Bernique Longley

Bernique Mae Wilderson Longley (1923–1999) was born in Moline, Illinois, to Ellie James and Effie (Coens) Wilderson but grew up in Chicago [1]. Longley attended the Art Institute of Chicago on scholarship for four years, and after another four, she received a Bryan Lathrop Foreign Travel Scholarship in 1945. Further studies ensued in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Santa Fe, New Mexico [2].

Throughout her life, she traveled to Africa, Europe, the United States, Mexico, and Central America. These extensive travels provided inspiration for her art. Longley worked in many different media from mixed, mosaic, stained glass, murals, easel painting in oils and acrylic, graphic art, and printmaking [3]. The subject matter was equally varied, including still lifes, landscapes, street scapes, Native Americans, portraiture, and architecture. The heroic sized figures are reminiscent of Diego Rivera’s art and a touch of surrealism, with the stillness of Ancient Greek sculpture.   

 

With almost 60 exhibitions in her oeuvre, her work resides in the permanent collections of the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the New Mexico Museum of Art, along with her papers [4]. In 1982, she was selected “Artist of the Year,” published in the Santa Fean Magazine. She was referenced in many publications including Southwest Art. In 1993 [5].

Mike Adams wrote on February 23, 2011, “I’ve spent time in the past with Bernique—she was a fabulous, sophisticated person. I have a wonderful large painting—titled Fiesta de Mayo (1977) by Bernique—in fact Jim, her husband, brought it to Denver for me. Her paintings have graced the walls of Greer Garson Spring, Byington (her mother’s friend) Meadows Building in Dallas, Texas. I miss her a lot—she was a brilliant artist. She started out painting Victorian houses like San Fransico.” [6].

Laura Gilpin was a neighbor of Longley. Margaret Lefranc daily visited Gilpin, and the three were friends, while Lefranc and Longley were in several exhibitions together. Longley and her daughter attended Lefranc’s memorial. Sandra Mckenzie made a visit to Longley to reminisce after Lefranc’s passing [7].

She married three times and had one daughter with her first husband, William de Mars Longley, who was also an artist. At age 75, she died of lung cancer in Santa Fe. The funeral program contained a photograph by Laura Gilpin, and Stuart Ashman was one of the speakers. 

[1] http://nmartmuseum.org/assets/files/Finding%20Aids/Bernique-Longley-Collection.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.askart.com/artist/Bernique_Bernice_Mae_Wilderson_Longley/100612/Bernique_Bernice_Mae_Wilderson_Longley.aspx

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. Mistakes in text not fixed.

[7] Courtesy of Sandra McKenzie and personal correspondence.