The fortieth anniversary of the death of Ohio artist Emerson Burkhart was marked in December with the publication of a new book about the painter, Emerson Burkhart: An Ohio Painter’s Song of Himself, by Columbus Museum of Art adjunct curator of American folk art Michael Hall. Hall’s book places Burkhart’s life and work in the broader context of twentieth-century American art and may even help reshape how art history is written.
What may be even more important about Emerson Burkhart to us here in Columbus than how his artwork ranks among that by other artists of his day, is the personal legacy he left this city. He got to know many people in town, one of whom was “The Grumpy Gourmet” Doral Chenoweth, who followed him around with a tape recorder for a while back in the 1950s and ’60s capturing the artist’s unbridled opinions. When Burkhart died of an aneurysm in November 1969, Chenoweth set to work transcribing those tapes and from his transcripts created the script for his one-man play I, Emerson Burkhart. I had a chance to record Chenoweth’s own recollections about Burkhart, which you can hear with snippets from Chenoweth’s play in this audio feature.
I know there are many others out there who knew Burkhart personally. Maybe you knew him well, or maybe you just took the opportunity to attend one of the famous open houses at his home on Woodland Avenue. Please write in with your recollections of the painter who called Columbus home.
– Jennifer Hambrick, WOSU Radio