Curators’ Pick: “Siamese Twins” by Virgil Ortiz

Curators’ Pick: Siamese Twins by Virgil Ortiz

Virgil Ortiz was born there and lives in Cochiti. Coming from a place where clay and life are synonymous, Ortiz did not know that making things out of clay was art until he was a teenager. The earliest Cochiti hand-built clay figures may have been inspired by circus performers or other itinerant entertainers, since the characters are usually depicted in an active state with an open mouth, suggesting singing.  Those early figures were much smaller in size than Ortiz’s sculpture, but the way he made and decorated this form is consistent with the way historic objects, including those made by his mother and grandmother, were made. 

Credit: Virgil Ortiz (American, 1969-). “Siamese Twins,” 1997, clay, slip, stain. Gift of Gretchen and Nelson Grice. 2002.124.1. Copyright Virgil Ortiz Creations 1997.

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Curator’s Pick: “Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing” John Leslie Breck

Curator’s Pick: Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing by John Leslie Breck

Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing, was created in 1888 by American artist John Leslie Breck. Breck was born in 1860, grew up near Boston, and trained in Germany, Belgium, and France. In 1887, he and seven of his colleagues visited the village of Giverny which lies approximately 40 miles northwest of Paris where the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet had settled in 1883. 

Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing was painted in the summer of 1888, not long after Breck had converted to Impressionism. In the painting, Suzanne sits in dappled sunlight under a leafy tree and in front of a field of golden hay. Breck’s skill at capturing the play of light and shadow is on full display. A canvas by Monet, completed at the same time, features his stepdaughter Blanche at work at her easel and in the distance, Suzanne, who peers over Breck’s shoulder as he, too, works on a painting.   

See this painting and 70 others by John Leslie Breck in the exhibition John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist on view at Mint Museum Uptown through January 2, 2022.

Credit: John Leslie Breck (American, 1860-99). “Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing,” 1888, oil on canvas. Gift of the Mint Museum Auxiliary and courtesy Heather James Fine Art. 2016.25

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Curators’ Pick: “King’s Voyage” by Bertil Vallien

Curators’ Pick: King’s Voyage by Bertil Vallien

Bertil Vallien is recognized as the pioneer of the sand-casting technique, in which molten glass is poured into a firm sand mold. Much like the cire perdue or lost wax technique, the delicate nature of the mold material prevents more than one sculpture from being produced. Thus, Vallien’s sand-cast sculptures are unique works of art.

One of the most prominent vessel themes in his stoneware sculptures of the late 1970’s, the boat became a hallmark of Vallien’s later sand-cast sculptures (1984-88). Vallien’s boats are containers for messages and metaphors for man’s existence. They explore universal themes, like the journey of life and the unknown destination.

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Curators’ Pick: “Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool” by Kay Sage

Curators’ Pick: Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool by Kay Sage

Kay Sage was one of the few American artists to be closely involved with the French Surrealist movement. “Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool” was completed at the height of her career and incorporates all of the hallmarks of her signature style: a haunting, desolate landscape; beautifully-rendered yet enigmatic forms; and sophisticated variations in tone and color. The title is thought to be a reference to the traditional gifts for a couple’s sixth and seventh anniversaries. 1947 marked the sixth anniversary of Sage and Tanguy’s move to Woodbury, Connecticut and the seventh of their marriage.

Credit: Kay Sage (American, 1898-1963). “Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool,” 1947, oil on canvas. Museum purchase: The Katherine and Thomas Belk Acquisition Fund. 2016.8. © 2016 Estate of Kay Sage / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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Curators’ Pick: “Flowerbed” by Yann Gerstberger

Curators’ Pick: Flowerbed by Yann Gerstberger

Yann Gerstberger creates murals, sculptures, and textile tapestries from his home in Mexico City. In Flowerbed Gerstberger uses inspiration from his world travels, both in person and electronically, to create imagery of lush rainforest and desert flora and fauna.

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Gallery Chat with Curator and Community, Part 3

Gallery Chat with Curator and Community, Part 3

Coming together for another discussion surrounding works of art in the Mint’s permanent collection is Jon Stulhman, PhD, senior curator of American art, and Rubie R. Britt-Height, director of community relations at the Mint.

This series is a part of video series that examines and compares works of art currently installed in the Mint’s Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown.

Watch the first two videos in this series using the buttons below:

Gallery Chat with Curator and Community, Part 2

Gallery Chat with Curator and Community, Part 2

Coming together for another discussion surrounding works of art in the Mint’s permanent collection is Jon Stulhman, PhD, senior curator of American art, and Rubie R. Britt-Height, director of community relations at the Mint.

This series is a part of new video series that examines and compares works of art currently installed in the Mint’s Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown.

Watch the first video in this series here: https://mintmuseum.org/gallery-chat-with-curator-and-community-part-1/

Monteith and Stand- Curators’ Pick

Monteith and Stand – Curators’ Pick

Brian Gallagher, curator of decorative arts, tells us about this peculiar object found at Mint Museum Randolph.

A monteith was used to cool wine glasses, which were suspended upside down into iced water. The glass stems rested in the monteith’s notches. This particular monteith and stand were made for Thomas Lamb (1753–1813), a Boston shipping merchant who was very active in the early years of the American China trade.

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One year after Covid-19 shutdowns began, Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic reflects how it shaped a societal shift

One year after Covid-19 shutdowns began, Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic reflects how it shaped a societal shift  

By Liz Rothaus Bertrand  

When the world came to a halt in early spring 2020, so did museums everywhere. Doors closed, shipments stopped, planned exhibitions were put on hold. Then cities across the nation erupted in protest, as communities faced a reckoning with long-term injustices and systemic racism. The concurrent events posed a challenge: How could the Mint best serve the community through the crisis and uprising, while also facing financial uncertainty and logistical challenges caused by the pandemic?  

“This gave us [an] opportunity,” says Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, the Mint’s chief curator and curator of contemporary art. “Instead of showing an exhibition that seemed incongruous with the times, we were able to construct something that reflected the times.”  

Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic opened April 21 at Mint Museum Uptown. The Mint commissioned new works by three North Carolina artists—Amy Bagwell, Antoine Williams, and Stacy Lynn Waddell. Their task: create works of art that respond to something that has happened since the pandemic began and reflects some change in their practice.  

CAPTURING A MOMENT WE’RE STILL EXPERIENCING  

As poet and mixed-media artist Amy Bagwell reflects on the past year, she lands on one overriding sensation: dissonance. Bagwell, who also teaches English at Central Piedmont Community College, watched her students grapple with both the dire consequences of COVID-19 and racial injustice. And yet she also heard people deny the virus’s existence and claim the protests were unjustified.  

“That dissonance is terrifying,” Bagwell says. “Absurd in a painful way.”  

Poetry she wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic inspired the three large-scale collages she created for Silent Streets. “As artists we’re trying to document this moment of multiple vexations,” Bagwell says, “but it will be an interim document because we’ll be going through this during and after the show. We don’t yet have the benefit of distance.”  

CONFRONTING SYSTEMIC RACISM  

Greensboro-based artist Antoine Williams says 2020 was shaping up to be a great year—but ended up being one of the worst. The pandemic upended his personal and professional lives while exposing, once again, systemic racism across the nation.  

An assistant professor of art at Guilford College, Williams says his work is influenced by critical race theory. For Silent Streets, his mixed-media work looks at the uprisings and their meaning. He explores the objectification of Black labor and culture, and the absurdity of public shock when Black people speak up against injustice.  

Creating during this challenging time has been cathartic, Williams says. “It’s a way of me shouting at the universe … or to feel like I’m contributing to this conversation.”  

RECLAIMING SYMBOLS OF POWER  

Artist Stacy Lynn Waddell of Durham often takes tools and uses them in new ways, redefining how we communicate. She has used branding irons on paper and acid to paint, among other experimental techniques.  

For Silent Streets, Waddell explores themes like representation and inclusion in symbols of power. Working alongside a master quilter, she used homemade textiles to create flags. By using a technique from a domestic realm and bringing it to a public sphere, she envisioned a way to reclaim symbols such as flags that are often weaponized, and explored how they could be redesigned to be more inclusive.  

“I think we’ll look back on this years later [and say] ‘This was an opportunity, even in all the bleak, difficult, sad lolling out of all of it,” Waddell says. “It’s still been an opportunity.”  

OTHER PANDEMIC-BORN PERSPECTIVES  

These three commissions form the core of the exhibition, but Silent Streets also features a wide spectrum of artists’ works during the pandemic. The exhibition also includes photo highlights from Diary of a Pandemic, a collaboration between Magnum Photos and National Geographic that features images taken by stranded photojournalists around the world in 2020.  

In the Pandemic Comics part of the exhibition, the focus is on how syndicated comic strips such as Pearls Before Swine, Liō, and Tank McNamara changed course suddenly as COVID-19 upended our lives. Silent Streets will also features As the Boundary Pulls Us Apart, a video and soundscape projection created by Charlotte artists Matt Steele and Ben Geller. 

 


 

Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a Charlotte-based freelance writer who has a love of the arts in all its forms.

This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.