior of the Greyhound bus terminal (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) (Greyhound Bus Series), 1943, Gelatin silver print, The Phillips Collection, Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke, 2014

Between 1943 and 1950, Standard Oil (New Jersey) sponsored the largest private sector photographic project ever undertaken in America. Besides depicting operations and illustrating the positive impact of the industry on communities, the photographers also documented topics distantly related to oil, forming a pictorial record of the home front during and after World War II. Bubley used her time on assignment for Standard Oil (New Jersey) to explore more abstract work in photography. She visited the plantation of C. L. Hardy in eastern North Carolina; at the time, Hardy was considered the wealthiest man in the state and the largest tobacco grower in the world, with 12,000 acres in Greene and Pitt counties where 150 tenant families lived. Many of the documentary photographs taken at this moment show the tensions between past and present, rural and urban, man and machine, in the transformation of American life.

Bubley, Esther, C.L. Hardy Tobacco Plantation, Maury, NC, 1946, Gelatin silver print overall: 7 1/2 in x 7 3/4 in; 19.05 cm x 19.68 cm. Gift of Cam and Wanda Garner, 2012. Photographs, 2012.017.0017, American.

Esther Bubley, C.L. Hardy Tobacco Plantation, Maury, NC, 1946, Gelatin silver print, The Phillips Collection, Gift of Cam and Wanda Garner, 2012

Asked to chronicle subjects related to Standard Oil (New Jersey), Bubley photographed women working at Rockefeller Center, the headquarters of the company’s photography project. Located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the office became a meeting place for the photographers, who freelanced for $150 a week plus expenses.

General Service Department, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City c. 1950s Gelatin silver print Gift of Cam and Wanda Garner, 2012

Esther Bubley, General Service Department, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, c. 1950s, Gelatin silver print, The Phillips Collection, Gift of Cam and Wanda Garner, 2012

In her off hours, Bubley used a large hand-held Rolleiflex camera to take photographs of subjects that interested her around DC. Her image of a young boy near the US Capitol captures feelings of loneliness and longing. The demand for low cost housing and the lack of affordable transportation for workers was a major contributor to alley dwellings in Washington. Following the creation in 1934 of the Alley Dwelling Authority, the city’s first public housing agency, some alley dwellings disappeared as new housing was created on the edges of the city.

Esther Bubley (b. Phillips, Wisconsin, 1921 – d. New York City, 1998) A Child Whose Home Is an Alley Dwelling near the Capitol 1943 Gelatin silver print Gift of Cam and Wanda Garner, 2012

Esther Bubley, A Child Whose Home Is an Alley Dwelling near the Capitol, 1943, Gelatin silver print, The Phillips Collection, Gift of Cam and Wanda Garner, 2012

The Phillips Collection houses over 100 photographs by Esther Bubley. Her prints have been acquired by several museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; the George Eastman House, Rochester; and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Texas.

Women’s History Month: Helen Torr

Helen Torr (b. 1886, Pennsylvania; d. 1967, New York) was an American Modernist painter; she sometimes was referred to as “reds” because of her flaming red auburn hair.

I, 1935. Oil on canvas, 19 1/4" x 13 1/4". Smith Collecge Museum of Art, Northampton, MA

I, 1935. Oil on canvas,
19 1/4″ x 13 1/4″.
Smith Collecge Museum of Art, Northampton, MA

Torr’s style was completely, or nearly completely, abstract, though sometimes departing from this style when creating landscape or still life works, shifting between representation and abstraction. She is noted to have been heavily influenced by her friends Marsden Hartley and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Helen Torr, Heckscher Park, 1932, Oil on canvas overall: 21 3/4 in x 15 1/2 in., Gift of John and Diane Rehm, 2013

Helen Torr, Heckscher Park, 1932, Oil on canvas overall: 21 3/4 in x 15 1/2 in., Gift of John and Diane Rehm, 2013

Torr’s works were exhibited publicly only twice during her life. After her husband, Arthur Dove, passed away, she never resumed painting and wished her artworks be destroyed. However, her sister donated most of her work to the Heckscher Museum, which organized a show of her work in 1972, which was followed in 1980 with a solo show at the Graham Gallery. You can find her work here at The Phillips Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Helen Torr, Abstract Composition #1, , Pencil on paper overall: 3 7/8 in x 4 3/8 in; Gift of John and Diane Rehm, 2013

Helen Torr, Abstract Composition #1, , Pencil on paper overall: 3 7/8 in x 4 3/8 in; Gift of John and Diane Rehm, 2013

By JamiLee Hoglind, a graduating Senior at Galludet University and a Phillips Collection Marketing and Communications intern.

Women’s History Month: O’Keeffe Cupcakes

 To commemorate Women’s History Month, The Phillips Collection will be celebrating female and female identifying artists during the entire month of March.

As a part of her “The Phillips Dozen” project, Phillips Museum Assistant Emily Rader creates delicious cupcakes inspired by works of art in the permanent collection. Recently, staff got to enjoy pumpkin cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s Pattern of Leaves. 

Cupcakes inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe by Emily Rader

Cupcakes inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe by Emily Rader

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Pattern of Leaves

Pumpkin Cake with a Maple Glaze and a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Cake
Flour, Puréed Pumpkin, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Buttermilk, Vegetable Oil, Baking Powder, Cinnamon, Powdered Ginger, Nutmeg, Cloves, Allspice, Salt.

Frosting and Glaze
Confectioners Sugar, Cream Cheese, Maple Syrup, Brown Sugar, and Butter.

O'Keeffe inspired cupcakes by Emily Rader

O’Keeffe inspired cupcakes by Emily Rader

This work is an olfactory sketch of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Pattern of Leaves. The focus on a single key flavor in this work follows the teachings of Arthur Wesley Dow, O’Keeffe’s most influential teacher. His theories focused on “simplifying and isolating form to reveal its essence”. (PC) This amuse-gueule’s focus on a central motif, maple, is a way of referring back to the original work’s focus. The flavor is made more vibrant by layering maple and similarly tonal flavors like pumpkin and molasses.

The choice of pumpkin is especially significant as a way of representing an artist from the Americas’ work. The earliest evidence of domesticated pumpkin was in Oaxaca, Mexico (over 7,500 years ago) and it was vital to the diet of both the early settlers and the Native Americans. This versatile vegetable, much like O’Keeffe herself, also takes on the flavors of its locales.

Georgia O’Keeffe stands as the representative of Gallery 291 and the other Alfred Stieglitz supported artists. Stieglitz brought the European avant-garde, photographers, and American Modernism to greater awareness in America and a significant portion of the Phillips’s collection is dedicated to artists he promoted.

Description and recipe by Emily Rader. Follow her on Instagram.