When I was an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, there were several opportunities during the year to acquire works of art, which I did almost from the beginning of my seven years in Norman in 1963. Senior shows in the art department were one source. From one of those, there is a painting hanging in my front hall by Jamie Barnes that cost me $45, a painting I have enjoyed since about 1965. That’s just over $1 per year, a great payback as far as I’m concerned. To put that in context, minimum wage in the early 60s was a buck twenty-five and a ginormous meal at Moore Burger on the east edge of campus was less than a dollar.
Another more fruitful source for art acquisition was a traveling gallery operated by Ferdinand Roten out of Baltimore. About a week in advance of their arrival, posters announced that Roten would set up tables and bins in the Student Union in a few days, usually for parts of two days—the afternoon of one weekday and the morning of the next. Roten offered very affordable art for the undergraduate budget, most of them prints and the majority of those commissioned by the gallery itself from living artists. The first print I bought from them—by Japanese artist Hodaka Yoshida (1926-1995)—still hangs in my upstairs hall, though it desperately needs reframing. Years later I bought another woodcut print from Roten, this time by Hodaka’s older brother Toshi (1911-1995), who carried on the more traditional themes of their father Hiroshi. Artistic traditions in Japan are frequently familial.
A copy of Toshi Yoshida’s first print, “Raicho” or Japanese snow grouse, printed in 1930, is part of the Community Collection at Agincourt, Iowa. And I’m pleased to tell you that it will be among the fifty-plus works lent to us for the next Agincourt exhibit. My Yoshida came through the retail genius of the Ferdinand Roten Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland. Can we imagine a source for theirs?