Kerns, Maude

From Lane Co Oregon

Maude Irvine Kerns

A native Oregonian, Maude Kerns (1876-1965) grew up to become an artist better known outside her home state than within. During her lifetime, her paintings were exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, and Japan.

The famous artist and University of Oregon teacher Maude Kerns may have taught at the Ping Yang School. Maude Kerns became well known for her work in Japanese art and made several trips to Asia. The name of Ping Yang must have fascinated her.

An April 10, 1901 news article states that Maude Kerns was teaching at the old McGowan School, less than a mile from Ping Yang. A following article on April 16 says that "Miss Kerns" is teaching at Ping Yang. Maude Kerns also had a sister, Edith, who was a teacher and it is possible she was the "Miss Kerns" at Ping Yang. However, the news article, which was written by a local person, would probably have used her name to show that it was a different "Miss Kerns". It is also possible that Maude Kerns traveled from one school to the other since they were so close together.

She earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon in 1899 and went to San Francisco to receive a diploma in fine arts from a prestigious arts school. Later she went to New York to study art. Maude Kerns went on to become one of the most dynamic teachers of her time. Today an arts center is named for her. It can be found at this URL [[1]]

It is hard to underestimate the dedication these pioneer teachers had. The job of a teacher was low paying, and tightly controlled by all sorts of social rules. Most contracts forbid the teacher to marry or even date during the school year. Considering that three attempts to destroy the Ping Yang school had already been made it took extraordinary courage to teach anywhere near there.

Establishing schools was often not easy in rural areas. Controversies over taxes and curriculum were prominent then, much as they are now. Events like this happened all over the West. The first attempts to establish a university in Eugene, Oregon failed because someone set fire to the buildings.

Several of her works are today part of the Guggenheim Museum's permanent collection. In Eugene, she spent twenty-five years teaching art at the university.

By 1907, she had two university degrees, formal art training, and professional training in art education. She took a job at a Seattle high school, teaching drawing and sewing. She returned to the UO in 1921, to head the program in Normal Art, or art for teachers. Here she taught drawing, painting and interior decorating, among other courses, until her retirement in 1947, at age seventy. Throughout her career, Kerns painted in several styles, from impressionist landscapes to modern abstract art. In the 1940s, she turned to 'nonobjective art,' which employed symbols rather than realistic objects to express the moods, emotions, or spirituality of the artist. While the Pacific Northwest was not particularly receptive to abstract painting at the time, Kerns still painted as she pleased. "To be afraid of what is different or unfamiliar is to be afraid of life," she said. But she also held herself to a kind of Victorian obligation. Urged by colleagues to move to New York, she chose instead to remain in Eugene, caring for her aging mother. When her brother- in-law, Eugene businessman Frank Chambers died, Kerns moved into the Chambers home to live with her sister, Edith, and used the basement there as a studio. Besides her many gifts and endowments bequeathed to the UO, Kerns gave a house near the university to a local arts group, on the condition that it be named for her. This property was later sold and the Maude Kerns Art Center moved to a former church building at 15th and Villard streets, where it operates today.

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