In our Decorative Arts Gallery sits a miniature portrait of a young woman. She reclines on a chair, dressed in a simple white cotton frock, with her dark hair held in place by a large pin. She smiles demurely, staring at you. Do you recognize the woman in the painting?
This is Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier – more commonly called Juliette – at the age of 28. She was a European celebrity in the early 19th century, known across Paris for her salon where leading literary and political circles gathered. Her story was commemorated in the 1920/1928 films, Madame Récamier, but, as with many women, truth is stranger than fiction.
When we think of women in the eighteenth century, we don’t often think of professional success and freedom. Yet between 1780 and 1810, many French women defied the domestic stereotype, reaching artistic success despite being denied admittance to classes on life drawing or the artistic academies. Some of them achieved admittance to and exhibited their works at the prestigious Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, including Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.
Today, two copies of Élisabeth’s works, in miniature, are held by the Kentucky Museum. The first is a copy of French actress Madam Molé-Reymond’s portrait from 1786. The second is a miniature copy of Marie-Antoinette à la Rose painted by Élisabeth in 1783.
In our Snell-Franklin Decorative Arts Gallery, a circa 1765 Chippendale tea table sits near the beginning of the exhibit. Made in the Philadelphia style, it features a scalloped (or “pie crust”) edge and a bird cage movement that allows the top to rotate and tilt. Key features of the table – which help us identify its style – include “a ring and fluted columnar-turned pedestal with foliate compressed ball above a foliate-carved collar over a tripartite base on cabriole legs, and acanthus leaf carvings on the knees of the legs which terminate in ball and claw feet.”
…Sounds a bit boring unless you’re a decorative arts scholar. So what’s the deal? Why is this Chippendale table so prized, and what is a Chippendale anyway?
This triptych is a curious piece. In an ivory-like frame, it features a center panel flanked by two fold-out panels. Together, these panels are one painting – the sides showcasing onlookers to the center, which features King Henry IV of France and his wife, Marie, as Henry designates his wife to be Regent of France during his absence.
Collected by WKU alum Commodere Perry Snell, the triptych sits in our Decorative Arts gallery. Behind the grand presentation, a figure of Prudence waits patiently by the queen’s side, and the king – Henry IV of France – gracefully grants his wife, Marie, the regency of France as their son (also pictured) was quite young. Yet this painting hides a tale of murder.
Walking through our Decorative Arts Gallery, you might just get blinded: by a giant orb of lightbulbs and metal. This is the Sputnik chandelier, made in the 1950s or 1960s as part of a huge interior design trend…inspired by space!
What makes a story good…or even great? Could that story be about an artifact in a museum?
This season, we’re exploring object stories. These are brief glimpses into how objects – or artifacts – can tell us about art, history, and culture, but more importantly, about people.
In this episode, Tiffany introduces the concept of object stories and how she came to learn about them.
Today, we are talking with Eleanor Davidson about her journey from student to artist in metalworking and sculpture. Eleanor shares her insights into being an arts student at WKU and studying sculpture.
Today, we are talking with David Marquez about creating and teaching metalwork sculpture.
David is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at WKU, and recipient of the 2014 Al Smith Fellowship Award from the Kentucky Arts Council. His teaching focuses on challenging students with techniques and materials that they may have little experience working with, in order to create a dialogue that allows students to question preconceived ideas and encourage flexibility, critical thinking, and unleashing the boundless creativity within. He is also a professional artist, working with metal, ceramics, and mixed media.
The blacksmith was a man-of-all work. His stock in trade was, of course, shoeing horses and welding iron; hence, his name. There was still, a generation ago, something of the medieval wonder at the blacksmith’s art; not everyone could weld iron or do the many skillful things that the blacksmith found a part of the day’s work.”
In season two, we'll celebrate blacksmithing with a virtual Hammer-In! Tune in to this episode learn the long history of blacksmithing and get a preview of things to come.
Today, we want to share an audio clip from “Put a Woman in Charge,” a panel discussion held at the Kentucky Museum on September 24, 2019. In this clip, State Representative Patti Minter discusses not only what it’s like to find balance as a woman in politics, but also why diversity in politics is important for Kentucky.
In our interview with Dr. Saundra Ardrey, we briefly talked about the importance of Constitutional Amendment ratification to the ongoing discussions surrounding women’s suffrage and Black Lives Matter. Today, we’ll expand on a leader integral to Kentucky’s ratification of the US Constitution’s 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments: Mae Jones Street Kidd. This powerhouse of a woman faced enormous obstacles to what became a prominent career fighting for and ensuring the rights of others. Let’s get started.
This episode explores the legacy of Georgia Davis Powers, a native of Springfield and Louisville, Kentucky, who in 1967 became the first woman and first African-American elected in a general election to the Kentucky Senate. She was known for introducing legislation that advocated for Blacks, women, children, the poor, and the handicapped. Despite her election, Powers also had to fight for her own rights; for example, even as a Senator, Powers was unable to find a hotel room in segregated Frankfort and faced racism on a daily basis.
Joining us to talk about Powers is Dr. Onyekwuluje, a Professor of Sociology at Western Kentucky University, where she balances teaching, research and service in the creation of a live conversation about equality. Her courses include topics such as race, class, and gender; race and ethnic relations; and stratification and mobility. She is the author of Historical Influence: Reading Georgia Powers as a Grassroots Civil Rights Leader in the Rough Business of Kentucky Politics, which examines the specific context of Powers’ life and its connections to the fight for equal justice and women’s rights around the world.
Today, we’re highlighting the life and work of “Pistol Packin’” Pearl Carter Pace. Born in 1896 in Thompkinsville, Kentucky, Pearl was the first Kentucky woman elected to a four-year term as sheriff, in Cumberland County, during which she gained the nickname “Pistol Packin’ Pearl.” When Pearl’s term as sheriff was over, she decided to continue a career in politics. In 1953, she became was appointed by President Eisenhower to the War Claims Commission (later called the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission), eventually becoming chairman of the committee, making Pearl the second-highest ranking woman in Eisenhower’s administration and the first Kentucky woman appointed by a president to a national post.
Today, we continue talking with Dr. Saundra Ardrey, a Professor of Political Science and Director of the African-American Studies Department at Western Kentucky University. Her teaching and research focus on voting and electoral behavior, specifically the political participation of women and minorities. She is also co-founder and co-director of the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, and established The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars at WKU, through which she helps create study away and study abroad opportunities for students ranging from tracing the Underground Railroad to developing service-learning projects around the world. Dr. Ardrey is well known across campus for these and other activities, including receiving a Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant that led to co-creation of the first Women and Gender Studies program at the University of Limpopo. In 2019, she led the presentation “Suffrage for All,” which explored the history and legacy of the fight for universal suffrage in America.
This season explores a major celebration in 2020: the 100th anniversary of Suffrage for Women, through the passage of the 19th Amendment, as well as the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to all Americans regardless of race or color. Yet beneath the surface of these celebrations are essential conversations about race, gender, and voting that linger today – despite 100 years of all Americans having a say in politics.
Joining us to explore these essential conversations is Dr. Saundra Ardrey, a Professor of Political Science and Director of the African-American Studies Department at Western Kentucky University. Her teaching and research focus on voting and electoral behavior, specifically the political participation of women and minorities. She is also co-founder and co-director of the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, and established The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars at WKU, through which she helps create study away and study abroad opportunities for students ranging from tracing the Underground Railroad to developing service-learning projects around the world. Dr. Ardrey is well known across campus for these and other activities, including receiving a Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant that led to co-creation of the first Women and Gender Studies program at the University of Limpopo. In 2019, she led the presentation “Suffrage for All,” which explored the history and legacy of the fight for universal suffrage in America.
Dime Stories is a podcast dedicated to exploring the unique art, history, and culture of South Central Kentucky. Each season, we will present six episodes on a specific theme – from women in politics to blacksmithing traditions to in-depth looks at topics found in exhibitions at the Kentucky Museum. We’ll hear from experts in our community.
So why call it Dime Stories? First, each episode will be short – no more than five minutes, to enable you – our listeners – to get a quick dose of art, history, and culture. Second, and more importantly, our title is based on how our home, the Kentucky Building at Western Kentucky University, was founded. Here's the story behind our name.