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Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

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through August 13, 2017

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art presents "The Best Way to Prepare Bananas: Fruits of the Soul from the Permanent Collection", with rarely seen and previously unexhibited works by Louis Eilshemius, Thornton Dial, Howard Finster, and others. The works are drawn entirely from the Johnson’s collection, with gifts from Cornell alumni and several artists with local connections.

Pecker (1998; rated R), director John Waters’ satire of an outsider in the art world, will screen on Thursday, July 13, 7.00 pm at Cinemapolis, 120 E. Green Street, Ithaca. Matt Conway will introduce the film along with exclusive Goodnough shorts from the collection not on view elsewhere.

Text reproduced from The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art's press release:

Artist Louis Eilshemius (1864–1941) attended Cornell in 1882–84, and his words served as the inspiration behind the exhibition.

The title is derived from a series of letters to the editor published in the New York Sun in 1918. The first issued a challenge: “The Banana Puzzle—A Genius Wanted Who Will Make from the Fruit Flour that Will Keep.” Eilshemius offered a reply but ultimately declared, “Why want a flour out of bananas any way? Are they not best in their natural state? I prefer them so.”

Later, in a 1920 speech to Marcel Duchamp’s modern art club, Eilshemius stated, “Everybody can make academic art, but everybody cannot produce soul art.”

Matt Conway, registrar at the Johnson, curated this exhibition as a showcase of intriguing and sometimes offbeat works that elude categorization. “In the spirit of Eilshemius, we ask that visitors approach the show with an open mind, and enjoy the works just as they are,” Conway said. “The show is not about technical virtuosity, but creativity and imagination.”

Some of the more well-known artists on view were self-taught, including Thornton Dial, Sr. (1928–2016), known for works that relate his own life experience in the Deep South, and the Rev. Howard Finster (1916–2001), who designed album covers for Talking Heads and R.E.M.

Clara Seley (1905–2003) was also self-taught. She was married to Jason Seley, Cornell Class of 1940, himself a sculptor and a dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. Clara’s work will be shown alongside her gifts of Haitian art to the Johnson Museum by Jasmin Joseph, Sisson Blanchard, St. Pierre Toussaint, and others, collected since the Seleys’ association with Haiti’s Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince.

Other artists included in The Best Way to Prepare Bananas, like Eilshemius and Robert Goodnough (1917–2010), consciously chose to work in a nonmainstream manner despite formal art training.

Goodnough, who was born in Cortland and graduated from Syracuse University in 1940, gained recognition as a painter but worked in a variety of media. A selection of his rare “Dinny the Dinosaur” stop-motion shorts will be included in the exhibition and at a special screening event.

Pecker (1998; rated R), director John Waters’s loving, knowing satire of an outsider in the art world, will screen on Thursday, July 13, 7:00 p.m. at Cinemapolis, 120 E. Green Street, Ithaca. Matt Conway will introduce the film along with exclusive Goodnough shorts from the collection not on view elsewhere. Tickets are free for Johnson Museum Members and $5 for the general public.

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University, 114 Central Avenue, Ithaca NY 14853