This classical-style former post office makes for an impressive, if small, museum, with a constantly changing collection of exhibits, all by Nebraskans or related to the state in some way. The art is presented in modular fashion, with several galleries of rotating "classic" works, or exhibitions with a built-in audience, occupying the main floor. The top floor is usually given to emerging artists, with more quaint, accessible pieces displayed in the basement.
The bedrock of the place is probably its collection of the great "ashcan" artist Robert Henri's work, most prominently his portrait of artist/model Eulabee Dix modeling bridal costume. This month, the museum features an exhibit built around the portrait. It includes other pieces Dix modeled for, as well as her own eclectic work ranging from conventional oil paintings to fabric art. The curators have taken pains to outline Dix's life, including her struggles during the depression which saw her become delusional about her success, or lack thereof.
The energetic curation of the Dix exhibit is characteristic of the MONA. My favorite exhibit this month was the interactive gallery's collection of Grant Reynard's work, collectively titled "Art Speaks; Viewers Respond". These portraits feature staid, wealthy patrons reacting to then-radical works, including some now seen as bedrock pieces by Pablo Picasso. Reynard succeeds on several levels here, presenting a cogent critique of Picasso himself, the less than comprehending art audience, and the perceptions of the viewer. This is a remarkable exhibit, and one hopes that MONA can assemble further exhibitions with similar energy and imagination.
Also among the highlights of this month is an exhibit of original Western American photography by Peter Brown, accompanied by the text of Kent Haruf from their collaboration 'West of Last Chance'. Rounding things out is a collection of Wright Morris photographs along the classic Lincoln Highway from the forties and fifties, presented here to mark the Lincoln Highway's 2013 centennial. This is a very strong month for the MONA in many ways; if you visit other times of the year, you may see impressive works from the Audubon or Bodmer archives. Highly recommended for anyone interested in art.
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