Hundreds of art pieces to be displayed at the Cochise College Benson Center this fall will be sold to raise funds for college scholarships.
The collection, to be exhibited through December, represents a lifetime of work by late artist Rose Veselak Land, a former resident of St. David. Land passed away December 27, 2005, and contributed her work to the Cochise College Foundation with the intent that it be sold to raise money for art scholarships.
Land's work was produced between the 1920s, when she was an art and drama student, and 2004, when she created a nature study in acrylic that took first prize from the San Pedro Valley Arts & Historical Society.
A group of Land's friends has worked tirelessly with Dr. Darlene Spoor, director of the Benson Center, to catalog the art and organize the event. The volunteers have prepared the art for display and sale - some of it is framed and some loose - and put together a scrapbook of the work.
Friend Sheila Somner says it was Land's paintings that brought them together.
"When I saw 'Monsoon,' with its ominous clouds and just a glimpse of azure sky, and two sunflower stems dancing in the rising wind, I thought it was as much about Arizona as a desert or mountain scene," Somner says. "So I added my first artist's original to an eclectic collection of classic copies by Goya, Gaugin, van Gogh, Picasso, and Diego Rivera."
The Rose Land pieces to be sold at the Benson Center include numerous prize winners and other work in a variety of mediums: watercolor, acrylic, etching, pastel, conte crayon, charcoal, blown ink, pottery, stone carving and lithograph. They depict figures, life drawings and everyday scenes, nature studies, portraits, still life, flora and fauna, and landscapes that Land observed throughout her time and travels as a wife, mother, community volunteer, teacher, housekeeper, costume designer, student and working artist.
"Rose loved to travel, work, sketch and enjoy people and the arts," says Jeannie Mangold, former director of the Benson Center and a member of the Rose Land Retrospective organizing committee.
A student of art, life
Land was born Rose Veselak in 1908 and lived in Westfield, Mass., where she began honing her skill as an artist with a pastel from the 1926 Gerber baby calendar. Later, as a student project, she translated to watercolor the Abbott Handerson Thayer oil painting "Caritas" at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. At the Yale School of Drama in 1931 and 1932, she designed costumes and theatrical masks. She married William Goodfellow Land in 1931 and in 1935 studied at Boston's Museum School of Art with Alexander Jacovleff, a Russian neoclassicist painter, draughtsman, designer and etcher.
A bachelor's degree in education from the University of New Hampshire at Keene enabled Land to work as a teacher, which she did in Troy and Marlboro, N.H., in the Madison and Washington districts in Phoenix, and at Eastern Arizona College. Land's resume states that as a teacher she encouraged art careers for Apache, Navajo, Saudi-Arabian, and Anglo-American students.
Susanne Frantz says the role Land played in her life is a classic example of the positive influence that a fine teacher can have on a child. She recalls fondly that Lands' classes at Phoenix's Royal Palm school were the highlight of every week. Frantz went on to earn a bachelor's degree in ceramics and a graduate degree in art history and to work as a curator at the Tucson Museum of Art, where she reunited unexpectedly with her former teacher.
"I loved running into her at the museum, and I think we were both equally proud to know one another," Frantz says. "She was especially pleased that one of her students had stuck to art."
Land also enjoyed travel and a change of scenery. She etched a scene from the Paradise Dude Ranch in Wyoming, where she worked as a housekeeper in 1955, and two years later designed costumes for Phoenix Little Theatre, Phoenix Repertory Theatre, and the Phoenix Opera. She planned a walking tour of Europe in 1969, traveled across the United States several times, and visited Canada, Japan, Mexico and Australia. Many pieces, including watercolors of Japanese folk life, resulted from her travels.
The 1960s found Land studying lithography and sculpture in Queretero, San Miguel DeAllende, Mexico, her appreciation for which is depicted in numerous retrospective folk life, nature study and landscape pieces. She earned her master's degree in fine arts from Instituto Allende in 1970.
Contributing to community
Land's love for the San Pedro Valley and southeast Arizona may have begun in 1972 at the Elgin Research Ranch, where she designed and made rod puppets for a private school production in Sinaloa and a public performance in Obregon, Sonora, Mexico. In the 1980s, she designed her home modeled after a Navajo hogan and oversaw its construction in St. David. She created the High Desert Garden Club and was instrumental in combining the Benson Art League with the historical society to form the San Pedro Arts & Historical Society. She revived the celebration of Mexican Independence Day and was honored as Benson's 1991 Woman of the Year, marshal of the Fourth of July Parade, and marshal of the Mexican 16th of September Parade. She took art and Spanish classes at Cochise College until the age of 90 and continued producing art until close to her death.
"Rose lived a fascinating and tremendously full and diverse life," says Denise Merkel, executive director of the Cochise College Foundation. "It was with a great deal of foresight and belief in both art and education that she gave us the gift of her life's work in order to inspire others. Nearly two years after her death, she is still serving her community."
The Rose Land Art Opening and Retrospective is free and open to the public. Live and silent auctions are planned throughout the event, and refreshments will be prepared and served by Cochise College culinary arts students. For more information, contact the Cochise College Benson Center at (520) 586-1981.