Proud To Be An American
Artist Beverly Neumann exhibits a series celebrating the ‘greatest generation.’
Whenever Beverly Neumann hears news reports about veterans’ issues on television, she thinks about two cousins lost in World War II.
“Way back, there was an Aunt Etta on my father’s side,” she recalls. “My aunt had two sons — one fighting in Germany and one fighting in England. Toward the end of the war, the one in Germany went missing so the other son asked for approval to go to Germany and see what he could find out. Sadly, his plane went down over the English Channel.
“So many people have these kinds of tragedies in their families, and I wanted to remind people, especially young people born after those years, about that war and ‘the greatest generation’ that had so many heroes. My way of communicating is through paintings.”
Thirteen Neumann paintings, a series titled “Military Art,” became a two-year project and will be on view through Nov. 2 at the Detroit Center for Design + Technology in Midtown.
Neumann’s paintings will be joined by work completed by Detroit artist Nicole Lapointe, who illustrated the new book Rosie, A Detroit Herstory. The book, for young readers, details how women successfully took over what had been considered strictly male factory jobs as men went off to fight.
“The proceeds from the sale of my paintings will go to the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit,” says Neumann, who plans an exhibit reception on Oct. 23.
Soon after the start of WWII, President Roosevelt called for America to become a powerhouse of defense manufacturing — one way of getting his message out was to have posters created. Neumann makes modifications to these stylized posters to portray her own message. Among the realistic images are paintings of Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin; a representation of the bombing of London; a victory garden; and a bomber plane produced in Detroit. Plaques underneath each image explain the artist’s approach.
“I’m a realist and social commentator, sometimes with humor,” says Neumann, who has used oils and acrylics on canvas for this series and usually works big with pieces that can be as large as 5 feet in one direction. “My mind is always racing with ideas for social commentary. All my different interests, including science and space, are represented through my art.”
Neumann’s artwork, sometimes reproduced on metal to be less expensive, has been featured through the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield, the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center in Birmingham, various public displays in Birmingham and ORT events. She has entered projects into ArtPrize in Grand Rapids and takes on portrait commissions. Private clients have included the families of the late Eugene Applebaum and the late Max Fisher.
“When people are sitting for portraits, I talk to them in ways I think will bring out their personalities to be represented on canvas,” the artist says.
Neumann, who works out of a home studio, began painting as a 5-year-old competing for the attention given to a newborn brother. While growing up in Illinois, she studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Although majoring in psychology at the University of Illinois and working in that field with a move to Michigan, she deepened her interest in art after marrying and becoming a mom. Classes at Wayne State University and Lawrence Technological University (LTU), formerly Lawrence Institute of Technology, helped advance her talents.
“The gallery holding this exhibit is part of LTU, and I’ve known Christopher Stefani, the associate director, through a community program,” Neumann says. “We’re thinking about doing two more shows of my work using different media; one involves reclaimed refrigerator doors to express issues related to food, and another focuses on benches holding themes.
“To make the benches, I get old headboards and paint on them. A carpenter adds pool table legs. One headboard I found was very ornate so I used that for the theme of excessiveness and added my own poetic lines:
‘Dreams of power, wine and sex
Become nightmares in excess.’
“Surrounding those words is a painting of Napoleon, who wanted to conquer the world; Bacchus, who drank too much wine; and King Henry VIII, who had too many women. Everything on that bench is gold and glittery to fit in with the theme.”
Neumann refers to her current exhibit with ideas even beyond the World War II setting.
“I hope the reception will start off with a recording of the Lee Greenwood song ‘Proud to Be an American,’” Neumann says. “That’s an important part of what I’m expressing through this exhibit.”
“Military Art” will be on view through Nov. 2 at the Detroit Center for Design + Technology, 4219 Woodward, Detroit. No admission charge. A public reception will begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23. (313) 818-3596; detroit.design.