Loveland Museum/Gallery Celebrates 75th Anniversary
The Loveland Museum/Gallery, on the corner of 5th and Lincoln Streets, this year celebrates its 75th Anniversary with special exhibits like the current “Portraits of the Prairie, Nebraska Landscapes that Inspired Willa Cather.” The show runs through April 15, and features watercolors, watercolor/pastels, scratchboard, and pen and ink works by former dentist turned artist, Richard Schilling, whose works have appeared in the Governor’s Invitational Art Show. Oftentimes, he wanders around the gallery and welcomes questions or comments.
As you walk through the exhibit, you encounter a group of similarly sized and framed watercolors depicting farms of planted fields and rolling prairies in shades of blue, green, and burnt sienna along with white and a few other colors. Notice the skies. He used a wet-on-wet technique, then over-painted details. Old windmills reside beside a small barn, school, or sit alone surrounded by high grasses. One of Schilling’s favorite pictures represents a rising moon in a purple/pink-shaded sky over a partially cleared cornfield.
View depictions of rutted, dirt country roads covered in snow, wet with puddles from a recent storm, or dusty and brown. His pictures often conjure up the familiar smells of fields, dust, hay, and rain. The paintings lead you over land seemingly devoid of habitation. Schilling related that, as he drove through the Nebraska countryside, he seldom saw people. Therefore, he left out human figures but displayed their invisible presence in a saw hanging on a dead tree, mailboxes lining a road, and gravestones sitting as cold as the snow that surrounds them. Instead, look for larks atop fence posts, a few cows, and turkeys.
Schilling shows us Nebraska streams/rivers, which flow along sandy shores or those covered in ice beneath a brown bank. His homes and prairie towns are reminiscent of country where, perhaps, you visited your grandparents. Interspersed are small pen and ink drawings of farmer’s needs – an outhouse, a bedroom vanity, rocking chair, water pump, an old wheelchair, and much more. Other gallery walls share a look at the four seasons, lonely churches, or fields speckled with broken equipment and barren trees.
Because Schilling grew up in Nebraska, he knows Cather’s homeland well. He traveled to her small town of Red Cloud and viewed firsthand his subjects. Although he likes to paint en plein air (translated “in open air”) weather, hot and cold frequently drove him inside. Most times he sketched and photographed onsite, then painted in a studio. Two covered cases display his travel implements and sketchbooks - a carrying case with brushes, a packet of watercolor pens, palettes, and his grandfather’s collapsible cup. He carries the pens and a small sketchbook in his shirt pocket, ready in a moment’s notice to capture a scene he encounters. His beautiful penmanship adds description to his sketches.
One wall features two scratchboard pieces. He used his dental tools to scratch the white surface and reveal the black beneath. Read the information panels or grab the treasure hunt from the docent desk to enhance your visit or that of children. Sit at one of two tables and peruse Schilling’s well-written book, which quotes Cather’s writings for the exhibit’s paintings and captures Schilling’s thoughts as he traveled her Nebraska. Museum hours are: closed on Mondays; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10-5; Thursday 10-7; Saturday 10-4; and Sunday 12-4. Admission is free. The museum remains open until 9 pm for the second Friday of each month’s “Night on the Town.” Friday noon tours are given by trained docents or staff. Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll receive a quarterly program of events and classes held at the museum as well as the Rialto Theatre. And, if you visit on a Friday morning, stop and say hello. I’ll probably be the docent on duty.