Archive for November, 2013

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

Esther Ferguson: A Woman with a Vision

Esther Ferguson is small in stature, but her dedication to the Gibbes Museum is immense. A long-time supporter of the museum, she joined the Gibbes Board in the spring of 2013. I sat down with her recently to talk about the inspiration behind The Distinguished Lecture Series.

Esther Ferguson at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Esther Ferguson at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Fifty years ago Esther Ferguson was a young woman alone in Manhattan. She traded the security of Hartsville, South Carolina, for the great unknown of New York City. “I was scared. Women didn’t do that sort of thing back then. I was very poor and on the weekend, I would go alone to The Metropolitan Museum to listen to the lecture series. I remember walking out of a lecture and sitting down to cry because I’d learned so much about the art world, and because I realized how much more there was to learn!” The experience was nurturing during an unsettling time in her life. “Attending these lectures kept me going throughout the week,” she explained.

The significance of the Met lecture series stayed with Mrs. Ferguson throughout the years, and after returning to the south, she began to dream about bringing a lecture series to Charleston. In 2010, the Fergusons loaned works of art from their private collection to the Gibbes Museum to form the exhibition, Modern Masters from the Ferguson Collection. Two mixed-media works by world-renowned installation artists Christo and Jeanne Claude were part of the exhibition, which ran from April 30–August 22, 2010. As part of Modern Masters, Christo was invited to speak about his large-scale temporary works of art including the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, the 24 ½-mile-long Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin Counties in California, and The Gates in New York City’s Central Park.

Esther-Ferguson-Christo-JuliaLynnPhoto

Esther Ferguson with artist Christo.

“At the end of his stunning lecture, it was the men who clapped the loudest,” recalls Mrs. Ferguson. “After the lecture these men gathered around Christo and told him they didn’t know if they liked his work, but they understood it. That’s when I knew art could fill stadiums.” She smiled.

The Old Mill, ©Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York; by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas; 15 x 18 inches, Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Trust.

The Old Mill, ©Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York; by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas; 15 x 18 inches, Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Trust.

Mrs. Ferguson began to formulate her plan to establish a fund to create the Distinguished Lecture Series at the Gibbes Museum. She had the perfect speaker in mind, her friend of thirty years, Mr. Leonard Lauder. “Every time you see him it’s art, art, art,” she laughed. Mr. Lauder’s attention to art became evident to the world at large last spring when he donated his $1.5 billion collection of Cubist art to the very museum that brought Mrs. Ferguson to tears all those years ago. In a Vanity Fair article, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas P. Campbell (who visited the Gibbes museum in October) said of the donation, “In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the fore-front of early-20-century art.” Mrs. Ferguson decided she would ask her friend and philanthropist, Leonard Lauder, to be the inaugural Distinguished Lecture speaker. “He is a very private man, but when I asked he said yes. I’ll do this for you Esther.”

Leonard A. Lauder

Leonard A. Lauder, Chairman Emeritus, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Chairman Emeritus, The Estee Lauder Companies Inc.

We are so fortunate to have friends like Mrs. Ferguson who are working to bring outstanding, world-renowned artists, art collectors, museum leaders, philanthropists, and art historians to Charleston to stimulate discussion about the visual arts and creativity. We are already planning for future speakers and are excited about the future of the Distinguished Lecture Series!

Amy Mercer, marketing and communications manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

The inaugural lecture in the Distinguished Lecture Series, featuring Leonard A. Lauder, is Wednesday, November 20. A limited number of tickets are still available for this event at gibbesmuseum.org/events or by calling 843.722.2706 x21.

Create and Educate—Preserving a Legacy

Harkening back to traditions set by the trail blazers of dance, a “Renaissance” is afoot in the Charleston arts scene. Arts collaboration breeds fresh new ideas and brings new works to the forefront. As the co-founder and director of the Charleston Dance Institute (CDI), I am excited to share our involvement in the creation of a new ballet.

Wheels started turning at a meeting of the minds between CDI co-founder Stephen Gabriel, composer Laura Ball, and me. After endless cups of coffee, brainstorming sessions, and in-depth conversations on artistic philosophies and goals The Little Match Girl collaboration was born. Through this process I found out that not only did Laura and I have matching outlooks on art and music but that we were in very similar places in our professional careers—we both have a dual passion to create and educate. We are true contemporaries and that led to a synergy that was instant and second nature. Having a cohesive composer-choreographer bond does not often occur in one’s career and finding that as a choreographer is a real gift. Live performance art is a fleeting moment that can never be duplicated, so we agreed that having live accompaniment for this project was a must. Live music and dance is a time honored tradition but in these times a real treat. I can’t wait to hear the talented musicians of Chamber Music Charleston bring this score to life. It is just as invigorating for a musician to play a world premiere piece as it is for a dancer to dance the steps for the very first time. It will truly be a memorable experience for all. I am thrilled and honored to have The Little Match Girl be presented for the Gibbes Museum’s Art with a Twist series as our first of many new works to come.

Cellist Tim O'Malley and Charleston Dance Institute Dancers. Photo by Tom McCorkle

Cellist Tim O’Malley and Charleston Dance Institute Dancers. Photo by Tom McCorkle

I’ve been asked many times, “Why The Little Match Girl?” There are many holiday characters and tales out there, so why choose this particular story? I often don’t have the time to elaborate and the superficial answer becomes, “because I like it.” But of course the choice to me was much deeper than that, and I do my best to take the time to explain why. This story sweeps the spectrum of themes and emotions and that in turn provides so much fodder to the imagination and potential for creation. As a choreographer, I am always looking for that spark of something special for inspiration, but just as importantly as an arts educator, I look for projects that will enhance the growth and training of my pupils. The process of growing as a artist is multifaceted and collaborating on this story has been a perfect opportunity to expand the minds and talents of the young dancers at the Charleston Dance Institute.

Sarah Masser will dance the lead in The Little Match Girl performance

Sarah Masser will dance the lead in The Little Match Girl performance.

As a choreographer, my role is to project my artistic vision through the dancers’ movements but I also have a duty to develop these dancers’ abilities. Relying on dancers’ strengths, while pushing boundaries within their minds and bodies, always produces the most tangible choreography. It becomes much more personal and seamlessly transcends to the audience members. Having a role created around you is a unique experience that even seasoned professionals long for, let alone an aspiring ballerina of 14 years of age. Sarah Massar, pictured above, has been cast in the title role of The Little Match Girl. When I asked what the experience of being the little match girl has meant to her, this is what she had to say:

“Taking on this role is a life changing experience because I have never gotten the leading role and never realized how much work it actually takes. I have a lot more responsibility and have to practice a lot more; not only on the choreography but on my expressions and how it connects to the movement. It’s hard and takes a lot of time and effort, but every minute is worth it because it’s turning me into the dancer I never thought I would be.”

These words motivate and inspire me to continue to create and educate. Sweat equity is a dancer’s life—actually, an artist’s life—and I can’t wait for all of the hard work by this incredible team of collaborators to be shared with our community.

Jonathan Tabbert, co-founder/director of the Charleston Dance Institute, and guest blogger

The Gibbes Museum is pleased to present a special performance of The Little Match Girl with Laura Ball, the Charleston Dance Institute, and Chamber Music of Charleston, on Saturday, November 16 at 11am.

The performance will be held across the street from the museum at the Circular Congregational Church. Following the performance, the audience is invited to the museum for a meet and greet with the performers, and to see the exhibitions on view.

Purchase tickets online or call 843.722.2706 x21.

A Successful Second Year for the Gibbes Art on Paper Fair

After months of preparation, this weekend the museum welcomed more than 1800 visitors for the second-annual Art on Paper Fair. In the days leading up to the event, art work was carefully taken off the walls in the Alice Smith and Garden galleries, and the Gibbes was transformed into a bustling community of artists, gallery owners, art collectors, art experts, volunteers, staff and curious onlookers. Vendors included eight galleries from across the southeast that showcased works celebrating the south and this year, we added new elements including the “Ask the Expert” booth and an Artisan Boutique.

Guests at the First Look Celebration perused the works of art for sale.

Guests at the First Look Celebration perused the works of art for sale.

Thankfully the rain held off and the fair opened on Friday night with the First Look Celebration. Guests enjoyed delicious treats from local food trucks, music and drinks. As a fan of anything with bacon, my personal favorite was the pimiento cheese, muenster, avocado, and bacon on sourdough sandwich made by Cory’s Famous Grilled Cheese. My colleague Justa Debnam of skirt! magazine and Where Charleston agreed. “Attending the party with fellow Gibbes supporters on Friday was extraordinary. It was such a treat to be part of a diverse and passionate group of Charleston’s arts community,” she said.

Food Trucks at the Art on Paper Fair

Food trucks lined up in front of the museum to provide delicious treats for the First Look Celebration.

Making art accessible to the public was the impetus behind the initial Art on Paper Fair. As a relative newcomer to the museum, I wasn’t around for the first fair, and so I asked Pam Wall, Gibbes curator of exhibitions, to elaborate on the intent of the fair. “It’s a good opportunity to learn about and be more comfortable around art. We offer free admission to the Art on Paper Fair in hopes that it will encourage the public to come into the museum to browse through the works on paper and to talk with the gallery owners. The fair helps to eliminate the intimidation factor.” Local artist Jonathan Green agreed, saying: “Works on paper are more affordable and less intimidating and will ignite a whole new culture of collectors.” His booth on the second floor displayed works of art that were twenty years old (and were pulled out of storage for this event!). Green’s early figure drawings are more linear and abstract than his contemporary oil paintings, and provided viewers a unique opportunity to glimpse the evolution of this artist’s journey. “Drawing is fundamental to being a good artist, and I’m glad I was a good student,” he laughed. The John K. Surovek Gallery of Palm Beach was a new addition to this year’s paper fair. Co-owner Clay Surovek, who participates in 2 to 3 shows including Art Basel and the American Fine Art Fair in New York, says these events provide a great opportunity to meet new clients.

Reynier-Llanes-Jonathan-Green-Paper-Fair

Artists Reynier Llanes and Jonathan Green represented Jonathan Green Studios at the Art on Paper Fair.

All weekend visitors strolled through the museum, stopping to browse through the Artisan Boutique and on to the booths where they could ask questions of gallery owners and artists. Erin Nathanson, Arts & Cultural Relations Director for ArtFields, visited the fair over the weekend. “Entering the Art on Paper Fair, I was delighted to see vendors selling handmade letterpress (Sideshow Press and Ink Meets Paper) and bound items for a very accessible price. I began my visit by sifting through many beautiful prints and monotypes—I LOVE being able to handle works and get them so close to my face that I can imagine the smell of ink and other materials through the plastic. My favorite piece was a large wood-cut print by Lese Corrigan! In all, the Art on Paper Fair was a great experience and I hope it expands. I am excited for next year,” she said. After another successful event, we are looking forward to next year’s fair too!

Amy Mercer, marketing and communications manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

Photo credits: MCG Photography