Local artist Gary Anderson has been hand painting signs for the community for a number of years, and one of his notable works sits at the entrance of the Farmer House Museum.
This piece of artwork, a brown background with Anderson’s distinct textual style, will now be accompanied by his most recent work, a collection of handmade Christmas cards created over the past 48 years.
The Farmer House Museum will celebrate the holiday season with a combination of new and classic programming and a festive display in its gallery space.
The space’s Bellevue Gallery, one of a few rooms in the old house that serve as the setting for more contemporary works, is decorated with a Christmas tree in the corner and Anderson’s cards along the wall. The cards are grouped by decade, starting with one from the 1960s up through the 2010s.
Anderson’s “48 Years of Christmas Cards” will be up at the museum through the month of December. The artist and sign maker began the project years ago as a college lithography or plate printing assignment and has continued making the cards along with his wife, Linda.
Paul Kane, volunteer and artist-in-residence at the space, said the exhibit represents more than just the identity of the artist. The small greeting cards range in imagery from ornate designs to pop culture figures and more.
“It’s not only a personal biography for Gary, but it’s also like a biography of the times,” Kane said. “If you look at Gary’s signs, you’ll recognize the style. I suspect virtually every hand-painted sign in Bloomington is by Gary. I don’t know that for sure, but I suspect as much.”
Emily Purcell, director of the Farmer House Museum, said these cards show the development of Anderson’s methodology as an artist.
“There’s a real history in the techniques that he used,” Purcell said. “The ‘69 didn’t have an original, unfortunately it’s just a photograph, but that one was a lithograph. Then he used screen printing for the cards in the ‘70s, you can kind of see when he first started in the ‘90s using a computer to do the layout instead of hand-drawn or letterpress.”
The cards hold a special significance for Purcell, as she said they seem to mirror parts of her own life and art experience.
“I was born in the early ‘70s, so this is actually my life,” Purcell said. “When it gets to the 1980s, I was actually learning to do graphic design myself. I learned some computer art in school — my major was art history, but I was interested in computer art.”
Purcell said her favorite pieces in the display include one of the early prints from the 1970s. This particular card includes a simple image of a man, all black with no detail, with a splash of red in the background, with text that reads “Noel” in red lettering.
“I love the screen-printed ones,” Purcell said. “Gary has developed as an artist — he’s always trying out interesting ideas so these are great, witty and fun, too — but there’s something so lovely about this pure screen printing. I love that era in design.”
One of the main features that makes the Farmer House Museum stand out is the integration of programming within the exhibition space, Purcell said. The whole museum space is decorated with an early to mid-20th century aesthetic tradition and items from the extended collection of the Farmer family.
Purcell said the Bellevue Gallery space where the cards are displayed also converts into a venue for programming, including events geared toward crafting.
The museum has planned one of these art-making workshops at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Purcell said attendees are invited to make crafts along the topic of connection with divine energy, chosen by the leading artist.
“One of our other Bellevue artists, Mandey Lund, is going to be doing a healing and visualization workshop with collage, a sort of bring-your-own material event for people to make art focused on those themes,” Purcell said.
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