Stephen Compton: From Jugtown Pottery to hyalyn Porcelain: A Collector’s Journey
Delhom Service League Studio Visit
Steve Compton discusses his history as a collector of NC pottery, and how his interest led him to become a noted researcher and author. Steve shares details about his collection of pottery, now including over 2,000 pieces, and some of the many books he has authored.
Just part of the story: A chat with Constellation CLT artist de’Angelo Dia
By Rubie R. Britt-Height, Director of Community Relations at The Mint Museum
In September 2008, after 20 years away from Charlotte, I was drawn back to the Queen City and its art scene by what felt like a magnetic force and wide-open door. I was coming from the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as its community affairs director. I had worked with numerous amazing statewide artists, yet the springing up of talented Charlotte artists was nothing I had experienced. Charlotte and the Carolinas were rich with young, creative, thoughtful minds, and The Mint Museum was where I saw myself. At that time, it was showcasing a Charlotte-born, renowned artist whose work I loved—Romare Bearden. At the same time, the Mint was presenting an exhibition called A Contemporary Look at the Black Male Image. Two wows! I was impressed.
As I settled in the City once again, in summer of 2009, I was invited by God City artist-educator John R. Hairston, Jr. to the opening night of a NoDa art show that he and artist de’Angelo Dia had put together to debut their latest works. The atmosphere, the creative works, and the vibe of North Davidson were soulful, and light. I knew Hairston as this hip surrealist artist, and he introduced me to Dia. We chatted, he showed me his work, and we discussed his artistic views, society, and what he envisioned. It was a great show.
After that, I engaged the God City art collective members, including Dia, to engage with the Mint’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program as enlightened artist-educators that our students could engage with, and who were young, cool, and looked like them. God City connected with the students like a magnet, and Dia’s sessions brought out the best in the students’ abilities to be critical thinkers. They talked about current events, what they would do if they were the mayor, and how they could change their community by changing how they viewed themselves and “Griertown.” He was a newer member of the God City, and art, education, and social activism seemed his platform too, especially with young minds.
As an instructor at Trinity Episcopal School and through the Mint’s Grier Heights art program, Dia challenged his students and they enjoyed his teaching style and socially-conscious poetry. I also invited Dia to the Mint to present on his service projects, where youth were introduced to the concept of being more spiritual, with introspection, and of giving back to the community, and learning to delve deeper within to discover their own style and individuality.
Over a short time, Dia branched into several modes of art exploration, including photography, poetry, creative writing, oral presentations, and painting. Interestingly, he also was drawn into religious studies and received a Master of Divinity degree. He intertwined his growth as a young radical artist and theologian with his desire to be a social activist through his works of art and his engagement with youth in the Black church. He currently serves as the minister of social justice at St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte where he is known as Reverend de’Angelo Dia.
Dia’s Constellation CLT installation is on view at Mint Museum Uptown through March 7. I had a chance to recently chat with Dia and see where he was with creating this body of work on exhibition at Mint Museum Uptown, his art projects, his religion, his thinking, and his latest vibe.
RBH: What was your inspiration in creating these works featured in Constellation CLT?
Dia: Works featured in Constellation CLT are part of an on-going passion project. At this point, I have created 70 large-scale pastel drawings exploring representation and the celebration of creating cultures within a culture. The works of Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein inspired this collection. The book Where the Wild Things Are was the Holy Grail for me as a kid, however, I couldn’t identify with the main character Max, so I decided to place my cultural embodiment into Max and the Wild Things and create a pantheon of original characters. Each drawing was created at Goodyear Arts while listening to the works of assorted jazz artists (Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ghost Tree). Each drawing has a poem reflective of what I was theologically and culturally processing at the time.
RBH: In relation to your installation and viewing today’s America amid a divide, at what phase do you see African American art and culture as social commentary/activism?
Dia: African American art and culture has always been a mirror to America, exposing its hypocrisy and systemic oppression. The work of AfriCOBRA, Emory Douglas, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks and so many others exemplify this. However, I want to be clear, African American art and culture are not a monolith. Through this body of work, I am attempting to balance the tension of processing our daily reality of being Black in America, to highlight our resilience and tenacity, and to celebrate our inherent ability to thrive amidst a divisive social and political climate. The childlike elements of these drawings are my attempt to reclaim my own sense of Black Boy Joy with the understanding that joy is an act of resistance. These drawings are reminiscent of my drawing style in the second and third grade before any teacher attempted to socialize a “standard of quality art,” which often hinders the creative spirit.
RBH: Art is a catalyst for change. How do you view that perspective, and how can artists and art today bring about positive change in America?
Dia: Again, this goes back to representation for me. Representation in creatives, and creations and experiences inspire and ignite social movements that supersede any of my academic training.
RBH: Does poetry and theology impact your approach to your visual works of art? If so, in what way?
Dia: Absolutely. Poetry and visual art coexist as theological outlets for me. Every drawing is preceded with a writing prompt intended to help me gain a better understanding of self, others, the communities I navigate and negotiate with. Writing is my primary outlet and my area of academic training, and yet I cannot separate the literary from the visual. This body of work was always intended for me. They are my mind maps, holistic outlet, visual journals. For example, Epiphany, which is on display in this collection, was my template for a poem titled shallow words. With deep investigation, the viewer can find the words “what if I was your child” throughout the drawing. This is in reference to the biblical children of Israel, Isaac, one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites, and in a contemporary context every Black and Brown child of God killed as a result of power and authority. “What if” is also a reference to a Marvel comics anthology series of alternate reality stories titled What If?
RBH: You noted being a comic book scholar? What does that entail and how did you arrive there?
Dia: I earned a master’s in literature from UNC Charlotte. My thesis project was “Black Images in Comics: An examination of what does 200 years of cartoon images depicting Black people tell us about ourselves.” The images displayed for Constellation CLT are a continuation of this study. While the comics scholar in me values and appreciates the impressive archeology of images that present Black history, this work is a visceral reminder of the barrage of racist depictions intentionally created to oppress us. Currently, I am working on my doctorate with a proposed dissertation topic of theopoetics, an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of poetics, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy. My comic passion was sparked by Milestone Media, a comic company created by three Black men with the intent to provide a diverse spectrum of representation in comics. Comics have always been one of the mediums intended for theological analysis (i.e. God is Disappointed in You, 2013, Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler).
RBH: With thoughts of the fantastical and your love for comic books, who are your most celebrated superheroes/sheroes? If you could create one, what attributes would he/she possess?
Dia: I love this question and it is a tough question because there are so many amazing characters to select from. Shaft (Richard Roundtree) was my gateway to superheroes. His Blackness was and is his superpower. I recommend Shaft written by David F. Walker (Dynamite Entertainment). Luke Cage (written and drawn by Genndy Tartakovsky) and Misty Knight (Marvel Knights), who deserves her own comic series, are two street-level characters presenting a slice of Black life that is relatable. Two series I recommend are Excellence and Bitter Root both produced by Image Comics, written and drawn by creatives of color. If there was a comic character I would love to write about, it would be Doctor Voodoo (Marvel Comics with art created by artist Wolly McNair and Marcus Kiser, inked by Reco Renzi. This would be a dream project. If I could create a character, the attributes would be resilience, tenacity, creativity, and the superpower would be superspeed. Often, there is never enough time in a day to accomplish all I desire to do.
RBH: Which world or American leaders and artists have most impacted your life and works of art?
• Poet, professor, Jericho Brown (The Tradition) for his narrative transparency.
• Poet, professor, Gary Jackson (Missing You, Metropolis) for his beautiful work that is a hybrid of introspection and comic mythology.
• Poet, educator, and should be the Poet Laureate of Wakanda, Nikki Giovanni for the diversity and scope of her work.
• Artist Brain Stelfreeze for his incredible art and more than that, his compassion and willingness to take time to talk with emerging artists.
• TJ Reddy (August 1945-March 2019) for constantly reminding me that creativity and sleep are acts of defiance.
• My parents, Betty and Charlie Jessup, for providing me with creative outlets for artistic expression, introducing me to the music of Parliament Funkadelic, and affirming Black Boy Joy.
• Growing up I thought Shel Silverstein was Black, so I am going to give him honorable mention.
RBH: What is your preferred art medium and why?
Dia: I love drawing, it is a basic instinct. I have a passion for photography, and it is perhaps the best medium to consistently document our collective narratives. However, writing is in my primal nature. I will always find comfort with writing. It was the first artistic outlet that made me feel at home.
RBH: How do you hope your works of art will impact the viewer?
Dia: I hope viewers see them as a reflection of childhood, joy, and solidarity.
RBH: What’s next for you with respect to art projects, works, inspirations?
Dia: I had work recently published in the anthology 2020: The Year that Changed America edited by Kevin Powell. I am currently working on a chapbook that will be part of my doctoral dissertation, which will include poetry and drawings. I am contributing to a performance titled Codex with performance arts members of the Goodyear Arts Collective. I am also working on a performance inspired by the life and music of Marvin Gaye. This is a collaboration with sound artist Dylan Gilbert.
Studio Visit with Amy Sanders and Ron Philbeck
Delhom Service League
Amy and Ron discuss their individual work, and then discuss their collaboration on a series of work created during the pandemic. While their individual work is very different, their collaborative work has been very popular and a great learning process for them both. If you would like to see more of their work, you can visit their individual websites, amysanderspottery.com and ronphilbeckpottery.com. Both potters are scheduled to be exhibitors at the Delhom’s Potters Market at the Mint on Sept. 25, 2021.
Leah Leitson Ceramics: Then and Now
Delhom Service League Studio Visit
Join the Delhom Service League as they Leah Leitson, ceramic artist and educator based in Asheville NC. She discusses her career in ceramics from her first interest as a studio potter to her current role as Professor of Ceramics at Warren Wilson College. For more information about Leah, you can visit her website at www.leahleitson.com.
Delhom Service League Studio Visit with Julie Wiggins
Join the Delhom Service League as they visit potter Julie Wiggins in her studio to hear about her current work, learn about her creative techniques, and hear about some of the challenges facing potters during the pandemic.
On the Daily
24 Hours in the life of Ruben Natal-San Miguel
Ruben Natal-San Miguel was in the North Tower when American Airlines Flight 11 came careening into the side of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Natal-San Miguel survived—but his former lifestyle didn’t. He left his finance job and summers-in-the-Hamptons routine. He ditched the high-rise and moved to Harlem. Then the former photography collector picked up the camera himself, drawn to the people he saw as the city morphed in the wake of the tragedy.
“I’ve walked every street in all five boroughs,” Natal-San Miguel says.
A native of Puerto Rico, Natal-San Miguel came to the U.S. to study architecture in college and graduate school—studies that inform his eye for photography. Now 51, Natal-San Miguel is the artist behind the Mint’s first online exhibition, Expanding the Pantheon: Women R Beautiful. His portrait Mama (Beautiful Skin) in the contemporary galleries of Mint Museum Uptown shows a confident woman in front of a red van. She wears a white T-shirt, with cornrows and skin marked by vitiligo. The image—one of 26 included in Women R Beautiful—speaks to the photographer’s overarching goal: introducing a new range of beauty for our consideration. Here, Natal-San Miguel walked us through his typical day.
I’m diabetic, so the first thing I do is test my blood and feed my cat, Dante. I check my email. If it’s press, I need to respond. If something got published, I immediately go on social media. The base of my collectors is older and on Facebook. So I go do a more personal approach there before reposting on Instagram. Then I go and eat and take my meds.
For breakfast, the first thing is coffee. It’s part of my family and culture. I was born in Puerto Rico, where my grandfather had a coffee and tobacco plantation. I recently made whole wheat cinnamon pancakes with sliced mandarin oranges cooked in slow fire. I’m daydreaming about it.
I’m not exactly a morning person. I hate midday shadows and I love people in natural light. I photograph people exactly how I find them: the hair, the necklace, the shoes. I’m a storyteller. I have a simple, strong connection between me and the subject.
I make a sandwich or buy it at a corner bodega. My go-to sandwich—well, I’m not supposed to have it all the time—it’s chicken parmesan. In New York, I love it.
I take a nap. My cat is next to me. He’s black with green eyes, and sweet. I found him in Harlem on a cold December day and he followed me home. I take time to think. It’s part of my process. Right now, my head is all about a book for Women R Beautiful.
With my photographs, I celebrate a life—a lot of these women may not have a voice. My grandfather wouldn’t allow my mother to look at him when she was talking to him. She had to talk to him with her head down. Even though she was highly educated, she was in the shadow of machismo culture. I was a little kid when I saw that, and I had a visceral, strong reaction. I couldn’t believe a father could treat a daughter like that. It’s what motivated me to do a show like what’s at the Mint.
I live in a brownstone, have a yard. But I’m a creature of the street. It’s good to travel around this time because kids aren’t coming out of school and the subways aren’t crowded. I want to be in place by 3 or 3:30 PM. My encounters with subjects are no longer than five minutes, usually just a few seconds.
Sometimes I have three cameras on me. The lens caps are off. If I have to wait to take a cap off, my subject may be gone. My work is like a subway ride—very strong, very fast.
You’re passing thousands of people and that person catches your eye and you go after them. Most New Yorkers are always in a hurry and they don’t want to talk. I feel like I’m selling Tupperware when I’m trying to get their photo. But I’m lucky. I’ll get nine out of 10. These people in the most marginalized areas of the city—they have such wisdom and can tell if you’re a bullshitter. I love and respect that. They can tell I’m not a bullshitter.
I get their email address, get their Instagram feed, and I send the file later. Sometimes I give them a signed print. I stay in touch and invite them to my shows. I want them to see themselves in museums, in galleries.
By this time, I have my second cup of coffee. Coffee twice a day, that’s part of my culture. Then that moment before it goes dark—I call it the magic moment. It’s only a few seconds, so you better be somewhere that’s important.
In the winter, I’m home by this time. In summer, I’ll be out until 8:30 or 9 PM. Dinner is usually salad and soup. Sometimes I’ll buy a rotisserie chicken and share it with my cat. He’s a Harlem cat and loves his fried chicken and rotisserie chicken. After dinner, I look at pictures I’ve taken.
I do what I call my “YouTube videos and Google research.” I Google neighborhoods and notice the demographics, crime statistics, landmarks. I look at an area’s retail. It’s important for me to understand the culture of an area to reflect it in the photos. I took the photo of the three Muslim girls in Women R Beautiful because I’d seen the subway coming through in a commercial for a local newscaster. I saw it, googled the gym name on the side of a building, and went there. I sat like a fool for 90 minutes on those steps, waiting. I said, “I’m going to sit here until someone comes down who’s amazing.” And the three little Muslim girls came down. That was it.
I do The New York Times crossword. It takes me only a few minutes because I’ve been doing it for years. I like to motivate my brain to think. Then I give myself time to think.
—As told to Caroline Portillo, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at The Mint Museum
This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.
A Conversation with Summer Wheat
Summer Wheat, the artist behind Foragers, a monumental tribute to women workers of North Carolina installed at Mint Museum Uptown, sits down with Jen Sudul Edwards, PHD, the Mint’s Chief Curator, to discuss the inspiration and evolution of the piece. Foragers spans four stories and 3,720 square feet in Mint Museum Uptown’s Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium. A myriad of vibrant panels that give the illusion of stained glass fill the atrium’s 96 windows and weave a story of women who labor to build the communities that form the spine of modern society.
The Mint Museum From Home is Presented By Chase.
Kevin Cole YAM’s Studio Tour
Young Affiliates of the Mint join Kevin Cole (virtually) for another studio tour. Cole was featured in the Young Affiliates juried show “Coined in the South” in 2019. His work is included in more than 3,600 public, private, and corporate collections throughout the United States and abroad (Michael Jordan owns one of his pieces!). Watch to hear about some of Kevin’s latest work and the inspiration behind some of his best known pieces.
“Through experimentation and our life experiences, we allow the creative chaos to take over and, eventually, we discover combinations of colors and materials”
Pioneers of disruptive design, the art of Fernando and Humberto Campana is strongly rooted in Brazilian culture and traditions, and carries universal values in its core, such as freedom and human dignity, by searching self-identity through life experiences. By incorporating the idea of transformation and reinvention, their creative process raises everyday materials to nobility, bringing not only creativity into design, but also Brazilian characteristics — the colors, the mixtures, the creative chaos — the triumph of simple solutions, in an artistic and poetic way, including the piece “Kaiman Jacare” that is part of Mint’s permanent collection and in the latest exhibition New Days, New Works.
Based in Sao Paulo, Estudio Campana is constantly investigating new possibilities within design: from furniture making to architecture, landscaping, fashion, scenography and more, and are represented throughout the world. Below the brothers share about how they work together, their creative processes and inspirations, and hope for the future.
Tell me a bit about yourselves and the type of art you specialize in.
We are storytellers, we like to bridge disciplines and try not to define ourselves by a particular type of art. Our mantra is to let materials “speak” to us, from which point we discover what shape and function it can take. Through experimentation and our life experiences, we allow the creative chaos to take over and, eventually, we discover combinations of colors and materials (many times overlooked by most designers) that tell the stories from that experience, artistically and poetically.
Where is your studio located?
Our studio is located in São Paulo, Brazil, in a neighborhood called Santa Cecília. Today it is considered a cool place, thriving with hype galleries, bars, shops and restaurants, right next to mom-and-pop shops, discount clothes stores, little hardware stores. When we started our practice there, back in the 1990s, it was considered a “no-go” zone due to the humble buildings and working-class population, but that’s exactly why we were attracted to it, for it was genuine and grassroots.
What’s it like working together from creation to execution of your artwork?
Humberto: Fernando and I complement each other very well. He starts from a bi-dimensional concept, making drawings, and often I bring that idea to life by researching materials, establishing a process, until it takes shape and comes into existence. I am interested in this process, and what happens behind the scenes, the role of the piece as it occupies a place in people’s homes. Fernando offers a distant gaze to my ideas, bringing a fresh outlook.
Fernando: It’s fair to say we have almost like a twin connection, certainly a spiritual one, although our thought process is different. When we are developing a new piece, there is an unspoken agreement between us, which is not always that smooth, but always with mutual respect. We also count with the support of our team at the studio, to help settle any standoffs.
What was your inspiration for Kaiman Jacare?
Our inspiration was the pre-historic animals, the dinosaurs. The idea was to create an oversized piece of furniture that resembles a tangle of giant scary creatures from that era. Each piece can be detached and reattached, allowing you to come up with several combinations. It’s a very comfortable, inviting, huggable composition, yet, it plays with the sense of being surrounded by these dangerous creatures, which we find quite provocative.
What is your favorite piece you’ve created?
Fernando: My favorite piece is still a very classic one, the Vermelha armchair, from 1998. We were fiddling around with different materials trying to come up with unusual upholstering when we picked up this roll of 500 meters of red rope and began to wrap it around a metal structure. It is our signature piece, produced by Italian manufacturer Edra, and part of several museums around the world.
Humberto: I am very fond of our Plush Toy collection (2002) because it has a deep connection with affection. It started as an experiment to find new ways of upholstering, and soon it transformed itself into this whimsical universe reminiscent of our childhood, the memory of a favorite stuffed toy, and the sense of protection and comfort.
How do people and your environment influence your art?
Fernando: These are an enormous influence for us, no doubt. We portray what we experience in our daily lives, especially in a country so culturally rich such as Brazil, with a unique viewpoint. Also, we grew up in the countryside, and nature was our main source of inspiration. Time had a different pace, giving us the chance to observe the landscape and animals in every season. That gave us the ability to pay attention to life as it unfolded. Once we moved to the city, we applied that same gaze towards people and their way of living, giving us a solid foundation for our design practice.
Humberto: Our work is like a snapshot of the world we experience. Places like the outskirts of São Paulo, Shanghai, the Amazon, the Sahara Desert, plus the people we encounter along the way. All of that fuels our imagination which is then materialized into objects.
Are you finding new inspiration for your art during these current events in the world?
Fernando: It’s been pretty hard to find inspiration, but I had the chance to travel to the countryside and the seaside during the quarantine, keeping a distance from the industrial world and immersing myself in nature. This period will gradually percolate and eventually, something will come out of it, creatively speaking.
Humberto: At the beginning of the quarantine, I was quite upset like everyone else. Aside from the tragic loss of life, we also have terrible leadership in Brazil. After a while, I began to come to terms with the fact I had to stay at home, and suddenly my house became my universe. I discovered ways of creating with what I had at hand, in the space I had. Lately, I have been doing collages and assemblages, and it has helped me a great deal to stay creatively active.
What positive-perspective changes in society would you like to see evolve from the protests, pandemic and social struggles of now?
Fernando: I would like humanity to be more respectful of the environment. And a more fraternal society, where we look out for each other. We had enough destruction, deforestation and pollution on this planet. It’s time we take responsibility for our actions and stop producing waste that keeps corroding our home.
Humberto: I think the world today is too divided. This antagonism doesn’t take us anywhere, it only leads to destruction with no clear way out. I wish people would become more united, have more respect and affection for each other, leaving their ego aside, so that we can find and follow a path to coexistence.
What are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?
Fernando: I just finished reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I am also watching a few series on TV. One is called Girls from Ipanema which takes place in the ’60s, in Rio, during the Bossa-Nova years. I like to listen to all kinds of music, but Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) is always on top of my list.
Humberto: I have been reading articles about iconic designers and architects in English. I enjoy learning more about their life trajectories while reading them aloud and practicing the language.
Who are you following on social media right now?
Fernando: I am a bit of an outcast when it comes to social media. I don’t have any accounts on any platform. I am not attracted to this type of thing. I am much more interested in the real world.
Humberto: I am currently following Design Academy Eindhoven on Instagram (@designacademyeindhoven), from The Netherlands. I admire not only their outstanding conceptual design program, but also their intrinsic concern with training students to produce work in favor of a better planet.
5 things you may not know about artist Summer Wheat, plus a virtual tour of her Brooklyn studio
One silverlining of being quarantined at home is the opportunity to see and share experiences that we might not normally be able to experience. Enter our favorite new video pastime: artist interviews and studio tours. Mint’s Chief Curator Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, joined Brooklyn-based artist Summer Wheat in her studio for a bit of show-and-tell on her technique and processes.
Wheat’s painting With Side With Shoulder is part of the newest New Days, New Works exhibition, and her atrium installation Foragers will be on view throughout the fall. Here are a few fun facts that we learned during Wheat’s studio tour.
- Summer Wheat is originally from Oklahoma City, OK, attended Savannah College of Art and Design, and has been living and working in Brooklyn, NY for the past 11 years.
- She has created in many mediums, from painting and sculpture, to even making custom salt and pepper shakers. Wheat says that she “likes the idea of taking a drawing and making it something usable.”
- Her creative process is two-fold: First, she always starts with a drawing, which she does alone and views this as an intimate space. Then she brings the drawing to the studio where she and her team make the ideas come to life.
- Her installation on the windows of the Mint Museum Uptown’s atrium will be her third large-scale piece using this material, and reminds her of stained glass. “I wanted to start telling stories in this format,” says Wheat, who is excited to tell impactful stories through visuals, color, and dimension.
- When the Mint opens, you’ll get to see not only Wheat’s atrium installation, but also her painted piece With Side With Shoulder that uses mesh in our newest exhibition New Days, New Works.
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