Gordon Parks, 'American Gothic'

Crossroads: The Art of Gordon Parks

January 23 - April 11, 2010

www.ulrich.wichita.edu/gordonparks

I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty. I could have just as easily picked up a knife or a gun, like many of my childhood friends did--most of whom were murdered or put in prison--but I chose not to go that way. I felt that I could somehow subdue these evils by doing something beautiful that people recognize me by, and thus make a whole different life for myself. --Gordon Parks

This exhibition celebrates the life work of one of America's most accomplished 20th-century artists. Photographer, poet, novelist, composer, musician and filmmaker, Gordon Parks spent a lifetime shattering barriers in his pursuit of social justice and artistic expression.

The 15th child of poor black tenant farmers in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks was a self-taught photographer who began his career working for the Farm Security Administration in Washington, D.C., and went on to become the first black staff photographer at LIFE magazine, producing powerful photo essays for more than 20 years. Parks' work with photographs led to film, and the artist wrote and directed such notable movies as The Learning Tree (1968) and Shaft (1971). In addition, he authored works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and composed the music for Martin (1989), a ballet honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

Crossroads: The Art of Gordon Parks expands and enriches a nationally touring exhibition with photographs from the Ulrich, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita. Also, the presentation will include archival material from the Gordon Parks Papers in WSU Special Collections and University Archives. Audiences will have a rich opportunity to encounter the range of subjects at which Parks aimed eye and lens: from the train station and ball park in his hometown of Fort Scott to the dazzling streets of Paris at night, from iconic portraits of boxing champion Muhammad Ali and jazz great Duke Ellington to striking images of poverty and its effects.

Generously sponsored by: Commerce Bank Kansas Humanities Council

The core touring elements of Crossroads: The Art of Gordon Parks are organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions, courtesy of the Gordon Parks Foundation and the Howard Greenberg Gallery.

The lead exhibition sponsor for the Wichita presentation is Commerce Bank and William T. Kemper Foundation--Commerce Bank, Trustee. Public programs are supported by the Kansas Humanities Council. Additional exhibition support has been generously contributed by Ted and Marcia Ayres, Joseph C. Lukens, Jr., Michael Roach and Anna Kelley, Harvey R. Sorenson, and Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace, & Bauer, LLP.

Gordon Parks Public Programs in Wichita

ALL ULRICH MUSEUM EVENTS are free, open to the public, and take place at the museum unless noted otherwise. For more information about museum programs, visit www.ulrich.wichita.edu/events.

Dr. Marche Fleming-Randle, assistant dean in WSU's Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2009JANUARY
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 10-11:30 A.M.
SENIOR WEDNESDAY: Dr. Marche Fleming-Randle
The Gumbo Analysis of Diversity
Get a taste of diversity southern style! Life in the South is a mixture of influences from cultures across the country and around the world. This topic is hot and spicy with the right ingredients to give you the skills, knowledge and abilities to honor the multiplicity and variety of life in America.
Dr. Marche Fleming-Randle is assistant dean for the WSU Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and her background is in education and ethnic studies.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 23, 7-9 P.M.
MEMBERS' OPENING PARTY
Celebrate Gordon Parks' lifetime of work with good friends, food and wine. Come early for a special performance by the Boys and Girls Club steel drummers and meet the Ulrich Crossroads Ambassadors from USD 259's Gordon Parks Academy--students whose lives have been touched by the work of Gordon Parks. Free admission for WSU students and Ulrich Museum members; $7 for general public. To RSVP, call (316) 978-3664 or email ulrich@wichita.edu.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20 AND FEBRUARY 3 AND 17, 6:30 P.M.
ULRICH/WATERMARK OPEN MIND BOOK CLUB: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas Ave.
Ralph Ellison's landmark novel Invisible Man won the 1953 National Book Award, beating out John Steinbeck's East of Eden and Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. The novel proposes that the narrator, an African American, is invisible because he is accepted as a stereotype, not an individual. Ellison was a friend of photographer Gordon Parks, and the two collaborated on a photo essay on Harlem in 1948. In fact, the portrait of Ellison on the 1952 book jacket of Invisible Man was taken by Parks. In considering Parks this winter, a group will read Invisible Man, a masterpiece of American literature, and gather together for short presentations and animated conversation.
Dr. Kimberly Engber, WSU assistant professor of English, regularly teaches African American literature. Engber holds a doctorate in English literature from City University of New York and will guide the Open Mind Book Club conversations. Step up to the challenge and take part in this unique book club. Invisible Man is available at Watermark Books.

FEBRUARY
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 6:30 P.M.
ULRICH/WATERMARK OPEN MIND BOOK CLUB: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas Ave.
Ralph Ellison's landmark novel Invisible Man won the 1953 National Book Award, beating out John Steinbeck's East of Eden and Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. The novel proposes that the narrator, an African American, is invisible because he is accepted as a stereotype, not an individual. Ellison was a friend of photographer Gordon Parks, and the two collaborated on a photo essay on Harlem in 1948. In fact, the portrait of Ellison on the 1952 book jacket of Invisible Man was taken by Parks. In considering Parks this winter, a group will read Invisible Man, a masterpiece of American literature, and gather together for short presentations and animated conversation.
Dr. John S. Wright, a leading scholar on the Harlem Renaissance and expert on writer Ralph Ellison, will lead the second evening of discussion (pages 196-382). Dr. Wright is the director of the Givens Collection of African American literature at the University of Minnesota, and in his teaching of African American literature, he regularly includes Gordon Parks. Step up to the challenge and take part in this unique book club; new attendees are welcome. Invisible Man is available at Watermark Books.

Dr. John S. Wright, 2009THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 6 P.M.
LECTURE: Dr. John S. Wright
Dark Whispers of Intimate Things: The Renaissance Visions of Gordon Parks
210 McKnight Art Center West, WSU School of Art and Design
Museum galleries open from 5-6 P.M.
Widely praised for his mastery across arts and letters--as photographer, journalist, essayist, autobiographer, novelist, poet, filmmaker and composer--Gordon Parks was a 20th-century Renaissance Man. His legacy involves a very delicate dialectic between the humanist values he inherited from European artistic tradition on the one hand, and the vernacular traditions from underground creative forces in a modern American experience rife with conflict, violence and racial oppression on the other. This presentation explores the forms of vision Parks employed across the artistic media to come to terms with the culture of contradictions he observed in 20th-century America.
Dr. John S. Wright is a leading scholar on the Harlem Renaissance and expert on writer Ralph Ellison. In his teaching of African American literature, he regularly includes Gordon Parks. He directs the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota and is a regular consultant to the renowned Penumbra Theater in Minneapolis.

Kevin Willmott, University of Kansas, 2009FILM SERIES: Black Films That Challenge/Black Films That Matter
Film director, actor, composer and writer Gordon Parks left his mark on the movie industry with films spanning four decades. With little hope of breaking into Hollywood as an African American, he received his big break with the 1969 film adaptation of his book The Learning Tree. The book and film treated Parks' experience growing up black in Kansas, and the movie made him the first African American director working for a major film studio. Black Films That Challenge/Black Films That Matter features films that owe a great debt to the pioneering subjects and moviemaking of Gordon Parks. With introductions by contemporary filmmakers and a panel discussion sponsored by the Tallgrass Film Festival, the series probes film history and the role of African Americans in this art form. The curator for the film series is Kevin Willmott, associate professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas. A two-time Sundance participant, most recently for his movie The Only Good Indian in 2009, Willmott's best known creative works focus on issues of contemporary black experience. As a veteran moviemaker, he has worked with luminaries including Oliver Stone, Martin Sheen and Isaac Hayes.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 6 P.M.
FILM SERIES: The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
210 McKnight Art Center West, WSU School of Art and Design
Museum galleries open from 5-6 P.M.
Introduction and post-screening Q&A with Kevin Willmott, veteran filmmaker and associate professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas
Set in 1970s Chicago, black nationalist Dan Freeman (Lawrence Cook) joins the C.I.A. There he learns guerrilla warfare techniques. With that training, he leaves the C.I.A. to found the Freedom Fighters--a group of violent and nonviolent activists working to ensure the freedom of blacks in the United States.
Filmed and released during a time of continuing racial violence, the movie's title refers to the early days of affirmative action and the policy of making a token black employee very conspicuous for all to see. This politically charged and culturally relevant film was quickly removed from theaters after its 1973 release and was only recently released on DVD.

Dr. J. Edgar Tidwell, associate professor of English at the University of KansasWEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 10-11:30 A.M.
SENIOR WEDNESDAY: Dr. J. Edgar Tidwell
Against the Odds: Writers Growing Up Black in Kansas
Langston Hughes, Gordon Parks and Frank Marshall Davis were all born in Kansas, a land full of uncertainty and contradictions for African Americans. Each developed remarkable literary talents in the state and learned how to succeed against the odds. Dr. Tidwell will examine how the birthplace of these Kansas writers influenced their work. He teaches African American and American literature at the University of Kansas where he is a professor.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 6:30 P.M.
ULRICH/WATERMARK OPEN MIND BOOK CLUB: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas Ave.
Ralph Ellison's landmark novel Invisible Man won the 1953 National Book Award, beating out John Steinbeck's East of Eden and Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. The novel proposes that the narrator, an African American, is invisible because he is accepted as a stereotype, not an individual. Ellison was a friend of photographer Gordon Parks, and the two collaborated on a photo essay on Harlem in 1948. In fact, the portrait of Ellison on the 1952 book jacket of Invisible Man was taken by Parks. In considering Parks this winter, a group will read Invisible Man, a masterpiece of American literature, and gather together for short presentations and animated conversation. Dr. Jean Griffith, assistant professor of English at Wichita State University, will lead the concluding discussion (page 383-end). Dr. Griffith teaches courses in American and ethnic literatures and is the author of articles and a book on race relations in the twentieth century. Step up to the challenge and take part in this unique book club; new attendees are welcome. Invisible Man is available at Watermark Books.

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, 2006THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 6 P.M.
FILM SERIES: C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)
CAC Theater, Wichita State University
Museum galleries open from 5-6 P.M.
Introduction by C.S.A. director & panel member Kevin Willmott, associate professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas and a two-time Sundance participant
Post-screening Q&A moderated by Carla Eckels, news producer and local host at KMUW 89.1 FM
Panelists: Reuben Eckels, founder/pastor of Wichita’s New Day Christian Church
Jean Griffith
, WSU assistant professor of English
Randal Jelks
, KU associate professor of American Studies
Rupert Pate
, actor (The Confederate States of America) and historian
What if the South had won the war? What if politicians promised a black for every home? What if darkie was a household item? What if Martin Luther King, Jr. had been born a slave? Through the lens of a Ken Burns-style documentary, The Confederate States of America provides a look at a decidedly different United States--one where the South won the Civil War. Tracing the history of slavery in a world where Lincoln is forced to flee to Canada and appears in blackface, the story provides connections to racial tensions that persist today. Using invented as well as actual historical film clips, C.S.A. is a probing and humorous look at how things might have been.A Kevin Willmott film, C.S.A. was presented in 2004 by IFC Films and filmmaker Spike Lee. This event is a Tallgrass Film Festival Third Thursday screening.

Nothing But a Man, 1963THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 6 P.M.
FILM SERIES: Nothing But a Man (1964)
210 McKnight Art Center West, WSU School of Art and Design
Museum galleries open from 5-6 P.M.
Reputedly the favorite movie of Malcolm X, Nothing But a Man portrays a devil-may-care young man who falls for a grounded young woman and their on-again/off-again relationship. Tame by contemporary standards, the film is set in the South of the 1960s where an economic system continued to keep many enslaved both financially and emotionally. Although created more than four decades ago, Nothing But a Man speaks to issues of manhood today and captures the black male experience on film. A breakthrough film in 1964, it is still relevant today. One of the top 100 must-see black films, Nothing But a Man was winner of the San Giorgio prize at the 1964 Venice Film Festival. Dr. Jim Erickson, KMUW FM 89's film reviewer and WSU associate professor emeritus of English, will introduce the film.

MARCH

Artist Kerry James Marshall, 2009THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 6 P.M.
ARTIST TALK: Kerry James Marshall
John Brown's Body: The Representation of Black Bodies as Revolutionary Gesture
210 McKnight Art Center West, WSU School of Art and Design
Museum galleries open until 6 P.M.
A nationally renowned painter, installation artist and filmmaker, Marshall reflects and continues the tradition of moral conscience of Gordon Parks and other leading African American visual artists. Marshall creates large-scale paintings that explore African American culture from the Civil Rights to today, drawing from and weaving a history of black experience into his narratives. The artist states the subject of his art stems from the social climate of his youth: "You can't be born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955 and grow up in South Central Los Angeles near the Black Panthers headquarters and not feel like you've got some kind of social responsibility. "...That determined a lot of where my work was going to go." To underscore the humanism and social advocacy that underlie Gordon Parks' best work and acknowledge his participation in a tradition of African American artmaking, Marshall will talk about his own work and its sources in the shared legacy--cultural as well as artistic. Marshall lives in Chicago. In 1997, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award" Fellowship. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago organized a major retrospective on the artist in 2004 that toured to nationally prominent museums. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.


Bobbi Baker Burrows, director of photography for LIFE Books, 2009TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 7 P.M.
WSU Gordon Parks Lecture Series: Bobbi Baker Burrows
Life at LIFE with Gordon Parks: A Photo Editor's Story
CAC Theater, Wichita State University
Museum galleries open from 5-6 P.M.
Wichita State University offers its second Gordon Parks Lecture in its special series on the life and art of Kansas native and acclaimed artist Gordon Parks. In 2010, the featured speaker is Bobbi Baker Burrows. Burrows has been a photo editor for LIFE magazine for more than 30 years, and she presently is director of photography for LIFE Books. She explains that LIFE was never a job; it is and has been a way of life and a community whose friendships are thicker than many families. Burrows worked regularly with Gordon Parks, who is her daughter's godfather. Parks did pioneering features on gang life in Harlem, the hardship of poverty for the African American family, meetings of the Black Panthers and numerous other LIFE stories that brought realities of contemporary African American experience into living rooms across the county. Burrows will discuss the artist's relationship with LIFE magazine editors and the poignancy of the artistic contributions he made. Her talk will give an insider's view on the community of LIFE photographers and editors that was a second home for Gordon Parks.
This lecture is authorized by the Gordon Parks Foundation and made possible by the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Doretha Williams, 2009WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 10-11:30 A.M.
SENIOR WEDNESDAY: Doretha K. Williams
Kansas and the Great Migration
By the early 1900s many African Americans living in the rural South began looking elsewhere for a place to call home. Northern cities saw their populations explode as blacks sought better jobs, better schools and racial tolerance, if not equality. For some, Kansas was as likely a destination as Chicago. Using oral histories, family photos and memorabilia, this presentation examines one family's journey to Topeka as part of the nation's great migration.
Ms. Williams is a recipient of the Mellon Mays University dissertation grant from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Her dissertation focuses on the lives and activities of African American women in Kansas from 1890-1930.

APRIL
The Griots, Keepers of the Stories, 2008SATURDAY, APRIL 10, 1-4 P.M.
FAMILY FUN DAY: Crossroads
Discover where different paths meet through a special exhibition of Kansas native Gordon Parks' photographs and personal archives. Kids of all ages will explore Parks' work through music, performance and special make-it/take-it art projects. Special guests, the Wichita Griots, provide stories, music and song at 2:30 p.m.

Special note: Programs in conjunction with the Gordon Parks retrospective are co-sponsored by the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita. The WSU African American Student Association has provided program volunteers. Public programs on Gordon Parks and Senior Wednesday events are supported by the Kansas Humanities Council, which conducts and supports community-based programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program and encourages Kansans to participate in their communities. For more information contact the Kansas Humanities Council at 785-357-0359 or visit online at www.kansashumanities.org.

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