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 Jessie Wilber  (1912 - 1989)

About: Jessie Wilber
 

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Lived/Active: Montana/Kansas/Wisconsin      Known for: animal, landscape, figure, and botanical painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Graphic artist Jessie Spaulding Wilber was born November 10, 1912, in Whitewater, Wisconsin, spending her early childhood in Illinois and Ohio before moving with her family to Boulder, Colorado, when she was eight.  The majority of her art reflected her lifelong love of nature and natural things---plants, landscapes, animals and people, but a major activity in her art career was the recording and preservation of pictographs and murals painted by the Blackfoot Indians on the exteriors of their lodges and tipis.  This latter interest would result from a 1940 summer visit to Montana that led to a position in the art department of Montana State College (later University), where she would remain for over thirty years, from 1941-1972.

Wilber and the chairman of the art department, Olga Ross Hannon, began to record the murals and pictogaphs by means of silk-screen.  They visited the Sun Dance encampments of the South Piegan in northern Montana, and the Blood Indians in southern Alberta, Canada, in the summers of 1944 and 1945, making sketches and color notes and taking slides.  When Hannon died in 1946, Wilber and Cyril H. Conrad, the new department chairman, created prints of five of the painted tipis.  By 1975, she and others had completed the series of twenty-six.

But if this act of conservation of an aspect of Native American culture took place over a period of more than thirty years, it was not the only creativity Wilber expressed.  A large part of her work consisted of Western themes.  Under the auspices of the federal Works Progess Administration, she painted a six by eleven foot mural of an 1880s cattlemen's picnic for the post office in Kingman, Kansas, in 1942.  Other specific art works included Wild Horses; Spring Creek Valley; and her final print, Magpies in a Snowstorm, used on the cover of the book Margaret of the Imperfections, 1988, by Lynda Sexson.

Jessie Wilber, a founding member of the Montana Institute of the Arts, Bozeman, was named 1973's Artist of the Year by that body, receiving the Governor's Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts in 1988, from the Montana Arts Council.
Wilber's work is in the collections of the Montana Historical Society, Helena; Montana State University, and Montana Institute of the Arts Foundation, Bozeman.

Jessie Wilber attended Port Huron Junior College, Michigan, in 1930-1932. Her art education began in earnest in 1933, when she studied with modernist Estelle Stinchfield, as a junior, at Colorado State Teachers College (now University of Northern Colorado), Greeley, graduating in 1935 with a fine arts degree. In 1938, she received her Master of Arts degree. She also studied in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1938-1940, while teaching there, as well as elsewhere with Otis Dozier.

Wilber had one-person shows at the University of Montana, Missoula, 1965; Ketterer Gallery, Bozeman, 1972; and Montana State University, 1983. Other exhibitions include the Northwest Artists, Seattle; Montana Institute of the Arts, Great Falls; Denver Art Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Northwest Printmakers, Seattle; Loggia Gallery, San Francisco; Federation of Rocky Mountain States Traveling Show; Pacific Northwest Art Annual, Eugene, Oregon; and Spirit of Modernism: 13 Montana Artists, Great Falls and state-wide.

Jessie Wilber died October 2, 1989, in Bozeman, Montana.


Source:
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West


Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
One-person shows at the University of Montana, Missoula, 1965; Ketterer Gallery, Bozeman, 1972; and Montana State University, 1983.
Memberships:
Montana Institute of the Arts.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Whitewater, WI, Nov. 10, 1912; died Bozeman, MT, Oct. 2, 1989. Painter. Printmaker. Attended Port Huron Junior College, Michigan, in 1930-1932. Her art education began in earnest in 1933, when she studied with modernist Estelle Stinchfield, as a junior, at Colorado State Teachers College (now University of Northern Colorado), Greeley, graduating in 1935 with a fine arts degree. In 1938, she received her Master of Arts degree. She also studied in Des Moines, IA in 1938-1940, while teaching there, as well as elsewhere with Otis Dozier. Though the majority of her art reflected her lifelong love of nature and natural things, plants, landscapes, animals and people, a major activity in her art career was the recording and preservation of pictographs and murals painted by the Blackfoot Indians on the exteriors of their lodges and tipis. This latter interest would result from a 1940 summer visit to Montana that led to a position in the art department of Montana State College (later University), where she would remain for over thirty years, from 1941-1972. Painted the mural, “In the Days of the Cattlemen’s Picnic”, for the Kingman Post Office in 1942.
Source:
AWARDS:
Artist of the Year, Montana Institute of the Arts, 1973; Governor’s Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts in 1988 from the Montana Arts Council.

COLLECTIONS:
Montana Historical Society; Montana State University; Montana Institute of the Arts Foundation.

MEMBERSHIPS:
Montana Institute of the Arts.

SOURCES:
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Wiebe, Joanna K. “Kansans Cared About their New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 21, 1972. p.1E & 7E-----. “Local Legends Live in Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 22, 1972. p.1A & 3A-----. “Age Enhances Fort Scott Mural”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 23, 1972. p.1A & 8A-----. “Halstead Legend Perpetuated”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 24, 1972. p.1A & 16A -----. “Scenics, Murals and Lithographs Included in Kansas New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 25, 1972. p.15A.; Bruner, Ronald Irwin. New Deal Art Workers in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Thesis. University of Denver, 1979.; AskArt, www.askart.com, accessed Dec. 23, 2005; Kovinick, Phil and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick. An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

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