Archive for September, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Sam Doyle (American, 1906–1985)

The Gibbes has an amazing collection of 10,000 objects. With so many objects and only so much gallery space, at any given time, the vast majority of our collection remains safely tucked away in storage. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share it online! This post is one in what will be a series of artist spotlights, highlighting a variety of treasures from the Gibbes collection.

In honor of this summer’s focus on vernacular art (see my last post from July), I have chosen to spotlight South Carolina artist Sam Doyle (1906–1985). Doyle was an African-American vernacular artist from St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, and he found artistic inspiration within his community. Settled by the descendants of African American slaves after the Civil War, the residents of St. Helena Island remained largely secluded from the mainland through the mid-twentieth century. This isolation allowed residents to preserve many of the folk traditions rooted in their African heritage. Elements of Gullah culture, oral histories of Southern slavery, and Christian iconography greatly influence Doyle’s work. He is best known for his portraits which most frequently portray significant figures living on St. Helena Island. Using found objects, such as sheets of tin roofing or wood paneling as his canvas, Doyle created full-body portraits that often include text describing the subject’s importance to local culture. The Gibbes owns four paintings by Doyle, three of which you can see above.

And if you like Sam Doyle’s work, you should also check out our current exhibition in the Main Gallery, The Creative Spirit: Vernacular Art from the Gadsden Arts Center. It features work by artists who, like Doyle, are self-taught and live in the rural south. The exhibition closes on October 16, so you have a few more weeks to get here. Godzilla will be waiting!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

The Globb: Our Nameless Blog

Untitled, 1950, by Merton Daniel Simpson (American, b. 1928)

Untitled, 1950, by Merton Daniel Simpson (American, b. 1928)

Whether you are a loyal blog follower or joining us for the first time, it is clear by your attention that you are a fan of the Gibbes Museum. In reading this blog, even this exact post, you must have realized by now that our untitled blog needs a name of its own!

As you may recall, we invited you to join our Face Lift: Caption This! contest last fall. With September already underway, we would like to again invite you to use your wit and creativity by indulging in our newest challenge. The Gibbes Blog has been consistently growing since its launch in 2008. It has been our goal for the blog to be an active place for visitors, curators, staff, and friends to continually build their relationship with the museum and the larger art community.

Perhaps a play on words comes to mind, or perhaps this blog means something specific to you. Either way, we would love to hear about it! Starting on Friday, September 16, we will be accepting entries to Blank Canvas Blog contest. Your suggested title should be clever and relevant, yet short, as any title should be.

We look forward to seeing what your creative minds produce! Follow the rules below and let the games begin!

Contest Rules:
1. The Blank Canvas Blog contest begins September 16, 2011 and ends at 11:59pm on Friday, September 30, 2011.

2. Entrants represent and warrant that their submission is their original work, it has not been copied from others, and it does not violate the rights of any other person or entry.

3. By submitting a title in the Blank Canvas Blog contest, you authorize the Gibbes Museum and/or others authorized by the Gibbes Museum the right to edit, adapt, and modify the submission. Each entrant releases and discharges the Gibbes Museum, any party associated with the development or administration of the Contest, their employees, agents or representatives from any and all liability in connection with the contest, including without limitation, legal claims, costs, injuries, losses or damages, demand or actions of any kind.

4. Subject to all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Void outside the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, and where prohibited.

5. By participating in the contest, you authorize the Gibbes Museum of Art to use your submission for educational and promotional purposes related to the Gibbes Blog, and for archival purposes in any media.

How to Participate:
1. Scroll down to the “Leave a Reply” section of this post.

2. Log in to add a comment and submit your suggestion for our blog title.

3. Submit as many entries as you would like. There is no restriction on the number of entries permitted by an individual.

What to Expect from the Gibbes Museum:
1. Comments will be moderated. Off-topic comments, captions containing foul language, or any submission deemed inappropriate by Gibbes Museum staff will be removed.

2. The Gibbes Museum reserves the sole discretion over the selection of, and the decision not to select, any title submitted on the blog.

3. Five top entries will be selected from the contest submissions by a member or members of the curatorial and editorial staff of the Gibbes Museum of Art. In the event two or more valid entries contain the identical caption (including punctuation) and are selected as a finalist, the Gibbes staff will draw the finalist by random selection. Gibbes staff may also submit entries but are not eligible to win the grand prize. The winning title will be chosen by you, our audience, through a vote in a future post.

4. The qualified winner and two runners up in the Blank Canvas Blog contest will receive two (2) free-admission passes to the Gibbes Museum of Art. The qualified winner will also receive two (2) free passes to one (1) upcoming museum lecture or performance during the fall season (October 1 – December 31, 2011).

5. The winning title and author will be announced on our blog in October.

How to view all submissions:
View all suggested titles by scrolling down to the comments below.

Contact Lasley Steever at with any questions.

—Contributed to by Brett N. Skirkanich, museum intern, and Lasley Steever, program & events manager and blog editor

The Impact of Art: Peace and Healing after the 9/11 Attacks

Porter-Gaud School Student Mural

Ten years ago, I was the Lower School art teacher at Porter-Gaud School when our country was attacked on September 11, 2001. My first class period that day was free so I had stopped by our middle school history teacher’s classroom to ask him about that night’s football game. The teacher was reading the day’s announcements while the news was being shown on TV. I saw a plane crash into one of the Twin Towers and could not believe what I was watching—I thought that maybe there was a movie being shown. I brought the teacher’s attention to what I was seeing and everyone grew quiet. We quickly knew something unimaginable was happening in New York City.

I hurried back to my classroom and tried to call my husband. He was supposed to be in New York that day for a meeting in one of the Twin Towers, but the meeting had been changed at the last minute, and he was on his way to Philadelphia. When I finally heard from him, he told me that all of Philadelphia had been shut down, and people were told to go home. There was fear that Philadelphia would also be attacked.

Porter-Gaud School Students at Work

Soon, it was time for my first class of the day to arrive. Some of the children had heard what happened, while some of the little ones had no idea. I tried to teach class as usual, but it was obvious then and in the days that followed, that our lives had been changed forever. The children were drawing pictures of planes crashing into the Twin Towers and of fires. I wanted to turn this tragedy into a positive learning experience by having the children concentrate on what was so amazing about our country. We decided to create a mural to send to the people of New York City, and started brainstorming about our beautiful America and how we could express our feelings through our drawings. We talked about our National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, patriotism, freedom, the bald eagle, and the American flag. We discussed how our country was coming together to help the people of New York and how everyone was showing their patriotism by flying the American flag. With all of this information the children started their drawings. The images were amazing. They drew pictures of firemen, policemen, other emergency workers, and even the rescue dogs. I knew from some of these drawings that they had seen the news. Pictures of children standing together saying the pledge of allegiance to the flag with their hands over their hearts were so wonderful. These images show the sense of unity our country experienced after 9/11 as seen by my students.

Porter-Gaud School Student Mural, Pledge of Allegiance detail

Working together, the students picked their favorite pictures to be transferred onto a large canvas. I enlarged their drawings onto the canvas and added hearts all along the border to finish the design. Once the drawing was complete, we were ready to paint. The children had a wonderful time working on the mural together and the final work shows the colorful, symbolic imagery they so beautifully created. Letters written by some of the fourth graders were added onto the hearts as a final touch. When the mural was complete and dry, I put grommets across the top so it could be easily hung. I mailed our tribute off to Mayor Giuliani’s office in New York City, and even though I did not know what happened to the mural, we felt good that we had sent our thoughts and prayers to the people of New York.

Porter-Gaud School Student Mural, heart detail

Several years later I was living in New York City when I received an email from Adina Langer at the 9/11 Memorial Museum wanting to know if I knew anything about a mural from Porter-Gaud School. Of course I said yes! Ms. Langer said that our mural had hung in Pier 94 where the victims’ families had come for help. After the center was closed, the mural was rolled up and placed in a closet. An electrician found the mural and gave it to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Ms. Langer was happy to find out how our mural was created and has kept me posted on the progress of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Porter-Gaud School Student Mural, Twin Tower detail

This past spring, I received another email about our mural. This time I learned that a book was being published about the artwork sent to New York after 9/11, which included our mural. The book is called “Art for Heart” and all of the proceeds will go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It is so wonderful that our gift of love, prayers, and support that we sent to lift the spirits of the people of New York is going to live on and be accessible to so many.

Today, my husband and I are back in Charleston, and I have also returned to Porter-Gaud School. The children who were the first and second graders ten years ago are now juniors and seniors. It is wonderful being back home!

Laura Orvin, Administrative Assistant to the Head of School at Porter-Gaud and guest blogger

Editors Note: As we begin National Arts in Education Week, this story of how an art project was used to engage students in a discussion about real-world events is especially poignant. The Gibbes Museum works with Tri-County schools to provide in-school and on-site opportunities for students and teachers to make art and learn about the history of art through our collection. We are grateful to the teachers, museum educators and artists who share their expertise and talents with our youth.

A version of this story was reported in the Post & Courier on August 30, 2011.

Outgoing Loans: Collaboration, Consideration, Negotiation

Charleston Runner, by Mary Edna Fraser

Many museums organize the artwork in their galleries according to “permanent collection” and “special exhibition” themes. The permanent collection galleries display works of art that belong to the museum, while special exhibitions often include art on loan from another institution or private collectors. The Gibbes Museum regularly receives requests from museums across the country to borrow artwork for special exhibitions. Museums constantly lend works back and forth and are involved in an on-going cooperative dialogue about sharing art to enhance an exhibition or highlight a period of regional, national, or global art history. While the outgoing loan process follows a standard protocol, each instance is full of negotiation and nuance.

Most loan requests begin with a conversation between two curators to discuss an exhibition being organized and to inquire about borrowing works. The borrowing curator will provide exhibition details including themes, a check list of confirmed works, exhibition dates, information about scholarly research and publication initiatives, and any possibility of the exhibition traveling to multiple venues. Informal correspondence between curators is followed by a letter from the borrower to the Gibbes Executive Director, formally requesting the loan. In order to process a request, the Gibbes Museum asks that loan requests are submitted no later than three months before the date the artwork is needed—larger museums often require six months to one year lead time! Last minute requests are discouraged due to the amount of preparatory work required of collections and curatorial staff.

Zinnia Willits and Sara Arnold assess the condition of an outgoing loan object.

Zinnia Willits and Sara Arnold assess the condition of an outgoing loan object.

Once the formal application has been received, a series of internal questions must be addressed. Our collections and curatorial staff must determine if the object is needed for upcoming exhibitions at the Gibbes, if its condition is stable enough for travel, and if the borrowing institution’s facility meets standard requirements of security and climate control as defined by the American Association of Museums. These are just a few items on the lengthy checklist we use when considering outgoing loans. If the request passes the staff vetting process, it is brought before the Gibbes Museum Collections Committee for final approval.

The Collections Committee, a sub-Committee of the Carolina Art Association Board of Directors, meets quarterly with the Executive Director, Curator of Collections, and Director of Collections Administration to monitor the direction of the permanent collection and must review all outgoing loan requests. If the loan is approved by the Collections Committee, the borrowing institution is given the good news and work continues with the often complicated details of conservation, packing, and shipping. Each museum has specific requirements that must be accepted by the borrower for the loan to move forward. For example, the Gibbes maintains a document that outlines standard requirements for all outgoing loans. This document is provided to the borrowing museum as soon as a request is received and covers all matters of shipping, couriers, photography, insurance, and installation. The costs to conserve, pack, and ship outgoing loans can be enormous and is outlined in the agreement. Negotiation regarding lender requirements can be challenging for both parties, but in the end, safety and integrity of artwork always prevails.

Mama, You Know I Never Paid Matisse No Never Mind, by Sigmund Abeles

Currently the Gibbes has works on loan to several regional institutions. The work, Mama You Know I Never Paid Matisse No Never Mind, 2000, by Sigmund Abeles (American, b. 1934) can be found at the Columbia Museum of Art in the exhibition It Figures: The Work of Sigmund Abeles, until October 23, 2011.

The Exchange, by Edward Rice

Slightly farther west you will find two works by Edward Rice (American, b. 1953), The Exchange, 2011 and 502 Lucerne, 1983–1986, at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia. These paintings are prominently featured in the exhibition, Preservation of Place: the Art of Edward Rice, on view through November 20, 2011. Travel north a few hours to see the beautiful work titled Charleston Runner, 1996, by local artist Mary Edna Fraser (American, b. 1952). This batik is on view at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences through November 6, 2011, in the compelling exhibition Our Expanding Oceans, a study of the science behind sea level rise.

502 Lucerne Street, 1983–1986, by Edward Rice

The outgoing loan process for these exhibitions began back in 2010! As I write this, there are several new outgoing loan requests under consideration. Stay tuned to find out where works from the Gibbes collection might travel next.

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration, Gibbes Museum of Art