Archive for January, 2012

Jill Hooper: Contemporary Realist

Portraits have always played a significant role in the art of Charleston, and the Gibbes collection. The very first work of art accessioned into the collection was a portrait of Benjamin Smith by Jeremiah Theus, an important artist working during the mid eighteenth century. Fast forward some 250 years, and the portrait tradition remains very much alive in Charleston, thanks in part to another artist in our collection, Jill Hooper.

This winter, the Gibbes is showcasing Hooper’s extraordinary talent with the solo exhibition Jill Hooper: Contemporary Realist. On view in the Rotunda through April 22, the show includes landscape and still-life paintings, but primarily focuses on portraiture. Each likeness is beautifully painted, and conveys powerful emotion. A number of the paintings are paired with preparatory drawings that reveal Hooper’s working process, and her mastery of charcoal. The drawings are simply breathtaking. Another highlight is the group of five self-portraits included in the exhibition. Painted over a span of eleven years, they shed light on her development as an artist and tackle her own struggles and insecurities. Hooper’s work is honest and full of life and beautifully expresses what it means to be human.

If you want to learn more about Hooper’s work, please join me for a tour of the exhibition on February 16 or March 15 at 2:30pm.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

An Open and Inviting First Floor Plan

Eliza Huger Dunkin (Mrs. Percy Gamble Kammerer), 1923, by Leila Waring   Ann Huger Laight, after 1855, attributed to John Carlin   Archibald Scott, after 1769, attributed to James Peale

During my visit this past December, I continued to hammer out the gallery layouts with the curatorial staff. It is amazing how so much art just keeps appearing out of the collection archives. As we always do during these visits, we tweaked the main galleries again to refine the installation and edit out some pieces to allow more room for the stars of the collection. We finalized the initial layouts for the Cabinette Galleries, which will display the museum’s collection of miniature paintings, just off the Main Gallery. I feel very comfortable about the direction we are taking and very impressed with the stamina of the curatorial staff. We have spent days in quarantine, projecting images on the wall of the office conference room and then placing them into the gallery plans. We have not started with a sketch model yet but I am certain that we will begin one during my next visit in January or February.

Guggenheim Exhibition at the Gibbes Museum, 1936

The Guggenheim exhibition, 1936, in the Main Gallery of the Gibbes Museum. The skylights overhead will be reopened after the renovations.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, in the new building all gallery spaces will be located on the second and third floors. This arrangement allows the first floor to become a hive of activity for visitors with a variety of interests. At this point, we definitely know that the windows at the front of the building will open into the new Café and the Museum Store. From the front door to the redesigned courtyard garden at the rear, the new designs and lighting systems will give the museum a much more open feeling. Meeting Street strollers will be enticed to stop and walk through the first floor of the building free of charge, and we hope it will become a destination spot. The new inviting displays will encourage visitors to return to shop, dine, and meet up with friends.

Gibbes Museum of Art, 1906

An exterior view of the Gibbes Museum of Art in 1906.

I have been working with Sara Meyer, Museum Store Manager, to design all new cabinetwork and display systems, a new music system, and new lighting in the Store to make it more flexible and easier to adapt according to seasonal needs. The Café will offer a great assortment of foods and beverages as the visitors walk in the door. All of the new furniture will focus on flexible space arrangements to accommodate groups or friends who come to relax or to take their treats out onto the front plaza of the museum. With the Café project I have teamed up with Lasley Steever, Programs & Events Manager, who was a friend of mine from the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Rebecca Sailor, Associate Curator of Education, and I have been running around the city to tour some of the newest school facilities in Charleston. We are translating what we have seen into designs for the new studio and art classroom spaces on either side of the first floor central hall. This time we spent a lot of time verifying the exact size and spaces that we have for the students, teachers, and artists who will utilize the new facilities. Of course, we dragged Greg Jenkins around with us to confirm our layouts for the new equipment and furnishings since he lives and breathes that building everyday. We finished feeling quite satisfied that we can make it all work and create fun, workable spaces for everyone.

Minnie Mikell at work in the Gibbes Art Studio Gallery, 1925

Minnie Mikell at work in the Gibbes Art Studio Gallery, 1925. New studios on the first floor of the museum will provide spaces for artists to work.

This past December’s visit was also a time for getting out on the road to talk to friends of the museum about the collection and the new plans. Executive Director Angela Mack and I attended two auxiliary group events in the evenings. What fun to go for cocktails, show the drawings and plans, and get to visit some incredible places in Charleston. A highlight was our visit to Kiawah Island, which was the first time for me. Thanks Angela! I can’t wait to see where we go to next time. A great perk is that when the weather gets really nasty at my home in upstate New York, I can always look forward to my visits to Charleston to warm my cold winter spirits!

—Jeff Daly, museum designer and guest blogger

Hunley Park Elementary Adds Scenic Views for Charleston Marathoners

Mrs. Coyle’s fourth grade art classes at Hunley Park Elementary School have been on a “Grand Tour” in true Charlestonian fashion, visiting Greece, Italy, Egypt, Japan, and Africa to learn about the art and culture of these far away lands. After touring the world, we decided to construct our own globe. Over the past sixteen weeks, eighty fourth graders have constructed a paper-mache globe that is six feet in diameter!

I am very proud and impressed with how hard these students worked, and how enthusiastic they were about the project. Every day, they come to class eager to get to work. I have enjoyed working with Mrs. Coyle and her students immensely. I hope they have learned half as much from me as I have from them.

The globe will be on display January 13 – 15 along the course of the Charleston Marathon, which benefits the Youth Endowment for the Arts. I could have not done this project without the support of the teachers and parents of Hunley Park Elementary School. Thank you so much!!

—Chessie McGarity, Gibbes Museum Teaching Artist and guest blogger