Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

People’s Choice: A Community-Curated Exhibition


This week, we launched our People’s Choice website: This website was created to allow the community to vote on their favorite artworks from a selection of 140 objects in the Gibbes Museum’s permanent collection. The top 40 choices will be included in People’s Choice: A Community-Curated Exhibition, opening at the museum on May 3.

The idea for People’s Choice began when we were discussing plans for the upcoming building renovations. This is the last exhibition of our permanent collection in the Main Gallery before construction begins, and we wanted to engage the public and give the community the chance to select, comment on, and share their favorite works of art. We thought the best way to achieve that goal would be through a community-curated exhibition. As the idea grew, we decided to reach out to a group of noted figures from diverse backgrounds in the Charleston community including Chef Mike Lata, news anchor Carolyn Murray, artist Brian Rutenberg and event planner Tara Guérard. We wanted to spark conversations about the impact of art in the lives of people in the community. Everyone responded with enthusiasm and agreed to answer five questions about art including:

1. Why is art important in your life?
2. What is your first memory of art?
3. What is your most memorable art experience?
4. Who is your favorite artist?
5. Why are museums important to you?

The responses have been overwhelming and inspiring! Carolyn Murray wrote, “Museums are libraries for the senses. I never leave a new city or town without stopping in a museum. It is inside local museums and galleries that you can allow images to tell the story of the community.” And Brian Rutenberg said, “A museum is a love letter to ourselves.” The messages are as diverse and thought-provoking as the art work.

All Featured Voter responses and favorite art works will be presented on the People’s Choice website leading up to the opening of the exhibition on May 3. We hope you will check back regularly to see their comments and news updates on the site. You can also register to receive weekly emails with updates about People’s Choice. The full list of works will be available on March 1, when public voting begins. For any question about this project, see our FAQ page.

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

Image: Aesthetic Pleasure (detail), 1932, by Peggy Bacon. Lithograph on paper. Gibbes Museum of Art, Museum Purchase with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts Living Artist Fund (1977.010.0021).

Society 1858’s Winter Party: Habanero Rhythm!

Habanero Rhythm

How do you capture the essence of something like artist Jonathan Green’s personal art collection and translate it into a party? A collection which Green and partner Richard Weedman have spent the past thirty years curating? A collection that includes works from around the world by artists from Cuba, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and North America? Well, you put together an experience that incorporates the cultural milieux of all the native lands from which the works come. Imagine drummers drumming on the front steps of the museum; vintage autos lining the street; a well-heeled champagne-mojito drinking crowd filtering in to find a Garage Cuban band playing funky beats; a Latin Jazz trio in the groove; and an explosive performance by a West African drum and dance ensemble. You serve traditional cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres inspired from those regions, and create a décor element to complement it all. What am I talking about? Habanero Rhythm, of course.

Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman

Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman at their home. Photo by Julia Lynn.

Okay, I should back up. I am the co-chair for the winter party hosted by the Gibbes Museum’s Society 1858 auxiliary group, and it’s based on the current exhibition VIBRANT VISION: The collection of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman. We’ve named our event Habanero Rhythm and created an experience that we hope speaks to the cultural heritage of many of the artists included in the collection. But it’s more than that. We’ve actually had a chance to meet and get to know Richard and Jonathan, and to go to their home and see their collection. This party is for them and to honor the generous and giving spirit with which they share their love of art with anyone and everyone—we are trying to do them proud!

Luce e Colore pictures

Last February’s party, Luce e Colore, was a sold-out smash success! Photos by Fia Forever Photography.

I don’t want to give away all our little surprises here… just to say the event is going to be awesome. Buy your ticket. Today. I know many of you have (hopefully) been to a Society 1858 event, so you already know the careful thought and planning that goes into them. Each one uniquely based on a current exhibition and the inspiring personality(ies) behind it. With the artists and collectors themselves at each party, these celebrations are a chance to meet and talk to the people in the art world who make it happen. And on top of all the important art-world relevance, they are FUN. See you Friday, February 8th, for Habanero Rhythm!

Margaret Seeley Furniss, co-chair of Society 1858’s Habanero Rhythm, and guest blogger

To purchase tickets to this event, visit

Watch videos of past Society 1858 events: Bitters & Twisted in the Salon d’Orleans and Luce e Colore: La Bella Notte Italiana

Celebrating the Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Addresses Rally, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, by James Karales

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Addresses Rally, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1963, by James Karales (American, 1930–2002). Image © Courtesy of the Estate of James Karales

Today, as we witness the second inauguration of our first African American president, we will also celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It has been thirty years since the federal holiday memorializing the great civil rights leader was first signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. For many people, this holiday means a day of service in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. For others, it is simply a time to reflect upon the significant changes his stalwart leadership helped to bring about during the Civil Rights Movement.

In addition to the annual celebration of King’s birth, 2013 also marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of South Carolina public schools. These landmark anniversaries are cause for both reflection and celebration. This winter at the Gibbes, we are showcasing an important collection of civil rights era photographs by acclaimed photographer James Karales. Engaged as a photo-journalist for Look magazine, Karales witnessed and documented many historic events during the Civil Rights Movement, and, in doing so, generated a remarkable body of work depicting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with his daughter, Yolanda, by James Karales

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with his daughter, Yolanda, 1962, by James Karales (American, 1930–2002). Image © Courtesy of the Estate of James Karales

Karales traveled extensively with Dr. King in 1962 and 1963. He captured King alongside other significant civil rights leaders including Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Rev. C.T. Vivian. Many of the inspiring images depict King in familiar public roles—leading rallies at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) conventions in Birmingham, and preaching sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. However, Karales was one of a handful of photographers allowed to document King at home. These rare images of King in private moments with his family at their Atlanta home are equally compelling. Most notable may be the photograph of King sitting with his daughter, Yolanda, at the kitchen table. Published in the February 12, 1963, issue of Look, the caption described that King was trying to explain to his daughter why she could not attend the city’s segregated amusement park. King’s daughter listens quietly, but the inexplicability of racial intolerance is evident in the exchange between the father and his young daughter, and this poignant moment is still palpable in Karales’ photograph today.

As we celebrate these landmark anniversaries we invite you to the Gibbes to reflect upon the people and events that made them possible. Witness to History: Civil Rights Era Photographs by James Karales will be on view at the Gibbes through May 12, 2013.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Vibrant Vision: The Collection of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman

Fishing Spot, 2011, by Jonathan Green

Fishing Spot, 2011, by Jonathan Green (American, b. 1955), oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches. Courtesy of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman.

People throughout the south are familiar with Jonathan Green’s paintings. He is beloved by many for his vibrant depictions of Gullah life and culture in the Lowcountry. Few, however, are familiar with the incredible collection of artwork assembled by Jonathan and his partner and studio manager, Richard Weedman, over the past 35 years. And what a collection it is. To share this remarkable group of works with the public, the Gibbes has organized the exhibition Vibrant Vision: The Collection of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman, on view in the museum’s Main Gallery through April 21, 2013.

Southern Family Series, 1943, by William H. Johnson (American, 1901–1970), serigraph on paper, 17 x 13 ½ inches, courtesy of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman.

Southern Family Series, 1943, by William H. Johnson (American, 1901–1970), serigraph on paper, 17 x 13 ½ inches, courtesy of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman.

Zoo Again, 1972, by Sam Gilliam (American, b. 1933)

Zoo Again, 1972, by Sam Gilliam (American, b. 1933), oil on raw canvas, 48 x 58 inches. Courtesy of Jonathan Green and Richard Weedman. Photography courtesy Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington DC.

Over the past year and a half, Richard, Jonathan, and I worked collaboratively to select the exhibition from their astounding collection of nearly 1,300 paintings, sculpture, and works on paper. Deciding upon the final group of 49 works was difficult, but also an enjoyable process. The core of Jonathan and Richard’s collection focuses on artwork created under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s and 40s, and era of American art that has always been of great interest to me. The collection also spans beyond the WPA, encompassing works by a broad range of artists who reflect the diverse cultural influences that have shaped American art over the past hundred years.

Society 1858 members at the opening reception.

Society 1858 members Abby Rosenthal, Stacy Huggins, Lindsay Fleege, and Liz Macpherson at the opening reception.

Richard Weedman, Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack, and Jonathan Green.

Richard Weedman, Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack, and Jonathan Green.

Vibrant Vision opened last week with a lovely reception attended by 300 Gibbes supporters. Hearing Richard and Jonathan speak so passionately about the artwork and the exhibition was one of the highlights of the night. And lucky for us, they have agreed to speak several times throughout the run of the exhibition to share their knowledge and passion with others. Special gallery tours are scheduled for Thursdays January 24, February 21, March 14, and April 18 at 2:30pm; and the Art of Healing—a conversation and cocktail reception—will be held at the museum on Thursday, January 31, at 6pm. These programs are an opportunity you won’t want to miss!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Visit our online calendar for more information about the programs listed above.

The Gibbes Museum has produced a mobile website feature with additional information on the WPA and several of the artists included in the Vibrant Vision exhibition. Visit to learn more.

Artist Spotlight: Mark Catesby (1683–1749)

In conjunction with the 300th anniversary of Mark Catesby’s first voyage to the New World, the Gibbes is hosting a special exhibition of Catesby’s prints and two rare bound volumes of his work. This British-born artist, scientist, and explorer, set sail for the American Colonies for the first time in 1712. During his seven year stay, Catesby began studies of the natural world that would occupy the rest of his life. He traveled through parts of the Appalachian Mountains and to Jamaica collecting botanical samples and making sketches of American flora and fauna. His discoveries impressed the scientists of his day and after Catesby returned to England in 1719, London’s Royal Society—then led by Sir Isaac Newton—reviewed his findings and raised funds for Catesby to return to the Colonies for further study.

Catesby made his second voyage to British North America in 1722. This time, his port of arrival was Charleston. This four year sojourn, which allowed Catesby to explore and document the natural habitats of the Carolinas, Florida, and the Bahamas, ultimately resulted in the first major work on New World botanical and animal life, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Catesby personally translated his original watercolor paintings into the 220 engraving plates of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and mammals that illustrate his monumental, two-volume study—a process that took him nearly twenty years. Accompanying the plates, are Catesby’s descriptions of the plants and animals as well as the soils, climate, agriculture, and Native Americans that he observed during his journeys.

Though Catesby considered himself a scientist first and an artist second, his lively depictions of animal and plant life are considered masterful works of art and his meticulous observations served as the foundation for the work of other significant scientists and artists including Carl Linnaeus and John James Audubon.

This special exhibition featuring rarely seen works from both private and public collections will be on view until January 30, 2013.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Memphis Music, the King, and All the Others

Me and Elvis we were cool with the chicks
We had a smooth delivery and we knew how to get our kicks
Me and Elvis never worried ‘bout the cops
He flashed that badge he got from Nixon every time that we got stopped
Me and Elvis used to play pinball all day
And the machines would never tilt, no one ever had to pay
Me and Elvis liked our leather jackets black
And we’d ride up and down the river in a brand new Cadillac
Me and Elvis, Elvis and I…
Human Radio (1990)

Elvis Presley, Chattanooga, 1956, by Alfred Wertheimer (American, b. 1929)

Elvis Presley, Chattanooga, 1956, by Alfred Wertheimer (American, b. 1929), pigment print on watercolor paper, © Alfred Wertheimer

I always say, Memphis music is about one-third of any Memphis boy’s discourse, the other two-thirds being the Civil War and barbecue. Those are not rules of my own creation; it just works out that way.

By the time I was old enough to appreciate the world around me, several huge figures in Memphis music had come and gone, some tragically, others by choice or poor fortune. W. C. Handy, the first person to put Memphis music on the map, died in 1958, five years before I was born. Otis Redding and four of the Bar-Kays were killed in a plane crash in 1967, and Stax Studio, home of the Memphis sound, went bankrupt in 1975. Also, the owner of Graceland was found dead in his upstairs lounge on August 16, 1977. However, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s comment that “There are no second acts in American lives” does not apply to Memphis music. If anything, Memphis is the musical cat that has nine lives, and quite possibly more.

Growing up, we took great music for granted. Even though I can barely read a note of music, the Memphis music experience is such an immersive one that most people who are like me—eclectic listeners, really—recognize Memphis as the center of not one, but several schools of quality sound. Clubs and concerts featured acts coming through the city who wanted to play Memphis just for the sake of playing Memphis. The Sex Pistols played Memphis on January 6, 1978, one of their seven American stops before their breakup.

By the time I was in college, I started hearing the stories and meeting a lot of the people. It seemed like every guy I knew in Memphis said he was a musician; some guys actually were. A lot of us would go drink beer in places where bands played. Even in Memphis there are awful gigs, of course, and I remember two guys I know absolutely murdering a cover of the Eurythmics “Here Comes the Rain Again.” Another night, I remember a metal band in a low rent club crucifying a baby-doll on a drum stand while the band members stripped and danced naked around the scene. Those guys are probably accountants or database administrators now.

I was not impervious to it all, by any means. I learned to run sound a little, I ran laser shows for a while—I titled and co-produced the longest running Elvis laser light show to date back in the 1980s—Elvis: Legacy in Light, a sanctioned event of Elvis International Tribute Week. Later on, I even moved pianos—possibly the heaviest work I’ve ever had outside working for my dad—for a rockabilly piano player named Jason D. Williams, a man who claims to be Jerry Lee Lewis’s illegitimate son.

Through it all, I kept notes and listened, and built up my mental encyclopedia of Memphis music and I saw, I heard, I met, and I read about many, many of those who helped give Memphis the name it has in music. Without ever realizing it was happening, I was taken over by the hometown industry, no different than had I grown up in Hollywood and decided to go into entertainment.

For the past eleven years, I have lived in Washington and researched and written for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. In that time, I have curated and co-curated two Elvis exhibitions, and written thirty articles and co-produced ten short films on the Civil War. I am hoping my next assignment will be to put together a nice work on barbecue.

Warren Perry, writer, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and guest blogger

Warren Perry—author of Echoes of Elvis: The Cultural Legacy of Elvis Presley and co-author of Elvis 1956: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer—will discuss how Elvis’s life, widespread fame, and legend fit into the greater framework of American culture and beyond on Friday, October 12, as part of the Gibbes Museum’s Art & Fame lecture series. The series was organized as a complement to the Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock and Roll Photography exhibition. To purchase lecture tickets, visit our online calendar at

Image, Music, and Memory

I love my job because with each exhibition change, I get to work on something totally different. The past few months were particularly fun as I prepared for our upcoming Main Gallery exhibition Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock and Roll Photography. What could be better than sitting at your desk checking out photographs of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and Kurt Cobain?

Bruce Springsteen, Haddonfield, 1978

Bruce Springsteen, Haddonfield, 1978, by Frank Stefanko (b. 1946). Pigment Print on watercolor paper; 40 x 50 in. (framed). © Frank Stefanko.

It has been interesting to consider the power of these images, and how they connect to personal memory. Many people have stopped in my office over the past few months to glance through the photographs in the exhibition. Nearly everyone has had a strong reaction to at least one of the images, due to an association with a specific memory or time in their life.

A Frank Stefanko photograph of Bruce Springsteen on the cover of The River, 1980.

A Frank Stefanko photograph of Bruce Springsteen is used on the cover of The River, a crucial album in the musician’s career, released in 1980.

For me, Bruce Springsteen’s The River instantly makes me think of my dad. Seeing an image of the album cover in this exhibition immediately transported me to elementary school—probably around age eight or so. I have this vivid mental image of a cassette tape of The River sitting on the center console of my dad’s bright yellow 1975 MG. Nothing made me feel cooler than cruising around my tiny hometown in my dad’s MG with the top down, listening to Bruce Springsteen. I cannot hear The River without thinking of my dad, and I cannot see Frank Stefanko’s photograph of The Boss without hearing The River. The image, music, and memory are inextricably connected in my mind, and always will be.

My sister Angie and my dad in his MG, 1981.

My sister Angie and my dad in his MG, 1981.

So I encourage you to visit the Sound and Vision exhibition and see what memories come flooding back to you. You are sure to see some familiar photographs, and to leave with a tune stuck in your head. It’s a fun exhibition, and we have lots of great programs planned, so be sure to check our website for details. The exhibition opens on September 21—I hope to see you around the galleries!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

My Social Media Summer @GibbesArt

This summer I had the great opportunity to be involved with PR and marketing at the Gibbes Museum of Art. I’ve known for time that my interest in art would lead me to the art management realm. However, up until I started this internship, this was based more on theory than experience. I had no idea what was involved in the promotion, preservation, and upkeep of an art collection and a museum. As a student of art history with no formal studies in management, it is easy to focus solely on the interpretation and understanding of art and somewhat forget about the homes in which these objects are housed. And that is what the Gibbes feels like for the Charleston and Lowcountry area—a home for art that celebrates, preserves, and cultivates an understanding in the artistic identity of the south. The Gibbes’ Beaux-Arts building is a work of art itself, and it was fascinating to learn about the roles of the people who are responsible for the smooth operation of this museum.

Gibbes Museum of Art Twitter page

Gibbes Museum of Art Twitter feed.

During the summer, one of my main duties included managing and creating some of the social outreach efforts—namely on Facebook and Twitter. These sites are excellent tools to get information out to the public in a quick and provocative way. I researched and developed short posts to connect the art or history of the Gibbes to current events or interests. Through this process I have become very familiar with the museum and its collection in a multidimensional way—not only is a post about highlighting information about a work of art or an event, it is also about creating conversations around Charleston’s cultural community, past and present. It’s always great to see responses to these posts and know that there are others out there who find these connections just as intriguing as I do!

B.B. King, Newport, 1968, by Dick Waterman

B.B. King, Newport, 1968, by Dick Waterman (b. 1935), pigment print on watercolor paper, © Dick Waterman.

Another large project that I had this summer was the creation of promotional ideas for social media for the upcoming fall exhibits, Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock and Roll Photography and Willard Hirsch: Charleston’s Sculptor. For Sound and Vision, I researched not only the famous musicians who are featured in the pictures, but also the photographers who captured the unforgettable images of these stars. In many cases, these photographers were partly responsible for the artist’s fame. Dick Waterman (b. 1935)—who photographed Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and B.B. King—also worked to revitalize the blues movement by seeking these artists out, recording them, and becoming a lifelong friend. Other times, photographers were hired for a shoot or two and ultimately captured the iconic photo that immediately comes to mind when thinking of a musician. Who can think of The Doors and Jim Morrison without picturing the black and white image by Joel Brodsky (1939–2007) of Morrison with arms outstretched, staring out at the viewer? Interestingly, some of the photographers describe these as dumb-luck shots, and were surprised by the monumental responses to them.

Though learning about the musicians featured in the photos was interesting, I was more fascinated with the accounts of the photographers. We usually don’t hear the stories from behind the camera when looking at portraiture. Gered Mankowitz (b. 1946), who photographed Jimi Hendrix in 1967, describes the relationship between photographer and musician as one that relies heavily on trust. These photographers were tasked not only with the capturing the likeness of their subjects, but also with conveying a sense of the musician’s personality and persona. I can’t wait to see the photographs in person and I’m sure it will be an incredibly impressive exhibition! Make sure to keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for fun facts about the works of art on view this fall, and the related programs and events. Please join in the conversation!

Alice Van Arsdale, museum relations intern and guest blogger

From the Archives: Artist Sketchbooks

Alice Ravenel Huger Smith sketchbook, ca. 1920s

Cover of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith's sketchbook, ca. 1920s.

An artist’s sketchbook can offer intimate glimpses into his or her creative process. These graphic experiments and doodles reveal interesting aspects of an artist’s training, travels, and sources of inspiration. Currently three artists’ sketchbooks are on view in the Gibbes galleries alongside their finished works including those of Charles Fraser (1782–1860), Prentiss Taylor (1907–1991), and Mary Whyte (b.1953; sketchbook on loan with the exhibition Mary Whyte: Working South). Sketchbooks are as varied as the artists who create them and the Gibbes Archives is fortunate to have a broad selection representing key artists in the permanent collection.

A View of the Church in Saint Andrew's Parish, from untitled sketchbook, 1796–1805, by Charles Fraser (American, 1782–1860)

A View of the Church in Saint Andrew's Parish, from untitled sketchbook, 1796–1805, by Charles Fraser

The Gibbes owns several of Charles Fraser’s sketchbooks. Known primarily for his compelling miniature portraits these sketchbooks—begun when Fraser was just fourteen years old—are mostly comprised of watercolor or pen and ink landscape sketches depicting the plantation homes of friends and family, and rural parish churches.

Joseph Jackson sketchbook, ca. 1847, by Joseph Jackson (American, 1796–1850)

Sketches of sitters, ca. 1847, by Joseph Jackson (American, 1796–1850)

A bound scrapbook, in which miniature painter Joseph Jackson (1796–1850) collected sketches of his sitters, provides important information about Jackson’s working methods. Some sketches appear as the initial sketch in pencil and concentrate primarily on the facial features. Others, on cards and occasionally on ivory, are more fully worked up. Jackson may have used this latter group to entice prospective clients, as he stated in an announcement in the Courier, “. . . he will be happy to exhibit specimens of his painting, to those Ladies and Gentlemen who may favor him with their calls. Miniature likenesses highly finished on ivory of the smallest sizes, suitable for lockets, breast pins, etc.”

Henry Benbridge sketchbook, ca. 1765–1769, by Henry Benbridge (American, 1743–1812)

A page from a sketchbook, ca. 1765–1769, by Henry Benbridge (American, 1743–1812)

The drawings found in Henry Benbridge’s (1743–1812) sketchbook were made between 1765 and 1769 while the artist traveled through Italy. They reveal his interest in antiquity and depict images he took from antique cameos, vases, statuary, and architecture. Meanwhile, Prentiss Taylor’s sketchbook contains numerous pencil drawings he made during his first trip to Charleston in 1933. He later claimed in a letter, “I arrived on the Clyde-Mallory Line Steamer about the end of May 1933… I was lent the Pink House on Chalmers Street & I was able to stay until Labor Day. I spent most of my time sketching, up one side of the street & down the other.” Many of the sketches seen in his book are reflected in his final lithographs.

Magnolia Leaves from an Alice Ravenel Huger Smith sketchbook, ca. 1920s, by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (1876–1958)

Magnolia Leaves from an Alice Ravenel Huger Smith sketchbook, ca. 1920s

Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (1876–1958) kept numerous sketchbooks that she carried on long walks through the countryside to record different topics and locations. She closely studied all aspects of nature from leaves and grasses to birds in flight, and made drawings of each from various perspectives.

Gallery View of Mary Whyte: Working South

A gallery view of Whyte's tools and sketchbooks on display in Mary Whyte: Working South.

For art historians these sketchbooks are a window to an artist’s inspirations and processes. I am personally fascinated by the artist’s notes to themselves that accompany many of the drawings, as well as their steadfast focus on capturing certain elements of a subject through repeated sketching attempts. Sketching is integral to an artist’s development and I love walking through our galleries seeing young artists with their own sketchbooks finding inspiration in the paintings on view. Do you carry a sketchbook or journal to capture ideas or occurrences in your day-to-day life?

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Artist Spotlight: Prentiss Taylor

Experience Meeting, Macedonia A.M.E., 1934, by Prentiss Taylor
Experience Meeting, Macedonia A.M.E., 1934

This summer a small exhibition of works by the fascinating American Scene lithographer, Prentiss Taylor, will be featured in Gallery H at the Gibbes. Born in Washington, D.C., Prentiss Taylor (1907–1991) began his art studies at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, followed by painting classes under Charles Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and training at the Art Students League in New York. In 1931, Taylor joined a lithography class at the League and quickly discovered great satisfaction working in this graphic medium, later recalling, “with the first magic feeling of the crayon on the fine grain of the stone, I knew that I was at home in lithography.”* He produced 142 lithographs over the course of his career.

Carpet Bagger's Grandeur, Sullivan's Island, 1937, by Prentiss Taylor
Carpet Bagger’s Grandeur, Sullivan’s Island, 1937

In addition to his interest in the visual arts, Taylor interacted and collaborated with many writers and musicians. His time in New York during the late 1920s and early 1930s coincided with the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance and Taylor was one of a few white artists active in this literary and artistic movement. Among his close friends and collaborators during this period were photographer and writer Carl Van Vecthen, and poet Langston Hughes.

Charleston Battery, 1934, by Prentiss Taylor   Prentiss Taylor, 1933, by Carl Van Vecthen
Charleston Battery, 1934                                     Prentiss Taylor, 1933, by Carl Van Vecthen

At age twenty, Taylor met Charleston novelist, Josephine Pinckney, at the MacDowell artists’ colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Their ensuing friendship prompted Taylor to visit Charleston in 1933; “I arrived on the Clyde-Mallory Line Steamer about the end of May 1933…I was lent the Pink House on Chalmers Street & I was able to stay until Labor Day. I spent most of my time sketching, up one side of the street & down the other.” Taylor returned to the city in 1934 under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) a predecessor to the Work Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. He executed numerous prints and several watercolors of Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry—some for the PWAP and some for himself. He maintained close ties to the city for the remainder of his life.

This exhibition featuring several of Taylors lithographs and watercolors of Charleston will be on view until September 1, 2012.

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

*Prentiss Taylor to Gwen Davis, June 1, 1981, Artists Files, Prentiss Taylor, Gibbes Museum of Art.

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