Michael Mardikes, Thomas Hart Benton, and the Art of Capturing a Painter at Work
When Michael Mardikes began visiting Thomas Hart Benton at his home studio in Kansas City in 1956, his challenge was to capture an artist renowned for his dedication to laborious technique and complex historical narratives. The 66-year-old artist was known, too, for his cantankerous personality.
He had been part of a famed Regionalist trio – with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry – that dominated the American art scene in the 1930s. Benton was now the lone survivor, and Mardikes brought an eye for image-making that could help cement his legacy.
Ball State University’s Lara Kuykendall discusses the months they spent together and the trove of images that Mardikes produced. Thirty-two of them are on display in the Central Library’s as part of the exhibition An Artist at Home in America: Michael Mardikes’ Photographs of Thomas Hart Benton.
Mardikes’ photographs form a visual essay that gives insight into the artistic and intellectual underpinnings of Benton’s late career.
Kuykendall, who holds a doctorate in American art history from the University of Kansas, is an associate professor of art history at Ball State. She provided research and writing for the Library exhibition, and also has written for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism and the innovative online art history textbook Smarthistory. Her research explores issues of national identity, heroism, and humor in American visual culture.
To accommodate social distancing in the Central Library’s Helzberg Auditorium, attendance at the event will be capped. Please RSVP to secure a seat.
All guests are asked to follow Library health and safety procedures in effect at the time of the event.