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.

Community Members in the Arts Honored at 2008 Spirit Awards

Annual awards ceremony marks its 22nd year recognizing Charlotte’s top arts supporters.

The Mint Museum and Donald Haack Diamonds & Fine Gems honored the recipients of the 2008 Spirit Awards on January 26. The Spirit Awards are one of the Charlotte metro area’s highest honors in the arts.

“The 2008 Spirit Award recipients embody the excitement and vitality of Charlotte’s arts supporters,” said Fred Dabney, event coordinator. “Their work for the arts enriches the lives of all Charlotteans and helps us appreciate the diversity of art in our community.”

The 2008 Spirit Award recipients are: Jennifer O. Appleby, Fred Lowrance, Marilyn B. Mack, Sandra A. Pettyjohn, Richard J. Osborne and Frank Bragg Financial Advisors.

Created in 1986, the Spirit Awards honor community members whose contributions of time, talent or resources have significantly enhanced the relevance and vitality of the arts in Charlotte and surrounding areas. A recipient of the 1999 Spirit Award, Donald Haack Diamonds & Fine Gems has been co-sponsoring the Spirit Awards for several years. For more information, e-mail or call Fred Dabney at 704/258-8887.