Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Maybe you already know about Belle Baranceanu and her work. You probably do if you live in La Jolla where her mural might make waiting in line more bearable - Scenic View of the Village, 1935-36), at left. Better in color, I'm sure.

She was born in Minneapolis but was sent to CA in 1921 to live with an uncle after her father became concerned that she was becoming romantically involved with her art teacher, Anthony Angarola. (Skip to end for more about this sad story.)

At school with Angarola she absorbed the influences of Cezanne and the cubists, but she eventually turned away from entirely abstract images.

Her choice of subjects at times
revealed a feeeling for the dignity of every person. In 1926 she wrote, "Commonplace people are at every moment the chief and essential linksin the chain of human affairs; if we leave them out, we lose all semblance of truth." Here's Virginia, 1926. I like those large Picasso-style hands.

The WPA came along at just the right time for her. She embarked on a series of murals, some which have been moved to preserve them, and two that survive in situ. Her favorite, the Seven Arts, was destroyed when La Jolla High School's auditorium was declared seismically unstable - she used to "scamper along the scaffolding while the sc
hool orchestra practiced below" according to the account on the account on the San Diego Historical Society website.

Two murals survive in San Diego - besides the one at the post office, there's one at the Balboa Park Club.

Here's another I like, Riverview Section of Chicago, 1926. There is so much to draw the eye with the variety of shapes, curving lines, interesting disrega
rd for perspective to bring some objects forward - she usually leaves empty space for the eye to rest, as well. I like that nothing fights too hard for your attention in this piece. What do you think?

Footnote: About that sad story, there are conflicting accounts about how seriously she was involved with Angarola. The San Diego Historical Society site takes an entirely different view than the account in the American Art Review (October 2006). The former posits that he was more of a mentor and that perhaps she was not interested in men at all, but planned to marry him as a dear friend and mentor; the latter says she was planning on marrying him and devastated when he died from an aneurysm caused by a car accident in Paris some days before. In any case, she was a strong person who carried on with her work, forging her own style and finding work to support herself, teaching, and becoming involved with local arts organizations.

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