Painting of the Week: Progress? (1967)

Mar 12, 2023 | Articles & Exhibits, Photo

Every week during the exhibit “Aurora’s Own Ruth Van Sickle Ford,” we will feature one of the more than two dozen watercolor and oil paintings on display from March 3-May 13, 2023, at the Pierce Art and History Center. Accompanying the images will be commentary by the world’s foremost Ford expert, her biographer Nancy Smith Hopp, and also art conservator and Aurora Historical Society museum assistant Scott Sherwood. We hope you will be engaged and enlightened by this feature and that you will come to the Pierce Center to see the paintings up close and personal. Exhibit hours are listed below.

Ruth Ford: Progress? (1967)

Ruth Ford loved buildings and painted forth their spirits with great gusto but usually little context. 

That is why the watercolor “Progress?”, created in 1967, stands out as exceptional.  Not only is it a scene from her hometown of Aurora, a place she rarely painted, but it raises a still-unanswered question about the losses suffered during the craze for urban renewal that swept the entire country in the mid-twentieth century.

While she does not answer her own question, “Progress?”, she has instilled a sense of unease.  A great derrick looms out of a troubled sky, dangerously dangling the great maw of a clamshell bucket seemingly over the heads of a family innocently come to see the latest doings downtown.  Only the red automobile, perhaps pointing the way to escape, provides some contrast to the gloom.

This is not an overtly political painting and Mrs. Ford has avoided taking a stand.  But she has used art in a political way that was rare for her. 

Scott Sherwood, Art Conservator and Museum Assistant

This depicts the 1966 demolition of Aurora’s old City Hall on Downer Place. The old Post Office next door had been demolished for parking two years earlier. This painting was originally in the collection of the Old Second National Bank.

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