Dorothea Tanning '32 Celebrated at Museum of Modern Art

Knox College alumna, a poet and painter, is honored for her life and work

November 07, 2011

Dedication of marker at Dorothea Tanning homeFamed surrealist painter and poet Dorothea Tanning, a 1932 Knox College alumna, received accolades at a recent celebration of her life at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, New York.

Knox faculty member Robin Metz, director of the Knox Program in Creative Writing, participated in the October 3 event, which drew a capacity crowd and also celebrated the publication of Tanning's second book of poetry, Coming to That. Tanning has made significant contributions in a number of artistic fields, including painting, sculpture, writing, and theatrical design.

Metz, Philip Sidney Post Professor of English at Knox, read Tanning's poem, "Cedar Fork." Tanning, who turned 101 last summer, wrote it about her youth in Galesburg, Illinois.

Metz also described events that Tanning's hometown and Knox College have held to honor her. Knox awarded Tanning an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1988. The college's Seymour Library houses a significant collection of Tanning's work, including rare archival examples of her undergraduate art and writing.

Dorothea TanningLast spring, Knox College, in partnership with the city of Galesburg and the Illinois Humanities Council, presented the Dorothea Tanning Festival and Symposium: "From Galesburg Roots to Worldwide Fame."

The series of free, public discussions explored Tanning's early life and education in Galesburg and at Knox, and her world-famous work in art and literature. May 14 also was declared "Dorothea Tanning Day" in Galesburg. The festival attracted an audience from throughout Illinois and seven other states.

In addition, a new marker (shown in photo at top of page) designed by Knox College faculty member Christie Ferguson Cirone was unveiled outside the 420 Hawkinson Avenue home where Tanning (shown in photo at left) grew up with her two sisters, who also attended Knox College.

The Museum of Modern Art ceremony, "Tanning 101: A Celebration of Dorothea Tanning's Life and Work in Poetry," attracted high-profile figures from the world of art and poetry.

In addition to Metz, others who spoke included Tree Swenson, executive director of the Academy of American Poets; Alice Quinn, executive director of the Poetry Society of America; and Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.

The event also featured readings of some of Tanning's literary work -- from her new publication and from an earlier collection of poems, A Table of Content. The poems were read by poets and Tanning's friends, including Rosanna Warren, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Howard, Brenda Shaughnessy, J.D. McClatchy, C.D. Wright, and Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Strand.