Archive for September, 2010

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Four: There was a Little Girl…

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882)

Let your inner-child come out and suggest a caption for this interesting juxtaposition.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective
In portraiture, the relationship between painter and subject can dramatically alter the feel of the painting. Consequently, painting a live model versus painting from a recreated image generates a different pictorial awareness. Charleston artist and writer Mary Whyte says of painting from life, “Everything an artist creates is done in a solitary way except when painting another human being. Then there are two people involved. One who changes the model forever, and one who forever changes the artist.”

Whyte is known for her distinctive portraits. In Artist she depicts a young girl who has completed a drawing of a cat upon an already graffiti-covered wall. As the audience, we have never seen this girl before, however Whyte’s balance of loosely expressive watercolor brushwork and controlled details express a personal familiarity with her subject. The contrasts in brushwork and tonalities—the white of the dress and walls versus the black of her hair and graffiti—ultimately harmonize in a way that enables the viewer to connect to the work of art.

Miss Percy Ferguson, another young girl in a white sundress, is a seemingly similar subject, yet her portrait by William Aiken Walker is devoid of the soulfulness so palpable in Whyte’s portrait. There is no doubt of Walker’s skill in this painting however: the details of the background and dress are meticulously rendered and colored with a sophisticated attention to light effects and texture. Walker, an itinerant painter, often traveled along the Mississippi River. On one of these trips he met General Samuel Wragg Ferguson, a Civil War veteran, plantation owner, and the father of Miss Percy. Walker was commissioned to paint this portrait of Ferguson’s daughter, but given the stiffness of her pose and mask-like face, it is probable that Walker worked not from life but rather from a photograph. Though the landscape is beautifully handled, Miss Ferguson’s face lacks the animation and spirit present in Artist.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

New Exhibitions, New Experiences

Hello everyone! My name is Andrew Ochsner and I’m the fall intern in the Gibbes Collections department. I thought I’d take advantage of the blog to share a little bit about my experiences here at the museum. As a recent Art History graduate from the College of Charleston with a strong interest in the Museum field, I was drawn to the Gibbes as way to gain valuable experience for the future. Working with the Collections department staff I’ve been learning about the fascinating behind-the-scenes efforts required to manage, maintain, and exhibit a fine art collection. Thus far I’ve assisted with everything from cataloguing objects into our Past Perfect virtual database, to meticulously packing up art works for storage and shipment.

One of the initial projects I had the pleasure to work on was the gallery preparation for the two wonderful exhibits that opened on September 3—Face Lift: The Power of Portraits, and Stacy Lynn Waddell: The Evidence of Things Unseen. I must say I was truly amazed by the extent of planning and physical labor that went into readying the museum space for opening night! It took nearly two weeks of transition time in the Main and Rotunda galleries for the previous exhibits, Modern Masters from the Ferguson Collection and JoAnn Verburg: Interruptions to be taken down, and the new exhibits to be installed and ready for show. Not yet a seasoned gallery-prep pro like Director of Collections Administration, Zinnia Willits, and Operations Director and Preparator, Greg Jenkins, I helped out anywhere my common sense could come in handy. This included tasks such as adhering the large vinyl title lettering to the gallery walls, which I quickly learned can be a rather tricky (and at times sticky) affair.

Wall Text
Vinyl lettering, not as easy as it looks…

Other jobs included cutting the individual squares of Velcro that were used to hang all sixty pieces of paper that comprise Stacy Lynn Waddell’s striking large-scale work, Manifest (2010).

Manifest
Manifest, 2010, by Stacy Lynn Waddell (American, b. 1966) 88 x 166 inches
Look at all that singed paper!

One of the last duties I helped with is called staging, which involves the organizing and placing of the art and title cards in their designated locations within the galleries. This literal “staging” makes things much easier for Greg when it finally comes time to hang the art on the wall. On opening night it was very gratifying to see all the hard work that the Gibbes staff (including myself) put into beautifying the gallery space for the exhibits! Preparing for new exhibitions is only a small fraction of what being collections intern here at the Gibbes entails. I’ve learned a great deal since beginning my internship here in August, and continue to do so every time I come into the museum. Well, I’m off to photograph some beautiful silver pieces for our digital catalogue!

Andrew Ochsner, fall intern, Collections Department, Gibbes Museum of Art

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Three: Charles and Louis Manigault—Father and Son

This week’s portraits depict a nineteenth-century father and son duo. Charles Izard Manigault and his son Louis Manigault shared an appreciation for art, but chose to explore their interests along different avenues. Parent-child conversations can be full of admiration or tinged with irony. What do you think these two would say to one another (or would be in a bubble overhead)?

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective
In this father and son pairing, the two half-length bodies of the Manigault men are posed to compositionally mirror one another. However, the personality of Louis was hardly a reflection of that of his father Charles Izard, and this discrepancy is represented stylistically in each artist’s handling of his subject.

Though born in Charleston, Charles Manigault traveled to the Far East at an early age and loved the adventure of travel. After making his fortune as a rice planter, he was financially able to continue his excursions abroad. Perhaps his time in Europe fostered his appreciation of art, for Manigault became one of America’s more noteworthy early art collectors. His extensive collection was nationally renowned and garnered him a reputation as an arbiter of taste. Sully’s realistic yet romantic style of painting seems to capture the ambition and confidence befitting such a connoisseur. He completed this portrait just before Manigault embarked on another voyage, and the stormy clouds and sea in the background suggest this setting.

Though the younger Manigault is also depicted at sea, the setting is much more controlled and linear, a style appropriate for both Samuel Stillman Osgood’s artistic training and Louis Manigault’s personality. Osgood left his native Boston in the late 1830s to study painting at London’s Royal Academy of Painting, known for its highly formalized and technical teaching methods. A similar structure predominated Louis’s life: though Louis also traveled extensively, he seemed to lack some of his father’s zeal for adventure. His personality was described in his obituary as “reserved, quiet and unassuming,” which provides an interesting contrast to Charles’s idealism.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Artist Spotlight: William Halsey (American, 1915–1999)

When the first-ever public exhibition of Solomon Guggenheim’s collection of non-objective art debuted at the Gibbes in 1936, it brought shock and dismay to some in Charleston’s art circle. The city’s famed etcher and Impressionist painter, Alfred Hutty, declared the exhibition was “Simply an expression on radicalism.” But for a young William Halsey, who left South Carolina and enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston that same year, the exhibition represented the sort of radical art experience he was seeking.

Halsey returned to South Carolina six years later, and over the course of his lifetime achieved wide recognition as one of the premier artists of the South’s modernist movement. His early training included courses at the University of South Carolina but his style began to take shape after he moved to Boston. In 1939, a James William Paige fellowship allowed Halsey and his wife, South Carolina artist Corrie McCallum, to travel to Mexico. The two artists lived in Mexico City for eighteen months and toured the countryside drawing, painting and studying the work of Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera. When the couple returned to Charleston they taught at the Gibbes Museum of Art, and later opened their own school. Halsey helped establish the studio arts program at the College of Charleston, and worked as an assistant professor and artist-in-residence for nearly twenty years, actively influencing several generations of young artists.

Early in his career, Halsey created landscapes, still-lifes, and portraits in a bold modernist style; however, he is best known for his Abstract Expressionist works. Halsey experimented freely with different media and his work was often influenced by his travels. He and McCallum made many summer trips, venturing to the Yucatan, Guatemala, Honduras, Greece, Ecuador, Peru, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. Several of his paintings, collages, and sculpture are the spotlight exhibition currently on view in Gallery H at the Gibbes through November 28, 2010.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

See other works of art in the Gibbes Collection by William Halsey.

Angela Mack, Gibbes Museum Executive Director, will give a free lecture on Friday, September 24 at 6pm, in conjunction with the exhibition A Visual Legacy: the Halsey-McCallum Collection at the College of Charleston on view at the College of Charleston Library. Learn more about the exhibition and the event.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Two: Jimmie Daniels—Double Vision

These two portraits of performer Jimmie Daniels are the second set in our Face Lift: Caption This! contest. How do these two portraits—the photograph by George Platt Lynes and the bronze sculpture by Richmond Barthé—convey different aspects of Mr. Daniels’ persona? Imagine the dashing young man in Paris and Harlem. Let your creativity flow and suggest a caption for this double image of the entertainer.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

Though artists often create portraits with paint, these two works depicting American singer and entertainer Jimmie Daniels (1910 – 1984) employ different media.  In addition to an artist’s technical ability, qualities inherent to the materials also contribute to the efficacy and suggestive power of a portrait.

Jimmie Daniels was a performer and fashionable master of ceremonies in Paris before opening his own supper club in Harlem in the 1930s.  His was a popular stop on the circuit of raucous New York nightlife. Known as a handsome and dashing character, several artists chose to portray Daniels in their work. Harlem Renaissance artist, Richmond Barthé, studied both painting and sculpture, but turned almost exclusively to bronze works after 1927. Barthé chose Daniels as his subject on more than one occasion stating that he found the performer’s smile particularly engaging. As a portraitist, Barthé was considered among the best in New York, his masterful control of his medium enabled him to capture not only the details of Daniels’s facial features, but also the essence of his spirit.

In contrast to Barthé’s straightforward presentation of his subject, photographer George Platt Lynes portrays Daniels from the side, with his head in his hands and surrounded by several shadowed hands in the background. This portrait of Daniels seems to accentuate his theatrical nature. The lighting gracefully captures the smooth planes and contours of Daniels’s body and face.  Though many of his portraits were for commercial use in publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Lynes often incorporated elements of Surrealism or homo-eroticism into his work, especially in his portraits of entertainers.

Museum Mile Weekend: September 25 and 26

Museum Mile Weekend Logo

On September 25 and 26, 2010, the Gibbes will be partnering with other cultural institutions along and around Meeting Street to offer locals and tourists a single entry pass during the second annual Museum Mile Weekend. Charleston’s Museum Mile operates year-round with signage, brochures, and a website to help visitors navigate Charleston’s cultural corridor. However, on this one special weekend, we band together to offer one admission price.

The concept of Charleston’s Museum Mile was hatched several years ago by Dr. John Brumgardt, executive director of the Charleston Museum. The downtown cultural attractions had partnered on programs in the past but had not done much in the way of cooperative marketing and signage. The idea for the Charleston Museum Mile emerged as Dr. Brumgardt and representatives from other cultural institutions opened up a map of the Meeting Street area and plotted the many museums and historic sites that would be of interest to tourists and easy to navigate around. While the concept of a “Museum Mile” was not new and has proven a success in other cities, such as New York and London, the unique alliance formed by the cultural institutions and the inclusion of religious sites and parks put Charleston’s Museum Mile in a category of its own. By 2008, the grass-roots campaign to promote the Mile was in full swing largely in part to the dedication and collaborated vision of the participating organizations and institutions.

For one $20 pass (and only $10 for children 12 and under), passholders can visit thirteen cultural sites throughout the weekend.  If purchased separately, adult admission for these sites would be over $100! Sites participating in the upcoming Museum Mile Weekend are:

Many of the cultural institutions will also offer special programs during Museum Mile Weekend. The Gibbes will offer free docent-led tour at 2:30 on both Saturday and Sunday.

Passes for Museum Mile Weekend can be purchased at www.charlestonsmuseummile.org or at any Charleston Visitor Center location. Online purchasers will receive their passes in the mail so be sure and order your passes early. We hope you’ll take advantage of this terrific opportunity to sample Charleston’s cultural riches for this not-so-rich price!

Marla Loftus, Director of Museum Relations, Gibbes Museum of Art

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week One: Ms. Johnson and Colonel Elliott

Ms. Johnson (Estelle) and Colonel Barnard Elliott, Jr.

In conjunction with our Face Lift exhibition, we are launching a caption writing contest and we need your participation! Each week of the exhibition, curator Sara Arnold will present a set of images—as paired in the gallery—and we invite you to submit a clever comment on our blog that expresses your own interpretation of the comparison. The author of our favorite caption each week will receive a free admission pass to the Gibbes. At the end of the campaign, all winning captions will be entered in a drawing for a facial from The Spa at Charleston Place.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Week One: Ms. Johnson (Estelle), 1972, by Barkley Hendricks (American, b. 1945) and Colonel Barnard Elliott, Jr., ca. 1766, by Jeremiah Theus (Swiss/American, 1716–1744). What do you think these two would say to one another at a cocktail party? Or if they met on the street today? Join in the fun and submit your caption by adding a comment below.

Curatorial Perspective

Pose and costume are key indicators of the sitter’s status and identity in portraiture. Analyzing these subtle details of dress and comportment can yield an even more complex reading of the painting and the message that the artist is trying to express in its execution. While the style of dress differs dramatically in these two works, similarities in the subjects’ poses show a similar strength of self-awareness in differing social and cultural climates.

Of Swiss birth, Jeremiah Theus arrived in Charleston in 1735 where he became a preeminent early painter in terms of both productivity and reputation. Known for his portraits of prosperous Charleston families, Theus worked in the limner tradition which emphasized the flat, linear, and above all decorative qualities of the subject. In this portrait of Colonel Barnard Elliott, every detail of the costume’s fabric and texture is exquisitely rendered. Viewed in conjunction with the background of the Classical columns and his assertive pose, Elliott’s costume serves as a declaration of his wealth and prominence in the community. Elliott was a member of the First Provincial Congress of South Carolina, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the American Revolution, as well as a successful owner of rice plantations.

Though Ms. Johnson does not appear to share the prosperity enjoyed by Colonel Elliott, her dress and pose also convey a message. This portrait is part of Hendricks’s “limited palette series” executed after a trip to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. So taken by these artists’ use of draped clothing to reveal solidity of form and the volumes of the body, Hendricks translated these lessons into a contemporary style of painting. Ms. Johnson is set against a solid color, and her closely fitted, black outfit serves to boldly delineate her form against the flat background. From a cultural standpoint, this painting also makes a bold statement about the racial, cultural, and economic divides in America. Painted in the 1970s, Ms. Johnson’s confident pose exudes a challenge to the status quo and is an assertion of minority presence, whereas the pose of Colonel Elliot reinforces the dominance of the white landed gentry.