The Salmagundi Club, a historic art club based in New York City, branched out to California over the last year, and the West Coast participants are now the subject of a museum show in El Cajon.
Eighteen painters are featured in the exhibition “Salmagundians & Their Friends: Southern California,” on view at the Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center through February 14. Grace Schlesier, the organizer of the West Coast Salmagundians, put together the show with member Gloria Chadwick. “Roger Rossi and I spoke at one of the Plein Air Conventions; we had both been promoting the plein air movement,” Schlesier recounts. “Roger asked me if I would consider starting a group in California. Then Gloria contacted me and said the people who were going to have a show at the Wieghorst museum had canceled and they needed an exhibition put together in a month. I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’ I put the word out, and before I knew it, we had 18 artists signed up. It’s spectacular, and the media around here is getting the word out.”
The exhibition includes about 90 pieces, mostly plein air. “There are some studio paintings in it,” says Schlesier. “I wanted everybody to show their absolute best.” Schlesier hasn’t seen the show yet due to minor illnesses in her family, but the reports are good. “The museum director says she is thrilled, and that it looks fantastic,” she says. “The response has been very positive so far.”
Gallery shows are crucial, but Schlesier says a museum show is different. “I feel that a museum show is a step up from a gallery. It gives a lot of credibility to an artist. You have to have quality work. Some of the artists in the exhibition are still developing artists — this is great for them.”
How did the group end up at the Wieghorst? Chadwick has some fascinating background information on the museum.
“Olaf Wieghorst was a New York cop,” says Chadwick. “He was a mounted policeman, and he was known for rescuing people in Central Park on horseback. Before he was with the NYPD, Wieghorst was in a circus in Denmark. And after he retired in 1944, he moved to California and became known as a painter of Western scenes. He painted landscapes with purple mountains in the background, studied the masters in museums. I am involved with the Wieghorst museum and thought that it and the Salmagundians would go well together. Museums are all about history. On the West Coast, we don’t have many old organizations like the Salmagundi Club, other than the California Art Club. This is a way of introducing the West Coast to an organization with some history.”
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