AMERICAN HISTORY AS ART

BY GLENDA VOSBURGH

Laura Roosevelt’s Historic American Pop collection takes center stage at the Dallas Historical Society.

Roosevelt, the great-granddaughter of President Franklin (FDR) and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, is known for creating abstract mix media through layering techniques and the buildup of different textures. She is now premiering another side of her artistic talent, which is inspired by her passion for history—particularly American history.

Historic American Pop, a collection of works in which she incorporates historical iconic photographs with her textured, abstract backgrounds is being featured in the Hyde Park to Fair Park exhibit, hosted by the Dallas Historical Society. The show runs March 21 through April 14 in the East Room of Dallas Hall of State in Fair Park.

The Dallas Historical Society is launching the Laura Roosevelt Historic American Pop collection with a special fund-raising event the evening of March 21, featuring a discussion with the descendants of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who will share their personal memories of “Grandmére and Pa.”

Taking part will be Anna (Anne) Roosevelt, daughter of James (Jimmy) Roosevelt, the Roosevelt’s first son; Elliott (Tony) Roosevelt Jr., son of second son Elliott Roosevelt; Franklin (Frank) Roosevelt III, son of third son Franklin Jr.; and Nina Roosevelt Gibson, daughter of youngest child John.

Paul Sparrow, director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, will moderate the discussion, which will take place in the Margaret and Al Hill Lecture Hall in the Hall of State at Fair Park.

Laura Roosevelt’s sister, Elizabeth Roosevelt Kelly, and their late aunt, Chandler Roosevelt-Lindsley, chose the quotes that accompany the pieces. Roosevelt-Lindsley penned two books about her famous grandparents, Quotable Franklin and Quotable Eleanor. Many of Eleanor’s quotes were taken from the column she wrote every day but Sunday for 37 years, “My Day.” FDR’s quotes were taken from his speeches and public statements.

“The combination of the photos and abstract paintings reveals a new expression of history and art,” Roosevelt states. “It’s the story the photographs tell that is important. For me, my painting is all about color, line, form and balance, and I love combining old historic photos within my abstract pieces. When you bring them together, they’re fun, joyful and harmonize in a new way!”

On June 12, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Centennial Exposition at Fair Park, where he gave a 30-minute speech in the Cotton Bowl before a crowd of 50,000. He ended the speech, which was broadcast on national network radio, with the words, “I salute the Empire of Texas.” Roosevelt’s Historic American Pop painting Texas Centennial Exposition commemorates that event. It will be placed prominently at the entrance to the exhibit. Four Texas works will be included, as well as paintings featuring photos of Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson with Martin Luther King, and the “Big Three”—Winston Churchill, FDR and Joseph Stalin—taken during World War II.

Roosevelt’s Texas roots run deep. Her father’s mother, Ruth Goggins, was born in Fort Worth in the early 1900s. She married Elliott Roosevelt and lived on a ranch west of Fort Worth in Benbrook, called The Dutch Branch Ranch, where Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt often visited.

Roosevelt’s hope is that observers of her unique show, particularly young people, will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of history by viewing her work. “I’m not an educator,” she says. “I just love history.”


Glenda Vosburgh is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, editor and author. She can be reached at glendavosburgh@gmail.com.