Month: March 2015

March is Women’s History Month – “Honoring the Women of the Historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911” Lecture at the Art League of Long Island, March 15, 2015

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TSF Lecture at Art League of Long Island

by Debbie Wells

In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Art League of Long Island (ALLI) presented a lecture, “Honoring the Women of the Historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911” in a unique way by having two speakers, both artists, describe their personal connections to this important part of American history. As the Chair of the Board of Directors of ALLI, I arranged for this dual lecture as a way of portraying my personal experience of researching the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (TSF) tragedy and also reckoning with it as a subject for art.

About the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a company of over 500 employees (mostly hardworking young Jewish and Italian immigrant women) located in the heart of Greenwich Village, right near Washington Square Park. In typical sweatshop conditions, this company produced crisp “Gibson Girl” style blouses that were then the rage. The building, restored to its original glory, is now part of the New York University campus, but has a plaque commemorating its history that every American child learns about in school.

What happened was this: On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the TSF 8th floor at the end of the workday. Chaos ensued. It is contended that the doors were locked. There were certainly many fire hazards inside. People on the street witnessed helplessly as workers jumped out of windows to escape the flames. Fire trucks were ill equipped, lacking ladders high enough to reach the upper floors. Elevators ran as long as they could as workers pressed into
the cars, while some tumbled down the elevator shaft. All of this happened in only 18 minutes. In the end, 146 people died. Shortly after, there was a trial, but the two owners, known as the “Shirtwaist Kings”, were acquitted of wrongdoing, arousing the cry of injustice from the public. However, the lives of these workers were not sacrificed in vain because the tragedy impelled change in America – the rise of the labor union movement and fire safety regulations.

Uncovering My Family History and the Connection to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

a Annie NicholasAnnie Nicholas (1893-1911)

About 12 years ago, my son was doing his American History homework and mentioned that he was learning about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. My grandmother-in-law, Anne Nicholas-Lerman, was visiting from Florida and explained that her aunt was one of the 146 victims. The whole family immediately wanted to know more. Then she showed us a beautiful photograph of 18-year old Annie Nicholas, who was a button-maker at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. My son has the framed picture in his bedroom and we all treasure this family heirloom.

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Artful Observations of the Armory Show & Quiz by Debbie Wells

Armory Show at Pier 94, NYC – March 5-8, 2015 When one attends the annual Armory Show, it is easy to expect to be overwhelmed. One of the most celebrated international contemporary and modern art fairs, this show is always a whirlwind of color, media, canvases, photography, sculptures and more. Strolling through the aisles, I Read More

MOBIA: Sculpture in the Age of Donatello

by Franklin Hill Perrell

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral.
February 20- June 14, 2015
Museum of Biblical Art. Tuesday-Sunday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
1865 Broadway at 61st Street, 2d Floor, N.Y, N.Y., 10023

“Donatello in the cage of the wild beasts” was the famous line
coined by the French art critic, Louis Vauxcelles, to excoriate the Fauve artists, led by Matisse, on exhibition in 1905. The sculpture that set him off was not actually by Donatello, but that artist’s reputation for grace and classical refinement was an apt contrast to the then perceived roughness, even animality, of the Fauves (wild beasts) . To Vauxcelles, and his readers, the positive of traits of an earlier era were synonymous with the Italian master. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the real thing, that is, major works by Donatello, here in NY, on loan from their permanent home in Florence.

If you don’t know MOBIA, short for the Museum of Biblical Art, you really should, especially if your travels take you to Lincoln Center or the nearby Museum of American Folk Art. Now is a particularly good time to go. After recent exhibition successes including Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion; Objects of Devotion, masterpieces of medieval British stone carving (pieces rescued in the seventeenth century from the destructive excesses of Oliver Cromwell and his cohorts); and the ground-breaking rediscovery of Hildreth Meiere, who sculpted the numerous gilt and multi-hued art-deco reliefs of Rockefeller Center; MOBIA’s new show tops them all: an absolute “must see.” Read More