Abstract Art

Let’s first take a look at Inez’s geometric abstraction paintings from the 1960’s. As you’ve seen, throughout Inez’s life she experimented with several different media and artistic styles. In the mid 1960’s she explored geometric abstract painting of ships, with the subject matter influenced most likely from her East Coast travels.

This first one is titled, “Four Boats at Anchor”. The first is a sketch with colored pencil; the second is her final painting.

And here is the development of “Schooner at Anchor”. Sketch; Colored Pencils. We do not have the final painting in this sequence.

Her final painting in the geometric abstract series is below.

My Favorite

Inez also created this series of abstract paintings. These are very different from her geometric abstractions, but interesting nonetheless!

Next up: we will take a look at her drawings of the 1960’s & 1970’s.

Influences – The Natural World

Today, in Celebration of what would have been Inez’s 96th birthday, let’s take a further look at some of her early influences.

As a young girl Inez was often in nature. Her aunt Ethel was a Girl Scout and her family went on nature hikes and camped. Despite growing up in the depression, or perhaps due to it, her family spent a great deal of time outdoors in all seasons.

Having her aunt Ethel’s Girl Scout influence and her aunt Carrie’s painting influence, there’s no surprise that nature and art infused Inez’s life.

Ethel at Girl Scout Camp, Moreau Lake, NY – c. 1918

Here is a compilation of home movie clips from 1937-1939 of Inez, her brother Frank, and their parents enjoying the great outdoors (3:11).

1937-1939 – Clip compilation of Inez and family: Hiking Whiteface Mountain; Climbing and Camping (in dresses!), Snowball fight and Skiing without poles (!) and a Toboggan Ride

FAST FORWARD to Inez’s married years. While raising her children and working in advertising design, Inez continued to draw and paint for pleasure. During these years she also spent a great deal of time in nature and continued learning about the natural world.

Inez enjoyed gardening with flowers as well as fruit, vegetables and herbs. She grew rhubarb, strawberries, gooseberries and currants. Every year there were peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and many other vegetables.

Ed and Inez’s family explored the natural world together, with many camping trips throughout the Northeast region, up and down the East Coast, and even a summer trip across the USA to visit many of the National Parks. They canoed in summers and cross country skied in winters. Inez was a birdwatcher and learned a great deal about the birds of North America.

As a Girl Scout leader for nearly a decade, she shared her knowledge of birds, animals and plants with the girls on nature hikes and on annual camping trips.

Ed and Inez were supportive of the environmental movement in 1960’s and 70’s. They held paper drives and taught their children to respect nature. They primarily heated their suburban home with a wood stove and fireplace, and grew and preserved a significant crop of fruits and vegetables. Inez busily canned and dehydrated her crops throughout the summer months for use during the winter.

Much of Inez’s artwork during this period reflects her joy and appreciation of nature. Here are a few of her drawings and paintings from the 1960’s & 70’s.

Up next: Inez explores geometric abstraction art.

Marriage and New Career Direction

In upstate NY Inez taught art in the Schoharie County school district, where she was also offering adult education classes for the community. By the mid 1950’s, Inez was working as a junior high school Art Teacher in the Troy, NY school district. It was there she met her partner for life, John Edward (Ed) Sewell — the Music Teacher!

In the summer of 1957 they married, and Inez became pregnant with her first daughter soon after. Therefore, she had to quit her teaching job, as pregnant women were banned from working in the 1950’s. For a total of nine years Inez had taught art in the public schools, but now her career would take a new direction.

Her Sweetheart – Ed Sewell

At home as a wife and mother, Inez embarked on a new career avenue that utilized her degree from Pratt Institute in Advertising Design.

The newlyweds had a music studio in their home for Ed, and after they built an addition for their growing family, they turned a spare bedroom into an art studio for Inez. From here Inez sought out freelance opportunities for advertising art. She worked with many businesses, such as Pacific Pools, Colonie Block and Supply Co., and Reynolds Construction and Supply Co., and her work included creating brochures & logos, advertisements for newspapers and magazines, and catalog layouts. Inez provided layout design, mechanicals, copy, type specifications, hand lettering, and color separations. This was long before the time of computers, and Inez drew and prepared all her work by hand.

Here are two sample prototypes and their final products:

Inez also worked extensively for Argus-Greenwood printers of Albany, NY, Each Friday she would drive into Albany to drop off her work from the week and pick up her new assignments. One could say she was ahead of her time as a work-from-home advertising artist.

Thanks to Karen A. Sewell for the images for this post

Inez enjoyed this work for many years, but still made time for her personal art pursuits. Next up: We’ll take a look at some of the influences for her drawings and paintings in the 1960’s and 70s.

It’s October – Family History Month!

October is Family History Month. Here are three easy things you can do this month to begin saving YOUR family history. Just pick 1 to start and see where it takes you!

1. Dedicate a little notebook to use to jot down stories of your life and stories that you heard about your family. When you think of a new story, add it to your notebook. Need some prompts to start writing?

  • Describe the house you grew up in, what it was like in your neighborhood, who you played with and what games you played.
  • What is a funny story you remember about your parents or grandparents?
  • What was your favorite vacation and what details about it? Close your eyes and spend a few minutes “there again” and write down your memories.

2. Look at your old photographs and slides. Do they jog your memories? Take one picture and think long and hard about it. What was happening and who was there? Do you recall the feeling you had at the time the photograph was taken? Write down your memories associated with the picture (not on the photo, though – use a separate piece of paper).

3. Take a look at the many choices of free online sessions you can attend from the Allen County Public Library ACPL is one of the largest centers devoted to genealogy and family history research. Nearly every day they have a different workshop you can attend to learn more about gathering and saving your family history.

This photograph is of my great aunt, Ethel Reade. I never got to meet her, but I know she was a teacher in the NYC school system and her life companion, Kathleen Jester, taught English at the college level in NYC. This photograph was taken in their country home in Connecticut in the 1950’s. I like how the scene was posed with Ethel “reading” a book by the fireplace, no fire burning, a bed warmer hanging from the wall and an antique clock on the mantle.

Ceramics and Sculpture Arts

Inez Clute in the1950's at the Catskill Game Farm

In the mid 1950’s Inez reached age 30, and she left NYC to move back to the Capitaland Region of upstate New York, this time for good. She was employed as a junior high school art teacher in the Troy, NY school district.

From the late 1950’s and through the 1960’s, Inez dabbled in the ceramic arts. As you will see in the images of her work below, she continued to primarily be inspired by nature.

Many of her works at this time include birds, which will be a focus of her work in the 1980’s.

Inez Clute, Catskill Game Farm, mid 1950’s

Man and Woman Seated Figures – Sculpture Series – 1957

The next group of work is of animals – owl and birds. The red bird is a recipe card holder. The piece with three birds is dated 1966.

This last set is of practical household item:. Trivet. Plant hanger. Detail of bottom plant hanger and her signature. Candle holder. Vase.

Photos in this post are courtesy of Karen A. Sewell

Coming up: In the next post, Inez will marry. There will be new influences in her artwork and US laws of the 1950’s forcing a change in her career.

Metalwork and Jewelry

In the early 1950’s, the abstract expressionism art movement began. Artists such as Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler were experimenting with shapes, colors and forms, coupled with free and spontaneous emotion in their paintings. Many of these abstract expressionists lived, worked and showed their art in the galleries of NYC, the hub of this movement – right where Inez was living.

Inez clearly took note of this trend. Follow this link to get a flavor of abstract expressionism and see the interesting use of color and shapes. You will then see some resemblance in the works of Inez below.

At this time, Inez began exploring with copper and silver jewelry making, and she incorporated concepts of abstract expressionism into her designs. You’ll notice she also retained the idea from her earlier work in greeting cardmaking, with embedding metal wires in some of the designs.

Most of her jewelry pieces were earrings, pins, necklaces and scarf clips

Inez’s earrings were exclusively clip-on’s. During the 19th and early 20th century, the idea of piercing ears and having holes in them was considered vulgar. The invention of clip on earrings in the 20th century allowed all women the opportunity to wear earrings. By the 1950’s, clip-ons were in high demand with styles available for every occasion. Pierced earrings came into fashion by the 1970’s.

Pins were very fashionable at this time as well. Often times, she created matching sets of earrings and pins.

Set of earrings and pin

A Seamstress Perfected

As a child, Inez had learned to sew and in fact had made some of her own clothing.

During the late 1940’s, Inez spent a year working as a seamstress for a professional theater. As such, she quickly learned all the ins and outs of true garment construction.

Crash Course Materials

If you look past my poor ironing and photography skills, you will see below an example of her fine garment craftsmanship in a blouse from the late 1940’s. Note the perfectly lined-up seams and covered buttons in matching fabric. Each button down the front is perfectly lined up such that they blend into the pattern of the fabric.

Can you see the buttons running down the front?
Detail. Each button is hand covered with fabric to perfection
Each sleeve is constructed with detail – three strips of the fabric pattern aligned and sewn, running the length of the sleeve
Culminating in the matching cuff, again with the matching three strip of patterned fabric.
And matches the two three-strips running down the back of the blouse

And lastly, she carries the three-strip pattern through to the matching headband.

During her time working with the theater she developed her sewing skills, as well as creativity and attention to detail. Inez designed & sewed garments and other things throughout the rest of her life. Some of her most playful designs were children’s clothing, doll clothes, toys, and halloween costumes, such as a fire breathing dragon and a giraffe.

An Early Artistic Influencer

Carrie E. Clute

Carrie E. Clute was a professional artist, specializing in painting. She also was Inez’s paternal aunt. For Inez, art was around her from childhood, and you can see the influence of Carrie’s work in some of Inez’s latter work. In a subsequent blog post I will share comparisons of a couple of their works, but in this post I will provide a bit about this amazing artist and her work.

Carrie was born in 1891 and lived until 1968. She never married and supported herself with sales of her paintings, as well as, working as a high school art teacher in NYC. Carrie spent a great deal of time living on the coast of Maine and in Florida; and, she traveled extensively across the US, as well as on a steamship across the Atlantic to Europe in 1929.

The subjects of her painting were primarily landscapes, seascapes and the natural world. Her work was strongly influenced by the post impressionism movement.

Even while living in New York City Carrie was looking for and painting nature. As an example, while living in Brooklyn, she painted the East River with Manhattan in the background.

Greeting Card Business

In the late 1940’s, Inez moved back to Manhattan. She worked in an advertising firm, as well as started her own greeting card business. At the time, she was known as Inez Parker, and her company was “Parker Studios”. Her entrepreneurial spirit would be tapped again later in her career, with both a mail order business and when she opened her own art and consignment shop, Imagination Plus, in the late 1970’s.

Late 1940’s Office Holiday Luncheon. Inez is standing on the far left

Passion for Personal History

Why am I so passionate about people preserving their life stories for the future?

Since the mid 1990’s I’ve been fascinated by genealogy. As a librarian, I love the thrill of the hunt and finding one more detail or clue about an ancestor. More than that, I love identifying with my past, considering what it was like when my ancestors lived, and how I am connected to those people.

With genealogy, we trace names, dates of birth, marriage, and death, as well as names of spouses and children. If we are lucky, we can also find out bits about their life, such as occupation, cause of death, whether they had run-ins with the law, whether they served in the military — life events that might be found in church records, vital statistics, court documents, census records or family bibles. Every little thing we uncover is a great aHa!

While all of this is wonderful and exciting, it still leaves these people from the past as feeling distant from us today. We are left without knowing who these people really were and what they believed. What was their life like? How did they become the people who they were? What gifts and abilities did they have that have come down through the line of generations to me?

About 20 years ago I was looking at some of the old books I inherited from my family home. One book in particular affected me greatly and changed my perspective on genealogy and, more importantly, personal history. It is a small, leatherbound book, just 3″ x 4 1/2″, It is the New Testament from 1864, published by the American Bible Association. It’s a lovely little book with gilt edging.

On the inside cover the owner of the book wrote her name and location: C.E. Mitchell Jonesville, Saratoga Co, N.Y. This book belonged to my great grandmother before she was married, as she used her maiden name.

Carrie Elizabeth Mitchell was born in Clifton Park, N.Y. in 1855 and lived her entire life between Saratoga and Schenectady counties of upstate N.Y. Carrie would have been 11 years old when this little book was published. Having died in 1930, she was long dead by the time I was born.

Upon examining the book further, I discovered in the very back a wonderful sentence also hand written by Carrie: “I wish you a pleasant journey through this life and an eternity of bliss in the Life to come”. This touched me deeply. This was the first time in any of my genealogy research where an ancestor of mine spoke directly to me, an unknown but loved descendant of hers. She was thinking about me when she was alive. Wow! This blew my mind and quite honestly, this little book with her words to her descendants is one of the dearest possessions I have.

THIS is why I am so passionate about personal history. How I wish my ancestors could tell me more! I would love to know anything and everything about them, but their time and opportunity to tell me has come and gone.

I cannot know much more about my ancestors, but we are here now — we have the opportunity now to provide insights for the future generations. The time to do it is now. We can capture and share about our lives and our hopes & dreams for future the generations. We have the opportunity to provide them the joy of knowing a bit more than names and dates about us. Don’t miss your chance to give your descendants the amazing gift of you.