Conclusion

Contemporary Photos Group 1

A large, neon-pink “peace sign” stood above the stone fireplace in the living room of her modern house. McAuslan had affixed the anti-war symbol above the hearth, enlivened with support for the Vietnam War protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. McAuslan also started working on a whole series of collages in the studio room in which she could vent frustrations. “She’d take old paintings, tear them up, and rearrange them,” Gennie DeWeese recalled, “and they were all very visual.”[1] One of her new creations was an abstract mélange with “the whole world is watching” glued from newsprint words near the upper-right corner, a not-so-subtle reference the phrase that thousands of demonstrators yelled outside the Chicago Convention. McAuslan went on to paint the Kent State shootings almost two years later; and shortly after completing them, on August 26, 1970, she died of a sudden heart attack. Despite her passing, McAuslan’s modern artwork and modern house carry on today as tangible reminders that—in art, architecture, and gender—a common denominator was her rejection of the past for a more liberated future.[2] “To understand the work of any vital contemporary artist, we must look with the inner, not the outer eye,” McAuslan had earlier remarked. “With this vision we may then see that the present day artist is searching for an order and faith in life, and perhaps expresses as an individual that for which the collective human mind is also searching.”[3]

Whole World is Watching

Today’s living-room fireplace where McAuslan’s “peace sign” once hung above the hearth (top-left). Photo by Amanda Hardin. Courtesy of Votive Photography. Helen McAuslan, The Whole World is Watching, 1968. Courtesy of Fine Arts Collection, Museum of the Rockies.

 


NOTES

[1] Gennie DeWeese, “Helen McAuslan,” tape recording of the 24th Montana History Conference Proceedings, 1997, tape 2, OH 1773, MHS Research Center. 

 

[2] Herring, America’s Longest War, 261; Gennie DeWeese, “Helen McAuslan,” tape recording of the 24th Montana History Conference Proceedings, 1997, tape 2, OH 1773, MHS Research Center; Helen McAuslan, The Whole World is Watching, 1968; Fine Arts Collection, Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, MT; “Helen C. McAuslan, obituary,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 27 August 1970. 

 

[3] Helen McAuslan, “The Outer and the Inner Eye,” Montana Institute of the Arts Quarterly 7 (Winter 1955): 5.