Cheri, oil, c. 1980, Loan from a Private Collection

KEARNEY — Ready for a family outing over the holidays? A trip to the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney might be just the thing.

A newly opened exhibit, “Spotlight On: Joyce Ballantyne,” features work from the Norfolk-born and nationally known illustrator, Joyce Ballentyne.

Most known for her iconic 1959 Coppertone advertisement of the little girl and a dog, Ballantyne’s career as an illustrator and artist spanned more than six decades. Born in Norfolk and raised in Omaha, Ballantyne’s artistic endeavors ranged from creating calendar pin-up images and illustrations for Sports Afield magazine for nearly 20 years to painting murals in local theaters.

In 1932, the midst of the Depression Era, Ballantyne’s father, who owned a movie theater, incorporated The Ballantyne Co., leading to family prominence, wealth and continued business name recognition into the 21st century. The company began as manufacturers of sound and air conditioning equipment for movie theaters. After World War II it began providing all the necessary equipment from fryers to food service and hundreds of film developers across the country for drive-in theaters. In 1941, when family friends bought the Empress Theatre in Kearney after a fire, they asked her to paint murals for the building. Agreeing, she spent time on site and painted Indian Encampment and Wagon Train for the newly renovated and re-named Fort Theater.

While enrolled at the University of Omaha, and showing a work ethic tied to making money from her youth, she sold hand-made paper dolls for a dollar a piece. During a brief marriage, she moved to Chicago where she studied commercial art for two years at the American Academy of Art. She joined Kling Studios, which had been founded in 1934 and was one of the most prestigious illustration art firms in the United States. She also painted road maps for Rand McNally and spent 10 years working for the Stevens/Gross Studio.

Ballantyne was influenced and then touted by Chicago illustrator Haddon Sundblom (Coca Cola Santa painter) and the circle around him including Gil Elvgren (noted pin-up illustrator). Elvgren recommended Ballantyne to Brown and Bigelow Calendar Co., based in St. Paul, Minn., who marketed her work, which included a novelty-fold direct mail pin-up brochure and a 12-page “Artist Sketch Pad” calendar.

Described early in her career as a bright young star in illustration art, Ballantyne gained national fame for diverse subjects ranging from pin-up Calendar Girl images to wholesome Ovaltine ads. She was showcased for the quality of her work and for pioneering pin-up art, which as an art form had been dominated by male illustrators. She married Jack Brand, a television executive in 1951 when she was 33.

Success continued including the iconic Coppertone ad, sleeping baby image for Pamper diapers, a series of pin-ups for Shaw-Barton Co., and illustrations in Sports Afield magazine for more than 20 years. Although illustration art brought her the most attention, she later referred to it as “just another baby ad. Kind of boring.”

Of special interest to her was portraiture, something that became a primary interest during her later years. She received commissions from numerous, well-known people including Jonathan Winters, the comedian, and Gen. John Leonard Hines of the United States Army.

Ballentyne passed away in 2006;

“Spotlight On: Joyce Ballantyne” will remain on display through Feb. 16.

Other current exhibits

— “The Lundeen’s: A Divine Collaboration,” through Feb. 2. In 2015, the Lundeen studio was commissioned to create several sculptures for The Cloisters on the Platte, a religious and silent retreat center conceived by philanthropist Joe Ricketts and located on the Nebraska prairie. The bronze figures consist of some of the most complex representations of the Stations of the Cross in the world today. The exhibition showcases the process to create these monumental works ranging from drawings and sketches to maquettes (smaller scale models). In adjacent galleries, works by six of the Lundeen family dynasty of artists complement the Cloisters sculptures: George, Mark, Bets, Cammie Lundeen; Ann LaRose and Joey Bainer.

— “Nebraska Now: David Gracie, A Light That Casts No Shadow,” through Jan. 12. East Coast native David Gracie creates intimate paintings of everyday scenes or objects such as the night sky or tufts of grass in addition to an occasional portrait. These seemingly disparate subjects speak to an overarching theme of the “abstractness of human experience.” Gracie is an associate professor of art at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.

— “ Compelled To Tell: Contrast,” through Jan. 26. During the making process, multiple visual possibilities are resonating in the mind of an artist. Simultaneously, instinct and conscious thought compel the artist. Creating visual contrasts through juxtaposing use of color, shape or texture opposites; scale variation; or dramatic light are an effective way to emphasis meaning and enhance the quality of the viewing experience of an artwork.

— “Threaded,” through Feb. 9. “Threaded” displays the depth and breadth of the quality of Nebraska-related fiber arts spanning more than 100 years and includes quilts, sculptural hangings, wearables, weavings and rugs, among other fiber based artworks. This exhibition is a survey of works selected from the MONA collection as well as those on loan from other artists and collectors. Artists included in this exhibition are Jean Thiessen, Michael James, Sheila Hicks, Judy James, Robert Hillestad and Mary Zicafoose, among others.

— “Optical Chronicle IV,” through April 26. Author Henry M. Sayre in his book “A World of Art,” discusses the various roles of the artist in society. He identifies four roles; the fourth is how artists make functional objects and structure more pleasurable and elevate them or imbue them with meaning. These identified roles provide viewers with a touchstone through which they can then begin to interpret the work. This exhibition is the fourth and last in a series of exhibitions, each dedicated to one of Sayre’s four guiding principles.

The Museum of Nebraska Art, 2401 Central Ave., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; it is closed Mondays and major holidays. There is no admission charge.

The Museum of Nebraska Art celebrates the history of Nebraska’s visual art for diverse audiences. MONA collects, preserves, researches, exhibits and interprets the work of artists who were born, lived, trained or worked in Nebraska or who created artworks that reflect the culture of Nebraska.

For more information, call (308) 865-8559.

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