Great Hall weavings find new home

by David Lusk


EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER, the monumental weavings by Henry Easterwood that have graced the Great Hall for a number of years, are heading to another location. Those artworks – for some contemplative mid-century masterworks and for others abstract rugs on the wall – filled our narrow and soaring spaces in a dramatic manner. Easterwood’s quartet will soon be installed at the newly renovated Barth House, the Episcopal campus center on the University of Memphis campus.


If you happen to know Ham Smythe, or his children Katie, Ham or Clay – please thank them for the loan of these fantastic weavings. The Smythe family commissioned Easterwood in the mid-1970s to create four large artworks to add beauty, serenity, a sense of humanity, and sound absorption for the large chapel at Memorial Park. On all points EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER exceeded their expectations. When the family sold the business they kept the Easterwood commission and other artworks. Ham Smythe asked me about potentially selling the weavings, and at the end of the conversation, he’d agreed to let Calvary take them on loan for a time.


As for the artist, Henry Easterwood had a remarkable and long career here in Memphis. He was a 1958 graduate of The Memphis Academy of Arts (later Memphis College of Art), and he retired from there after almost 40-years spent training artists. He is one of the rare artist-educators who also had a vibrant and successful studio practice: his works are in many important public collections across the country.


What will go on the walls next, you ask? Let me know if you have four or five 10×6-foot artworks that need a home.