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Arts Rundown: Vivian Maier In Photography And Film

Finding Vivian Maier
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Finding Vivian Maier,” a documentary opening Feb. 25 at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema, tells the story of a woman who worked as a nanny in New York and Chicago. She also took thousands of photographs that were never published and only discovered fairly recently.

Her story piqued the interest of the art world. The quality of her work has sustained it.

Here, the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum is a partner in presenting the film.

David Zax, writing in the December 2011 “Smithsonian” said, “Current professional opinion is mixed. Steven Kasher, a New York gallerist planning a Maier exhibition this winter, says she has the skill ‘of an inborn melodist.’ John Bennette, who curated a Maier exhibition on view at the Hearst Gallery in New York City, is more guarded. ‘She could be the new discovery,’ he says, but ‘there’s no one iconic image at the moment.’ Howard Greenberg, who will show her work at his New York gallery from December 15 through January 28, says, ‘I’m taken by the idea of a woman who as a photographer was completely in self-imposed exile from the photography world. Yet she made thousands and thousands of photographs obsessively, and created a very interesting body of work’.”

Christopher Borrelli writing in the Sept. 24, 2012, Chicago Tribune about a show at the Chicago History Museum, said “many of us have been so taken with the story of these old photos we never noticed how new the work feels, how Maier's photography, seemingly casual and certainly obsessive, presaged photography in the digital age. The contact sheets that ring the History Museum show, the part of the exhibit visitors linger over longest, seem like ancestors of the random shots stacking up on iPhones and Flickr accounts, seemingly unbroken documents of what a person with a camera runs across. "Portrait-chronicles," Susan Sontag called them. … Ironically, as old as Maier's pictures are, few feel as nostalgic or as dated as the most contemporary Instagrams on your cellphone."

Earlier that year, Roberta Smith, wrote in The New York Times about two 2012 shows of Maier’s work. She said, "These two exhibitions nominate a new candidate for the pantheon of great 20th-century street photographers: Vivian Maier (1926-2009), who worked as a nanny in New York and Chicago, took pictures incessantly, printed only a few of the more than 100,000 negatives she amassed, and never published or exhibited her work. The variety of images suggests a consuming curiosity; the lack of prints an almost unfathomable sureness in her own vision. Similarly, she rarely took more than one shot of a scene.

"The images are wonderful, with a keen but unvarnished empathy for their subjects, who include children, women, the indigent and the elderly.

The assessment of her work has remained fairly consistent. Writing about an exhibit at Chicago's Harold Washington Library, Steve Johnson, had the following comments in the April 2, 2014, Chicago Tribune: "the power of those images — of people and places in the city and suburbs, mostly in the 1960s — will put to rest any first-time viewer's suspicion that the wave of Maier interest might be more about story than art.”

The movie is said to provide a wide range of her work, as it tries to uncover the woman behind the camera.

Also coming up:

* The annual Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park lecture will be at 6:30 p.m. April 30 in the Farrell Auditorium of the St. Louis Art Museum.

Emily Rauh Pulitzer, founder and chair of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, and Paul Muller, executive director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association, will talk about “Saving the Most Important Modernist House in Cincinnati.”

According to the press release: The International Style house is considered the residential masterpiece of architect John Becker, who attended Washington University Architecture School with Charles Eames and I.E. Millstone. The speakers will tell the story of how the house, Mrs. Pulitzer’s childhood home, was brought from near destruction to pristine condition.”

* At the Sheldon, John McEuen of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Fame and John Carter Cash of country music royalty will close this year’s folk series.

The concert -- 8 p.m. April 25 – “celebrates the music of the landmark Will the Circle Be Unbroken album,” according to a release.

In addition to bluegrass, country, roots and gospel music, the hosts will share photos and studio film shots. ($35-$40) TheSheldon.org.

* And if music is your thing, you might want to head to 33137 Locust St., where more than 10,000 items -- including records, CDs and memorabilia – will be sold, auctioned and raffledto benefit the nonprofit Caritas Connections.  10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

OnStL.com’s Ron Stevens has organized the event and solicited DJs from KSHE, WIL, KDHX and KTRS to contribute to the sale.

Donna Korando started work in journalism at SIU’s Daily Egyptian in 1968. In between Carbondale and St. Louis Public Radio, she taught high school in Manitowoc, Wis., and worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the copy editor and letters editor for the editorial page from 1973-77. As an editorial writer from 1977-87, she covered Illinois and city politics, education, agriculture, family issues and sub-Saharan Africa. When she was editor of the Commentary Page from 1987-2003, the page won several awards from the Association of Opinion Page Editors. From 2003-07, she headed the features copy desk.