Archive for the 'Artist Spotlight' Category

1858 Prize Finalist Damian Stamer

1858 Prize Short List of Finalists

1858 Prize Short List of Finalists

On June 23, the Gibbes Museum of Art and Society 1858 announced the 2014 Short List of finalists for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. The 1858 Prize, awarded annually with a cash prize of $10,000, acknowledges an artist whose work demonstrates the highest level of artistic achievement in any media, while contributing to a new understanding of art in the South. Over 250 artists from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia submitted applications during this time period.

The seven artists selected for the 2014 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art short list are Jim Arendt, Sonya Clark, Andre Leon Gray, Jackson Martin, Jason Mitcham, Damian Stamer, and Stacy Lynn Waddell. We will profile the seven finalists in a series of blog posts to give readers an in-depth look into each finalist’s training, creative process, and inspiration. This week’s  blog post is written by UVA collections/curatorial intern, Bridget Bailey.

A native of Durham, North Carolina and current resident of Chapel Hill, painter Damian Stamer is transfixed with the antiquated southern landscape. After receiving his BFA from the University of Arizona, Stamer earned his MFA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He paints “places that would rather be left alone”:  barns, sheds, abandoned houses, and other vernacular structures of the rural south in a style that creates a tension between realism and abstraction. In these works he creates a sensation of both being visible and disappearing.

Stamer’s recent paintings are primarily black and white—placing them in dialogue with black and white photography—especially images of the south, (i.e. Walker Evans,) as well as printmaking. The artist’s decision to paint, as opposed to working in other media, seems necessary, delineated by the scenes he depicts, as he calls his brush “a fitting tool to translate secrets from a bygone era, too thick and murky to capture with ones and zeros.” Through varying his mark-making and textures, he creates moments of both richness and atmosphere, heavy with the history and stories of a place, which, Stamer says, he feels obligated to capture and bring into the foreign walls of the gallery.

Rummage by Damian Stamer

Rummage by Damian Stamer

His canvases are often big, sometimes multi-paneled or non-rectangular, allowing the viewer to enter into the space of his paintings with the afternoon light, (i.e. figure 1: “Rummage,” 2014.) The tires in “Patrick Rd. 8” (figure 2) evoke Allan Kaprow’s “Yard,” though the action in Stamer’s work is not just in the repeated circles of the tires but in the white tornado-like vortex that seems to dance across the undefined space. In some paintings, the barns are blatantly disappearing, records of their transience as marks upon the landscape, (figure 3: “New Sharon Church Rd.,” 2012.)

Patrick Rd 8 by Damian Stamer

Patrick Rd 8 by Damian Stamer

The space of Stamer’s paintings is haunting, as he subtly animates what has been abandoned and will soon be gone, pointing to the beauty of impermanence, the mortality of people and things and the tangible feeling of a place steeped in memory.

New Sharon Church Rd by Damian Stamer

New Sharon Church Rd by Damian Stamer

The 1858 Prize and One Artist’s Perspective

The Fireflies by John Westmark

The Fireflies by John Westmark

The 1858 Prize for Contemporary Art, formally the Factor Prize, is a beacon of light in what can feel like the dark shoals of the philanthropic art world. In 2012, I was fortunate to win the prize and reap the rewards of a cash infusion into my studio practice. The money was great while it lasted, but far greater was the shot of adrenaline to an immeasurable nod of validation.

Over the years, I’ve discussed the legitimacy of art awards in general, and the 1858 Prize in particular, with many colleagues and other artists who have asked my opinion. While I can’t speak to the legitimacy of all the myriad organizations that promote awards for artists, I can say without reservation that the 1858 Prize is the real thing in an era where “the real thing” is a complicated definition. The charge of the 1858 Prize is simple enough: to recognize and help artists who work in, or are from, the American South; and whose work contributes to a new understanding of the South. Two very important aspects of the prize are: one, the artist’s work does not need to reference the South or Southern subjects explicitly; and secondly, the prize is open to any media. All too often, calls to artists are grouped in rigid categories by medium, effectively fragmenting or disallowing outstanding work that bridges multiple disciplines. This is a pluralist time for artists, where material boundaries no longer matter. What the good people at the 1858 Prize are saying is that they are not only open to any form of expression – they are actively seeking it out.

The diverse mix of individuals and invested parties that make the arts an unrivaled ecosystem of expression benefit greatly from arbiters like the Gibbes Museum of Art and the 1858 Prize. So, if you’re an artist from the American South, I urge you to apply to this opportunity; if you’re a patron of the arts, I urge you to get involved with this organization; and if you’re a fan of the arts, I urge you to follow and revel in the discoveries of this organization.

John Westmark, artist and guest blogger

 

John Westmark and family

2012 Prize winner John Westmark with his family at the opening reception of his solo exhibition

John Westmark’s work is currently on exhibit at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Westmark’s work is exhibited widely and is held in collection worldwide. He holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the University of Florida. In 2012, he received the Factor Prize for Southern Art, awarded by the Gibbes Museum. Westmark lives and works in Gainesville, Florida, with his wife and two daughters – the true inspiration behind his work.

The Gibbes Museum of Art and Society 1858 have announced the 2014 Short List of finalists
for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art.

1858 Prize Short List of Finalists

The seven artists selected are Jim Arendt, Sonya Clark, Andre Leon Gray, Jackson Martin, Jason Mitcham, Damian Stamer, and Stacy Lynn Waddell. The artists were selected by a distinguished panel of judges including Charles Ailstock, Society 1858 Board Member; Jamieson Clair, Society 1858 Board Member; Jennifer Dasal, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art; Marilyn Laufer, Director of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University; Frank McCauley, Assistant Director and Curator of the Sumter County Gallery of Art; Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art; and John Westmark, artist and 2012 Prize winner.

The winner of the 1858 Prize will be announced on September 18 during an event hosted by Society 1858 and the Gibbes Museum of Art. Artists may submit applications for the 2015 1858 Prize January 1, 2015.

 

 

Black and White Film: Photography of the Future

Douglas Carr Cunningham

Photographer and teacher, Douglas Carr Cunningham

Like most artists, Douglas Carr Cunningham has held a variety of jobs including photojournalist, camera salesman, and adjunct professor. As a former U. S. Navy photojournalist, Cunningham has an extensive archive of images, “enough to last me a lifetime,” he laughs.

In 1999 Cunningham was one of the first local photographers to embrace the then-new digital photo technology, but he believes black and white film photography stands the test of time as an archival photo medium and even calls it “the photography of the future.”

Cunningham’s teaching career began years ago when local photographer Jack Alterman invited him to teach at the Center for Photography. Today, he enjoys watching the lightbulb go off in his students eyes. In preparation for the upcoming workshop Old Time Photography on May 17 that will include a tour of the exhibition Beyond the Darkroom, Photography in the 21st Century and a demonstration at Redux Studios, I spoke with Cunningham about his work. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

“Photography is always evolving and digital has blurred the lines between the general public and professionals,” he explained. “The problem with digital is storing information. Digital is virtual and technology is always changing so the question is, will you have to re-save your archives to a new medium every few years?”

Captain Percival Drayton

From 1855, this image is an example of one of the earliest photographs from our permanent collection, Captain Percival Drayton, by Jeremiah Gurney

Photography was introduced in 1839, when Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre shared the first successful photographic process, dubbed the daguerreotype. A daguerreotype is a direct-positive process, meaning there is no intervening negative used to print the image. To create a daguerreotype a plate of copper is coated in silver, polished, sensitized with iodine vapors, and exposed in a camera. The image is then developed in mercury fumes and stabilized (or fixed) with a salt water solution. The plate is then put under glass and housed in a case.

Photography has continued to evolve and according to Cunningham, the invention of digital has resulted in a loss of ‘pre-visualization,’ a technique used by film photographers for ages. “Today I still shoot film right along with my digital precisely to enlighten my students and because if it’s done correctly, it’ll still be around for years to come.” Cunningham explains that a really good photographer will learn to use both because a photographer needs to have the foundation and the tradition to go forward.

“With pre-visualization you imagine what the shoot is going to look like and then you use technology to make it happen. It’s about the creative process of thinking it through.”

Cunningham’s favorite exercise is to ask his students to pretend their camera shoots only 24 images. “Look at the subject through the viewfinder and don’t look at your screen until you get home. Photographers call the act of looking at your LCD screen the second after you take a shot ‘Chimping’ or as Cunningham says: ‘monkey do, monkey see.’ Not the other way around. We take the photo, then we must look at the result. This is something we all do, and the downside of this habit is that it can interrupt your creative process and ‘chimping’ doesn’t allow for pre-visualization. This exercise breaks students of the chimping habit and Cunningham says they enjoy contemplative time in the darkroom and are inspired by this ‘old fashioned’ creative process. He insists that contrary to what we might assume, “Black and white film is the photography of the future because it’s permanent.”

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad by Stephen Marc

On Saturday, May 17th, Cunningham will lead a private tour of Beyond the Darkroom: Photography in the 21st Century, a collection of images from the Gibbes’ permanent collection. This exhibition examines the evolution of photography through a variety of works acquired over the past ten years for the museum’s permanent collection. Ranging from the text and photo-based works of Carrie Mae Weems to the digital montages of Stephen Marc, this exhibition showcases the great innovation in photography today.

Amy Mercer, Gibbes Museum Marketing and Communications Manager

Join Cunningham for a tour of Beyond the Darkroom, and a demonstration of the time honored art of black and white film at Redux Contemporary Art Center.

$40 for Museum, CCforP, and Redux Members, $45 Non-Members (box lunch included, transportation not included).

To purchase tickets please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21

Prize Winners

As submissions pour in for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art (formerly named the Factor Prize), I’ve been thinking about the individual artists from across the southeast who are submitting their work for review. Before I came on board as the marketing manager of the Gibbes Museum, I worked from home as a freelance writer and in that role I frequently submitted my work to various writing prizes. It was hard at first, getting my hopes up and being let down, but eventually the submission process became easier and I won a small prize from a publication in my home-state of Vermont. Winning was thrilling, and even though I had been writing since childhood, the prize made me feel like a “real writer.” Winning gave me the confidence to go to graduate school to earn my MFA, and I can even credit that small prize with the publication of my first book. The experience gave me the recognition and confidence to continue to pursue my writing.

Now that I am working on the other side of a prize, I’ve been curious to know whether my experience was unique or universal. I wanted to know if winning the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art affected the five artists in a similar manner. Did the prize give these artists the confidence to dig deeper in their careers? Did wining the prize help them define themselves as “real artists”? Seeking answers to these questions, I reached out to past winners to ask them to share how winning the prize has affected their career. Below you will read the answers.

Jeff Whetstone is the 2008 winner and says,

“Winning the Factor Prize in 2008 opened several new possibilities in my career. I was able to expand my approach to portraying and describing the Southern landscape and its people by moving into new mediums. I produced two short films with support of the Factor Prize that were shown at the Moving Image Art Fair and at a solo exhibition in New York. Without the funding and the broader support of the Gibbes Museum this work would have never been a reality.”

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad, by Stephen Marc.

The 2009 winner, Stephen Marc, shared,

“Two of the most significant and memorable events in my life happened in the South. The first was in 1976, while running track for Pomona College when the NAIA (National Athletic Intercollegiate Association) national championship meet was held at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR. I became an NAIA All American, placing 2nd in the 110 meter High Hurdles. The second event was receiving this prize.”

Tobacco Blues by Radcliffe Bailey

Tobacco Blues by Radcliffe Bailey, 2010 Winner.

Radcliffe Bailey is the 2010 winner and a frequent traveler who is difficult to pin down! Bailey’s work has gained recognition in the last two years and he is best known for his mixed media works and site-specific installations that explore his personal background and the history of African Americans. Bailey’s work is included in the collections of many prestigious organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Patrick Dougherty won the Prize in 2011. He replied,

“After 30 years of working day-in and day-out as a sculptor, I was delighted to receive the call with the news that I had been selected for the 2011 Factor Prize. I was working on a new sapling sculpture in Dayton, Ohio, when the call came and I nearly fell off the scaffolding in surprise. (…) This journey has allowed me access to a variety of organizations, an ever-changing public, and a portal to the world of ideas. Thank you for the Factor Prize and all the opportunities that it will bring.”

For John Westmark, winning the Prize was a real boost on many levels. Receiving critical acclaim has helped validate his work and has served as great personal motivation to continue pursuing his art with passion. Westmark explains, “Without opportunities and acknowledgements such as the Factor Prize, an artist runs the risk of toiling away in relative obscurity.”

John Westmark and family

2012 Prize winner John Westmark with his family at the opening reception of his solo exhibition, Narratives, at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Westmark’s success has come full circle and on April 4, 2014, we opened a solo exhibition of his latest work titled John Westmark: Narratives. This is the first time his work is being exhibited in a museum setting and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. In Southern Glossary, Brad Rhines writes “Some of the most evocative paintings from this series show women on the attack, often organized in battle formations and carrying rifles or flags. The scenes are reminiscent of images from the Civil War or the American Revolution, iconic depictions of revolt. The painting Exaltation riffs on the theme of women at war, but the moment captured is more stylized.” In an article entitled “Painting feminism: Before Gibbes Museum starts renovations, a dynamic exhibit of works by John Westmark” the Post & Courier Arts Writer Adam Parker writes, “The judges were especially impressed with Westmark’s emphasis on narrative, which is in line with Southern storytelling, according to museum director Angela Mack.”

Winning the Prize has brought attention to these five artists’ work, which is exactly the point. The $10,000 cash award helps support an artist’s career, but the recognition is likely more important. I was not surprised to discover in my research that winning a prize is equally significant for writers and artists alike!

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

Submissions for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art are being accepted through May 28, 2014. To submit a portfolio for consideration, please visit 1858Prize.org.

Pastel – Expressive and Brilliant

No Agenda by Tammy Papa

No Agenda by Tammy Papa, the painting that was accepted into the Appalachain National Pastel Society 2012 Show.

“What is Pastel?”

I am asked this question a lot.

People think of soft, light colors when they hear the word pastel.

I like to explain that the origin of the word pastel comes from the French word pastische, via the Italian word pastello, meaning paste.  As pastels are made, powdered pigment is combined with water and binder, which turns into a paste. The paste is then rolled out into sticks and dried. The softer the pastel, the more pigment it has and the less binder. Pastels are made from the same pigment used in other mediums such as oil, watercolor, and acrylic, but the pigment is held together with a light glue or binder called methylcellulose.

Many people confuse soft pastels with oil pastels. Instead of the light glue, oil pastels are made with beeswax, pigment, and other chemicals and have a waxy, crayon-like character.  Soft pastels and oil pastels are not the same and cannot be combined.

Whenever I do a pastel demonstration, I often get the question, “Is that chalk?”  I say, “Well, it may look like chalk, but it isn’t. Chalk is made of limestone and dye. Pastels are almost pure pigment.”

pastels

A colorful array of soft pastel (not chalk) in an artist’s tool box

This is one of the reasons people love pastels . . . the pure, brilliant colors. In fact, under the microscope a particle of pastel pigment has facets like a diamond. They have light-scattering properties and practically shimmer!

Another question people frequently ask is “Do you teach art lessons?” The answer is “Yes!” Teaching art started organically for me. As it turns out, I love to share information. I studied Studio Art at the University of South Carolina and worked as an Art Director for Rawle Murdy for years before dedicating myself to painting full time in 1996. During art shows and gallery openings, I found myself sharing more and more information with anyone and everyone that asked. My friends encouraged me to start an art class. So, I started doing demonstrations and workshops, and my classes grew. I have taught many classes locally and internationally including in Charleston, the Southeast, and in Spain.

Since art is my passion, I am gratified to share my knowledge and help people explore their authentic ‘art spirit’ and voice. I feel each person has their own artistic voice, just like everyone has their own handwriting. And each of us in the arts has an art spirit. I think teachers can squash a student’s art spirit pretty easily if they are overly critical too soon. It takes a lot of bravery to even go to an art class. I don’t want to teach people to paint like me. I want them to paint as themselves, their expression. One of my favorite books is the Art Spirit by Robert Henri—my approach comes from his amazing teachings. So many people say, “Oh, I can’t even draw a stick figure.” I always say, “You are probably more creative than you know. Anyone can learn to draw!” In short, I love to learn and I love to share what I have learned.

As an artist and a teacher, I continue to seek new information and inspiration. One of the most inspiring events for me was the Pastel Society of America’s 2013 National Show – Enduring Brilliance. From over 1,000 pastels entered, the judges chose 175. I was over the moon to be included in this competitive show. The show is held each year at the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park in New York City, and judged by master pastelists. It is a diverse and exciting show featuring a wide range of styles from highly representational to abstract.

Tammy Papa in New York

Tammy Papa at the National Arts Club in New York. The artist’s pastel painting, “Morning Mist on the Edisto” (above) was included in the Pastel Society of America’s 41st Annual Open Juried Exhibition in 2013.

My daughter, sister, and niece accompanied me to New York to see the show. We had a girls’ weekend, attending the reception and basking in the excitement. As I was entering the beautiful and sumptuous Grand Gallery of the National Arts Club, I could barely contain myself. The pieces were inspiring, diverse, and moving. Master pastelist Richard McKinley, PSA, gave a critique during the reception, which was a class in art appreciation itself. I oohed and aahed over the amazing works of art AND all the pastels supplies for sale—an artist can never have too many pastels! I returned to Charleston with renewed energy and perspective to share with my students.

I am very proud to be affiliated with and teach for the Gibbes Museum. Through the classes at the Hazel Parker Community Center, I am able to give back to the community and share my passion for art and the pastel medium. I have been fortunate to have amazing teachers. It is my hope to pass it on.

I am currently represented by Sandpiper Gallery on Sullivan’s Island and Edward Dare Gallery on Broad Street in downtown Charleston, SC. Please visit www.tammypapa.com to see additional examples of my work. And I hope you will sign up for a class at the Gibbes!

Tammy Papa, Artist, Teacher, and Guest Blogger

Make Your Own Wave: Japanese Woodblock Printmaking with Kate MacNeil

Distinction, by Kate MacNeil

Distinction, 2013, by Kate MacNeil

 

Woodblock printmaking is an ancient art that was used as early as the eighth century in Japan to reproduce written texts. As technology evolved, printmakers were able to work with a range of colors to create romantic landscapes and historical events. On January 17th, we opened The Great Wave: Japonisme in Charleston that features a variety of woodblock prints from the museum’s permanent collection. We always work to include interesting programs and events that relate to our exhibitions, and this weekend we are partnering with Redux Contemporary Art Center to host Make Your own Wave: Curator-led Tour and Woodblock Printmaking Demonstration. Sara Arnold, Gibbes Curator of Collections, will lead a private tour of the exhibition, and later guests will travel to Redux for a printmaking demonstration by local artist Kate MacNeil. Kate was gracious enough to take some time to speak with me about her work and creative process.
 

Kate MacNeil in her studio

Kate MacNeil in her studio.

Q. You studied printmaking at the College of Charleston. What drew you to that medium?

There’s a bit of a printmaking history in my family. My mother studied printmaking at the College of Charleston back in the day, and my aunt and uncle operate Abaca Press in Buffalo, NY. So it’s definitely something I grew up with. Beyond that, it’s an incredibly complex medium with a wide range of techniques available to interpret my imagery. I love the versatility that it offers and the dedication to process it requires.

Q. Tell me about your process.

For me, I start by building an image in my sketchbook, and from there I determine how I want to interpret it. Recently, I’ve been working a lot with intaglio, which gives me the opportunity to create some really detailed line work. It changes from image to image, though. The important thing for me is to constantly keep making images, whether drawing, printing or painting, good or bad, in the hopes of finding something real. It’s all research.

Q. Tell me about the current relevance of printmaking in today’s artistic community.

Printmaking is everywhere. Whether it’s a screen-printed poster, or a letterpress wedding invitation, or a lithographed nautical map. I think people are surprised when they realize how vast and prominent of a medium printmaking is. It’s an integral part of human history and I think it’s only natural that it continues to play a part in the art world. New techniques are constantly being invented and it gives artists a wide range to interpret their work.

 

The Ink Jar, by Kate MacNeil

The Ink Jar, 2013, by Kate MacNeil

 

Q. Are you inspired by the Japanese prints or have you studied them previously? In looking at the prints in the museum’s permanent collection, how (if at all) do they speak to your own work?

I have had a few opportunities to view of some of the Japanese woodblock prints in the Gibbes’ collection. They are simply breathtaking, especially when you realize how much work and expertise was put into each and every print. I was inspired to take a workshop this past summer on Japanese woodblock printing, and I’m eager to continue working within that medium (Though I doubt I will ever be considered a Master Carver/Printer!).

 

Bats and Moon, n. d. By Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849) Woodblock on paper Image courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art/ Carolina Art Association

Bats and Moon, n. d., by Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849)

 

Q. What will this workshop involve?

I think Make Your Own Wave will give people a great deal of insight on the Japanese woodblock prints. They play an interesting part in world history, starting in Japan and moving to Europe to inspire many Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists. For my part, I will be demonstrating how these prints would have been created, and giving participants a chance to make their own print. I really think people will walk away with a greater appreciation of the Japanese woodblock print and hopefully printmaking in general.

Thanks Kate for your time! We will continue to explore the Japanese culture with a cooking demonstration at Southern Season in Mt. Pleasant on February 15 at 5pm. For more information please visit our calendar at gibbesmuseum.org/events.

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

Curatorial Perspective: Charles Burchfield and Edward Hopper

Friends and colleagues, Charles Burchfield and Edward Hopper are considered two of the most significant American watercolor painters of the twentieth century. They were also among the many American painters and printmakers who visited South Carolina in the early decades of the century. During the months of October, November, and December we are pleased to display paintings by these two American masters side-by-side.

Gateway to Mule Stables [Camp Jackson, South Carolina], by Charles Burchfield (American, 1893–1967)

Gateway to Mule Stables [Camp Jackson, South Carolina], 1918, by Charles Burchfield (American, 1893–1967)

During World War I, Burchfield was stationed at Camp Jackson, South Carolina, from July 1918 until January 1919. It is estimated that he created as many as sixty watercolors while in residence at the camp. Most of these pictures were created in the form of sketches, done rapidly on weekend excursions, in the evenings, and even during lunch breaks. This past June, the Gibbes acquired one of Burchfield’s South Carolina watercolors for its permanent collection, Gateway to Mule Stables [Camp Jackson, South Carolina]. This purchase was made possible with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Van and Susan Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Jeannie Dolson, Mrs. Katy Huger, Dr. and Mrs. Anton and Caroline Vreede, Mrs. Prudence Yost.

Charleston Slum, 1929 Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967)

Charleston Slum, 1929, Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967)

Edward Hopper (1882–1967) and his wife, Josephine “Jo” Nivison Hopper (1883–1968), came to Charleston for a brief visit in April 1929. During their three-week stay, Hopper produced at least twelve watercolors of Charleston, including Charleston Slum, which is on temporary loan to the Gibbes from a private collection.

Both Hopper and Burchfield chose watercolor as their primary medium, and both thrived on picturing everyday subjects. In an age of growing nationalism, American art and American subject matter was gaining recognition. In 1928 Hopper wrote an essay on Burchfield that was published in the July issue of Arts magazine. He declared, “The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best.” In turn Burchfield wrote of Hopper, “Edward Hopper is an American… It is my conviction that the bridge to international appreciation is the national bias, providing of course, it is subconscious. [For] An artist to gain a world audience must he belong to his own peculiar time and place.”

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Artist Spotlight: George Biddle (1885–1973)

This summer the spotlight is on Philadelphia native, George Biddle (1885–1973). Biddle spent most of his childhood in New England. He went to the Groton School, where President Franklin Roosevelt was a classmate, and received both his undergraduate and law degree from Harvard. In 1911, upon graduating law school and passing the Pennsylvania Bar exam, Biddle left a career in law behind setting off for Paris, France, to study art at the Académie Julian. Over the next five years, Biddle also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, learned printmaking in Madrid, Spain, and spent summers in Giverny, France, to study Impressionism. After serving in World War I, he traveled extensively, going to Tahiti, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the West Indies, and France.

The Battery, Evening, 1931, by George Biddle

The Battery, Evening, 1931, by George Biddle

In 1928, Biddle traveled to Mexico with muralist Diego Rivera. He spent six months with Rivera, learning the techniques of mural painting and soaking up the social and political ideas embodied within the art of the state supported Mexican School. In 1933, Biddle wrote a letter to President Roosevelt, his boyhood friend, campaigning for a government funded arts program to use as a platform for “expressing in living monuments the social ideals [President Roosevelt] was struggling to express.” The letter was acted on almost immediately and by year’s end the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was established—the predecessor of the Federal Arts Project (FAP).

The Crowd, Folly Beach, 1930 By George Biddle

The Crowd, Folly Beach, 1930 By George Biddle

Biddle spent May and June of 1930 in Charleston, South Carolina, sketching a series of illustrations for George and Ira Gershwin, who were then developing the opera Porgy and Bess based on the 1925 novel Porgy, written by Charleston native Dubose Heyward. While Biddle was in town, Heyward encouraged him to explore downtown Charleston and the piers of Folly Beach. During those two months, Biddle created works reflecting the spirit and customs of everyday life and developed a large folio of drawings and watercolors recording the social and cultural landscapes of Charleston.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Works by George Biddle are on view at the Gibbes Museum through September 29, 2013, in the H Gallery.

Andreas Karales’ Memories of his Father, James

How does a photograph stand the test of time? What makes it different than one taken at the same moment and place?

Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965

Flag-Bearing Marchers, Selma to Montgomery March, 1965, by James Karales

“Get Right with God” Sign on Highway 80, Selma to Montgomery March, 1965, by James Karales

“Get Right with God” Sign on Highway 80, Selma to Montgomery March, 1965, by James Karales

Many people have told me that the photographs by my father, James Karales, are iconic, beautifully printed, great works of art and I agree with them. What makes them what they are is still a bit of a mystery to me. I was too young to be around my father when he took his most important photographs and I never asked him much about his work or talents before he passed away when I was 21 years old. Before I came down to Charleston to attend the opening night of the exhibition of his work my mom asked me to say a few words to the audience. I thought of what it means to be a photographer and what it takes to make a great photograph. The analogy I came up with was that a photographer is like a fisherman. He must have patience, talent with the tools he uses, and must be in the right place at the right time to make that great catch. That is how I view my father, a man of great talent with the camera and print making equipment, who had this calm demeanor and patience, and who worked in a period of time in our nation which was full of meaningful, interesting, and historical moments.

Selma to Montgomery March, 1965, by James Karales

Selma to Montgomery March, 1965, by James Karales

I am assured of my idea with a story that he told many times of his iconic picture of the Selma March, in which he described trying to find an image that would symbolize the meaning and feeling of the march. He struggled over the course of the five-day march, making countless attempts to produce something that he felt worthy of his goal. On the last day a storm swept in and he knew that this was his moment. He rushed to get to the right spot to frame both events as they happened. He was fortunate to get the shot as the storm moved on quickly. It so happens, another photographer was trailing him and attempted the same shot, but did not get the same effect. The menacing clouds and synchronized stride of the marchers happened in one short moment and is what makes this photograph so special. It was one of my father’s greatest catches and was the result of his great patience.

Andreas Karales and his father, James

Andreas Karales and his father, James, in Nantucket, MA, 1988.

My father would be honored that the Selma March photograph and his other works are on display in Witness to History: Civil Rights Era Photographs at the Gibbes Museum.

Andreas Karales, Architectural Designer, NYC, and guest blogger

Monica and Andreas Karales celebrate the opening of Witness to History at the Gibbes Museum.

Monica and Andreas Karales celebrate the opening of Witness to History at the Gibbes Museum.

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

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