Thursday, March 15, 2018

Junior Ladies Garden Club Hosts Flower Show at Georgia Museum of Art

A participant in the Junior Ladies Garden Club Flower Show works on an arrangement inspired by "The Eagle," 1969, by Lamar Dodd (American, 1909–1996)
On March 3 and 4, the Junior Ladies Garden Club partnered with the Georgia Museum of Art to host a flower show titled Artful Elements. The show featured flower arrangements inspired by works from the museum’s collection and included horticulture specimens from members’ homes and gardens.

The flower show served three distinct purposes: to set standards of artistic and horticultural excellence; to broaden knowledge of horticulture, floral design, conservation, photography and other related areas; and to share the beauty of a show with fellow club members and with the public.

The Junior Ladies Garden Club performs a number of services in the Athens area. They work to stimulate knowledge and love of gardening, aid in the protection of native plants and birds and share advantages of association by means of open meetings, conferences, correspondences and publications. They also restore, improve and protect the quality of the environment through programs and action in the fields of conservation, civic improvement and education.

The garden show was a great success, with works of art by Lorenzo Scott, Harold Rittenberry, Lamar Dodd, Howard Thomas and many other artists represented. Participants’ arrangements were placed near the works of art that inspired them, allowing visitors to compare and appreciate them both simultaneously.

More than 400 people attended the museum over the course of the two-day show, and dozens of arrangements were on view. A panel of judges considered the arrangements and awarded prizes to a number of selections.

Junior Ladies Garden Club is a member of the Garden Club of America. Founded in 1913, the Garden Club of America is a volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization of 200 member clubs and approximately 18,000 club members throughout the country.

For more images from the flower show and other museum of events, visit the Georgia Museum of Art on Flickr.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Redefining “the spaces of femininity” at the Georgia Museum of Art

Gallery Talk: Art + Feminism on March 3
Today, on International Women’s Day, my friend Catherine cakes a canvas with wet colorful paint in the semi-chaos of an art studio. Another peer, Mary, calculates neat equations in a classroom on North Campus. And Isabelle conducts experiments in the austere excitement of a science laboratory. For each of these women, these spaces and activities are all relatively normal environments.

In the past, however, spaces like studios, classrooms and laboratories were not always available to women. Contesting intellectual and artistic real estate in galleries, museums and universities has required commitment to craft and their works of art. In art and science, entering new spaces redefines what it means to be a woman. During the month of March, for National Women’s History Month, the Georgia Museum of Art is providing a space for scholars, students and visitors to discuss gender and art.

The month started with some intellectual discussion and online activism. Sarah Kate Gillespie, curator of American art at the museum, and Nell Andrew, associate professor of art history at UGA, led more than 40 attendees through the galleries on March 3. Their talk focused on the intersection between modernity and feminism in art history. Gillespie described how art historians “rediscovered” women artists in the 1970s as demand for female-made works of art increased. This discovery contrasted with the erroneous belief that no female masters existed because of a lack of training and opportunity.

Andrew explained that often women were given a “smaller range of vision” for what was considered appropriate to paint. Scenes of the family, domesticity and portraiture were popular among women artists. Additionally, works by men depicting women often placed them in the background of a painting. Andrew discussed Griselda Pollock’s argument in her essay “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity,” which highlights the limiting dimensions of space for women. In the 21st century, these dimensions look different and continue to evolve.

After the gallery talk, visitors headed to the Lamar Dodd Art Library for the “Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.” Wikipedia, as a crowd-sourced pool of information, provides many with a quick definition or explanation. Its entries and contributors remain largely skewed male, meaning it does not adequately inform visitors of the historical contributions of women. At the event, attendees received training on how to edit Wikipedia articles and an extensive list of incomplete pages. While they worked, qualified women in the room naturally discussed interview techniques, networking and even salary negotiations. These conversations expand the range of vision.

After the event on Saturday, I met yet another woman redefining the female environment: Kaira Macentire, a doctoral student in wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. She told me that she learned a lot during the gallery talk and was motivated to take art history again. In addition to her scientific interests, Kaira is an artist. She creates works of pottery adorned by salamanders and frogs. She views her work as a source of communication about the diversity of aquatic life. I am grateful to live in a world increasingly defined by diverse female identities and spaces.

McKenzie Peterson
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Georgia Museum Curators Discuss Kehinde Wiley's Portrait of Barack Obama

Kehinde Wiley's portrait of President Obama

On February 12, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official portraits of former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. Created by Kehinde Wiley, the eye-catching portrait of President Obama garnered a large reaction across the Internet, sparking many people to give their take. Two curators at the Georgia Museum of Art — Dale Couch, curator of decorative arts, and Shawnya L. Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art — now offer their perspectives after a period of thought.

First, Couch surveys the image itself, paying attention to the deliberate choices of the artist and what they could reveal:

“Kehinde Wiley's portrait of President Obama is an intriguing work, rich in allusions. First, the remarkable verdure or millefleurs background with only the minimal suggestion of middle ground isolates the seated former President from ordinary spatial perspective. Spatial ambiguity reigns in this image as President Obama is slightly embraced by a suddenly alive foliage operating almost like ankle anchors to keep him from floating in space, as the background magically can be viewed as folding a perch for the chair — or not.

The foliage background is an intentional allusion to British pre-Raphaelite portraiture, which in turn is quoting a medieval tapestry, also intentional. He uses a similar though strikingly more modern version of this background in the image of Shantavia Beale II at the Brooklyn Museum. The chair is in a general British neo-classical style and not dissimilar to American neoclassical chairs in the White House. The result is a clear-cut portrait in the grand style for which Wiley has become known.

But grandeur takes a backseat here to the underlying sense of surreal experience, a notable mood of both pre-Raphaelite and to previous Wiley portraits. So in this historically grounded style a 21st-century president leans forward with his arms folded and his elegant, artistically rendered hands before him, as he pensively leans out to the viewers. One could say that this portrait holds his hands as a focus as much as his face. His character is as a thinker, perhaps a man of letters.

An aging Obama is presented and it is clearly a post-presidential portrait. But it is in this portrait that he emerges as a man of tradition instead of revolution, a man who would understand that reform is what makes conservatism possible. With the minimal trappings of power, this figure gains dignity and even grace.”

In addition to the details of the portrait itself, Harris considers the artist and his story.

“Although Wiley's portrait is steeped in the grandeur of decorative and fine arts tradition, the context of the Obama presidency in the 21st century and even its unfolding in the life of the artist himself illuminates other possible meanings. During the unveiling ceremony, painter Kehinde Wiley's bold and articulate remarks about the creation process were punctuated by his tearful acknowledgment of his mother, temporarily forgotten by Wiley himself.

Wiley's explanation of her undying support of his craft despite humble beginnings in a single parent household mirrored Obama's own narrative. Notions about rising ‘above the ashes’ of life or ‘beating the odds’ are inherent in the American story but resonate with many in the African American community and in the life of its artists. The Obama portrait could then symbolize the possibility of inclusion in a variety of traditions in the background foliage Wiley uses as his backdrop.

The seeming incongruity of that verdant background to the formal seated portrayal serves to highlight, in some ways, Obama's calm demeanor as alien or even magical in the midst of the natural environment over which he presided. On the other hand, the fertile backdrop could be a sly reference to his wife Michelle, whose iconic presence in his life and the White House Gardens further cements his legacy.”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Museum Hosts Annual Black History Month Dinner and Awards Celebration

Freddie Styles and Shawnya Harris
On February 16, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia held its annual Black History Month Dinner and Awards Celebration. Artist Freddie Styles and educator Lillian Kincey received awards, and Professor John Morrow Jr., of UGA’s history department, spoke on African Americans in times of war.

Freddie Styles received the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award for his efforts as an artist. This award is given annually to honor an African American artist who has made significant but often lesser-known contributions to the visual arts tradition and has roots in or major connections to the state of Georgia. It is named for the couple who donated 100 works by African American artists from their collection to the museum and endowed a curatorial position there (held by Shawnya L. Harris) to focus on art by African American and African artists. Larry Thompson teaches at the University of Georgia School of Law and is a UGA Foundation Trustee. Brenda Thompson is the current chair of the museum’s Board of Advisors.

Styles attended Morris Brown College and has been an artist in residence at several institutions including Clayton State University, Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College. As a former director of City Gallery East, Styles also worked on various projects that helped promote the arts in Atlanta. His work unites the visual beauty and complexity found in gardens and nature with spiritual concepts and customs. As an active member of the Atlanta arts scene, Styles is a knowledgeable critic and advocate for many regional artists.

“This event feels like one huge embrace of love,” he said while accepting the award and thanking the Thompsons for their friendship and support. “I feel so fortunate that I can take the raw materials of my craft to create something unique. I am so surrounded by the love of people I have met through my work.”

Lillian Kincey received the Lillian C. Lynch Citation. This award goes to an African American leader who has contributed to cultural education. Ms. Lynch, who passed in 2010, was a charter member of the Athens chapter of The Links, Incorporated, a national volunteer service organization for African American women that focuses on the arts as one of its five key areas of service. Ms. Lynch was a devoted and strong advocate for cultural education and the arts in the Athens community.

Kincey is the founder and director of the Young Designers Sewing Program, which teaches fourth- through twelfth-grade girls the elements of sewing and fashion design. She specifically uses the art of sewing as a way to enhance and reinforce vocabulary development, reading and mathematics in addition to communication skills. Her students gain knowledge of the business and marketing components of the fashion design industry as well as social skills that will translate into futures of entrepreneurship. Kincey is providing a vehicle for underserved girls to gain important skills, support and potential careers for a brighter future.

The event was sponsored by: Lacy Middlebrooks Camp and Thomas G. Camp; Morgan Stanley and Todd Emily; Kathy Prescott and Grady Thrasher; Lucy and Buddy Allen; Mae and Louis Castenell; Bill and Lisa Douglas; Kendell and Tony Turner; the UGA Office of the President; Agora Vintage; the Athens (GA) Chapter of The Links, Inc.; Dr. Linda Bigelow; W. Travis and Susan S. Burch; Sige Burden Jr.; Mark and Janyce Dawkins; Betsy and Blair Dorminey; Bruce and Dortha Jacobson; Brenda and Ham Magill; C. Van and Libby V. Morris; Carl and Marian Mullis; Janet and Alex Patterson; Julie and Ira Roth; Dr. and Mrs. Russell Studevan; Ronald and Marty Thomas; the UGA Office of Institutional Diversity; Peg and Norman Wood; the Athens Printing Company; Barron’s Rental Center; Flowers by Posy and Trumps Catering.

Aisha Abdullahi
Communications Intern

Thursday, February 15, 2018

New Installment Added to Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden

"Tide" in the sculpture garden
From Michelangelo’s David to Giacometti’s “Walking Man I,” sculpture has long paved the way for explorations of art and the human form in distinctive ways. The newest permanent installation at the Georgia Museum of Art is no exception.

“Tide” is an androgynous, life-sized, cast-iron sculpture standing right outside the entrance to the museum’s Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden. Standing nearly six feet tall and with a glass strip inlay in its left arm, the sculpture possesses no distinguishable features other than a pair of lips and a nose.   

Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir (pronounced Stay-nun Thorens-daughter) is a sculptor from Reykjavik, Iceland, who has been exhibiting her art around the world for 38 years. Þórarinsdóttir studied sculpture from 1974 to 1980 in England and Italy. She previously exhibited her sculptures at the museum in 2011 during the inauguration of the sculpture garden in a yearlong exhibition titled “Horizons.” Þórarinsdóttir came to the museum in March of 2011 to discuss her installation.

Þórarinsdóttir says of her choice to become a sculptor, “I guess partly it was due to the fact that I come from a country that is in constant flux and formation. . . . When I started to work with sculpture it just felt like I had found my home. I was suddenly in control and connected. I could transfer my thoughts and feelings into something real and physical.”

The sculpture garden exhibits only works by woman artists, with “Tide” taking the second permanent position in the garden. The other sculpture occupying the garden is “Terra Verte #1” by Patricia Leighton, a Scottish artist.

Þórarinsdóttir is particularly thrilled about her sculpture being placed in the garden, emphasizing, “The fact that the Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden focuses only on female sculptors makes it absolutely unique. Especially considering that sculpture was for a long time thought to be a section of the visual arts that was for men only!”

The sculpture was purchased with a gift from patron Judith Ellis in honor of docent Carol Dolson. Ellis has volunteered and supported the museum, served on the board for the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art and created the Judith A. Ellis Endowment for Education. Carol Dolson is an award-winning children’s book author who graduated from UGA and lives in Athens, Georgia.

Stephanie Motter
Communications Intern

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Ninth Henry D. Green Symposium Illustrates the Value of an Expert

Robert Leath (second from left) receives the Henry D. Green Award for lifetime achievement in the decorative arts

If you need to know the value of an object, then you ask an expert. Janine E. Skerry can tell you the value of silver in the early American South. Alexandra Kirtley knows the price paid for porcelain in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary Era. And Luke Zipp could give you some advice on Savannah River Valley pottery in the Antebellum South. But how does one find out the value of an expert?

Simple, monetary measurements do not result in an accurate appraisal of worn hands and trained eyes. The reward of long nights consumed in research may not be silver and gold, but hard-earned conclusions after years of patient scholarship. Individuals who dedicate their time and energy to knowledge and then choose to share their knowledge are truly priceless.

Many of these such individuals, including Skerry, Kirtley and Zipp, found their way to the ninth Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts, hosted by the Georgia Museum of Art this past weekend at the Classic Center. The event kicked off with a keynote lecture from Peter M. Kenny, titled "You Must Not Get Your Furniture Here . . . Get What You Want from N. York in the Spring." Scholars came from universities and museums all over the South to share their expertise, with novices and students welcomed at the event as well.

Ashley Callahan, Annelies Mondi, and Mary Pearse, curators of "Crafting History: Textiles, Metals and Ceramics at the University of Georgia"

This year, the theme of the symposium was “Belonging: Georgia and Region in the National Fabric.” The theme celebrated how research in the decorative arts weaves together scholars from diverse regional fields into one community. From Georgian rifles to Russian treasures, each scholar brings a unique perspective to the table. This interesting mix produced rich and profitable conversations all weekend long. Robert Leath, chief curator of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, received the Henry D. Green Award for lifetime achievement in the decorative arts on Thursday evening, while 90 Carlton: Winter hosted over 500 individuals from students to field experts back at the museum on the same night.

Joseph Litts, a curatorial intern and Beard scholar at the museum, said about the weekend, “Seeing Georgia so well represented in the talks was particularly meaningful for me, as was noting the various—and frequently surprising—ways in which Georgia and Georgians have been intrinsically involved with decorative arts, as makers, consumers, and scholars.”

We would like to thank the Forward Arts Foundation, Georgia Humanities and all of our sponsors for helping make this hugely successful weekend possible.

McKenzie Peterson
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Morning Mindfulness: Focus and Renewal in an Age of Distractions

A Morning Mindfulness session in progress with Raquel Durden
Wake up. Scroll. Post. Like. Love. Comment. Share. Repeat.

In an age of smart phones and social media, many people spend their day in a constant stream of notifications. Like a typical millennial, most days I jump right in. Social media connects us to friends and family across physical boundaries. That delightful buzz means someone wants to send an invitation, share their experience or celebrate their achievements. Other days, I tentatively test the waters. And some days, I drown. An overabundance of information keeps me up at night, when I know my body needs rest. Today, museum visitors understand the value of slowing down in our fast-paced world, and many have found that the Georgia Museum of Art offers an escape from the noise and distractions of life during Morning Mindfulness every other Friday morning.

Morning Mindfulness is a bi-weekly, instructor-led group mediation in the galleries. Organized by Sage Kincaid, assistant curator of education, this program is designed for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Last Friday, I attended for the first time. I was nervous that my lack of experience and flexibility would prevent me from participating, but I found that the environment was not intimidating at all. Attendees chose to sit on either a stool or a meditation pillow, and people of all ages gathered in the gallery. To start the program, Kincaid described a nearby work of art and included interesting quotes from the artist.

Then, the instructor, Rebecca Shisler Marshall, PhD, began to speak soothing words in a smooth, steady tone. She encouraged attendees to focus on slowly scanning each part of their body. In this way, they minimized distractions and exercised the “muscle” of attention. In truth, I found myself tempted to check my phone, but the non-judgmental approach taught me to gain awareness, not guilt, in response to this impulse.

The practice of mindfulness originates from Buddhist principles but has more recently found a place in scientific research. From substance abuse to sleep insomnia, mindfulness may prove to be a useful treatment for many ailments. I left feeling renewed and focused, and the experience may help you in a similar way.

If you would like to try this program, the next Morning Mindfulness is February 9 at 9:30 a.m. No experience or special clothing is necessary, and meditation pillows or yoga mats are provided. Reservations are encouraged, so please contact 706.542.0448 or

If you would like to learn more about Rebecca Shisler and Centered Living, you can read more on her website or faculty page.

McKenzie Peterson
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Georgia Long Rifles: “Truly American” Works of Art

Thomas discussing "Artful Instruments: Georgia Gunsmiths and Their Craft"
When Sam Thomas, curator of the T.R.R. Cobb House in Athens, first heard that Dale Couch was interested in spotlighting Georgia gunsmiths at the Georgia Museum of Art, it was music to his ears. After viewing long rifles on display at the Tower of London nearly 13 years ago, Thomas knew that exhibitions of that nature were well worth exploring and that the craft in Georgia has been overlooked for too long.

During a special Tour at Two on January 24, Thomas spoke to an interested crowd of two dozen individuals about the conception of “Artful Instruments: Georgia Gunsmiths and Their Craft,” which is on display at the museum through February 25. He noted that while many people see the guns on display as military pieces, he knew them to be “some of the earliest known forms of southern decorative arts,” and went on to classify them as “truly American works of art.”

Part of the crowd for the special "Tour at Two" on January 24
The craftsmen of these works known by many names — mountain rifles, hog rifles, long rifles — were truly jacks-of-all-trades. The guns were used for sustenance as well as defense, and in some cases they were crafted with the intention of being presentation pieces awarded as trophies or prizes in local contents and fairs. Decorated with themes from the craftsmen’s cultures carefully and with precision, some rifles were even signed by the gunsmith himself.

Because Georgia’s gunsmithing history has long been ignored, this exhibition is an important acknowledgment of that record. Thomas took time specifically to acknowledge gunsmith Wiley Higgins, stating that Georgia can safely claim that one of their own was the “best long rifle maker in the world.” Higgins has multiple guns displayed in the exhibition, including a pistol whose nickname, “Precious,” somehow fits the firearm perfectly.

“Artful Instruments: Georgia Gunsmiths and Their Craft” is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the museum (available for sale through the Museum Shop and on, and the exhibition is sponsored by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia/the MOTSTA Fund, the Watson-Brown Foundation, the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How Small is the World to Phillip Bond?

Bond with some works from the museum's permanent collection 
Do you remember the last time you said “It’s a small world”? Maybe it was when you ran into an old friend at Starbucks or found out that you share an acquiantance with a friend. For Phillip Bond, a security guard at the Georgia Museum of Art, that phrase carries a larger significance.

Recently, the works of Louise Blair Daura were on display at the museum. Coincidentally, Bond has some personal knowledge of her husband, Pierre. Known for their artistry and creativity, Mr. and Mrs. Daura were both excellent artists, and we asked Bond to tell us about his connection to them.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your family? Where are you from?

I grew up in an art family. My father was a chairman at a small college in Virginia called Stratford College. He knew quite a few people in New York; he studied at Cochran University in Washington D.C., and in the 1940s he traveled to New York, where he met my mother who studied at Parsley School of Design. When I see the different artists being featured at the Georgia Museum of Art, like Clinton Hill, I get a particular connection. I feel like if my dad didn’t know him personally, he certainly would have known of them, including Pierre Daura. He was at Lynchburg College—a women’s college similar to Stratford.

What connection do you have to the state of Virginia? Were you born and raised there? Did you move because of work?

Yeah, I was raised there. My parents were in Brooklyn Heights when I was born. They had part of a studio for painters around the lower part of Manhattan. We moved to Denver when I was 2. There was a person named Harriet Fitzgerald, who graduated from Randolph-Macon Women’s College. She probably [knew] Pierre and Daura. But it was her and her sister, Ida Fitzgerald—who was the dean of Stratford College. They got my dad and mom onto the faculty.

Do you have a background in art?

I didn’t go to school for art. I have a master’s degree in Museum Education and worked for 16 years. In college, I did ceramics instead of drawing. I picked up drawing in the last few months, and with my terrible handwriting, I never thought I could draw. But being that my family is so proficient in art, I learned that my drawing skills are pretty genetic.

Did you realize that Pierre was Louise Blair Daura’s husband before now?

I think as I read the description of the show they brought her relation to Pierre Daura forward. I could also tell that she was from Virginia from her name “Louise Blair.” That’s a big Virginia name.

How does it feel to know that you knew the husband of the artist whose works are being hung in the museum? I would honestly think that it’s such a funny coincidence.

I never knew him personally, but when I see his work I feel there's a connection. There are also similarities between my mother’s and father’s work. My mom liked to do a lot of Post-Impressionist paintings, so I have a better appreciation for her work. I have them all hanging up in my house. Growing up, you see it—but to come into the museum and see other artists doing that same type of work…there’s just a feeling and a connection.

Marquan Norris
Intern, Department of Communications