The current exhibition at Meadows Museum at SMU, Process and Innovation: Carlotta Corpron and Janet Turner, is a welcome reminder of earlier showings of Janet Turner’s prints in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas. Don’t miss Turner’s remarkable prints now on loan from Hamon’s Bywaters Special Collections, along with other private lenders, including Jack and Beverly Wilgus -donors who have generously pledged their historic photographic collection to DeGolyer Library. Images by Beverly Wilgus, a former student of Corpron, will also be on view.
When Janet Turner (1914-1988) graduated from Stanford University in the middle of the Great Depression there were no jobs to be found, so she returned home and began studying at the Kansas City Art Institute with Thomas Hart Benton and John DeMartelly. After earning a five-year diploma in painting she took up a teaching post at Claremont where she studied art with Millard Sheets. Her first full-time university appointment was at Stephen F. Austin State College from 1947 to 1956. This was the good news because teaching positions in art departments more often went to men home from WWII who were finishing their studies on the GI Bill. During her nine years in Nacogdoches, she networked in printmaking circles throughout the United States, entered juried shows, won many awards and purchase prizes, served on print juries for the DMFA at the invitation of Jerry Bywaters, and joined the Printmakers Guild with fellow women printmakers in Texas. However, Turner’s department chair did not value prints and failed to recognize the remarkable pace at which she was gaining nation-wide recognition for her work.
He didn’t catch on that this was only the beginning of a young printmaker’s long and distinguished career. After earning a Ph.D. from Columbia Teacher’s College in New York and winning a Guggenheim grant, Turner was hired by Chico State University in California in 1959 where she found herself in an enlightened academic environment. At Chico State, she rose through all the professorial ranks while nurturing a notable graphic arts program, teaching scores of aspiring printmakers, continuing to experiment with techniques, creating new prints of her own, and building a study collection of prints by others that is now the cornerstone of the Janet Turner Print Museum. Over her long career at Chico she earned accolades from peers as well as the California university system which named her Outstanding University Professor in 1975.
Earlier in Janet Turner’s career in Texas a young gallery director at the Betty McLean Gallery in Dallas played a significant role promoting prints by Turner that drew attention from collectors and museums. His name was Donald Vogel, and in time he founded Valley House Gallery, which would later give Turner a major show in 1985 featuring fifty prints. For the opening she came back to Texas for the last time in her life, triumphant in her quiet way to have moved far beyond a troubling university experience early in her career. In Dallas in 1985, she received well-deserved accolades as a distinguished figure in American printmaking.
See More of Turner’s work in the SMU Digital Collections.
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Thank you to David Farmer, Independent Historian and former director of DeGolyer Library, SMU, for this guest blog post. Farmer will speak about the artist, Janet Turner, in the upcoming lecture at the Meadows Museum:
Wrapped in the Silence of Birds: The Artistry and Prints of Janet Turner
Thursday, May 12, 2016; 6 PM
This lecture will examine the life and art of Janet Turner (1914-1988), an exemplary and innovative printmaker who was also celebrated for teaching new generations of printmakers. Her works are held in major museums and were included in exhibits throughout the U.S., while also being shown in more than 85 cities and 40 countries abroad.
Free; priority seating for members until 5:40 p.m. Bob and Jean Smith Auditorium
Spoonbill (ca. 1951)
Screen print woodcut
7.75 x 4.875 inches
Images courtesy of the Janet Turner Collection, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, SMU.