Jan 112012
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“On the Weight of Words”
Master Artists Barry Moser and John Benson to speak as part of
Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible

Santa Fe—At 2 pm on Sunday, Jan. 22, renowned artists Barry Moser and John Everett Benson join forces for a lecture, “On the Weight of Words,” part of the programming series for The Saint John's Bible and Contemplative Landscape exhibits. The presentation includes excerpts from films on both artists and will be in the museum auditorium. This event is free with admission; Sundays are free to NM residents.

Both men’s work can be seen in the museum’s mezzanine-level exhibition, The Letter, the Word & the Book, which highlights 20th- and 21st-century practitioners of typography, calligraphy, engravings, enameling and more.

Moser’s The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, a contemporary Old and New Testament, features phenomenally detailed relief engravings that reveal a unique artistic vision of figures like the prophet Daniel (at left). Six of the engravings printed by Moser’s longtime collaborator Harold McGrath are on display in the exhibition.

Also on display are samples of lettering done by Benson, who carved the inscriptions on the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Arlington Cemetery and on the FDR Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Moser is a highly regarded and prolific illustrator who has illustrated and/or designed more than 300 books with calligraphy, pencil and ink drawings, watercolors and relief engravings. He is on the faculty of the Illustration Department at the Rhode Island School of Design and is Professor in Residence in the Department of Art at Smith College, where he also serves as the school’s printer. He was the 1995 Whitney J. Oates Fellow in Humanities at Princeton University. In 1998, he was artist and writer in residence in the Children’s Literature Department at Vassar College.

Benson, a calligrapher, sculptor and stone carver, began working for his father at the age of 15 at the John Stevens Shop, one of the nation’s oldest businesses, founded in 1705. Besides carving the inscription for the Kennedy Memorial, he was commissioned to design and carve gravestones for Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman and George Balanchine. He designed site-specific fonts and incised inscriptions on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Federal Courthouse in Boston. In his 40 years at the John Stevens Shop, he was awarded the Craftsmanship Medal by the American Institute of Architects, the National Pell Award for Distinguished Achievements in the Arts, an honorary doctorate degree by the Rhode Island School of Design, and the 2000 Presidential Design Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 1993, he turned over the business to his son, Nicholas Benson, who continues to produce hand-carved inscriptions in stone. (The son’s work can be seen in Santa Fe on the inscription of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.)

Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible, on display through April 7, 2012, features 44 pages from a hand-written and illuminated Bible commissioned by the monks of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. Contemplative Landscape, on exhibit through Dec. 30, 2012, uses historic and contemporary black-and-white photography to explore how people of many faiths have made their home in New Mexico. The exhibits and lecture series are generously supported the New Mexico Humanities Council, the Scanlan Family Foundation, and the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

The New Mexico History Museum is the newest addition to a campus that includes the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States; Fray Angélico Chávez History Library; Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; the Press at the Palace of the Governors; and the Native American Artisans Program. A division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Visit www.nmhistorymuseum.org.

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