Curated by Mary Savig, Ephemeral and Eternal: The Archive of Lenore Tawney explores the correspondence, journals, artist books, photographs, and ephemera drawn from manuscript collections at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. A selection of documents illuminates key moments in the artist’s career as well as her everyday life and close friendships.
Because of their personal nature, Tawney’s papers do not merely reflect her artistic legacy; they reveal her complex—and at times contradictory—identities as an artist, friend, woman, reader, wife, manager, thinker, collector, gatherer, weaver, sculptor, traveler, and seeker. More than a repository of materials documenting her life, the archive is also a landscape she cultivated as a daily log of inspiration for her art. Through the creation of her archives, Tawney developed a deeply personal visual vocabulary. Her journals and mail art, for example, detail the ways in which she distilled and disseminated recurring motifs in her artworks and printed materials, including script, flora, and fauna. Tawney intertwined language with found images, feathers, flowers, and stones into assemblages for her cherished friends.
Together, these primary sources collapse boundaries between art and archive, public and private, and expression and intuition—a telling consideration of Tawney’s own creative sensibilities.
Dr. Mary Savig is the curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. She has curated numerous exhibitions and has written broadly on collections at the archives. She is the author of Handmade Holiday Cards from 20th Century Artists and Pen to Paper: Artist’s Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.
This exhibition is supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust, Sargento Foods, Inc. and the Herzfeld Foundation.