Category Archives: art front

5 Earl Cunningham Facts to Impress Friends and Family When You Visit The Mennello Museum

Planning a trip to the Mennello Museum of American Art? Check out these Earl Cunningham facts to impress your friends and family!



1.  Earl Cunningham often painted from memory rather than on-location.

One example of this is Gabriel Overlooking Boothbay Harbor painted in 1960, 11 years after he settled in St. Augustine, Florida. Cunningham was born in Edgecomb, Maine, and spent some of his life in the folk-artist community of Boothbay.

2. Cunningham was known to use commercial paints he picked up from yard sales.

Cunningham painted with a collection of artist paints as well as commercial paints like house paints. He was known to purchase cans of paint from yard sales and have as many as 20 to 30 cans in his studio. It’s possible that the pinks, greens, and yellows so prominent in his works, such as this one Sunrise at Pine Point, Maine,  are commercial paints.

3. Cunningham may have been inspired by other artists to pursue themes of nature and people in harmony.

Cunningham might have begun to consider his works in terms of related ideas and was inspired to develop themes around known places in Maine, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, which could provide range and appeal for museum exhibitions not unlike his own gallery. One example is the above work, Seminole Village, Deep in the Everglades, which is one of many works featuring the Seminole people living in harmony with the natural wonders of the Everglades.

4. Despite the utopia of many of his works, Cunningham sometimes included reminders of tragedy and the destruction of progress.

A recurring theme in Cunningham’s otherwise idyllic works is a bit of tragedy. Typically, as in this work titled Everglades Winter, tragedy appears in the form of fallen trees. Trees have been sawed rather than felled by natural means — meant to symbolize human destruction.

5. The Everglades by Cunningham was acquired by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Although Cunningham stated that The Everglades was purchased by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House restoration, in a letter from her social secretary, Letitia Baldrige, Kennedy thanks Cunningham for the painting, making it appear more likely that he gifted the work to her. It is possible that the First Lady admired the work during her own visit to Cunningham’s St. Augustine studio. The acquisition of The Everglades by the Kennedy White House demonstrates the high esteem held for art reflecting the peoples of America. In 1961, it hung prominently in the White House where it could be glimpsed during presidential television interviews.


View the largest collection of Earl Cunningham’s work at the Mennello Museum of American Art.

Learn more about Earl Cunningham

The Unbridled Paintings of Lawrence H. Lebduska

January 25 – May 12, 2019

This exhibition presents the rare opportunity to exhibit the notable paintings of Lawrence Lebduska, one of the most popular modern folk art painters of 1930s America. Lebduskaʼs dreamlands and invented gardens teem extraordinarily with life and optimism in a nostalgic, uncorrupted style that captured the admiration of the American public.

Lebduska was an outsider artist who navigated the intensifying New York art scene without the academic trainings and institutional tenure of his contemporaries. Competing with the rise of the avant-garde modernist movements that seized the art historical world in New York and abroad, Lebduskaʼs intrinsically painted Edens of bucolic farms, city parks, and remote jungles, which propelled the artist and his work to celebrity among galleries, collectors and museums. Lebduska earned his first solo show in 1936 at the Contemporary Gallery in New York City nearly selling out his works, a show known to have ignited the folk art collections of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Eleanor Roosevelt. Lebduska was also included in the famed 1938 exhibition Masters of Popular Painting shown at the Museum of Modern Art.

This exhibition is curated by Katherine Navarro, Associate Curator of Education. The Mennello Museum is pleased to present paintings from the Fenimore Museum; Cooperstown, NY, as well as those from our permanent collection and local collectors.  Lebduskaʼs work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, the University of Arizona, The Fenimore Art Museum, and the Mennello Museum of American Art, among others.


June 7 – September 1.

The Mennello Museum of American Art is pleased to present IMMERSION INTO COMPOUNDED TIME AND THE PAINTINGS OF FIRELEI BÁEZ. The exhibition will be on view at the Mennello Museum from June 7 through September 1, 2019, with an Opening Reception on June 7.

This exhibition will explore Firelei Báez’s investigations on the visibility and the construction of complex cultural identities within the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora and how these notions are perceived in today’s global world. Her large-scale and intricate portraits of influential individuals and mythical goddesses of Afro-Caribbean history create a contemporary narrative of a woman’s life, embracing the past, and staking her place in a universal future.

Báez is best known through her extraordinary paintings of lush landscaped-figures, intricately patterned tignons, and otherworldly bodies with striking eyes. Here, she considers the reality of ones current social and the historic construction of cultural self in America. These complex, intersectional bodies and symbols alongside large-scale portraits are painted in vibrant, swirling colors, which intermingle time and character. For Báez, “identity is malleable, negotiated,” and given strength by the female body and mythology of her being.

This exhibition is curated by Katherine Navarro, Associate Curator of Education.


Member Preview & Opening Reception
Friday, June 7, 2019
Members only: 5:30 – 6:30 pm | Guests: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Free for members | $10 for Guests

Artist Talk & Book Signing (FREE EVENT)
Saturday, June 8, 2019
Guests: 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Swirling Memories and Compounded Time: Curatorial Talk (FREE)
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Guests: 6:00 – 7:00 pm