William H. Machen, Toledo’s first known artist, made these paintings between 1866 and 1873 for the St. Francis Parish in Toledo. Decades ago, a fire at the church damaged the paintings. Poor restoration caused the paintings further damage, hence, sometime in late 2007 they were crated and put in storage.
In 2010, when I began this website, I went to see the damaged paintings. Soon after, I met William Machen’s great-nephew, James Machen. James hired me to photograph the damaged paintings in 2012. I put them on this website and we tried to garner interest in the restoration of the original paintings.
When it didn’t seem likely that we would be able to restore the originals, Jim learned how to digitally retouch a set of low-res files of the photos and made a 24″ set of prints of the 14 paintings. This set ended up in a church in the Philippines. Sadly, in November 2020, James Machen passed away.
Then in December 2020, an architect working on the renovation of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Genoa, Ohio found my webpage about the paintings. The church’s priest contacted me about making large digital restorations of the paintings to hang in their church, which was a tremendous honor.
My 54″ digital restorations of the paintings are layered with the patina of their distinct 150-year history. The paintings are important to our history because they are painted by Toledo’s first known artist for Toledo’s first Catholic church. They were taken down by the church in 2007 and crated. Their fate was up in the air. But now, 15 years later, William H. Machen’s images hang once again on local church walls as they were originally intended. They have a new life in the beautiful, renovated Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the nearby town of Genoa.
Perhaps this story will inspire a way to restore the original paintings, which would entail hundreds of hours and as well as (guessing) about a hundred thousand dollars. The varnish would have to be removed and the flaking paint would have to be scraped off and re-painted. With my digital restorations, the best that I could do by using photography and technology combined with the finest archival art materials to instill them with artistic and historic integrity, William H. Machen’s paintings can once again be appreciated by the public.
It’s a great accomplishment for artistsoftoledo.com’s 11th year in terms of our mission to remember Toledo’s art history.
More about William H. Machen and James Machen here:
James Machen died on November 7, 2020 at the age of 91. Thanks to James Machen, a member of one of the oldest families in Toledo, we have paintings showing how Toledo looked at the very beginning. His great uncle, William H. Machen was Toledo’s earliest known artist, who migrated from Holland to Toledo in 1848. James Machen actively preserved his ancestor’s artwork and history. In doing so, he greatly honored his family, while also greatly honoring his community.
James Machen’s family history going back to the twelfth century:
Toledo Museum of Art, repair the damage you have done to the community of artists.
In 2010, perhaps when the museum was between directors, the acting director and Amy Gilman of the museum made a proposal to the Federation, that they would get great jurors with their museum connections and make Toledo artists famous. Maybe not in those exact words, but that’s what the Federation heard. Whatever the exact words were, the museum’s “intention” of commandeering the show was to help the community by making a better Toledo Area Artists show by getting more prestigious jurors, an intention reported in The Blade in 2010 and 2011.
The museum judged it themselves the first year, in 2011, saying that they were introducing the new director, Brian Kennedy, to the community. They used a Mellon Fellow and New York artist and writer Joe Fig the second year. Everything went fine, in fact because of that show, my daughter’s career was launched. (see, Toledo Area Artists Matter)
This year, instead of making the show for the community, the museum extended it to cover a population 15 times greater than the population of the Toledo area. They had their Mellon Fellow, Halona Norton-Westbrook, judge it all by herself. She put in only 11 Toledo area artists, including two museum employees, the husband of a museum employee, one former employee with former contentious museum relationship, the two most recent past presidents of the Federation, the group that had charge of the show when the museum took it over in 2011. Hence, most of the Toledo area artists chosen by the museum were insiders. 17 other artists were from other cities.
The population of Greater Detroit alone is 5 times that of the Toledo metro area. So you can see that a show that was highly competitive in our local area, has become instantly 10-15 times more competitive by adding a 150 mile radius encompassing 4 cities much larger than Toledo, plus several other cities with more advantage than Toledo, such as Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan. And why is this good for our community? For countless area artists like my daughter, the odds are they will never have a chance.
Toledo Museum of Art, is it necessary to take our community show away from us to get a grant? Get Fellows at our museum like Adam Weinberg, the current Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. He was a very charismatic, community oriented Fellow, who worked at the Toledo Museum of Art in the late 1970’s, and I had the honor of working with him when I was a teacher of photography at the museum. Put an incredible, dynamic community-respecting Fellow, like Adam Weinberg, in charge of the TAA show, with supervision, so he gains professional museum experience. Make the jurying process fair again with objective, outside jurors having no connections to the community. The Adam Weinberg-like Fellow can appoint whatever community committee he needs or wants to work with if he thinks it’s helpful. Make it professional, and make it for Toledo area artists, because that is the legacy of Edward Drummond Libbey, and that is the legacy of the Toledo Museum of Art.
Break it off completely with the Federation. Most of the artists groups dropped out of the Federation after the museum took over the show in 2011, leaving mainly universities and college groups. The Federation has no resemblance now to what it was when it was formed. It used to be composed of groups of artists, not schools, and we don’t need to debate to know that educational institutions do not serve the interests of individual artists — they serve their own institutional interests, and so these institutions do not deserve a seat at this table.
For the previous 94 years, the Toledo area artists have been good enough to be in their own namesake Toledo Area Artists art show. Look at what you are doing to our community! Respectfully, please understand that even though some people may appreciate your leadership contributions to our museum, we all know, you are not from around here, and it is likely that your time at the Toledo Museum of Art will be temporary. Don’t mess with our traditions as if they have no value. It’s like poisoning our water and then skedaddling.
The Toledo Museum of Art was voted the most beloved museum by its community recently. People today donate to the Toledo Museum of Art believing in a community memory of a community oriented museum. How can the museum literally nurture so many artists within its mission and its history, then just hang us out to dry, replaced by artists from other cities? Our area has so much potential for the growth of the art economy in this area. We don’t mean Cleveland or Detroit or Columbus, we mean Toledo! Yet the museum is communally dumbing us down by taking this great opportunity away from the majority of Toledo area artists and handing it over to anybody else in the 150 mile radius, for what, for a more impressive population “line item” on a grant application?
Toledo area artists have always been good enough for the show for the past 95 years. This year the museum throws us under the bus. For a shallow, very shallow, empty purpose. As if to say we are not as good artists as other artists living 150 miles away. Reconsider saving the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for Toledo area artists. It’s good for us, and as you know, as the museum made it its motto, “art matters” to us.
Give us another Adam Weinberg. He would never have thrown Toledo artists under the bus.
From The Toledo Museum of Art’s mission statement:
COMMUNITY RELEVANCE: We will be an integral member of our community and will be responsive to issues of community concern and importance, particularly as they relate to the arts.
VALUES: As individuals, we pledge that our relationships with one another and with our audiences will be governed by: Integrity; Respect; Trust; Cooperation; Positive Approach; and Self-Discipline.
STRATIGIC OBJECTIVES — Working with artists. Work with us. We are your offspring! The Toledo Museum of Art made us! Aren’t we good enough for The Toledo Museum of Art, Papa?
Another suggestion is to make the gallery off of the Community Gallery for Toledo artists, instead of for babies. Up until 1970, Toledo area artists used to get monthly one-person shows. Now they have a gallery for baby art. Literally. (Toledo Area Lil’ Artists Exhibition — gee thanks, TMA, adding insult to injury.) This nicely lit gallery at the back entrance to the museum. For babies? Seriously, you can do better for us, can’t you, Toledo Museum of Art?
Mary Wolfe and art: “This is what I imagine heaven will be like.”
Mary Wolfe died last Thursday. At 82, she still seemed to be in her prime. What a magnificent woman. She was extraordinarily bright, both in her intellect and aura. She will keep shining through the many gifts she and her husband, Frederic (Fritz), have bestowed upon the community.
She was an art history teacher at Bowling Green State University from 1968 to 1976. She always opened her house to students and artists, said her student Kathy Sobb, an accomplished New York City graphic designer. She then became the exhibitions director of the BGSU McFall Center Gallery through the mid-eighties. Relevant to this website, artistsoftoledo.com, Mary Wolfe showed the work of glass art pioneer Dominick Labino. She also put on the largest exhibition of Edmund H. Osthaus ever assembled. Osthaus (1858—1928), famous for his dog paintings and branding of the Du Pont Powder Company (see my blog post, Edmund H. Osthaus and my giant Pierre Project), was one of the founding artists of the Toledo Museum of Art.
The couple donated $1 million to Wilberforce University for a new administration building in 1993. (Another artistsoftoledo connection: one of the few known paintings by Frederick Douglass Allen and one that I have been trying to track down was of the 1934 president of Wilberforce.)
Mary Wolfe is well-known for the very generous contribution she and Fritz made that started the Wolfe Center for the Arts at BGSU. We can also thank the Wolfes for interesting architecture of the building, since they encouraged BGSU to hire the architecture firm, Snohetta, of Norway. The Wolfe Center opened in December 2011. Six months later, at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art opened, thanks to the Wolfes’ $2 million donation to the Museum for the renovation of the old glass gallery behind the Egyptian gallery that had not been used for 15 years.
For interesting accounts of the many roles she played throughout her life, see these two tributes to Mary Wolfe that were published shortly after her death by The Blade and Bowling Green State University.
I love the quote that was in the earlier, Blade breaking news report, taken from a 2011 Blade interview in regard to her art patronage. Mary Wolfe said, “It’s made life so much more interesting and wonderful for us. It gives you a great feeling.” How lovely to know this, how the Wolfes felt about art collecting and their kind act of supporting the arts, since what they have given us has truly made the lives of an entire community much more wonderful and interesting and gives us a great feeling.
I am grateful to have known her. She and Fritz came to my daughter, Anna Friemoth’s opening at the Paula Brown Gallery last year and bought her work. It means so much, since I know they have such exquisite and discerning taste in art.
Two years ago, my husband and I were invited to a small studio tour of Austrian LED light artist Erwin Redl, currently living in Bowling Green, with Mary & Fritz Wolfe and two of their three daughters and a mutual friend. Erwin Redl’s studio is in a huge warehouse, divided into several rooms. Erwin creates conceptual light installations for international museums. The experience of the work in each room of his studio tour became progressively grander and more energetic. It was pretty special to be experiencing this tour with the Wolfes and I could see that Mary Wolfe was inspired. Later, her daughter Lisa told me that her mother was absolutely taken by the installations, and especially the last room, that had streams of red lights and blue lights speeding rhythmically from wall to wall close to the ceiling. Mary remarked about the last room, “This is what I imagine heaven will be like!”
I was just getting ready to send Mary Wolfe a card for my upcoming show, Artists of Toledo at the Paula Brown Gallery, that opens November 13. I printed some snapshots from that night at Erwin’s, together with a note. I had them out on my table waiting to find the right sized envelope when I read the Blade report that she died. I had just been with Lisa two days before at Bowling Green State University and later I sat in the theatre in the Wolfe Art Center for a scholarly talk on animal vision. It was a celebrated event and the audience included many VIPs but Mary Wolfe wasn’t there as I thought she might have been. She had a stroke that evening and died the next day, surrounded by loved ones.
Our prayers go out to Mary’s family, her many friends, and to our entire community. We lost someone pretty wonderful. We will always remember her because she brought so much art to life.
The Toledo Area Artists Exhibition is the oldest regional art competition affiliated with a museum in the United States. It gives the art community a great sense of pride to compete and get into the prestigious museum show, featuring and celebrating the talents of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. It’s 95 years old. This year, only 11 Toledo area artists are in it! So are 17 artists from cities far away from Toledo, such as Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Grand Rapids, MI, and even Muncie Indiana. These cities have their own thriving art communities. The show is not a true area artists show this year and has no right to the name. It’s important to keep our local traditions for the same reason that it’s important to drink clean water. If that doesn’t make sense, then here are just three examples, out of hundreds, to show why the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition is important and relevant to our own local and regional art community — Edith Franklin, Leslie Adams, and Anna Friemoth.
Where would Edith Franklin be in our hearts if it wasn’t for the Toledo Museum of Art? We may have known her, but not nearly as well. She attended the children’s classes at the Museum from about age 10, so for 80 years, the museum contributed greatly to her life, and she in turn contributed greatly to the museum. In addition to the Saturday children’s classes, she continued her education at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design for another 40 years, from 1945-1986. She took part in the historic Glass Workshop in 1962, participating in the very beginnings of the American Studio Glass Movement, and she even walked the runway in the 50th anniversary, 2012 Glass Fashion Show, just two months before she died.
The Toledo Museum of Art gave Edith Franklin a one-person show when she was 35. As for the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, Edith Franklin was in 26 out of 29 consecutive shows from 1953 to 1982, winning First Award, Craft Club Award, and the Federation Purchase Award. She was a founder of the Toledo Potters Guild in 1951, board member of the Arts Commission, and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 1999. She passed away in August 2012, having donated the Edith Franklin Pottery Scholarship to young potters, among other philanthropies. Brian Kennedy, Director of the Museum, gave a eulogy at her memorial service. He said she would often tell him that she was from Toledo, born and bred. Edith Franklin cared about her legacy. I helped her organize her papers that she donated to the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections. She rewarded me well with a special pottery piece.
Leslie Adams, of Toledo, was born about 45 years after Edith Franklin, and like Edith, benefited from the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. Leslie is a successful artist who got her start as a child student at the Toledo Museum of Art, a prodigy student of Toledo’s legendary drawing teacher and artist, Diana Attie. Leslie received her BFA from The University of Toledo for classes at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design. She was in 11 Toledo Area Artists Exhibition shows from 1993 to 2011, and won eight awards, from First, Second and Third awards to the Athena Art Society Award in honor of Virginia Stranahan, the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award, and the National League of American Penwomen NW Ohio Branch-Carolyn Goforth, In Memoriam award. In 2011 she won the highest honor given at the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition in 93 years – the Toledo Area Artists Solo Exhibition Award, a one-man show at the Toledo Museum of Art. (It was new award the museum promised to present every two years. Leslie Adams was the first and only.) There is no doubt that the TAA show, and the awards received in the TAA show, helped Adams with her successful career. (Incidentally, Leslie Adams is a former president of the Federation, the group that gave up control of the TAA to the museum.)
Then there’s my daughter, Anna Friemoth, a 2012 graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art in Photography, who entered the 94thToledo Area Artists Exhibition last year and won a prize. Her piece was sold at the TAA preview show. It also appeared in the Blade. Peter and Paula Brown called her the day it was in the Blade and invited her to have a one-person show in their gallery, the Paula Brown Gallery, in downtown Toledo. The Browns bought the photo at the preview show. Anna’s one-person show at the Paula Brown Gallery was a commercial success and Anna was able to launch her career. It was an amazing opportunity for Anna to be in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. She gained much great career advantage because of the success she obtained as a result of being in the TAA show. 39 Toledo area women were in that TAA show, which was just last year; this year’s show has only TWO Toledo area women.
The opportunity my daughter had is what all artists in our community need and deserve. We have a very large art community – in addition to dozens of clubs and ateliers, there are at least 10 colleges and universities in our 17-county region of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan that teach art. What are artists to do when they graduate? Toledo Museum of Art has cut them out of this 95-year old prestigious museum show, a show that was meant for them and takes place in their own community. The show is called Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for a reason. It’s because the show is for Toledo area artists, to help them show their work. That’s why it was started, in 1917, and that’s what it has done for 95 years. The Toledo Museum of Art helps artists to be better artists by giving prominent local artists solo-shows and by hosting the 95-year-old annual juried area artists show. In return, Toledo area artists contribute to the continuum that is Toledo’s distinctive local cultural history, that is us and can only be us. In return, yet again, that makes our region better for everybody living here.
This is where we live, these are our cultural, our genetic and our geographic connections, and they are as important to us as that big great lake, Lake Erie, from which we have to drink our water every day.
New in the past several days, The Toledo Museum of Art has completely rewritten its 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition webpage. Why did the museum feel the need to rewrite a webpage that it posted for the show in July after the winners were chosen?
Maybe the museum doesn’t want people to have the facts about the show, that out of 28 accepted artists, only 11 are from the Toledo area comprising the 17 counties in Northwest Ohio and two counties in Southeast Michigan, and that of the shamefully low number of area artists chosen, only two are women. Last year 64 Toledo area artists were in the show and 39 were women. Of this year’s lucky 11 Toledo area artists; two are museum employees, a spouse of an employee, a former employee, the two most recent past presidents of the Toledo Federation of Artists, as well as a close friend of museum staff.
Mention of the history and great tradition of our 95 year old TAA show has been exorcised from the webpage as it had appeared a week or so ago, including the details that the 95th TAA “continues the Museum’s tradition of celebration and recognizing the best work by artists in this region” and that “it is one of the few remaining shows of its kind organized by an art museum nationally.”
Some time before October 9, their statement that TMA associate director and curator of contemporary and modern art, Amy Gilman was one of the judges (along with Mellon Fellow Halona Norton-Westbrook) that picked the artists was removed from the page. (see, my October 4 blog post in regard to Amy Gilman.) In total, since the museum first posted the page in July, the page went from having four paragraphs down to one.
All of this informative history has been shoved down the memory hole. The museum’s new TAA webpage has transformed (twisted) our wonderful TAA show into a new Frankenstein. The new TAA show is described with mysteriously fluffy verbiage such as, “tension between the urban vs. suburban” and “class struggle in Middle America and war.”
Also, The Toledo Museum of Art disclosed for the first time in their public announcements that the “money awards” judge, Christopher Knight, has worked at the museum. Draw your own conclusions.
In the October 15, 2014 Toledo Blade is my Letter to the Editor:
The upcoming Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, Nov. 21 through Jan. 4 at the Toledo Museum of Art, will have only 11 artists from the Toledo area. The previous exhibition had 64 local artists.
Seventeen artists outside of our 17-county regional area got into the TAA show from as far as Cleveland, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Muncie, Ind.
I am a member of the local art community and operate a Web site that details Toledo’s art history (artistsoftoledo.com). I applied for the exhibition but wasn’t accepted.
Of the 11 Toledo area artists who were chosen, most have inside connections to the art museum, which gained control of the exhibition from the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 2011. I question whether the jurying was ethical.
It is unacceptable that only 11 Toledo area artists were picked out of 462 total entrants. The museum should not be entitled to use the TAA name because it is a misrepresentation.
TAA is the oldest regional art competition affiliated with a museum in the country. Obviously, the museum has no respect for Toledo’s traditions or its artists. Toledoans donate to the museum, believing it is community oriented. Donors may want to rethink donating to a museum that treats the present-day community this way.
The late Allen Roudolf, art collector and Toledoan, with his Israel Abramofsky painting, smaller ones displayed in the background. Israel Abramofsky was a prominent Toledo artist who was known internationally. Israel Abramofsky died in 1975 and left his artwork and provisions for a scholarship to the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim to help young artists, as he himself had been helped when he was a young artist. It became the “Israel Abramofsky Award of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim” at the Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition starting with the 66th annual show in 1984. Check out the list of winners. (from 1984 on.) What is happening with this award this year in the “New” 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition?
This photo came today in my email — a photo of John Botts, my painting teacher at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design. Wow. I owe so much to John Botts — he made me see what I really was, which is a photographer. When he saw the first photographs I took, he gave me a book — the first edition of Robert Frank’s book, The Americans. I sold it last year on eBay for $1,000 because I’m not sentimental.
It is probably fair to say that the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition this year is the most controversial Toledo Area Artists Exhibition there has ever been, and not for the art either, because we don’t get to see the art until November. The show is controversial this year because of the circumstances created by the Toledo Museum of Art and the questionable decisions that the museum has made that put the show and the museum in a bad light even before it opens.
Were they really? Pleased with our region? Doesn’t seem so.
Out of all those entries that they looked at — 4,175 images, 44 videos, and two audio entries, the museum curator in-house judges could barely find any artists for the show who didn’t work at the museum, or weren’t friends of theirs, etc. or the most recent presidents of the Federation, to put in the show who live in the Toledo area.
And then the curators had to go beyond the Toledo area to fill it in with out-of-town artists from Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Grand Rapids Michigan, Muncie Indiana. Our Toledo Area Artists Exhibition.
We have so many artists in the Toledo area, yet in a show that has only 28 artists this year, cut down from a show that had 76 artists last year, a show that historically ranges anywhere from 70 to 120 artists — of 90% real Toledo area artists, the museum this year has to go 150 miles out in all directions to pick out 17 artists who live outside of the 17 counties that comprise the Toledo area – the 15 counties of NW Ohio and the two bordering counties in SE Michigan?
Then, with our show taken over by metropolitan areas that are not our own, over half of the meager remaining 11 artists chosen actually from this area, from all the 4,175 images that they got to select from, are artists within the “Museum nucleus?”
Is that okay with you?
Do we really have to drink this water?
Is it fair that 435 artists paid $30 each thinking that they were entering a fair competition (435 x $30 = $13,050) when they never had a chance because the museum judged it and got to put in their employees and friends, then fill it up with a pick of artists in big metropolitan areas not our Toledo area, that the museum has the audacity to call the 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition?
The reason why the annual TAA show started using outside jurors after eight years into their history was so that the show could be judged fairly and without conflicts of interest.
So this year, 2014, for the 95th annual show, why did museum staff members make themselves the jurors of the 95th Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition? Was it so they could unfairly get to pick fellow museum employees and friends, for some unknown reason, or maybe it was because they got Christopher Knight to be the money judge and they wanted to make themselves look good?
How does that make you feel, big vibrant Toledo art community? Are you ready to trade in your chance at entering the TAA show every year, along with the chance of winning and getting recognition for your creativity at the great white marble pillared Toledo Museum of Art, for the condescendingly concurrent series of workshops run by the Federation to teach you how you can be more professional like those “full time” “professional” artists who are supposedly so much better than you, that are showing in your place, in your TAA show?
This show belongs to us, the Toledoans, to help “us all” be better artists, as well as, in return, for “all us” artists to contribute to and continue the artistic cultural history of Toledo that is and can only be us. And why don’t we clean up our water too.
Please keep the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art and for the Toledo area artists. It’s our legacy and it belongs to us. It’s our tradition.
The Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for Toledo area artists is the oldest regional art competition affiliated with a museum in the United States. It gives the art community a great sense of pride to compete and get in to the prestigious museum show, that features and celebrates the talents of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. It’s 95 years old. Must it go so soon, so young in European terms, just a baby in comparison.