Ever been hooked by an idea, person or place? Something that just infinitely fascinates or possibly even obsesses you?
While that pretty well summarizes my love of Indianapolis history, there is an artist who has captivated my attention since 2004: Virginia Keep Clark.
I can’t go without acknowledging the 140th anniversary of  her birthday today. I’ve been retracing in her footsteps since coming across her name on the 1900 census, as the next door neighbor to my long-time former home in Herron-Morton Place. She’s taken me all over the United States and abroad in search of her stories and many connections: New York, California, Maryland, Minnesota and Madrid to name a few. And she’s changed how I look at the world–especially as relates to art.
Strolling through the IMA in Indianapolis or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I find connections to Virginia through her many friends and associations from the art world. One of her closest life-long friends, Lucy Taggart is usually found on one of the walls of our Indianapolis Museum of Art. I haven’t seen this one displayed recently, but love it nonetheless. Incidentally, Lucy’s father, Thomas Taggart was once mayor of Indianapolis and considered the father of Indy’s park system. Without him, there may not have been a Riverside Park, for example.
While not currently on display, the IMA also has a couple of Virginia’s pieces of art. This one is my favorite.
Born in New Orleans in 1878, but raised from age four in Indianapolis, she married a Chicago native and lived in Evanston, Chicago proper, Oyster Bay, Long Island, midtown Manhattan, Mackall, Maryland, New Hampshire, Winter Park, Florida and summers in Nassau–the lady got around.live-dolls-house-party-ASIAN-VERSION
Virginia illustrated a series of children’s books– the “Live Dolls” books– written by Josephine Scribner Gates and published by Indianapolis’ Bobbs-Merrill Company between 1901-1911.
She illustrated and contributed to a few other books, including “decorations” for  An Old Sweetheart of Mine by James Whitcomb Riley and illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy, but primarily she was a portraitist throughout her life. She traveled the Eastern seaboard with some frequency, and made a few trips to Haiti and the Bahamas. “Gin” as friends and family called her, was especially gifted in rendering children.