Artists Residency Allows Middle Schoolers to Explore West African Art

Exhibition of students works will be displayed in the STAR Gallery at the Mint Museum Randolph

Seventh grade students at Whitewater Middle School will have their artwork displayed in the Student Artist (STAR) Gallery at the Mint Museum Randolph as part of a grant-funded artists’ residency project that took place this winter. The exhibition of the students’ work will open with a public reception honoring the teaching artists and participating students on Saturday, March 20 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Museum.

“The Mint has enjoyed a successful partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for more than 30 years,” said School Programs Coordinator Joel Smeltzer. “Each year the talent and creativity exhibited by our local students is nothing short of remarkable. We are grateful to the Arts & Science Council and the Cobb Foundation for supporting innovative teaching programs like this one to help promote appreciation and awareness of visual arts education.”

In January, The Mint Museum partnered with Whitewater Middle School, a new public school in west Charlotte, to implement an integrated art and social studies program in conjunction with the special exhibition Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color (November 14, 2009-February 27, 2010). This exhibition featured paintings that synthesized African, Caribbean, American and African-American iconography and motifs. Working with two native African artists—Braima Moiwai of Durham and Dimeji Onafuwa of Charlotte—nearly 200 seventh grade social studies and visual arts students explored West African cultural beliefs, design motifs and the significance of color and symbolism. They subsequently created paintings and traditional tie-dyed batik cloths incorporating West African symbols. Through this integrated program, the students increased their knowledge and understanding of West African cultural beliefs and values and how they are communicated through the visual arts, and learned to use the elements and principles of design to communicate original cultural ideas.

The exhibition will be displayed in the STAR Gallery at 2730 Randolph Road through April 10, 2010. This project was funded by a Curriculum Connections Grant from the Arts & Science Council, as well as by the Rhoda and Davin Juckett Education Endowment, which is made possible by the Cobb Foundation. The STAR Gallery is supported by Harris Teeter.

Spring Artists Forums Go Green

March and April programs focus on sustainability practices

The Mint Museum’s Artists’ Forum series will take an environmentally-friendly approach this spring by focusing on green practices and sustainability. Artists’ Forums are an educational series featuring local artists discussing their work, as well as current issues and activities in their artistic fields. The programs are held the first Tuesday of the month from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Mint Museum Randolph (2730 Randolph Road). Admission is free.

On March 2, D.I. von Briesen and Richard Deming from gDwell, Inc. and Bryan and Jennifer Shields from the UNC-Charlotte School of Architecture will discuss their EcoBox project, which converts shipping containers into affordable, comfortable housing. gDwell, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is the culmination of many years of work building areas, systems and structures with an eye toward creating something different by reusing the materials found readily all around us. The panel will also discuss its Sister Cities Strategy, which links radically sustainable container projects in the Galapagos Islands with a blighted neighborhood in Charlotte.

On April 6, a panel group will discuss general philosophies, innovations and the global view on sustainable design and architecture, followed by a Q&A session. The panelists include Annie Carlano, Director of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design; Anne Jackson, Associate at Perkins and Will Architects; and Carrie Gault, Principal at Happy Box Architecture.

The Mint Museum Presents Major Retrospective of Gary Lee Noffke

Exhibition celebrates acclaimed metalsmith’s contributions to the craft community

The provocative humor and pioneering style of metalsmith Gary Lee Noffke will be exhibited in a major retrospective of the artist’s work at the Mint Museum Uptown
this spring. Featuring significant examples of Noffke’s hollowware, flatware, and jewelry, the exhibition Attitude and Alchemy: The Metalwork of Gary Lee Noffke (2 April – 11 September 2011) not only captures the artist’s rebellious nature, but also examines his methodology, evolution of style, and impact on the field of metal.

Described as the “ultimate maverick,” Noffke has dedicated himself to metalsmithing for nearly 50 years, passionately exploring surface, form, and function, while simultaneously embracing and challenging tradition. A self-proclaimed “reprobate” who imbues his work with a dark sense of humor, Noffke has reacted against the medium’s tightly constrained working methods and formal decoration by creating functional objects characterized by wildly manipulated surfaces, subtle changes to utility, and spontaneity. His well-known exploits, such as a tendency to purposely misdate work to trick art historians, serve to communicate the artist’s personality and offer an esthetic statement on the social relevance of contemporary metalsmithing.

Noffke was born in 1943 to working-class parents in Sullivan, Illinois. Because money was scarce during his childhood, Noffke regularly built toys from found materials, and in the process, learned to use tools and work with his hands. His mother encouraged her son’s interest in art, even supplying him with a steady supply of gold to utilize during school. After receiving a Master of Fine Arts in metalwork from Southern Illinois University, Noffke taught at Stetson University and California State College. In 1971, he accepted a position at the University of Georgia at Athens and taught jewelry and metalwork there until 2001. He has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to metalsmithing, including a National Endowment for Arts fellowship and membership in the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows, and has exhibited his work nationally and internationally.

On view in the changing galleries of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Attitude and Alchemy spans Noffke’s career from the 1960s to present day and presents approximately 130 examples of his silver and gold jewelry, hollowware, and flatware, along with a selection of objects forged in steel. Accompanying the objects is a video of Noffke laboring in his studio, which will offer visitors a glimpse into his working environment and provide them with a deeper understanding of his process, technique,
and personality.

The exhibition begins with early examples of Noffke’s jewelry and metalwork, which embody his relentless ornamentation and reflect his initial interest in painting and intaglio printing. One of the finest examples of this early work is his 18k Gold Goblet (1970). Often referred to as the holy grail of metalsmithing, the goblet reveals Noffke’s expressive mark-making, as well as a major design influence, ancient Peruvian metalwork. The show then explores objects from the mid-1970s to the
early 1908s, a period during which Noffke closely examined the relationship between form and function to reveal the total working process. Works like Ladle (circa 1975) lack the ornate decoration of Noffke’s early works, demonstrating a shift towards optimum utility.

In the 1990s, Noffke had an artistic breakthrough. Frustrated with cold forging sterling silver, Noffke began making his own alloys and pouring his own billets in the 1990s. Noffke’s research led to the development of his 969 alloy (96.9% silver and 3.1% copper). This new silver alloy allowed him to
increase the scale of his form, and provided greater expediency as well as spontaneity. Noffke went on to research hot forging gold, creating numerous, highly-acclaimed large gold bowls.

The exhibition concludes with Noffke’s elegant forms that integrate surface and form equally. His 21st century works include heavy and expressive hammer marks, adding depth and another layer of information to the surface. This shift led to the use of a range of tools in unorthodox ways to generate textures, lines, and patterns, an approach that continues to impact metalsmithing today. Noffke will give a public lecture about his work on Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mint Museum Uptown. A  scholarly catalogue featuring an essay by independent curator Jeannine Falino will accompany the exhibition. Attitude and Alchemy: The Metalwork of Gary Lee Noffke is
organized by The Mint Museum.

North Carolina Pottery: Diversity and Traditions

Exhibition on view at the Mint Museum Randolph February 6- December 31, 2010

Opening February 6 at the Mint Museum Randolph is North Carolina Pottery: Diversity and Traditions, an exhibition that showcases the rich history of pottery-making in the state. Featuring more than 50 works dating from the late 1700s to the present, the installation represents North Carolina’s most important pottery areas, including the Catawba Valley, the mountains, Seagrove and the Moravian settlements.

Moravian potters Gottfried Aust and Rudolf Christ are the earliest potters represented in the exhibition. They emigrated from Germany to the Moravian community of Bethabara in Forsyth County in the mid-1700s. Among the 19th century potters featured are Daniel Seagle from Catawba Valley, and Chester Webster and Himer Jacob Fox from the Piedmont. Craftsmen from the 20th century include Oscar Bachelder, Charlie Teague and Burlon Craig, while contemporary artists and studios include Ben Owen III, Jane Peiser, Bulldog Pottery and Paradox Pottery.

North Carolina is known for its significant local dynasties of potters, and a number of these families are represented in the exhibition, including the Coles of Randolph and Moore counties and the Hiltons of Catawba County. The fact that the pottery tradition in the state has thrived so well for over two centuries is due, at least in part, to talented potting families such as these, who have passed down essential skills and techniques from one generation to the next. All of the objects on view are from the Mint’s permanent collection, which is notable for being the largest public collection of North Carolina pottery in the country.

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.

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.