Eye on UI Faculty: Byron Burford, Stuart Edie, and James Lechay
The University of Iowa was one of the first American universities to hire professional artists as professors. Following in the footsteps of renowned artist educators Grant Wood and Philip Guston, the painters Byron Burford (American, 1920–2011), Stuart Edie (American, 1908–1974), and James Lechay (American, 1907–2001) joined the University of Iowa faculty in the 1940s and 1950s.
Byron Burford is best known for his paintings and prints of circus life. His early works depicting soldiers are presented with a muted palette, while his vivid, circus-themed works are more colorfully expressive, composed in a figuratively abstract style. Burford utilized many experimental materials such as encaustic, alkyd resin and screenprinting. During much of his life and over his active career as an artist and educator, Byron Burford traveled with the circus performing, painting, and teaching. The Great Byron Burford Circus of Artistic Wonders, which toured the Midwest, was a seminal project that integrated performance with a collection of motorized canvases.
Stuart Edie succeeded Philip Guston, meeting the needs of the growing ranks of students enrolled on the GI Bill after the end of World War II. He arrived via the Art Students League in New York City and the Woodstock Artist’s Colony in Upstate New York, which were considered important centers of the visual arts. Prior to his appointment at the University of Iowa, Edie was employed by the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP). Nearly his entire oeuvre is dedicated to the subject of the still life. Under the influence of Cubism, Edie’s earlier paintings are driven by a practice of repeatedly depicting familiar objects on a table from many vantage points. These paintings reveal ambiguous compositions, often appearing as landscapes or maps.
James (Jim) Lechay was brought to the University of Iowa after the departure of Grant Wood and Philip Guston. He grew up, lived, worked, and exhibited in New York City and Cape Cod, where his friends included such artists as Marsden Hartley and Arshile Gorky. Similarly to Stuart Edie, Jim Lechay had worked for the WPA/FAP. His paintings have an unfinished look, but his process was very time consuming. The artist aspired to a sophisticated style he described as "breathed on the canvas." Graphite-like outlines combine with areas of bare canvas and shimmering color to convey such ephemeral, yet enduring subjects as family, friends and meal-time table tableaux.
This exhibition is on display November 1, 2012-March 9, 2014.