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 Dorothy Sturm  (1910 - 1988)

About: Dorothy Sturm


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Lived/Active: Tennessee/New York      Known for: enamel and tempera painting, collages, teaching

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Biography from Paul Edelstein Studio and Gallery:
Born in Memphis, Tennessee on August 2nd, 1910

Selected Exhibitions:
1988 Retrospective, University Gallery at Memphis State University, Memphis TN
1986 "1948 1958" Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis TN
1985 "Spectrum South: The Malone and Hyde Collection," Tennesse State Museum, Nashville, TN
1976 41st International Ecumenical Invitational, Philadelphia, PA
1974 Paintings "Naive", The Art Wagon, Scottsdale, AZ
1973 Enamels, 18 Invitees to New Paltz College Gallery, NY
Twenty-Year Retrospective in Enamels, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery
1972 One man show at Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR
National Invitation Enamel Exhibition, Memphis Academy of Arts (Documented by ACC Research Program by request)
National Invitational for Seven Contemporary Enamelists at James Yaw Gallery, Birmingham, MI
1971 International Crafts Invitational Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, NY
Minneapolis Museum
1970 One man show at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY
Traveling Exhibition of Tennesse Crafts, "Past and Present".
1952 - 1970 Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY, drawings, collages and enamels, exclusive contract
1966 - 1967 Western Arts Invitational Traveling Crafts Show
1964 Retrospective, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, TN
1956 Thrid Annual Invitational Exhibition of American Drawings and Prints, University of Utah
Whitney Museum, New Yok, NY Annual Exhibition of Sculpture, Watercolors and Drawings
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, Recent Drawings USA
1950 - 1956 Weyhe Gallery, New York, NY handles watercolors
1955 Salle Franklin, Bordeaux, France - L'Aquarelle Contemporaine Aux Etats-Unis 1954 Fondation Clews: La Napoule, France, Aquarellistes Americains Contemporains
1950 Seven Watercolorists, Weyhe Gallery, New York, NY

Collection of the American Embassy in France

The following excerpt is from a text by Robert J. McKnight, Director of the Memphis Brooks Museum in the 1965 Catalog of  the Retrospective of Dorothy Sturm.

"Dorothy Sturm returned to Memphis about 1934 from studying at The Arts Student League in New York and started to teach at The Memphis Academy of Arts (MCA now, Memphis College of Art) about 1935.  If we consider this the beginning of her artist career we can divide her art work into about 4 main periods:
     Tempera painting between   1938-1947
     Paper collages from about  &nbs p; 1950-1954
    Cloth Collages from about     195401960
    Glass and Enamel sculpture   1960-1965

Running through all these periods we have both a continued interest in science and scientific work ( free lance Abbot Laboratories employee every two years until 1988), such as medical  illustrations and continued out croppings of drawings.

There is a trend of development from the personal to the abstract.  The early paintings are about people in a regional sense.  Her painting in 1946 is quite abstract.  At least it is abstract enough to have aroused considerable emotion.  The oil called Indian with Dead Bird won the first Mid-South Biennial.  The artist reports that the public was so aroused that the artist was refused admission to the gallery for fear of personal injury by an indignant public.  Today this might seem odd indeed but the artist unprepared for the reaction of the public, was stunned by the experience.

Dorothy Sturm's continued search for new materials and methods might make her work seem disconnected if it were not for a consistent attitude toward design.  Inspite of ourselves we feel a continuous thread throught that indentifies itself as DOROTHY STURM.

In the paper collages of the early 1950's that continually progress from a texture reltively smooth to one quite rough and decorative, we are struck by the fact that again the recognizable people and forms become continually more abstract.

By the time the cloth collages emerge in the late 1950's any representaion of the figure is indeed suggested rather than depicted and ends on a complete note of symbolism concerning human beings rather than active human particpation. 

In the last period of glass sculpture and enamels have reached the complete abstract stage.  Frequently they convey feelings about ourselves and our internal structure.  The translucent sculpture seems to be a wonder world of purified internal visceral sensations presented in a limited space-concept show case.  The fact that these cases come from abandoned airplane plastic bubbles only intensifies the illusion.  Some of the early enamels  suggest the wonder life on another  enviroment, either beneath the sea or through the microscope;  things we think exist and wonder of their beauty, but never have time to come to grips with.  The later enamels tend to repeat the more definite areas of the early cloth collages.

All of Dorothy's students will recall her ability as a draughtsman, her complete mastery of this area, and her complete mastery of form and local color or pattern independent of shadows.  So we are not surprised to have many unusual drawings.  Her colored medical drawings show the influence on her art work, and her art work on her medical drawings.

I do not think we will find any other artist in this country with the range of her work.  Rather we would have to turn to Europe to someone like Mondrian, Picasso or Braque.   Perhaps the most significant factor in Miss Sturm's work is the gradual elimination of subject matter as the most important emotional ingredient and it's replacement by the elements of art as having emotional significance in themselves.  We find textures and light, line and color arousing our interest and telling their own story. Herein, we think, is the real significance of art today."

Robert J. McKnight
Memphis Brooks Museum, 1965

1983 Metalsmith Magazine, "Dorothy Sturm, Master Metalsmith," by Kathleen Doyle and Karen Blockman
1974 Cambridge Dictionary of International Biography
1973 - 1974 Marquis' Who's Who 1973-1974
1973 Published in Enameling, by Sarita Rainey, published by Davis Publishing Inc. of Massachusetts
1973 Published in Step by Step Enameling by W. Harper, published by Western publications
1964 Published in The Best in European Decoration, published by Dernier, Reynal & Co. NY

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