We originlly were not planning to visit Athens, in spite of it being a major music scene in Georgia. The B-52s and REM came from here, and the scene still rocks on as it is a college town. Campy Art fans and University of Georgia fans enjoy seeing “Uga”, the English Bulldog mascot dressed in drag, among other costumes, throughout town.
However, while in Atlanta we learned that Lucy May Stanton, my cousin thrice removed (her closest aunt was my great, great grandmother), is exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art, so we had to become Athenians for a day! With over 10,000 pieces in the permanent collection of American Art here, it was thrilling to see 12 of Lucy Stanton’s paintings displayed, get a warm welcome from the curator of the Lucy May Stanton exhibit, and an invitation to dinner! Betty Alice Fowler was also able to provide the exhibition catalogue, filled with details about Lucy Stanton’s training, education and experience, and 58 paintings beautifully reproduced. Clearly, Lucy Stanton has become an obsession for this dedicated curator.
Betty Alice sent us off to view the Lucy Stanton house in Athens, where I met neighbor Mayor Gwen O’Looney, toured her house, and met her portraitist painter husband John O’Looney (see his self portrait below). Clearly, eccentric and creative Southerners are thriving in this lovely town…rare Obama supporters in a very Red State!
I have learned so much about the amazing Lucy May Stanton, truly a revolutionary in her time. I had seen some of her paintings of family members at my mother’s home, but never knew she had an international reputation as a miniaturist portrait painter on ivory, the first to apply Impressionist painting technique to the 15th Century genre. She also was the first American Painter to paint miniature portraits of African Americans, expressing their dignified characters and personalities.
In Atlanta, I viewed photos of her miniatures owned by Emory’s Woodruff Library, as well as her original sketches and correspondence, along with two large portraits of my great grandfather and the family progenitor, my G-G-GF. Lullwater House at Emory has a painting of my mother’s grandmother Ida, and we received a tour of the house by the Emory President’s wife, Debbie Wagner, who has Grandma Ida featured prominently.
The Lucy May Stanton family connection has opened the homes of many gracious Southerners to us, enriching and personalizing our traveling experience greatly. I will write a blog solely on the topic of Lucy May Stanton as we will again see her work at the Met in NYC, the National Portrait Gallery in D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Boston Fine Arts Museum. It has been thrilling to see her work, meet her fans, and enjoy swimming in the same DNA gene pool with her.