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Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe - Exhibition Opens October 23 at the Gibbes Museum of Art

Exhibition Offers Intimate Portrait of Life on Daufuskie in the Late 1970s/Early 80s

(September 23, 2009 - Charleston, South Carolina) – The Gibbes Museum of Art will present the exhibition Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe in the Rotunda Galleries from October 23, 2009 through January 10, 2010. Featuring approximately 40 black and white photographs of individuals, family and work, the exhibition documents the Gullah community on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina from 1977 - 1981.

Ms. Moutoussamy-Ashe’s fascination with Daufuskie Island began during visits to the neighboring resort island Hilton Head with her husband, Arthur Ashe, in the 1970s. Since the end of the Civil War until the island was developed, Daufuskie was inhabited primarily by theGullah people—freed slaves and their descendants—whose distinctive language and culture remained strongly influenced by their African heritage. With no bridge to the mainland and no electricity or telephone service until the mid-1950s, the island’s residents lived in relative isolation from the rest of the world. Daufuskie was the last of the Sea Islands to be transformed by tourism and real estate development.

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe was given unique access to the Daufuskie Islanders and the resulting photographs were documented in the book Daufuskie Island: A Photographic Essay. Many of the photographs from that book are featured in the Gibbes exhibition. The book was recently released in an expanded 25th Anniversary Edition. In the preface, Moutoussamy-Ashe explained, “Comparing the project now and then, I am struck with how so much is unchanged and yet so much is different at the same time. The photographs still carry the emotional and aesthetic charge I first felt when I was enlarging them all those years ago….I still treasure how I was welcomed into a characteristically private and shy community. Being allowed to watch their activities, and moreover photograph them, was a blessing, especially considering their reluctance to be photographed. I wrote in my original preface that they chose to trust me and trust that the pictures I was taking of them would somehow be worth it in the end. Because the Daufuskie I photographed no longer exists, I know now that these photos are an invaluable archive for the islanders and greater American society, which makes me confident that their trust was not misplaced.”

“This exhibition helps to preserve the culture of the rural south for future generations. We are delighted to have to the opportunity to feature these sensitive, beautifully executed photographs by Moutoussamy-Ashe in conjunction with the recent publication of her book,” noted Gibbes Executive Director Angela D. Mack.

Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe is organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions and was made possible by funding from the auxiliary group Gibbes, etc.

Related Programming

Artist Lecture, Book Signing and Reception
A program in the Women in Art Lecture Series

Wednesday, November 18, 6pm
$10 for museum members, $20 for non-members

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in photography from The Cooper Union. Graduating in 1975, she worked as a graphic artist and photojournalist for WNBC-TV. Starting in 1976 she has had frequent group and solo exhibitions at museums and galleries including the Leica Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, Galerie Herve Odermat in Paris and The Excelsior in Florence. She has published numerous books featuring not only her own work, but also that of unknown black photographers of the past.

Outside of the field of photography she has been continually involved in philanthropic pursuits involving various social, health and community issues. She is the director of the Arthur Ashe Endowment of the Defeat of AIDS, a former trustee of her alma mater The Cooper Union and a one-time Alternate Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, a presidential appointment.

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905 in historic Charleston, S.C. The Gibbes houses one of the foremost collections of American Art from the 18th century to the present. The Gibbes is currently undergoing major renovations and will reopen in the spring of 2016. The renovated museum will properly showcase its extensive collections and will feature an admission-free ground floor, providing a place to watch artists at work in studios and stroll through a world-class garden.

135 Meeting Street | Charleston, SC | 29401