At the Hillstrom Museum of Art: Industry, Work, Society, and Travails in the Depression Era: American Paintings and Photographs from the Shogren-Meyer CollectionNovember 6, 2019

Time: November 6, 2019

The Hillstrom Museum of Art presents Industry, Work, Society, and Travails in the Depression Era: American Paintings and Photographs from the Shogren-Meyer Collection, on view from September 9 through November 10, 2019.

An opening reception will be held Monday, September 9 from 7 to 9 p.m., with remarks by collector Daniel Shogren starting at 7:30.  There will also be a Gallery Talk in the exhibition by Shogren on Sunday, September 15, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., and there will be an additional reception during the Nobel Conference on climate change at Gustavus Adolphus College (on the campus of which the Hillstrom Museum of Art is located), on Tuesday, September 24 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Industry, Work, Society, and Travails in the Depression Era will feature 96 works of art, mostly dating from the 1930s.  Among the photographers represented in the collection of Daniel Shogren and Susan Meyer are many of the most prominent and admired Americans, including Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971), Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976), Walker Evans (1903-1975), Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), Gordon Parks (1912-2006), and Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985).  Among the painters included are well-known artists such as John Steuart Curry (1897-1946), Marvin Cone (1891-1965), and B.J.O. Nordfeldt (1878-1955).  But the collectors generally are attracted to images in artworks rather than the fame of their artists, and a number of the paintings are compelling works by lesser-known artists deserving of more attention, such as Ernest Fiene (1894-1965), Thomas Nagai (1886-1966), and Zoltan Sepeshy (1898-1974).

Shogren and Meyer have been collecting for nearly three decades.  They have long been fascinated by the turbulent 1930s and its art, and particularly appreciate American Scene and Regionalist artworks.  They relate their interest in these genres—in which they continue to collect—to the fact that both of them were history majors in college.

In a “Collector’s Statement” in the catalogue that accompanies Industry, Work, Society, and Travails in the Depression Era, Shogren draws parallels between the Depression-Era images in the exhibit and life in the U.S. today, noting the cautionary message of the paintings and photographs: “In my working career, I have traveled the Midwest and worked in factories where I’ve witnessed today’s working men and women.  I can’t help but compare today, where we have full employment and a booming stock market, to the America of the 1920s and 1930s.  In the 1920s, this country was in a “boom time,” but signs were beginning to appear of the coming disaster known as the Great Depression along with the Dust Bowl.  By the 1930s, jobs were hard to come by, especially in the manufacturing sector.  In 1933, the steel industry was running at 10 percent capacity and roughly 25 percent of the population was unemployed.  Are we seeing warning signals, such as climate change and income disparity, that portend a future Depression and new Dust Bowl?  If so, are we prepared, and have we learned anything from our history?  As they say, “history repeats itself.”  Will we listen to history and avoid another time like the 1930s?”

The fully-illustrated catalogue for the exhibit includes object texts written by collectors Meyer and Shogren, Donald Myers (director and chief curator, Hillstrom Museum of Art), and Christian Peterson (independent scholar and former long-time photography curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Art).  Industry, Work, Society, and Travails in the Depression Era will travel to the Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, for a showing in January, 2021.

The Hillstrom Museum of Art is located in the Jackson Campus Center of Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 West College Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota.  The Museum's regular hours are weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends, 1 to 5 p.m.  All exhibitions of the Museum are free and open to the public.  Further information can be found at

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