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Frank W. Long. Confessions of a Depression Muralist. Columbia: University ofMissouri Press, 1997. Foreword by Sue Bridwell Beckham, Afterword by Harriet W. Fowler. Illustrated, 179 pages. Writting in the first person, Frank Long reminisces about his ten years in Berea, Kentucky, 1932-42, when he was commissioned and hired by the Works Progress Administration and then the Treasury Department's Section ofFine Arts to paint public murals for American federal buildings. Frequently he confesses his dislike for painting murals, his distaste for being a part ofa "chauvinistAmerican art" as espoused by the section and his anxiety that the contemporary and future art world would know him only as a Kentucky muralist. His anxiety aside, fifty years later Ms. Beckham writes: "Frank Long created more mural panels for more Depression post offices than any other single artist" and during the period was considered Kentucky's foremost artist. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Long had his art education in Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, in Paris, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Before leaving Chicago, he had been asked by the architectural firm of Philip Mahre to paint a mural in the home of Carbon Petroleum Dubbs, Wilmette, Illinois. From Chicago he came to Lexington, Kentucky, to assist his father, who was painting movie theater murals. Upon arrival in Lexington, he met Henry Warder Rannells, an Art Institute of Chicago graduate and head of the art department, University of Kentucky, who told him of a Public Works of Art Project for the newly built University of Kentucky Library. Bert Mullins, a wood turner and student at Berea College, sought out the Longs in Lexington for painting lessons and in turn found Frank a high ceilinged studio on the top floor ofthe Berea Bank and Trust. Long and Mullins shared this studio for a number ofyears and all ofLong's succeeding section mural commissions, except the Berea post office mural, were painted in this studio. Long painted two ten-feet-plus panels for the UK library, four lunettes and six mural panels for the Louisville federal building, three lobby panels for the Hagerstown, Maryland, post office, a six feet by twenty feet panel for the Drumright, Oklahoma, post office, a panel painted in tempera on a chalk ground for the Morehead, Kentucky, post office, a mural for the newly constructed Berea, Kentucky, post office, and an eight feet by twenty feet mural for the Crawfordsville, Indiana, post office. A number ofthe section commissions came as consolation prizes after Long was not awarded the project for which he had applied. Long's muralist career ended when he joined the U. S. Army in 1942. 65 Long's reminiscences include short discussions about Mary EIa, Louis Smith, Doris Ulmann, John Jacob Niles, and various Berea personalities with whom he hunted, gambled, and drank or who left memorable impressions because of conversations or actions. This is not a text for art historians but is a narrative written in a conversational style which often begs the reader's indulgence. The "Confessions" has a table of contents but no index. Long seldom gives dates ofprojects or events; his narrative needs more discussion about processes and techniques; and in a few instances his Berea recollections are historically incorrect. However, his honesty and candor about Berea events and persons is an important community record seen through the eyes and life of "an outsider." It might be ofnote that upon leaving Berea to join the army, Frank Long left his tools, supplies, materials and numerous paintings with Mary EIa and the Berea College Art Department. He returned to Berea, built a home, and became active in the Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild as a jeweler. He was a field representative for the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and Bureau of Indian Affairs in Alaska, New Mexico, and Florida. More recently he has resumed easel painting. In 1992 he gave Berea College thirty paintings, most ofwhich are original studies for the section murals. —Robert Boyce Patricia M. MacNeal, Bonelyn L.Kyofski, Kenneth A. Thigpen, editors. Headwaters and Hardwoods: The Folklore, Cultural History, and Traditional Arts of the Pennsylvania Northern Tier. Mansfield, Pennsylvania: Northern Tier Cultural Alliance, Mansfield University. 1997. 197 pages...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5081
Print ISSN
0363-2318
Pages
pp. 65-66
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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