Thursday, April 28, 2016

Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition

On display at the museum is the spring Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition, showing now through May 1. This annual exit show highlights the work by students in the MFA program at Lamar Dodd by giving them space in the museum’s galleries to share their projects. This year, 15 students have work displayed in a variety of different mediums, including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, videography, metalwork, printmaking and interior design.

Visitors looking at at videography by Miranda Maynard
This exhibition is a special opportunity for students; for many of them, it will be the first time their artwork has been displayed in a museum. The students produced many interesting pieces, which vary greatly in style and intent to form an eclectic assemblage of talent. Erin Mazzei’s work, "Vantage Point," features a geometrically shaped, three-dimensional photo series that depicts a blue sky. In an oil painting by Michael Ross called "Crossing," historical soldiers stumble through a blurry, rainbow forest. A video by Miranda Maynard humorously portrays the actions of a woman who applauds cheerily, then uncomfortably looks around the room in "Clapping for the Amount of Time that Hillary Applauded her Husband at the Start of his 1999 State of the Union Address."

Other students featured in the MFA exhibition include Michael Benedetti, Ryan McCullough, Saegan Moran, Heather FosterDrema Montgomery, Spence TownsendYongxi WangJanelle YoungCourtney McCracken, Aaron Obenza, Vivienne Varay and Lu Yang.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New Illumination at the Georgia Museum of Art

MFA 2016 opening reception
As a museum, one of the most fundamental things we do is conservation: to protect and preserve valuable artifacts and objects for future generations. For this reason, environmental conservation is part of the process. This year, some significant sustainability projects were completed at the museum, and in observation of Earth Day tomorrow, here’s a brief recap of some new milestones. To reduce our energy and water consumption, the museum transitioned nearly 1,600 lighting fixtures to LED lighting, installed eight new occupancy sensors and retrofitted 28 existing faucets. The University of Georgia, who spearheaded these projects, has informed us that these changes will result in approximately 270,000 fewer gallons of water used by the museum every year and cut our annual carbon emissions by about 200 metric tons, or the equivalent of 43 cars!

LEDs illuminating Vantage Point
(Sky Swap)
 by Erin Mazzei '16
In addition to these achievements, the other benefit of switching to LED bulbs is more control over gallery and exhibition lighting to highlight works, as seen above in the current annual MFA exit show, Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” (showing now through May 1). Traditional lighting systems did not allow for purposeful illumination of our collections and the new LEDs do not disappoint. Staff members and repeat visitors have noticed that colors are more vibrant, paintings exhibit more depth and the frames themselves have a greater vitality to them. It is with great anticipation that we begin the reinstallation of our permanent collection this summer with new lighting configurations, so stay tuned.

To find out about upcoming events at the museum, click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

David Ligare and the Meaning of Xenia

David Ligare, Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches (Xenia), 1994

The painting discussed in this blog post is featured in “David Ligare: California Classicist,” a retrospective exhibition on display at the Georgia Museum of Art through May 8.

Upon first sight of David Ligare’s work, it’s easy to feel transported to Homeric Greece.[1]  In a time when contemporary art is often abstract and non-representational, Ligare pulls from the traditional subject of still lifes, landscapes and nude figures. He fuses modernity and antiquity, synthesizing a new ideal that celebrates both tradition and contemporary society. Like the Renaissance artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, Ligare realizes society’s “need of a renewed desire for knowledge,” and he seeks to elevate the viewer’s intellectual growth by means of the “literate picture[2]. The Renaissance marked a period of humanism and it was highlighted by the works of Michelangelo, which synthesized contemporary religion with a renewal of classical themes.[3] Ligare’s paintings function similarly; he synthesizes classicism with objects indicative of modern society. Despite his unmistakable affiliation with unfashionable subjects and dated means of representation, David Ligare has thrived in the modern art world because he finds equilibrium between relevance and irrelevance. His paintings depict his native California landscape to substitute that of Greece or Rome, and he paints from living models rather than ancient Greek sculptures. Also, inspired by the writings of John Steinbeck and Robinson Jeffers, he very deliberately fabricates narrative paintings that speak greater truths about the subjects and the environment surrounding them, though narration is frequently omitted in modern art. In keeping with works that recede under the dominance of more nuanced paintings, Ligare’s still lifes maintain an unassuming presence, but also typical of his work, the still lifes showcase the greatest reinvention of an old practice. In “Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches (Xenia),” Ligare utilizes the simplest of objects to create the deepest of meanings.

Although his still lifes lack an immediate narrative resonance, Ligare very thoughtfully chooses his objects and their lighting to provide his subjects with new life and to expand the potential of this long-forgotten practice. Be that as it may, he manages to create a semblance of allegory in the way his objects burst with meaning specific to Greek myths, like mementos of heroic journeys. Alluding Homer’s great epic, The Odyssey, “Still Life with Grapes and Sandwiches (Xenia)” directly references the Greek custom of xenia. Literally translated as “guest-friendship,” xenia refers to the tradition of hospitality when hosts would treat weary travelers with the utmost generosity, and guests would return the favor with the utmost courtesy. Integral to this practice is the offering of wine and bread, and many times throughout Odysseus’ journey, he is provided the very substances. Characteristic of Ligare, he pulls from this deeply rooted ritual and re-contextualizes it with contemporary objects. Instead of rich wine and authentic loaves, he presents a pitcher of cheap grape juice and a heap of bologna sandwiches on highly artificial bread. The grape juice is presumably of poor quality because Ligare was inspired by his time serving in a soup kitchen for the homeless in Salinas, California. There is something distinctly resonant in the difference between homeless people today, with whom most people avoid eye-contact, and the temporarily homeless travelers of ancient Greece who were treated just short of gods. Granted, the hosts feared the retribution of failing to accommodate gods in disguise, but the Greeks had a well-developed humanity that became influential to Ligare and Renaissance artists alike. Though the xenia of today functions in a dramatically different context, the heartfelt connection he felt with the homeless he served is evident. The unsettling divergence between xenia and its modern equivalent is how it has been transformed into the most menial offering of food, the minimum sustenance for life in an increasingly arduous world.

Much as the grape juice and sandwiches act as the essential substance of life for the homeless, Ligare’s still lifes resound their own essence of life. Still lifes have historically been divided into two categories: memento mori, which emphasize the remembrance of death, and vanitas, which deal with the transience (or even futility) of life. The way morning light strikes the objects and the way food connotes the preservation of life suggests the latter, entertaining a feeling of hope with a subconscious understanding of the food’s inevitable spoilage. The ephemerality of food parallels that of humanity, but Ligare typically uses fruit that suggest the abundance and prosperity of life — like plums, apples, and olives. Food has a particularly poetic quality in the way it functions both as a core component of life and as an object of love and comradery between people. In “Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches (Xenia),” Ligare also capitalizes on the sacramental quality of wine and bread in the Christian religion, framing it in an altar of sorts. The Greeks frequently made offerings to gods in celebration of their prosperity, so the stage functions as an altar in which ordinary objects gain religious significance. Originally a pragmatic solution to a compositional problem, the box fulfills several artistic purposes. Primarily, he seeks a controlled space in which to conduct rigorous investigations of the objects, but it also fosters a “harmony of wholeness,” as the artist puts it, which resembles the work of old masters. The marble box is also conducive to Ligare’s heavily-controlled style, providing a space of measured precision matched only by the sculpture and architecture of Hellenism. The enigmatic, sterile background creates a sense of isolation akin to surrealism, but it merely acts as a medium through which to emphasize the allegorical potential of the grape juice and sandwiches. By granting inanimate objects the attention provided by painting and exhibition, Ligare forces ordinary commodities into the forefront of a viewer’s thoughts, fostering a greater appreciation for an object’s narrative history.

“Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches (Xenia)” marks a culmination of Ligare’s most significant accomplishments in still life painting. It connotes a Greek tradition which speaks to both his humanitarian goals and his affinity for classicism. Whether it be a reference to the continuation of xenia, the practice of the Christian Eucharist, or the simple act of giving food to the homeless, Ligare capitalizes on the potential plurality of meaning within objects and expands the boundaries of still life painting by dramatizing the transience of meaning throughout the course of history.

Benjamin Thrash
Publications Intern

[1] Homer is the author of the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey, two defining works of the Greek people and two of the oldest pieces of literature ever known.
[2] Words from the artist in David Ligare: California Classicist by Scott A. Shields.
[3] Humanism was a concept that reemerged during the Renaissance and emphasized the intellectual and creative potential of man.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Collectors Auction Preview: "All About Art"

For the auction: John L. Cleaveland Jr., View from Montefaucon, the Argonne France (n.d.).
Oil on panel, 13 x 15 inches, framed.

Every other year, the museum’s Collectors group (an upper-level membership group within the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art) organizes a fabulous evening of food, fun and fundraising, the proceeds from which go toward enriching the museum’s collection. This April 23 brings “All About Art,” the latest version of the event. Chaired by Greg Barnard, the new head of the Collectors, the event gets started at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and a silent auction at the museum, followed by dinner catered by Epting Events.

For the auction: Robert Clements, Summer Meadow (2012).
Acrylic, 24 x 30 inches, framed.

Barnard says the theme reflects the evening’s purpose: “It’s all about acquiring art for the museum and, by extension, for the state of Georgia and its residents — us, in other words.” Previous auctions have led to the purchase of works on prominent display in the museum’s permanent collection galleries, from the early Georgia portrait of William Harris Crawford to the Dorothy Dehner sculpture that joined the collection in 2014.

Barnard says, “In addition to notable works of art — paintings, drawings, photography, prints and sculpture — by both area and non-area artists, the auction will feature fashion accessories, contemporary and antique furnishings and decor, entertainment opportunities such as catered dinners and restaurant meals and personal ‘get-away’ experiences such as spa treatments.”

For the auction: Carol John, Turquoise Chrysanthemum (2015). Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches.

Randy Ott, a member of the museum’s Board of Advisors and a notable collector of fine art, has donated two paintings by Henry L. Roecker to the auction. June Ball, another board member and well-known artist who recently had a large work commissioned by Georgia Council for the Arts, has donated one of her own oil paintings, as has acclaimed Athens artist Carol John, whose work is in the collection of the High Museum of Art.

Heirloom CafĂ© and artist Susie Burch have donated a farmers’ market tour and four-course lunch or supper for eight people, including wine pairings, to be held in Susie’s studio, which houses portraits of local farmers. Epting Events has contributed a period dinner for a group of people at The Hill, Lee Epting’s beautiful hideaway event space in Athens. Last Resort Grill has donated a $100 gift certificate, and many more donations are still coming in.

This year, sponsors at the $1,000 level are entitled not only to four tickets to the event, but also to priority auction check-out at the end of the evening and an exclusive cocktail-hour preview starting at 5:30 p.m., with a “buy-it-now” option for auction items.

For the auction: Margie Spalding, French Bottle and Lady Apples (n.d.). Oil, 9 x 12 inches, framed.

Ticket information:

Members of Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art: $100/person, nonmembers: $125/person.

To purchase tickets or to sponsor the event, visit

It’s not too late to become a member! For more information, visit, or call 706.542.0830 or email