Collecting Roswell

On Friday we opened a new exhibit, Collecting Roswell: The Donors of RMAC. This show looks at the permanent collection through the lens of the donors who helped the Roswell Museum become one of the cultural gems of southeast New Mexico.
The collections of the Roswell Museum and Art Center are renowned for their quality and diversity. Yet the many donors who have offered these holdings to the community deserve recognition for their role in establishing RMAC as one of southeast New Mexico’s premier cultural institutions. Since its opening in 1937, RMAC has benefited from the generosity and foresight of donors, with a substantial portion of its collections consisting of gifts and bequests from individuals and families. Their interest in gifting highlights an ongoing commitment to the cultural and intellectual enrichment of Roswell and its neighboring communities. 
Whether you're admiring Goddard's pioneering rocketry work, exploring the myriad artifacts of the Aston collection, or revisiting your favorite Peter Hurd landscape, you're benefiting from the generosity of donors, people who recognized the importance of sharing our cultural heritage with the world, now and into the future.
In anticipation of RMAC’s 80th anniversary in October, Collecting Roswell celebrates the major donors who have contributed to the formation of the Museum’s core holdings. Drawing from the Southwest Art Collection, the Robert H. Goddard Collection, and the Rogers and Mary Ellen Aston Collection of the American West, this exhibit showcases some of Roswell’s finest works while highlighting the contributions of several significant donors. Through this selection, visitors can discover how RMAC’s collections developed while considering the ongoing importance of philanthropy to museums as cultural institutions.

What makes Collecting Roswell special is that it's a co-curated exhibit. A few months ago I asked some of my fellow staff members to explore a different collection and donor, and had them pick out objects from that collection that spoke to them. We then worked together on the layout and installation, determining as a group which section would go where in the gallery. Let's hear what each of the co-curators has to say about their part of the show. The text you'll be reading comes directly from the text panels they wrote for their respective sections.

I'll start with the Marshalls and Winstons, the folks who helped us acquire not only the bulk of our Hurd and Wyeth collection, but also some of our most significant examples of 20th-century Southwest art.

Two families, the Marshalls and Winstons, helped to establish RMAC’s art collection. Brothers Donald and Frederick Winston, in partnership with Samuel Marshall, had founded the Winston and Marshall Oil Company in 1928. Donald Winston managed the financial side of the operation, while Marshall served as geologist. During the 1930s, the Marshall and Winston families settled in Roswell, and became acquainted with Peter Hurd, Robert H. Goddard and other prominent local citizens. While they eventually relocated to Los Angeles, the Marshalls and Winstons always remembered the hospitality that they had experienced in Roswell.

Peter Hurd, November Twilight, 1951, egg tempera on Masonite panel, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Winston.
An avid art collector, Donald Winston began his philanthropic relationship with the Roswell Museum in the late 1940s, when he donated a complete set of Peter Hurd’s lithographs. Winston wanted to establish a permanent collection for Hurd, whose work he admired, and believed it should be based in the artist’s hometown. After the initial lithograph donation, the Winstons and Marshalls began offering Hurd’s egg tempera paintings and watercolors, and in 1952, they started giving paintings by Henriette Wyeth. 
Henriette Wyeth, Roses and African Violets, 1946, oil on linen, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston.
The Marshalls and Winstons also jointly donated several of the Museum’s most significant examples of Southwest art, including Ram’s Skull with Brown Leaves by Georgia O’Keeffe, and New Mexican Gate by Stuart Davis. While many other donors have gone on to contribute to RMAC’s art collection, the Winstons and Marshalls remain an important part of its history.
Stuart Davis, New Mexican Gate, 1923, oil on linen, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston and Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Marshall.
Now let's hear from Planetarium Coordinator Jeremy Howe, who worked on the Goddard collection:

Robert Hutchings Goddard (1882-1945) was an American engineer, professor, physicist, and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket. He successfully launched his model on March 16, 1926 in Auburn, Massachusetts, ushering in an era of space flight and innovation. With the financial backing of Harry Guggenheim and the support of Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Goddard relocated to Roswell, New Mexico in the summer of 1930. 

The Goddard workshop, a beloved feature of the Museum. This 2/3 scale replica was constructed by the Roswell chapter of the Rotary Club in 1969, and features Goddard's equipment.
The Roswell environment, with its clear skies, relatively moderate climate, and small population, proved an ideal landscape for rocketry. For over a decade, Robert Goddard, his wife Esther, and a small team of dedicated technicians worked in near-isolation and relative secrecy, refining experiments and documenting everything. Goddard also enjoyed painting landscapes and socializing with Peter Hurd and other prominent Roswell citizens. 

Robert H. Goddard, Untitled (Capitan Landscape), n.d., Gift of Roy and Jim Williams

In 1949 a rickety launch tower, 80 feet in height, was hauled off the prairie in sections and reconstructed on the lawn of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.  This gesture initiated what is known as the Goddard Collection, and, through Esther’s continuing generosity, the collection evolved into a substantial record of her husband’s pioneering work.  The Roswell chapter of the Rotary Club constructed a 2/3 scale replica of Goddard’s workshop in 1969, and a planetarium bearing the scientist’s name would open that same year.  In 1974, Harrison Schmitt, a New Mexico geologist and astronaut on the final Apollo mission to the moon, lent his space suit to the exhibit. More recent donations include a gyroscope from Lowell Randall, one of Goddard’s fellow team members. 

Next up is Preparator Brandon Strange, who curated the display on the Aston collection:

The Aston Collection, gifted by Rogers and Mary Ellen Aston in 1999, is an assortment of Western artifacts that total around 1400 individual pieces. Spanning from early Spanish colonial suits of armor, to Native American buffalo skins, to early 20th century American boots, the Aston Collection is one of the most diverse and interesting holdings in the Roswell Museum and Art Center.  While best known for this extensive artifact collection, Aston had also been an active proponent of the Museum since the 1950s, and made other major gifts and contributions from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s.
Anonymous (Tlingit Community), Russian Trade Gun, 1841, iron, brass, wood, buckskin, Gift of the Estate of Rogers and Mary Ellen Aston

Anonymous (German), Burgonet Ribbed Helmet, 16th century, steel, Gift of the Estate of Rogers and Mary Ellen Aston

Aside from its myriad of Western artifacts, the Aston collection also includes many bronze statuettes sculpted by Aston himself. Inspired by his fascination with complex and diverse history of the American Southwest, his works are naturalistic depictions of various events and individuals throughout the history of the West. Aston first began creating these bronzes somewhat later in life at the age of 52, having provided for his family through his work as an oilman. He credited artists Peter Hurd and Tom Lovell as influences in his work, and it was especially through his friendship with Hurd that he became involved in the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Rogers Aston, Western Genesis, n.d., bronze, Gift of Rogers and Mary Ellen Aston.

On his work, Aston said, “Good art is an expression more of the spirit than of substance. I hope my bronzes will speak of respect for those who preceded us in the West.”

And finally we've got Donald B. Anderson, founder of the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program and major benefactor of the Museum and its contemporary art collection. This section was assembled by former Registrar Nicholas Frederick, who has since gone on to another position.

Fritz Scholder, Indian at the Bar, 1971, color lithograph, Gift of Donald B. Anderson.

Donald B. Anderson’s influence on the arts in Roswell is well known.  An accomplished painter and architect who earned his wealth through the petroleum industry, Anderson has chosen to surround himself with artists through his founding of and continued support for the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program. He has given well over two hundred artists from all over the United States and the world an unmatched opportunity for creative growth and self-discovery, and has built and maintained the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art to house and display the work of residents dating back fifty years. Through his endowments, he has insured the continued operation of the Residency, The Anderson Museum ofContemporary Art, and the Historic Studios at Berrendo Road.    
Georges Braque, Oiseau blanc au fond bleu et rose, 1962, etching and color aquatint, Gift of Donald B. and Patricia Gaylord Anderson
Anderson has also had a lasting impact on the Roswell Museum and Art Center. He volunteered as its first art curator from the late 1940s through the 1950s, and sat on the Board of Trustees for many years. In addition to donating numerous art works to the collection, he has provided the resources for the construction of the Planetarium, Patricia Gaylord Anderson Gallery and Bassett Auditorium. What we aim to display in this selection, notwithstanding his other accomplishments and contributions, is his self-educated eye and well-rounded aesthetic taste.  From Pop art and installation pieces, to religious iconography and illustration, Donald Anderson’s donations from his personal collection reflect a lifelong dedication to refined, incisive and forward-thinking art in all its iterations. 
Marian Winsryg, Game Room, 1972, color pencil on paper, Artist-in-Residence Materials Exchange
As you can see, philanthropy plays a major part in any museum's collection and operation, but that is especially true for the Roswell Museum and Art Center. We may be 200 miles away from any major metropolitan area, but we have one of the finest artistic, historical and cultural collections in the state, and that comes in no small part from our donors. While we may have started out as a Federal Art Center, the involvement of donors has enabled us to thrive for nearly eighty years.

So if you're in town, come check out the exhibit (it's open until September, so you've got time), and think about donating to your own hometown cultural institutions. They'll appreciate it more than you'll ever know.