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Chinese Arts Delegation Visits the Weatherspoon

 
Chinese delegation visits the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Chinese delegation visits the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Photo: David Wilson, UNCG University Relations.

The Weatherspoon had a special visit (hosted at UNCG) on November 2 as a delegation of 26 Chinese provincial and municipal leaders came to the museum for a presentation.  The group – which is also visiting New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – included mayors and top leaders from seven Chinese provinces who wanted to learn more about the cultural and performing arts and the entertainment industries in the U.S.

Link to more photos from the visit here.

This cultural delegation was organized by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), a national organization engaged in people-to-people diplomacy between the People’s Republic of China and other countries. It aims to further international cooperation and, among its many activities, it is entrusted by the government with promoting cultural exchange and cooperation.

The visit of these Chinese leaders was the result of an initiative undertaken by a delegation of UNCG administrators and faculty who visited the CPAFFC headquarters in Beijing in April 2012.

The UNCG symposium (“Entrepreneurship and the Arts in the U.S.”) included lectures and discussions by top artists, teachers and performers; including a presentation at the Weatherspoon Art Museum with our director Nancy Doll.

Museum Director Nancy Doll with member of the Chinese delegation.

Museum Director Nancy Doll with member of the Chinese delegation. photo: David Wilson, UNCG University Relations.

While visiting the Weatherspoon, the delegation toured several exhibitions, including On the Path to Abstraction, Art on Paper 2012: The 42nd Exhibition, and The Cone Sisters Collect.

Two special concert performances were also presented at UNCG in honor of the guests. UNCG faculty musicians presented a concert at the Recital Hall of the School of Music Theater and Dance. Performers included the Faculty Jazz Quartet, the East Wind Quintette d’Anches, the McIver String Quartet, pianist Andrew Willis on fortepiano, and singers Clara O’Brien, Nancy Walker and Donald Hartmann. Students of choreographer and dance professor Duane Cyrus also performed in the UNCG Dance Theater in the HHP building.

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Mystery Art Found at the Local Goodwill

 
Alleged Ilya Bolotowsky painting found at Goodwill.

Painting found at local Goodwill.

The brief e-mail came to the attention of one of the Weatherspoon’s education curators: someone’s friend had purchased two paintings from the Oak Ridge, NC Goodwill and discovered a Weatherspoon label on the back of one of them. A little research by the lucky purchaser showed that works by one of the artists, Ilya Bolotowsky, command upwards of $25,000. Did the Weatherspoon know anything about how this painting had ended up at Goodwill?

Suffice it to say, the e-mail sent museum staff into its own research mode. Was this really a Bolotowsky, and how did it end up with a Weatherspoon label on it?

My initial thoughts were that the work must have been part of a Weatherspoon fundraising event, from which artworks (not owned by the museum, but created or donated for the event) are purchased by ticket-holders. Or, perhaps it was in an exhibition at the Weatherspoon back in the day. But I definitely did not think it was some mistake, whereby an artwork of ours had escaped the building. Occasionally one hears horror stories of museums accidentally disposing of artworks, but I refused to believe that’s what had happened. I wanted to give our predecessors more credit than that.

Details came to us piecemeal:  an image of the front of the canvas, a title (Vertical Diamond), its dimensions, and a label on the back indicating the purchase price was $5500 in 1979. Based on this information, I began to look through our records for events or exhibitions at that time. I discovered that Ilya Bolotowsky (American, b. Russia, 1907-1981) had been in six of the Weatherspoon’s Art on Paper exhibitions, including 1979. All works in Art on Paper are available for purchase, but only works on paper are included in those exhibitions and Vertical Diamond is a painting on canvas.

I looked at the listing of other exhibitions at the Weatherspoon in 1979. Greensboro Collectors was described as a show of “privately owned art works from collectors in and around the city” at the museum from March 25 to April 15, 1979 and included “paintings by Renoir, Corot, Pearlstein, and Bolotowsky.” I thought that had potential, so I went to the storage area where we keep our archived files, to dig around for information on this particular exhibition. Bingo! The painting, Vertical Diamond, was loaned by Burlington Industries to the Weatherspoon for the 1979 Greensboro Collectors show. I found the original loan form in the file, and all of the details matched – title, date of work, dimensions. (This is precisely why we registrars like to keep EVERY sheet of paperwork, ever!)

WAG label from 1979 Greensboro Collectors exhibition

Original 1979 Greensboro Collectors exhibition loan form for "Vertical Diamond"

It was hard to contain my excitement: it seemed that some lucky person had the real deal! But still, how did a painting that was in the collection of Burlington Industries make it to a local thrift shop? Perhaps we’ll never know the painting’s exact itinerary; what is known is that when Burlington Industries filed for bankruptcy and then moved out of its headquarters building on Friendly Avenue in 2004, its collection of artwork was widely disseminated.

So, you’re curious: who made the Goodwill discovery, and what thoughts were running through his or her head at that time?

Beth and Steve Feeback pictured with the painting.

Beth and Steve Feeback pictured with the painting.

Well, according to lucky Beth Feeback, she was only at the thrift store to quickly find an extra layer of clothing or a blanket, to help her make it through an unseasonably chilly day of sitting outside, selling her own artwork at the annual spring art show hosted by Leanne Pizio in Oak Ridge. Halfway through the day, Beth jetted over to the Goodwill she had spotted earlier. She found a few items to keep her warm. And then…: “I spied these two HUGE square canvases in frames. I am always on the prowl for something to paint on or paint over. It helps the environment, and better yet, my pocketbook. I am forever buying prints or paintings at thrift stores and either adding to them – by, say, painting a cat head over Pinky’s and Blue Boy’s faces, or by putting a coat of primer on the picture and starting from scratch. I checked the price on these canvases and knew I had to have them at $9.99 each. You couldn’t buy a new canvas a fourth or fifth the size of these for that amount.

The lady at the counter helped me carry them to my beat-up minivan, and we had a hard time getting the larger one in. It was even worse at the end of the art show, packing our gear and pictures in around the two paintings. Before we packed up, I showed the paintings to some of the artists, and Leanne Pizio noticed that one had a label on the back of it indicating it was from the Weatherspoon Art Gallery at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She told me to be sure and do my research before painting over the pieces: ‘The Weatherspoon gets some big-name artists.’”

Beth says it took her a while to get around to researching the artist. When she looked up Ilya Bolotowsky online and saw auction records for his works, she became giddy. “In a perfect world,” she says, “I’d keep it, save it and retire off of it, but I think that will be for someone else of higher means than me.”

Beth has been in touch with Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York, who represents the deceased artist, and with Sotheby’s auction house. The painting is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in September, and in fact, has already made one more leg of its exciting journey, from North Carolina to New York, to await its auction date.

Although Vertical Diamond has left town, a similar painting can be found in the Weatherspoon Art Museum’s collection: Small Diamond.

Or, stop by your local Goodwill. Maybe you’ll get lucky, just like Beth…

Let us know if you do!

—Heather Moore, Registrar, Weatherspoon Art Museum

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2012 Sustainability Short Film Competition Awards

 
Voices of the Gulf

"Voices of the Gulf - A Message to North Carolina"

A message from Sara Dorsey with the UNCG Sustainability Committee:

We had a great evening on Thursday at the Weatherspoon Art Museum—great entries, great food, great music, great messages from all of our film makers.  Here are links for the entries we had this year with links for those of you who could not come…or maybe for you who could come and want to share them with your friends.

First of all, a heartfelt thanks to our wonderful sponsors: Barnabas Network, Fund 4 Democratic Communities, Goat Lady Dairy, Sierra Club, Tate Street CoffeeUNCG Office of Leadership and Service Learning, UNCG Sustainability CommitteeWeatherspoon Art Museum and Zaytoon.

Third Prize went to Contagious Media Productions for “Flora” by Mike Dickens and Caitlin Rhyne.  A poetic, thought-provoking narrative on preserving our natural resources. It is on Vimeo and was created for the 48 Hour Go Green Film Competition last year.  This year their 48 Hour entry is “Fragile Creatures“—go here to watch and vote—March 25 is the last day, so vote SOON!

Second Prize went to “Sustainability For Everyone: Rethinking Piedmont Ideas about Living Green and Local”—Andrew J. Young, et al. This film is about about the cultural sustainability of the Montagnard traditions in Greensboro which was introduced by the impressive young woman, Lek Siu.

First Prize went to “Voices From the Gulf – A Message to North Carolina”—Todd Tinkham, Molly Matlock, Ben Turney, and Bill L. Elias. A moving call from Gulf Coast citizens to people in North Carolina to resist giving in to political pressures for off shore drilling—this is part of a larger project called “Dispersed” they are working on that includes the issue of fracking as well.

Special thanks to the musicians, Aaron Bond and Melvin Holland and to Zaytoon for delicious food and drink and to the wonderful Weatherspoon for hosting us!

Huzzah to all for an excellent 2012 Third Annual UNCG Sustainability Shorts Film Competition.

— Sarah Dorsey

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Bellocq’s Storyville: New Orleans at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

 
E.J. Bellocq, "Girl Lying on Grass Chaise Lounge"

E.J. Bellocq, "Girl Lying on Grass Chaise Lounge", c. 1911-13, gelatin silver print, 8 x 9 7/8 in. Museum purchase with funds from the Benefactors Fund, 1973.

Although he was wealthy from a family inheritance and considered a part of the elite of New Orleans, E.J. Bellocq made his living mostly by taking photographic records of landmarks, ships and machinery for local companies.  He gained posthumous fame, however, for his personal photographs of the hidden underside of local life, notably the prostitutes of Storyville, New Orleans’ legalized red light district. Although it is possible that these images were made for commercial purposes—photographs of prostitutes were included in Blue Books, advertisements created by the city’s brothels—it seems more likely that Bellocq personally knew the women in his photographs, given their ease with the camera and their willingness to pose and sometimes even feign for it. Upon his death in 1949, Bellocq’s possessions, along with the disreputable photographs, were given to his brother, Leon, a Jesuit priest. When the photographs were discovered years later, many of the women’s faces had been scratched out. Initially it was speculated that Leon scratched the photos upon receiving them, but this is no longer believed since the damage was done in the emulsion rather than on the glass plate negatives.

The young E.J. Bellocq

Young E.J. Bellocq. photo courtesy of Tulane Special Collections.

The district of Storyville was created in 1897 when Alderman Sidney Story decided that the expansion of brothels in New Orleans needed to stop because they drove down building and family values. Knowing full well that banning prostitution would be ineffective, Story set out to regulate it. He created a thirty-five block area in which prostitution was legal, and banned it in the rest of the city. This area quickly became one of the most scandalous red-light districts in the United States, and much to the ire of Alderman Story, came to bear his name.

Storyville and Bellocq himself, have become infamous symbols of New Orleans at the turn of the century. Several movies, including the 1992 film, Storyville, and the 1978 film starring Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon, Pretty Baby, focus on this particularly notorious and fascinating part of New Orleans’ history. This photograph by Bellocq will be on display until April 8, 2012 in the exhibition To What Purpose? Photography as Art and Documentary at Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Post written by Stephanie Krysiak, a second year History Master’s student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Thanks to Elaine Gustafson, Curator of Collections, Weatherspoon Art Museum.

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The 70th Anniversary Book Wins Two Awards this Fall!

 
The exhibition, Weatherspoon Art Museum: 70 Years of Collecting was a great success and now its companion publication received two awards this Fall

The exhibition, Weatherspoon Art Museum: 70 Years of Collecting was a great success and now its companion publication received two awards this Fall

The exhibition, Weatherspoon Art Museum: 70 Years of Collecting was a great success in 2011, and now its companion publication has received two design awards this Fall: “Outstanding Exhibition and Catalogue of Historical Materials” from the Southeastern College Art Conference and “2011 Silver Award for Outstanding Design” from the Southeastern Museums Conference.

The Weatherspoon published the catalog early in 2011.  Weatherspoon Art Museum: 70 Years of Collecting included a history of the Museum and full-color reproductions and entries on each of the 100 featured works.  The entries are written by the art history faculty in the UNCG Department of Art, and the Museum’s director and curators: K. Porter Aichele, George Dimock, Nancy M. Doll, Xandra Eden, Richard Gantt, Carl Goldstein, Ann Grimaldi, Elaine D. Gustafson, Heather Holian, Elizabeth Perrill, and Will South.

The objects included in the book represent each decade from the turn of the twentieth century to the first decade of this century. Among those showcased are works by Henri Matisse, David Smith, Willem de Kooning, Alexander Calder, Eva Hesse, Robert Rauschenberg, and Elizabeth Murray.  Although the majority of the artists represented in the Weatherspoon’s collection are recognized for their long, successful careers, the inclusion of a few younger artists demonstrates the museum’s commitment to “promising new voices.”  The first significant publication to focus on the Weatherpoon’s collections70 Years of Collecting guarantees to be an informative and enjoyable read.

In 1941 Gregory D. Ivy, an artist, teacher, and the first head of the art department at Woman’s College, founded the Weatherspoon Art Gallery. Ivy was motivated by his belief that students should have firsthand experience of the art of their time. During the seven decades following his astute vision, the Weatherspoon has evolved from a small teaching gallery to a fully accredited museum with a national reputation that still places education at the heart of its mission.

Ivy also felt the gallery would benefit the community, and he needed its support. This award-winning handbook, 70 Years of Collecting, begins with a history woven from a collection of stories about the museum’s growth.  Over the years, the Weatherspoon has been the most fortunate recipient of remarkable support, both moral and financial, from the university and the greater Greensboro community. It also has benefitted from a host of dedicated employees and key events that have shaped it into a modern and contemporary art museum with a significant collection.  Visit the 70 Years special exhibition website for a sampling of the works featured in the catalog.

The new handbook is currently available for purchase at the museum’s gift store.

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