Monday, February 19, 2007

Leo Twiggs

A few years back, the museum was proud to help organize an exhibition chronicling the life and works of Leo Twiggs, an African American artist who strives to take the influences of the current social landscape and not only interpret them, but sometimes give them a new meaning.

Twiggs, who was educated as an artist at Clafin University in Orangeburg, S.C., began his work in the mid-1950s and would go on to teach for 25 years at his alma mater. In 1970, he became the first African American to earn a Doctorate of Arts from the University of Georgia.

This was never more clear in his vast body of work than with his depictions of the Confederate flag, as noted by William Eiland, the director of the Georgia Museum of Art, in the museum's catalogue for his exhibition Myth and Metaphors: The Are of Leo Twiggs.

Leo Twiggs, with gentle but unswerving irony, takes the flag and claims it as part of his Southern heritage. Tattered, disappearing almost on its support, the standard about which there is so much controversy becomes in Twiggs's hands an ambiguous metaphor of unresolved conflict, yes, but also of a shared history. In addition to the Civil War, it calls to mind equally for Twiggs the suffering of slaves, the turmoil of Reconstruction, the indignity of Jim Crow, and even the promise of the Civil Rights era, and, of course, the aftermath, when this piece of cloth, venerated by some, reviled by others, continues to inspire argument and dissension. Twiggs transforms the image through shaping a new iconography for it, one in which he finds the possibility, albeit remote, of accord.

Twiggs also has used much of his career to recreate scenes and events from South Carolina, including the destruction from Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Leo Twiggs; Blues at the Beach, 1999; batik and painton cotton mounted on board; 33 1/2 x 30 inches (frame); Collection of the artist.

South Carolina African American History Online has an interesting biography of Twiggs for those who wish to learn more about this artist.

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