Art history maven Mary Dono doesn’t just go over individual works and talk about various movements like romanticism and impressionism when she teaches her free online courses for the Queens Library. She wants you to get to know the artists themselves, and how their works evolved over time as they themselves changed.
“My focus has been, since the beginning, on the lives of the artists, not just the art,” Dono said. “I’m interested in the people.”
Dono, who has been teaching various art history classes for the library for several years, is offering one starting online tomorrow, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m. and continuing each Friday through the end of the month, that will focus on the Wyeth family.
For more than 100 years the Wyeths — starting with illustrator N.C. Wyeth and continuing with his son, the painter Andrew Wyeth, and his grandson, the painter Jamie Wyeth, along with other family members — have been acclaimed figures in American art. Dono will go deep into both their works and the dynamics both within and without the family that influenced them in her class.
“The appeal of Mary’s programs is that she makes it real,” said Madlyn Schneider, the library’s older adult and homebound services coordinator, who oversees Dono’s classes and others. “It’s not just looking at a work of art and discussing it — she talks about the background of the family and makes the art more alive for people looking at it.”
The Wyeths led interesting lives indeed. N.C. was an outdoorsman who grew up on a farm and was best known for his vivid book illustrations, many for tales of adventure such as “Treasure Island” and “Robin Hood.” His son Andrew was a realist painter whose 1948 work “Christina’s World,” depicting a neighbor who was disabled but refused to use a wheelchair and crawled everywhere she went, is considered one of the best-known American paintings of the 20th century. Andrew’s son Jamie is also a renowned painter, one who after six years of school asked to be tutored at home so he could focus on art. Said to have a broader artistic reach than his forebears, he is now 74.
After the Wyeth classes, Dono, a retired teacher and principal of PS 92 in Corona, will teach one on Feb. 5 about several black artists, as part of Black History Month. In March, Women’s History Month, she’ll teach a three-week course called “Female Artists who Made History with their Modern Art.”
All the courses are held online using WebEx. Those who are interested but may need help using the program may email Schneider at email@example.com.
The programs are geared toward seniors but are open to anyone. Several others are either underway or coming up soon. All are listed in the calendar at queenslibrary.org, which is searchable. They include:
• Creative Aging: Finding Your Flow, a craft program using watercolor and color theory to mix art with relaxation and meditation, taught by Jill Ackiron Moses Jan. 11 and 25 at 1 p.m.;
• Creative Aging: Your Heart, another craft program taught by Moses Feb. 12, 19 and 26 at 2 p.m.;
• Café des Artistes: A Look at Modern Art, taught by Jennifer Katanic of the Museum of Modern Art Jan. 12, 19 and 26; Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23; and March 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 at 3 p.m.;
• Creative Aging: Beginning Watercolor, taught by Karen Fitzgerald Jan. 7, 14, 21 and 28; Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25; and March 4, 11, 19 and 26 at 11 a.m.; and
• Creative Aging: Beginning Ukulele, taught by Nancy Hincliffe Jan. 14, 21 and 28; and March 4, 11, 18 and 25 at 12 p.m.
“We work with The Whitney, Queens Museum, Brooklyn Museum and The Intrepid Museum to bring art and art history to the homebound and to those newly finding themselves homebound due to Covid and lockdowns,” Schneider said, adding that “there is a full calendar of educational programming designed to keep minds engaged and learning.”