Sculpture

Feature: Ewing Fahey

 Ewing Fahey & Caren Cunningham in 2014. Photo: Rich Copley/Lexington Herald Leader

Ewing Fahey & Caren Cunningham in 2014. Photo: Rich Copley/Lexington Herald Leader

                   Based on material from Caren Cunningham and Suzanne Mitchell

When does an ongoing reality become a tradition? Enid Yandell’s Daniel Boone Sculpture dates from 1915, meaning the history of noted women sculptors in Louisville is more than 100 years old. Certainly that qualifies as a tradition?

But it takes more than the passage of time, it takes a chain of individuals who, whether aware of it or not, maintain an ideal through a continuous series of actions. For the tradition of women sculptors working in Louisville, the strongest and most vital link in that chain is Ewing Fahey.

Her mother was a pioneer in the field of special needs education, but her father died when Fahey was nine years old. Despite the hardship of the death of three other family members, they travelled to Chautauqua, NY for ten weeks every summer. Fahey grew up attending lectures, concerts, and exhibitions, and Chautauqua has remained a regular summer adventure.

 "Ceremonial Object" by Ewing Fahey, Cow bone & painted wood base, 2011. 

"Ceremonial Object" by Ewing Fahey, Cow bone & painted wood base, 2011. 

Fahey graduated from the University of Louisville in 1942, at the age of nineteen, with a double major in Fine Arts (painting and drawing) and Art History. Her Art History professor was Justus Bier, a recent German emigre, scholar, and expert in contemporary art. He was an important influence on her, encouraging Fahey’s love of art, architecture, travel, and lifelong learning and thinking. 

It was during her senior year that Fahey became the editor of the University’s Cardinal newspaper, the first woman to hold that position. That journalistic experience led to her being hired as the first female reporter for WAVE Radio (television was still a few years in the future). She also taught art, first at the Louisville Girl’s School, and then at a middle school where she worked with approximately 750 students each week. It was 1946, and the classrooms were heated with wood-burning, pot-bellied stoves.

 "The Turrets" by Ewing Fahey, The Highlands Island designed by Suzanne Rademacher, 1990

"The Turrets" by Ewing Fahey, The Highlands Island designed by Suzanne Rademacher, 1990

That same year, Fahey took off for New York City to work as a copywriter for McCalls Pattern Sales and later became an Art Director for Norcross Greeting Cards. When Fahey returned to Louisville, in 1953, it was to become the first female Advertising Manager at Louisville Magazine, and within two years she had become editor. She was still in her early 30’s. 

If Fahey was a trailblazer in breaking the glass ceiling for women in so many positions, was it because of the times, or was she destined to be an iconoclast? Her independence seems confirmed by her decision, on the eve of her marriage, to spend several weeks traveling through Europe by herself in order to see firsthand all of the art and architecture she has studied while in school. There are so many firsts in her history, and she returned to her fine art roots at the age of 56, becoming a sculptor of the most unforgiving materials, learning to carve wood and limestone and working outdoors in all climates.

In 1998, she helped form ENID, a collective of women sculptors named in honor of celebrated Louisville sculptor Enid Yandell (1869-1924), who studied in Paris with Auguste Rodin and Frederich MacMonnies and was only the second female to be inducted into the National Sculpture Society. The group shows about once every two years, and their most recent exhibition was at PYRO Gallery in 2017.

Eighteen members of ENID were featured in that exhibition, including Leticia Bajuyo, Gayle Cerlan, Caren Cunningham, Jeanne Dueber, Linda Erzinger, Ewing Fahey, Sarah Frederick, Fran Kratzok, Valerie Sullivan Fuchs, Mary Dennis Kannapell, Paula Keppie, Shawn Marshall, Suzanne Mitchell, Joyce Ogden, Jacque Parsley, Emily Schuhmann, Gloria Wachtel, and Melinda Walters.

 "Ancient Reliquary" by Ewing-Fahey, Gilded cattle bones and glass, 2011

"Ancient Reliquary" by Ewing-Fahey, Gilded cattle bones and glass, 2011

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website, www.Arts-Louisville.com, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.

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