Archive for February, 2014

Changing of the Art: The Charleston Story

Every six months, the curatorial and collections staff at the Gibbes rotates artwork on view in our permanent exhibition—The Charleston Story. Arranged chronologically, this exhibition features the museum’s core collection of American art and allows our visitors to follow the course of fine art in the South from the eighteenth century to the present. The exhibition highlights artists and images of Charleston through a wide range of media and artistic styles—from Benjamin West’s Colonial era oil painting of Thomas Middleton of the Oaks, to Pietro Rossi’s exquisitely carved marble the Veiled Lady, to Leo Twiggs’ batik rendering Sarah Remembered. This biannual refreshing of the permanent exhibition galleries allows us to highlight a broader range of the nearly 7000 works of art in the Gibbes collection.

Veiled Lady, 1882, by Pietro Rossi

The Veiled Lady as part of Changing of the Art, The Charleston Story

As is true in most museums, only a small percentage of the Gibbes’ treasures can be on view at one time and it is always exciting to see new artwork on the walls. I am often asked “How do you decide what works are exhibited?” Or when a beloved work is missing from our walls, “Why isn’t ‘such and such’ artwork on view now?” There are several key factors that guide our decision making when changes to the permanent galley spaces take place. In addition to thematic factors, curatorial changes are determined by preservation requirements, educational needs, and logistics.

Preservation requirements prioritize many of the changes that take place. For instance, oil paintings on canvas and marble sculptures are less sensitive to light damage than watercolor paintings on paper. Therefore audience favorites such as Thomas Sully’s 1823 portrait of Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. and Barkley Hendricks’ 1972 portrait of Ms. Johnson (Estelle) can remain on view for a longer duration than Alice Smith’s watercolor landscape Reserve at Fairlawn on the Wando. Light exposure over time can cause fading and deterioration. The Gibbes and other museums take measures to reduce light intensity for works on view in galleries. However, some light is obviously a necessity. Light damage is cumulative so it is the total exposure over time that matters. In order to ensure the longevity of our more sensitive objects it is necessary to rotate works on paper, pastels, and watercolors to limit light exposure over time.

Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr., 1823, by Thomas Sully

Audience favorite Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. by Thomas Sully

Curatorial selections are not made in isolation. The Gibbes has a robust art education program led by Curator of Education, Rebecca Sailor, and a group of truly dynamic museum educators. The needs of our museum teachers, docents, and our new Junior Docent program are all taken into account. Thousands of students from pre-school through high school are introduced to the museum’s collection every year. Thematic groupings such as portraits that contribute to the telling of South Carolina’s role in the Revolutionary War like Rembrandt Peale’s painting of General William Moultrie or James Earl’s portrait of General Cotesworth Pinckney enhance social studies curriculums and are frequently used by our museum teachers. These paintings are displayed in close proximity to each other and are rarely placed in storage. Contemporary works are also popular with students and museum teachers, so a painting such as Jonathan Green’s Corene that fits chronologically on the third floor balcony gallery occupies a central location. which allows the students room to gather for discussion.

<i>Corene</i> by Jonathan Green

Corene by Jonathan Green, a favorite of school children

The Charleston Story occupies six different gallery spaces on the first floor of the Gibbes and continues through portions of the second and third floor. Logistical considerations are broad in range—we ask ourselves many questions prior to any artwork installation. Does this work fit in the gallery chronologically and thematically? Does this work fit on the wall based on its size and composition? Does this work have special exhibition requirements such as casework or limited lighting? How will the display of this work affect traffic flow for visitors, school groups, and other programs? Is this work scheduled to go on view at the Gibbes in a different exhibition? Is this work scheduled to go on loan to another institution? What interpretive material is required? Will this work be highlighted on the cell phone tour? Does this work enhance other programs scheduled? In general, how can it best be displayed for our visitors now and in the future?

While each work of art in a museum stands on its own merit, an important part of the museum experience is the opportunity to make comparisons between works, and to understand the context in which the artwork was created. Providing an atmosphere that enhances and enriches our visitor’s interactions with the art is our primary goal. As we move forward with our plans to expand and renovate the Gibbes building, we will be able to showcase more than 600 works of art from the permanent collection in an environment that includes new walls and flooring, high-quality lighting, visitor-friendly display casework, and innovative platforms for interpretation. Not to mention a new café, renovated gift shop, and art-making studios—all the amenities necessary to inspire a creative community!

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Collage, Cut, and Paste Curation by Charlotte Moss

East Hampton Garden

East Hampton Garden Collage by Charlotte Moss.

 

“Found objects, chance creations. . . abolish the separation between art and life. The commonplace is miraculous if rightly seen, if recognized,” wrote poet Charles Simic.

How true. Collage is a vehicle for disseminating ideas, organizing thoughts, and developing and determining your tastes. What I most appreciate about collage is that it’s not a snob. It’s an art form for everyman; it is ignorant of skill level and thoroughly forgiving. Collage doesn’t require a deft hand like painting, yet it has been prevalent in fine art through the ages. Collage has seen us through Cubism, Surrealism, Constructivism, and Abstract Expressionism. Artists throughout history have embraced the technique, artists such as Braque, Picasso, Jasper Johns, and so many others. Collage became a twentieth-century art form thanks to these artists. Dreams, dissonance, eccentric and disparate bits and pieces merged to produce juxtapositions that gave the subconscious and our inspirations a legitimate outlet.

I have always collected things, wherever I go, whether they were objects, ideas, quotes, or images taken by my camera. It was natural that I would be drawn to collage. As I am a visually inspired person, collage has been my vehicle for recording and retaining important moments in my life, as well as absorbing things that I am drawn to: still-lifes, gardens, interiors, and fashion among them. The medium welcomes chance findings and randomness and understands the consequence might well be a totally unintended one. My collages are put into books and they have become my visual memoirs, personal storyboards, my inspiration, and my creative outlet for years—the DNA of my design aesthetic as well as the story of my life so far. And I’m more aware than ever about the importance of these hand-recorded memories and dreams for my family and for the future.

 

Hautefort France

Hautefort France collage by Charlotte Moss.

 

“There are no new ideas in the world, only new arrangements of things,” wrote Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Scrapbooks are the working documents that have been essential in my evolution as a designer. I’m a teacher in my work. I am always studying and learning. By examining what others have written and done and processing those ideas with my hands, scissors, and a glue stick, I’ve been able to develop my own approach to living and design, one that works for my home and my life—the basis of which has been honed from others over the course of my career. Collage always made sense to me as a methodology. I am a hunter, a collector, an editor—in truth, a stylist, I think, since birth. I see the world in composition—always have. A gathering of anything, anywhere, inside or out, can be arranged into a still life. I’ve learned that the most ordinary of found objects can be elevated when artfully considered and arranged. It is in our carefully curated environments that we share a specific point of view, a personal aesthetic, a vision, and a passion for life. In essence, creating a composition is about seeing. And sometimes, it’s seeing the beauty in ordinary, everyday found objects.

 

The Orsan Gardens, France

The Orsan Gardens, France collage by Charlotte Moss.

 

Collage permits experimentation.

Collage is self discovery.

Like David Hockney said, “The thing with high-tech is that you always end up using scissors.”

Charlotte Moss, author and designer, and guest blogger
Learn more about Charlotte Moss on her website, charlottemoss.com.

Excerpted from A Visual Life by Charlotte Moss (Rizzoli, 2012). Purchase a copy of A Visual Life from the Gibbes Museum Store.

Charlotte Moss is the featured speaker at the Art of Design luncheon and lecture on March 7, hosted by the Women’s Council of the Carolina Art Association and the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Embracing the Disco Era

As the co-chair of this week’s long awaited Society 1858 winter party—taking place Friday, February 7th, at the museum—I could not be more excited to see months of planning, ideas, creative decor, and entertainment come to life. This year’s theme will not disappoint, as we embrace the disco era with Studio 58: Your Ticket to the Arts Beyond the Velvet Rope.

Photos from the original Studio 54 club in New York City.

Photos from the original Studio 54 club in New York City.

Encouraging seventies-style dress appropriate to the theme, we expect characters of all types to be filing past the paparazzi’s flashbulbs and bouncers, through the Gibbes’ blacked out entrance and into our infamous “club.” Once inside, our guests will see the Gibbes transformed into a fabulous disco, with dueling DJ’s downstairs and upstairs, a delicious spread by Cru Catering and Fuel, beer by Westbrook Brewery, wine and bubbly by The Wine Shop, and a delicious cocktail featuring Cathead vodka. Just after 9pm, we’ll present a very special performance in the Rotunda Gallery (a can’t miss experience)!

Being a part of the planning process has been a very rewarding experience, as we have worked hand in hand with Lasley Steever and the amazing museum team, and our wonderful and generous vendors partnering on this event. It is nothing short of incredible to be involved with our still fledgeling, but extremely strong and active group! It is so rewarding to see the difference that is being made amongst our peers in Charleston. I can see how we are bringing awareness to the arts, as well as making an impact in the museum by giving back financially, and securing new and active members. I am very proud to be a part of Society 1858, and I know I speak for the rest of our board when I say that we are honored see our auxiliary group grow into one of the largest of its kind in Charleston.

A collage of submissions from Finalists and Winners of the contemporary art prize.

A collage of submissions from past finalists and winners of the contemporary art prize.

Additionally, starting this year, we are thrilled to announce that we are sponsoring the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. The prize accepts submissions from artists in ten regional Southern states, and awards $10,000 to an artist “whose work contributes to a new understanding of art in the South.” It will be presented annually, and will recognize the highest level of artistic achievement in any media. We are beyond excited to be making an impact in the art world in this way, and believe it will be a lasting gift from the Gibbes by way of Society 1858 in not only our community, but in the entire region. We hope this effort will put us on the map as a respected endowment for contemporary southern artists. Please visit 1858prize.org for complete details about this wonderful annual contest.

So plan to join us this Friday, donning your disco duds, as we transform the museum into a fantastic delight for the senses, and make this a night you will not forget! We can’t give away all of our secrets, so you will just have to attend to see what Society 1858 has in store, but don’t wait as tickets are almost sold out! See you Friday… be there or be square!

Liza Cleveland, Society 1858 Board Member

Liza Cleveland, Society 1858 Board Member.

Liza Cleveland, Society 1858 Board Member, guest blogger