The Devos Art Museum is currently displaying the work of Vida Lautner, an artist who hails from lower Michigan but spent most of her life in Marquette.
Museum director and curator, Melissa Matuscak said Lautner is most well-known as being the mother of architect John Lautner, who the museum had an exhibit on in 2011.
Vida Lautner, Matuscak said, primarily worked on paper using watercolors and mixed media which is a mixed use of pencil, ink, watercolor and/or collage on paper.
The exhibit features only a small portion of Lautner’s work.
“The exhibition contains over 300 paintings she made throughout her life,” Matuscak said. “They have probably over 1,000 pieces of her work on paper, so it’s a big collection.”
The pieces, Matuscak said, are hung in the back gallery of the museum and their appearance offers a unique experience.
“Nothing is framed so you kind of get a feeling like maybe if you walked into her studio,” Matuscak said. “This might be what you would see.”
Matuscak said the museum has been working on archiving for some time and decided it was time to showcase the work for the public.
“We’ve been working with the family for over two year now on archiving the artwork,” Matuscak said. “We just thought this was a good point to pause and take a look at what we’ve been doing and also continue to keep working on the archiving project.”
Matuscak said some students helped with the archiving process. Junior illustration major Alanna Stapleton said it was an experience unlike any other.
“It was fascinating, eye-opening and humbling to study Vida’s work so closely,” Stapleton said. “I loved having the chance to see the sheer amount of work Vida produced throughout her lifetime, the different styles and mediums she experimented with and the way her artwork evolved.”
Matuscak said the way Lautner experimented with her artwork is what lends to the uniqueness of this exhibit.
“She started out earlier in her life painting in a way that’s more representational and it seems as she grew older, she started to become more abstract in her work,” Matuscak said. “She started experimenting more and more towards the end of her life. Her artwork is much more abstract than it was at the beginning of her life, so I think that’s kind of a unique thing for people to be able to see that in an exhibition.”
While Lautner’s artwork changed over time, Matuscak said Lautner was, more often than not, observing her daily life.
“There’s a lot of still life, flower arrangements and there’s also landscapes of Marquette and also of Chicago where she spent a lot of time,” Matuscak said. “She lived in Chicago part of the year and so there’s a lot of street scenes from Chicago so she was pretty much documenting what she would see in her daily life.”
Matuscak said that while Lautner is most well-known for being the mother of John Lautner, Vida Lautner also deserves recognition for being an artist in her own way.
“She was a very accomplished painter and designer,” Matuscak said. “She was raising her children, she was making artwork, she studied art in New York City and so she was making lots and lots of paintings at the same time throughout her whole life.”
Matuscak said Vida Lautner designed two of the houses the family lived in while here in Marquette. One of the houses, Matuscak said, is across the street from campus.
Matuscak said not only is she an artists that deserves recognition but she’s also a really interesting story of local history.
The exhibit, Matuscak said, is open to everyone but those who appreciate local history or that want to learn a little about someone from Marquette may particularly enjoy this exhibit.
The exhibit is on display now through Sunday, Sept. 8 in the Devos Art Museum..