Curatorial Perspective: The Creative Spirit

The Gibbes staff members are making preparations for the opening of our next Main Gallery exhibition The Creative Spirit: Vernacular Art from the Gadsden Arts Center Permanent Collection. Logistical planning has gone on for months, but now the real hands-on work begins. There are crates to unpack, walls to patch and paint, condition reports to write, and Godzilla to install. That’s right, Godzilla is coming to the Gibbes. Don’t worry, he won’t eat the museum, but he does stand an impressive seven feet tall.

An installation of vernacular art (also called self-taught, outsider, or folk art) will be a nice change of pace for the summer season. I love vernacular art because it is stripped of any pretense. It is art made out of an intense desire to create. Many of the artists included in this exhibition are motivated by very personal reasons—be it their religious beliefs, a personal tragedy, or simply a desire to express themselves in a tangible way. Much of the art in the exhibition is raw and a bit rough around the edges, but sincere nonetheless.

One of the most moving stories is that of Lonnie Holley. In 1979, two of Holley’s nieces died tragically in a house fire. Overcome by grief and unable to afford tombstones for their graves, Holley found discarded sandstone at a nearby foundry and carved the tombstones himself. He found comfort in the act of creating, and so began his career as an artist. Holley continued to carve sandstone sculptures and later branched out to mixed-media sculpture and eventually painting. His work attests to the great power of art as a means of personal expression.

The Creative Spirit opens to the public on Friday, July 22. Join me on August 12 or September 9 at 1pm for a gallery talk and tour of the exhibition (free with museum admission).

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

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