"Hubbard at hopewell"

Bourbon County, Ky., museum
to exhibit Hubbard landscapes

Organizers seek paintings from
collector to display in temporary exhibit

By Amy Casebier
Contributing Writer

This spring, all Harlan and Anna Hubbard enthusiasts will get a treat when the Hopewell Museum in Paris, Ky., opens an exhibit of landscapes painted by Harlan.

This exhibit will take place from April through June at the museum, located at 800 Pleasant St., in Paris, Ky.

The showing is in its preliminary stages, so Meg Shaw, art librarian at the University of Kentucky’s Lucille Little Fine Arts Library, is still searching for paintings that feature landscape scenes of Campbell County, Trimble County and the places the Hubbards saw during their shantyboat voyage.

In addition to artwork and writings, the Hubbards are perhaps best known for their sustainable lifestyle spanning 30 years at Payne Hollow in Trimble County, Ky., and for river cruising to New Orleans on their handmade shantyboat.

“People are intrigued by the way he and Anna lived in harmony with nature,” Shaw said. “Now there is an even greater interest in minimizing our impact on the environment, so his ideas are very timely.”

Nancy O’Malley, head of the curatorial committee at the Hopewell Museum, agreed about the relevance of the exhibit to current events.

“Living green will be a part of it,” she said. “He wasn’t interested in modern trappings and life. He rejected them.”

Many people compare Hubbard’s ideas and lifestyle to those of Henry David Thoreau, the famous transcendentalist author who retreated from society into the wilderness for several years and wrote works such as “Walden."

“Harlan Hubbard brought those ideas to life in a way that no other person and no other artist was able to,” Shaw said.

In fact, Hubbard was purported to have “said that he did it better than Thoreau,” O’Malley said.
Hubbard exhibits seem to be happening everywhere. This past fall, a collection of Harlan’s riverboat paintings were displayed at the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Ind., but the exhibit at Hopewell will highlight some photographs of the Hubbards and Harlan’s landscape paintings, including some painted on tin.

“We’ll get pieces that haven’t been exhibited as much,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley also expressed interest in the style of Hubbard’s paintings.

“He was an astute observer of the landscape,” she said. “The landscape takes center stage and humans are in the background. He had a long painting life and painted a lot. We want to show him throughout his artistic life.”

Shaw began photographing and documenting Hubbard’s paintings in 1994. She uses those images to build an archive of Hubbard’s work that even includes private collections.

“It is even more impressive that, while living self-sufficiently, he also left an extensive legacy of artwork, and a record of a landscape that in some places has changed forever,” Shaw said.

O’Malley said that she is confident about the turnout for the coming display.

“I think it will be very well-received,” O’Malley said. “Harlan Hubbard already has a lot of fans. I hope they all come down.”

She added that the exhibit will draw in people who are not familiar with the Hubbard way of life.
Shaw has been planning the exhibit at Hopewell since last fall.

“The Hopewell Museum is a wonderfully restored U.S. Post Office building that dates back to 1909, just nine years after Harlan was born, so it is a very compatible environment,” she said.

O’Malley said that she was excited to have the Hubbard exhibit.

“We have a beautiful museum and we love to show it off,” O’Malley said.

The Hopewell Museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The museum closed in January, but it will re-open in February with its current exhibit on the 200th anniversary of the Western Citizen, the original newspaper of Paris, Ky. Following the Hubbard exhibit from April through June, the museum will host the Kentucky Art Pottery exhibit for the rest of the summer and into early fall.

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