Scene in America Explores Black Male Identity through Contemporary Art

The groundbreaking exhibition Scene in America: A Contemporary Look at the Black Male Image explores how artists address race and identity when using images of Black males in their work.

On view at the Mint Museum of Art from April 19 to November 2, 2008, the exhibition features works from the collections of The Mint Museum, the Van Every/Smith Gallery of Davidson College, and private collectors and artists.

“Scene in America undoubtedly marks an important cultural event for Charlotte and the region,” said Dr. Jae Emerling, Assistant Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  “By addressing the ways in which Black males have been represented in contemporary art, the exhibition offers viewers the opportunity to contemplate a series of complex issues ranging from the continued effects of racial stereotypes to the importance of extended families in the African American experience.”

The exhibition investigates shifts in power—from usurpation to attainment—found in contemporary portrayals of black masculinity. The South’s painful past of persecution and stereotyping is a recurring topic explored by the exhibition’s artists. Conversely, images of activism, family and community, and a positive and resilient identity hint at overcoming the societal obstacles left by the legacy of slavery.

Elizabeth Catlett invokes these positive attributes in her loving sculpture Family, while her lithograph To Marry portrays a couple sharing a kiss over the contradictory image of a lynched man, suggesting that the memory of past brutalities is present even in moments of intimacy. Similarly, Benjamin “Old Folks” Davis’ woodwork, Black Men Pledge Unity, shows that activism in great numbers can overcome many barriers.

Other works in the exhibit provide positive alternatives to past stereotypes. Chuck Close’s Lyle, a portrait of contemporary artist Lyle Ashton Harris, is created from many colors and forms, perhaps suggesting the complexity and beauty of Harris’s identity. Tommie Robinson incorporates an image of Charlotte’s Public Library into the background of his portrait titled Product, suggesting that one can achieve a positive self-identity through education, achievement and embracing an African heritage.

Many contemporary artists have found the history and persistence of racial stereotypes to be a compelling source of subject matter for their work. Robert Mapplethorpe’s Untitled #1, portrays model Ken Moody as physically beautiful: an object of desire striking a classical pose. Mapplethorpe acknowledges the stereotype of the black male as a physically powerful being, and seems to celebrate this quality rather than casting him as a figure to be feared.  Photographer Larry Fink’s Black Hand, Checkered Rump depicts a black man with a white female companion at a high society function, and asks viewers to consider his or her own views on mixed-race relationships and the cultural bias that often accompanies them.

Other prominent artists featured in Scene in America include Hale Woodruff, Romare Bearden, Camille Billops, Samella Lewis, John Hairston, Jr., Antoine “RAW” Williams, Juan Logan, Willie Little and John Biggers.

“This is not simply a show about race; rather, it is a promising example of how art instigates discussions, raises questions, and forms communities of viewers,” said Emerling. “With this exhibition, The Mint Museum has taken another important step in promoting not only contemporary art, but cultural diversity as well.”

The exhibition was curated by Kimberly Thomas under the direction of Carla Hanzal, curator of Contemporary Art. Curatorial and library staff have created a blog linked to the Museum’s Web site to encourage dialogue about this exhibition and the important themes it investigates.

Mint Museum of Art Presents Major Andy Warhol Exhibition

The iconic works of Andy Warhol, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, will be on display at the Mint Museum of Art beginning this October.

The landmark exhibition Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life & Legends presents rarely seen selections from Bank of America’s prized Warhol collection. Sponsored by Bank of America Corporation, the exhibition will be on view October 4, 2008 – February 15, 2009.

“Warhol’s enduring influence on American art establishes him as one of the most important artists of our time,” said Phil Kline, Executive Director of The Mint Museum. “This exhibition will allow viewers to experience and discover anew the profound impact of his art.”

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), born Andy Warhola, became the central figure of the Pop Art movement that emerged in the United States in the 1950s. The 1960s was an extremely prolific decade for Warhol. Appropriating images from popular culture, Warhol created paintings and silkscreens that remain icons of 20th century art, such as the Campbell’s Soup Cans, Disasters and Marilyns. Warhol, as an artist and an avant-garde filmmaker, became a renowned celebrity who created often controversial works. His art has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and is highly collected.

Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life & Legends spans the artist’s career from the 1950s through 1986, and features key early works from landmark series such as Endangered Species, Flowers, Jews, Myths, Muhammad Ali and Space Fruits. Using mass production techniques to create works, Warhol erased traditional distinctions between fine art and pop culture. From household objects to Hollywood starlets, Warhol’s subjects captured the essence of American culture.

The Mint Museum Announces New Director of Community Relations

The Mint Museum announced today the appointment of Rubie Britt-Height as Director of Community Relations. She will begin work at the Museum on September 30.

Britt-Height brings a strong combination of community outreach, education and public relations experience to The Mint Museum. For the past four years, she has served as Director of Community Affairs at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, where she successfully collaborated with culturally diverse community groups to develop programming related to those groups’ historical and contemporary art contributions. While there, she also hosted speaking engagements to promote VMFA’s message of accessibility to all and oversaw four of the museum’s support groups, along with a new initiative to engage 100 community business and non-profit opinion leaders in experiencing the museum’s amenities.

In her new position at the Mint, Britt-Height will work closely with the Executive Director and board of trustees to cultivate and enhance partnerships and educational opportunities with diverse civic, academic and arts organizations, and existing community partners, and will speak to audiences throughout the region about the Museum’s featured exhibitions, collections and programs.

“This is an exciting time to join The Mint Museum as it prepares to open its new facility in Charlotte’s Center City,” said Britt-Height. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the Museum as it continues to serve the city, state and region as a first-class arts destination. I look forward to collaborating with other arts venues, businesses and civic groups to promote cultural education and understanding through proactive museum outreach and community inclusion.”

Previously, Britt-Height worked in Durham as Executive Director of Sister 2 Hermana, a two-year grant program for African-American and Latin American women to help eradicate breast cancer. She has also served as Head of Communications, Community Relations & Cultural Arts for Greater St. Paul Baptist Church in Durham; Head of Public Affairs for the North Carolina Department of Transportation in Raleigh; and Information and Communications Specialist for the City of Charlotte. Britt-Height also established the “Black Art Expo” and African-American contemporary art collection at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, which showcases works donated by local artists during the annual expos.

“We are extremely pleased that Rubie will be joining the Mint,” said Cheryl Palmer, Director of Education. “She has a great wealth of experience in developing accessible programs and building appreciation for the arts across generations. Her passion for serving the community, combined with her creative leadership, makes her the right person to expand our outreach initiatives and build and enhance relationships with Charlotte’s leaders and its citizens.”

Britt-Height received a bachelor’s degree with honors in mass media arts from Hampton University and has begun advanced coursework in the master’s program for technology and communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also a 2006 graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond, a member of the Public Relations Society of America and Americans for the Arts, and has served on the boards of the YWCA and YMCA for the Richmond region. Britt-Height has two daughters, Brittanie, 20, and Chauncie, 10.

Museum-Raising Kickoff Celebration

Join us on Sunday, September 7 to kick off the countdown to the new Mint Museum in Center City! The community is invited to help celebrate as we raise excitement about our new location, raise awareness of what the new facilities will offer, and ultimately, start to raise a new Museum!

New plans for the Museum and its collections and programs will be unveiled at this family-friendly celebration. The festivities will take place on The Green (directly across from the Charlotte Convention Center) from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Enjoy live entertainment, refreshments and art-making activities for all ages!

The new Mint Museum in Center City will be housed on the Wachovia First Street Cultural Campus in a five-story, state-of-the-art facility. Construction on the new building is scheduled to start during the fourth quarter of 2008 and we expect to celebrate our grand opening in Fall 2010. Come be a part of the excitemint!

Ornament as Art Challenges Viewers to Look Beyond Jewelrys Traditions

Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collectionplaces contemporary jewelry within a larger framework of 20th and 21st century art. Opening at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design this fall, the exhibition showcases a broad array of national and international works from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s celebrated Helen Williams Drutt Collection of contemporary jewelry.

Over her lifetime, the legendary scholar, educator and gallery director Helen Williams Drutt, has assembled arguably one of the most comprehensive collections of contemporary studio jewelry in the world. Ornament as Art features approximately 275 pieces of jewelry spanning the 1960s through today, as well as drawings, watercolors, sketchbooks and sculptural constructions by the artists. Placed in context with significant movements in the non-craft art world, the exhibition encourages the appreciation of contemporary jewelry beyond its traditional boundaries without ignoring its roots.

Objects on view include necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings and rings culled from 15 different countries. Highlights include a sterling silver and polyester resin Torque 22-D Neckpiece (1971) by Stanley Lechtzin, a leading innovator in electroforming technologies; Claus Bury’s Ring (1970), a revolutionary work that blends precious metal with alternative materials; and Bernhard Schobinger’s Scherben vom Moritzplatz Berlin necklace (1982-1983), a distinctive combination of antique crystal beads with shards of Coca-Cola bottles found in a politically charged section of Berlin.

Ornament as Art is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue available for purchase in The Mint Museum Shops. Cindi Strauss, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design, will give a public lecture about the exhibition on Sunday, August 24 at 3:00 p.m. at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

The exhibition is on view at the craft museum August 16, 2008 – January 4, 2009. Ornament as Art is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston with generous funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rotasa Foundation. It is sponsored by The Founders’ Circle Ltd., the national support affiliate of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

Jaguar: Power in the Ancient Americas

The exhibition Jaguar: Power in the Ancient Americasfeatures the remarkable diversity of jaguar representations in earthenware, stone, wood and the fiber arts throughout the ancient Americas and among modern indigenous peoples. From intricate masks to delicate ceramics, visitors will experience the extraordinary artistic variations unique to each culture and explore the layers of meaning behind these representations.

Regarded as the most powerful predatory animal in the ancient Americas, the jaguar’s strength and prowess prompted its use as an important symbol of royalty.  From Mexico to Peru, the jaguar and puma symbolized the power of rulers. The jaguar was also associated with the underworld and its many deities, often adorning funerary objects such as burial urns that entombed the bones of honored ancestors.

These mighty felines also made reference to the belief in the spiritual transformative abilities of rulers and special religious practitioners who, in their animal spiritual forms, could harness sacred powers to affect worldly affairs. The jaguar was the prime companion spirit of the most powerful shamans, symbolizing the exceptional abilities of these potent practitioners.

Objects on view in the exhibition include ancient ritual drinking vessels, feasting ceramics, stone sculptures, textiles and modern performance masks, all decorated with the image of the mighty jaguar. Through these artworks we can glimpse the social, political and spiritual richness of the indigenous cultures of the ancient Americas.

The exhibition is on view at the Mint Museum of Art July 19 – December 14, 2008.

Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton

The Mint Museum of Art has originated a traveling exhibition of more than 100 rare and unique works by British-born artist and writer Clare Leighton.

This collection of Leighton’s work, assembled and donated to the Museum by Charlotte resident Gabby Pratt, is one of the largest in the country and includes more than 180 of the artist’s finely-detailed engravings, drawings and watercolors, spanning Leighton’s career from 1923 to 1965.

Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton provides a full survey of Leighton’s career, from her earliest prints in the 1920s that depict the labors of the English working classes to a selection of her rarely seen watercolors. Unique to the Pratt collection is a set of 12 Wedgwood plates, titled “New England Industries,” for which Leighton designed the transfer-printed images. Among the exhibition’s highlights are the prints that resulted from Leighton’s early visits to North America, including The Breadline, New York and Snow Shovelers, New York, as well as the artist’s entire Canadian Lumber Camp series.

Born to an artistic family, Leighton studied wood engraving in Great Britain before moving to the U.S. during World War II. Settling first in Baltimore, she moved to Chapel Hill in 1943 and served as a visiting art lecturer at Duke University from 1943 to 1945. During her career, Leighton wrote 15 books and created more than 700 intricate prints. The Pratt collection includes numerous examples of her critically-acclaimed scenes of agrarian life in both England and the American South.

During her lengthy career, Leighton illustrated her own writing as well as classic and contemporary literature, including notable commissions for books written by Thomas Hardy, Emily Brontë and Thornton Wilder. Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand will feature numerous wood engravings that Leighton created specifically as book illustrations, including those for her own book, Southern Harvest, and those commissioned for the seven-volume set of The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore.

To accompany the exhibition of Leighton’s work, the Museum presents Coming Home: Selections from the Schoen Collection. This outstanding exhibition features 22 paintings from the collection of Jason Schoen of Miami. Schoen’s holdings of American Scene painting trace the social, economic and political changes that occurred across this country between World Wars I and II — roughly the same era in which Leighton created her compelling engravings.

The paintings from the Schoen Collection, by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Joe Jones, Robert Gwathmey, Kenneth Hayes Miller and Ben Shahn, provide a broad national context for the themes and subjects found in Leighton’s work. This exhibition is not only a rare opportunity for visitors to see numerous works from one of the top collections of American Scene paintings held in private hands, but also to reflect upon our country’s history as seen through the eyes of some of its most important artists.

Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton and Coming Home: Selections from the Schoen Collection are on view at the Mint Museum of Art from May 17 through September 14, 2008. The Leighton exhibition will then travel to the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, N.C.

Both exhibitions include beautifully illustrated catalogues available for purchase in the Mint Museum Shops. The Clare Leighton catalogue is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, as well as a grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.

The Mint Museum Announces Gift to Support Expansion

The Mint Museum announced today a $5 million grant award from the Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation. This gift will support enhancements to the Mint’s new facility, which will open in 2010 in the heart of Charlotte’s burgeoning Center City. In recognition of this generous gift, The Mint Museum in Center City will name its dramatic, light-filled Atrium – the Museum’s principal gathering area – in honor of the late Mr. Morrison.

“We are grateful to the Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation for what is a transformative gift for our Museum,” said Phil Kline, Executive Director. “The Mint has ambitious plans to serve our public in the 21st century, and these funds will enable us to provide magnificent art experiences for all who enter the Museum. We are fortunate to have partners like the Morrison Foundation who recognize the significance of offering unique educational and cultural opportunities for all of our visitors.”
The funds from the Foundation will be used to build and enhance visitor amenities to ensure the Museum’s goal of creating an innovative, state-of-the-art facility.
“The generous gift by the Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation represents an unprecedented opportunity for The Mint Museum,” said Zach Smith, chairman of the Museum’s Building Committee. “The Board of Trustees saw the significance of the visitor experience as an essential component of the Museum’s expansion. We are deeply grateful to the Foundation for its commitment to this vision. This gift gives us the ability to enhance the visitor experience in the Mint’s new facility.”

Dr. Cynthia Haldenby Tyson, President of the Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation, said, “This gift demonstrates confidence in The Mint Museum’s expansion initiative and the City of Charlotte. Mr. Morrison avidly supported Charlotte’s drive towards growth. He would have applauded the evolution of Center City and would have enjoyed seeing the vibrancy of its current redevelopment.”

The Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation is a private foundation committed to strengthening higher education, promoting the arts and preserving the environment for current and future residents of the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Established in 2001, the Foundation honors the life and legacy of the late Robert Haywood Morrison.

Born in Hickory, N.C., in 1927, Robert Haywood Morrison was a gifted scholar, educator and businessman. A longtime member of The Mint Museum, Mr. Morrison held a deep appreciation for traditional fine arts. He enjoyed creativity in all forms, although the creative entrepreneurial spirit that he brought to real estate endeavors gave him the greatest personal fulfillment. Mr. Morrison’s gifting philosophies reflected his strong conviction that capital and endowment gifts provide lasting value to an organization and are likely to endure over time. He passed away in 2005.

The Mint Museum in Center City is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010, just one year prior to The Mint Museum’s 75th anniversary. Designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates of Boston (design architect), Clark Patterson Lee Design Professionals of Charlotte (architect of record), and George Sexton Associates of Washington, D.C. (museum consultant), the new facility will combine inspiring architecture with groundbreaking exhibitions to provide unparalleled art experiences for its visitors. The Museum expansion will provide larger and more flexible exhibition space and unique galleries to showcase the collections. The new facility will also house a Family Gallery to reinforce the Museum’s dual priorities of art and education.

Possibilities: Rising Stars of Contemporary Craft in North Carolina

Showcasing the work of six young North Carolina studio craft artists, Possibilities: Rising Stars of Contemporary Craft in North Carolinaillustrates the vitality and diversity present among a new generation of artists.

The exhibition features works by Vivian Beer (metal), Devin Burgess (glass), Cristina Cordóva (ceramics), Anne Lemanski (paper), Brent Skidmore (furniture) and Jerilyn Virden (ceramics), all of whom are creating extraordinary and distinctive work that is quickly gaining national attention.

Selected for the quality of their work, the exhibition’s artists visually and conceptually represent the dynamic future of craft in our region. “If you choose a work from a rising star, you make an investment in the future – yours and theirs,” says Rob Williams, consulting curator of Craft + Design. The works featured in Possibilities explore sculptural forms, high design, humor, politics and the confrontation of cultures.

Possibilities includes evocative ceramic works from artists Cristina Cordóva and Jerilyn Virden. Cordóva creates work that captures both personal and universal confrontations of cultures experienced by Latin American immigrants, while Virden’s sandblasted clay forms bridge the gap between the vessel and modernist sculpture.

Vivian Beer’s sculptural metal forms that function as seating complement Brent Skidmore’s functional furniture with “Stone Age” influences. Contributing paper pieces to the exhibition, Anne Lemanski’s three-dimensional constructions of animal forms feature politically charged images on hand-painted and appropriated paper fragments. Finally, Devin Burgess will present groupings of blown glass that showcase the sophistication of high design.

The Art of Affluence Showcases Haute Couture and Luxury Fashions

mpressive works of wearable art will be on display in the special exhibition The Art of Affluence: Haute Couture and Luxury Fashions 1947-2007.

This exhibition presents selections from the Museum’s extensive holdings of haute couture and luxury garments that reflect 60 years of creativity by top European and American fashion designers.

The term haute couture (French for “high sewing”) refers to one-of-a-kind, custom-made garments and is used by fashion firms around the world to describe their high-end lines. Due to their exclusivity and expert attention to detail, these garments can cost upwards of $20,000 per item and are characterized by flair, taste, fine materials and distinctive quality. Additionally, most every haute couture house creates a luxury prêt-a-porter, or ready-to-wear collection, which is classified as luxury clothing.

The Art of Affluence features garments and accessories by renowned designers including Chanel, De La Renta, Dior, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Valentino and Versace, among others. The exhibition explores the creation of new trends by earlier designers such the French master Christian Dior who premiered his first collection in 1947 Paris which was known thereafter as “The New Look” and Spaniard Cristóbal Balenciaga with his 1960s’ sculptural silhouettes for both day and evening.

Later designers, such as Zandra Rhodes and Gianni Versace, reflect the evolving use of vivid color and bold patterns in their couture designs. A notable Versace item in the exhibition is a gentleman’s ensemble designed for entertainer Sir Elton John, who sold items from his colorful couture wardrobe in 2006 to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The Art of Affluence will run through Spring 2010.