Beauford Delaney was one of the most highly regarded African American artists working with abstraction during the middle decades of the 20th century. After he relocated to Paris in 1953, he gained acclaim for his vivid, expressionistic portraits of friends and cultural figures, such as writer James Baldwin and singer Marian Anderson. He also became known for his powerful, light-filled abstractions like Untitled, seen here. Untitled is on loan at the moment to the exhibition Beauford Delaney and James Baldwin: Through the Unusual Door at the Knoxville Museum of Art. While it’s gone, we can enjoy its beauty virtually.
Josiah Wedgwood’s statue of a sleeping boy holding a poppy sprig in his left hand is Somnus, the god of sleep in Roman mythology. The poppy is itself a symbol of sleep. The statue is a close copy of a marble sculpture made about 1635 by Alessandro Algardi (1598–1654), a renowned sculptor in 17th-century Rome. Wedgwood’s version is in black basalt, a fine-grained stoneware that he perfected, and it is part of Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries at Mint Museum Randolph.
Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
Although Ansel Adams was trained as a concert pianist, by 1930 photography had become the focus of his career and the western American landscape his subject. Adams was recognized as an ardent and effective conservationist and served as a member of the Sierra Club’s board of directors from 1934 to 1971. Many of his photographs – like this one – were taken in California’s Yosemite National Park.
“Using the history of art as my playground, I toy with paintings from the past, and I connect them to the present,” says artist Ken Aptekar. Prior to creating Charlotte’s Charlotte, Aptekar met with diverse groups within the community to gain a better understanding of what Queen Charlotte means to Charlotteans. He then took fragments of these conversations and sandblasted them onto panels that float above people’s favorite details of the museum’s 1772 coronation portrait of our city’s namesake.
Monteith and Stand
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. They are on view in the Crosland Gallery at Mint Museum Randolph.
From an early age the British artist Russell Young was drawn to the idea of the “American dream,” which represented freedom and possibility to him. His bold silkscreen paintings like this one, “Nina Simone,” explore the American culture as seen through the eyes of a foreigner. Here, singer, songwriter, and musician (and North Carolina native) Nina Simone stares directly out at the viewer with a look that is equal parts determination and confidence. Simone was well known for her strong stance on racial and social injustice, both in her music and her personal activism. The piece sparkles with diamond dust.
Anybody else missing baseball this spring? Pottery firm Ott and Brewer wanted to create a prototypically American work to display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. So they hired Canadian-born sculptor Isaac Broome. Broome devised this monumental vase to honor America’s favorite pastime, complete with figures of a pitcher, catcher, and hitter around its base. The factory then made limited copies of those sculptures for individual sale. The “Pitcher” is on view in the American Galleries at Mint Museum Uptown.
Slow: Eleven Women and 400 Daisies
Installed in the Jewelry gallery at Mint Museum Uptown, “Slow: Eleven Women and 400 Daisies” was created by Ted Noten as a tribute to the Mint Museum Auxiliary. The Dutch conceptual jewelery designer envisioned a 3D-printed gold Grace Kelly head, with hair details, eyes, ears, neck, and brows, taken from other illustrious American women. Obscured by the magnetic daisy brooches—a group of which are removed annually—it will take years before the entire head is revealed to the public.
St. Cecilia, a Portrait (Mrs. Richard Crowninshield Derby)
Need to de-stress? Study this beauty and imagine the melodic plucking of harp strings. Although he was born in Boston, artist John Singleton Copley spent much of his career working in England, where he painted this portrait of fellow Bostonian Mrs. Richard Crowninshield Derby, in the guise of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Mrs. Derby was known for her talents as a pianist, but Copley chose instead to have her playing a harp: the symbol associated with Saint Cecilia but also an instrument known for its links to antiquity and its Biblical reference to Christian worship. (Opting for the harp also allowed Copley to feature Mrs. Derby’s slender fingers elegantly plucking the strings.)
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is celebrated for designing elegant and comfortable fashions for the modern woman. From her atelier on the rue Cambon, she created clothes made of soft fabrics and relaxed silhouettes, costume jewelry, handbags, and perfume. This afternoon ensemble could have been worn to the office or an afternoon social engaement. It has recently returned to Paris as part of the exhibition “Gabrielle Chanel, manifeste de mode,” at Palais Galliera-Musee de la Mode. The show is scheduled to open sometime later this spring.
Urban Color Palette, Charlotte
This stunning piece made of plant-dyed Icelandic wool was created by Iceland-based fiber artist Hildur Bjarnadottir to celebrate the opening of Mint Museum Uptown in 2010. The artist came to Charlotte, collected plants from the Uptown area and set up a dye lab. She invited museum members and the local community to assist in making recipes, dyeing, and drying the yarns. Bjarnadottir then took those dyed yarns back to Iceland where she, her twin sister, and neighbors of all ages, came together to crochet the individual squares. The site-specific installation, known as “Urban Color Palette,” is on view in the Craft & Design galleries at Mint Museum Uptown.
Tea Canister, Soup Plate, Teapot
Earthenware forms inspired by fruits and vegetables were extremely popular in England throughout the 1760s, and many Staffordshire potters produced them. William Greatbatch is especially known for the high quality of his products—just look at these finely modeled cauliflower wares. They are on view at Mint Museum Randolph in Portals to the Past: British Ceramics 1675–1825.
This bowl—on view at Mint Museum Randolph—is part of an ongoing series of ceramics and prints by Diego Romero that chronicles the adventures of the Chongo Brothers, named for the chracteristic hairstyle of Pueblo men, the chongo. The strong graphic design is a combination of geometric motifs related to ancient Mimbres pottery and pop or comic-strip aesthetics. Diego Romera creates narratives that address social injustices. His works of art draw from his Cochiti Pubelo life, training at UCLA, world travels, and his family and community in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives.
Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing
Today, Impressionism is one of the most popular artistic styles, but when John Leslie Breck first visited Giverny in 1887, it was still highly controversial. Breck—who worked alongside Monet—helped found the colony at Giverny and was one of the first Americans to adopt the Impressionist style. He’s also is responsible for popularizing it back in America. This painting, completed during Breck’s first year in Giverny, depicts Monet’s stepdaughter Suzanne. Look at his emphasis on the play of light and shadow, the broken brushwork, and the focus on an intimate moment of daily life. These are all hallmarks of Impressionism.
The Mint is organizing the first-ever retrospective of Breck’s art, which will open in 2021. This piece, a gift from the Mint Museum Auxiliary, is part of the the Mint’s permanent collection.
This sculpture of a Bactrian, or two-humped, camel was probably made as a tomb object for a wealthy person who lived during the Tang dynasty. The camel was not native to China, but it was indispensible for carrying goods along the Silk Road, which linked China with the Middle East and Europe. The animal thus helped to bring prosperity to Chinese merchants. The Mint’s “Camel” is on view in the Dalton Gallery at Mint Museum Randolph.
Known for his glass furniture and large glass architectural sculptures, Danny Lane is an American artist who has lived and worked in London for over 30 years. He’s known for using glass in unconvential ways—breaking it, molding it, slumping it, and combining it with metal, wood, and other materials in installations.
You probably recognize this one: the Mint commissioned Lane to design and fabricate a glass sculpture for the entranceway to the Craft & Design galleries at Mint Museum Uptown. Lane took large sheets of float glass (window glass) and sliced them to make a thin veil, behind which colored glass and other objects appear to be apparitions or auras.
Elaine de Kooning painted her vivid abstraction “Farol” in response to seeing bullfights while teaching in New Mexico. But rather than a literal depiction of the arena and participants, she chose to capture the action, energy, and motion of the event with sweeping, gestural brushwork. “Farol” is the name of a maneuver performed by the matador in which he sweeps his cape up and over his head as the bull charges. In this painting one can perhaps make out the twirling form of the matador on the left and the charging bull on the right.
In Buddhism, bodhisattvas were enlightened beings who postponed entering paradise to help mortals attain enlightenment. Guanyin—the embodiment of compassion—was the most beloved bodhisattva in China. On view at Mint Museum Randolph, this sculpture of her was made in Dehua, in the Fujian province in southeast China, a region known for its pure white porcelain. We could all use a little compassion right now.
Barn Head On
German-born American painter Wolf Kahn passed away Sunday, March 15, at the age of 92. The Mint has five of his works in our permanent collection, and his pastel drawings, in particular, relay the calming gentleness of nature – the perfect antidote to this frenzied season of uncertainty.
Khan began drawing as a child, sketching the orchestra pit where his father was a conductor. He left Germany in 1940 on a kindertransport shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Ultimately arriving in the United States, he became a beloved landscape artist, capturing the soft beauty and vivid colors of New England, where he lived half the year since 1968. The U.S. State Department awarded him the International Medal of Arts in 2017.
Sculptor Augusta Savage was one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, a period when African-American arts and culture flourished in uptown New York. This piece, Gamin (the French term for a kid of the streets), is thought to represent Savage’s nephew, Ellis Ford, and is Savage’s most popular sculpture.
Savage was also a teacher and an inspiration to many young artists, including Charlotte native Romare Bearden, who included her in his important book “Six Black Masters of American Art.” Bearden later described Savage as an inspiring mentor, “a flesh and blood artist with a studio which we were welcome to use as a workshop, or even just to hang out in. She was open, free, resisted the usual conventions of the time, and lived for her art, thinking of success only in terms of how well her sculptures turned out.”
Beloved (Rearing Deer)
Beth Cavener looks to the animal kingdom to express the human condition. From her studio in Montana, she works through curious, complex, or painful emotional states by capturing these feelings in animal poses, gazes, and situations. Installed in a niche at the end of the Spanish Colonial galleries at Mint Museum Randolph, Beloved (Rearing Deer) connects to the pathos and mystery of the Baroque objects.
Words in Flight
Charlotte-based Linda Foard Roberts uses her photographs to explore what we cannot see—the history of a place, the strength of a person, the fragility of a moment. Ultimately, all of her subjects turn to the subject of time, as hinted in her poignant image Words in Flight. “Everyone has a personal story and place in the world,” Roberts writes, “This is mine.” A survey of Roberts’ photographs entitled “Responsibilities of Representing” is on view in Mint Museum Uptown’s fourth-floor galleries through spring 2021, once we re-open.
With Side With Shoulder
Brooklyn, NY-based artist Summer Wheat is known for recasting art history. In her works, she replaces familiar male warriors from Greek kraters, male hunters from medieval tapestries, and male rulers from Egyptian hieroglyphics with powerful female characters who take on these roles and others: beekeepers, bankers, fisherwomen, and mothers. Working in all media—painting, sculpture, ceramics, stained glass windows—she creates unusual textures that recall traditional weaving and Native American bead work while simultaneously inventing entirely new ways of making.
This painting entered the Mint’s collection in July, a gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation’s American Museum Women’s Art Fund. It will be on view in Mint Museum Uptown’s third-floor galleries this summer.