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HCA honors artist Sidney Crosier

HCA honors artist Sidney Crosier
HCA honors artist Sidney Crosier
Crosier author Larry Ordner, center, speaks with Jim Hays at a program Saturday in Corydon about the late Sidney Crosier. Photo by Kristen Cervenak
By Kristen Cervenak, Editor, [email protected]

Harrison County Arts celebrated the work of Hoosier art pioneer Sidney D. Crosier with a goal of preserving his legacy, forgotten by many over time, through a talk and exhibit showcasing the gift of the late artist.

The new exhibit “Sidney Crosier & Co.” lined a sunlit wall with 12 original landscape oil paintings, drawings and a bas-relief sculpture of Crosier’s mother, which former HCA president and sculptor David Kocka made using bronze and an original Crosier mold.

Landscape painter and local muralist Larry Morgan, who was one of the founders of HCA, presented the history of Crosier during a program Saturday afternoon to an audience of multi-generational art enthusiasts and relatives of the late artist.

In attendance was also Larry Ordner, an avid collector of Crosier’s work and author of “Sidney D. Crosier: Hoosier Art Pioneer.”

“As far as I know, this is the only writing available,” Morgan said. “This is the story here, and this is what we’re trying to keep forever and ever.”

Born in 1858, Laconia-native Crosier developed a passion for art through his early drawings, later attending the Art Academy of Cincinnati where two of his portraits — “Portrait of Miss M” and “Portrait of Mr. Ralph Reed” — were displayed in the Art Museum Association of Cincinnati’s Spring Exhibition in 1897 among 140 selected works.

However, Crosier’s struggles included a dependence on alcohol, the passing of his beloved mother and battles with poverty until his death in 1930.

Morgan read from Ordner’s book the story of an auctioneer and a $10 picture frame handmade by Crosier. A small, dark oil painting on cardboard was held inside the frame.

“I recognized its signature as that of a Harrison County, Ind., native, classically trained in the fine arts, who exhibited with great Impressionists of his era; a gifted painter singled out to study in Europe with master teachers; a Hoosier art pioneer whose genius was recognized, and whose early career path placed him on a fast-track to prominence,” Ordner wrote.

Morgan continued to read Ordner’s text: “By contrast, it was also the work of a downtrodden old man, whose life’s journey left him penniless, drinking too much and painting on almost any material he could scrounge; a fellow townsman revered by some but dismissed as a ‘character’ by others; a mother’s son who came to realize that basic decisions of the human spirit are more important than grand opportunity.”

Ordner began to collect Crosier’s works while also collecting the missing puzzle pieces regarding Crosier’s life in order to write the only biography of the artist.

“It was anticipated and intended that Crosier’s talents would be rediscovered,” Morgan said. “That his rightful place among Indiana’s elite artists would be secure, and this first exhibition would draw deeply from Harrison County roots and his Southern Indiana painting career.”

In 2008, co-sponsored by Harrison County Arts, Ordner and Kocka organized “Sidney D. Crosier: Hoosier Art Pioneer” at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany as a reflection of the artist’s career.

Additionally, Morgan played a leading role in getting the playwright for Hayswood Theatre’s production of “Sidney D. Crosier: an Unfinished Portrait” that was produced in 2013, according to HCA secretary Judy Cato. He also reproduced background paintings for the play and acted as project manager on a short film called “Impressions” about Crosier.

The film was produced by Louisville’s Donna Lawrence. Although her productions typically run for “five figures,” Lawrence said it was such a compelling story, the video had to be made. She agreed to do it for $1,000, the maximum budget they had, after hearing their story and reasoning to why Crosier’s legacy needed to be shared, ensuring that — although gone, his work lives on and is never forgotten — along with the hope that his legacy will birth a new appreciation for the artist, almost 92 years after his death.

The video is available on HCA’s website, and the free show will be open to the public at the artisan center in downtown Corydon through March 11.