The Mennello Museum of American Art is pleased to present THE COLLECTORS PASSION: PAINTINGS BY LAURENCE A. CAMPBELL. The exhibition will be on view in the Mennello Museum’s Marilyn Gallery from July 20 through October 7, 2018, with an Opening Reception on July 20.
THE COLLECTORS PASSION: PAINTINGS BY LAURENCE A. CAMPBELL presents the continued interest and art connoisseurship of the Mennello Museum’s co-founder, Michael A. Mennello. His passion further influences this drive to collect in the myriad of people he befriends, including the Keen and Perez families. In particular, these individuals take immense joy in the paintings of the great American cityscape draped in American flags in seasons, and paintings inspired by the impressionists. Campbell’s scenes of his native Philadelphia and New York City extoll his own, and by extension his collectors’, pride in country and admiration for the historic architecture established in the American city.
Laurence A. Campbell is a modern painter who conveys a quiet contemplation of life in big cities during the latter half of the 20th century. His snow covered cities depicted in the style of heavy brush strokes in light and color are a nod to the impressionists before him, building upon the method and making it his own. Campbell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1939, growing up with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in his backyard and a few blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Campbell is known to have visited the PMA often throughout his youth, spurring his imagination and admiration for art, which propelled him to study architecture at Temple University. Later, he established his own construction firm. During his time in construction, Campbell also worked restoring art pieces, giving him the advantage of studying the methodology and technicality of masterpieces. From there, Campbell painted commissions requested by clients for recreations of their favorite works. Establishing his own gallery in 1970, Campbell too continued depicting his own favored subjects, scenes of city high rises covered in snow, under rain, and with the setting sun of an autumn day.
With a selection of seventeen pieces from local collectors, this exhibit presents stunning examples in both intimate and large-scale works on panel and canvas. Never before seen in the museum setting, they highlight the variety of city spaces, times, and seasons that inspired the hand of this little-known painter. Campbell emulates the themes and sentiments of Childe Hassam’s WWI flag displays along 5th Avenue and Guy C. Wiggin’s snow drenched streets and their people in New York, bringing in his own ambitions, creating unique compositions that favor an intense and muted palate inspired by the changes in natural light of seasons in the city at landmarks from the great Ironside to Trinity Church and the surrounding 5th Avenue and Wall Street in New York. The individuality of people stands out in Campbell’s paintings, determined as the skyscrapers, standing their ground in the harsh but beautiful weather.
COLLECTORS PASSION is curated by Katherine E. Navarro, Marilyn L. Mennello Associate Curator of Education. The Mennello Museum is pleased to present paintings from the collections of Michael A. Mennello, The Allan E. and Linda S. Keen Family, and Dr. Manuel and Destiny Perez. An exhibition catalog will be accompanying the exhibition with an essay written by Navarro.
Please save the date for the opening reception of THE COLLECTORS PASSION: PAINTINGS BY LAURENCE A. CAMPBELL.
Member Preview & Opening Reception Friday, July 20, 2018
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Our Orlando: Making Sense of our World features the work of four rising local artists: Sarah M. Bender, Peterson Guerrier, Boy Kong, and Kelly Joy Ladd. These four artists conceptualize a multitude of relationships within our shared world – ranging from the personal and familiar to the mysterious and universal. In this exhibition, human experience is depicted, varied as it is in its accounts, through figuration and form, in two and three dimensions. The voices and visions of the artists presented here can be seen in a consideration of how we, as humans, relate to one another and our time on earth by reflecting upon their representations of individuality and imagination.
Bender uses humor and the figure to explore both personal and prevailing experiences of womanhood as an artist and mother in compositions that meld time. Guerrier realizes large-scale portraits that are at once penetrating but deny intimacy through mark making to cover. Kong creates contemporary mythologies that function to enliven our notion of seeing and storytelling. Ladd forms the imperceptible, making visible and tactile visions of introspection and our connection to the universe.
Sarah M. Bender (b. Orlando, FL 1989)
Sarah M. Bender’s compositions reference specific people or are often autobiographical and employ art historical nods and themes, which demonstrate intersections of herself and her indifference towards needing to ask permission for societal acceptance of personal choices as a woman and mother. She often uses hens or chickens as stand-ins or masks as a commentary of concealment and stereotypes linked to women.
Bender graduated with a BFA in Studio Art from Florida State University in 2010. Born and raised in the tourism capital of Florida, she gained both an appreciation for cultural diversity and a longing for a cultural identity removed of mouse ears. Bender works primarily in oils, but has begun to incorporate ceramic sculpture and mixed media into pieces.
There is a Rockwellian sense of nostalgia and sentimentality in my imagery, but surrealist elements create an unsettling feeling. I draw my inspiration from childhood memories and photographs, as well as pop culture and books.
—Sarah M. Bender
(b. Miami, FL 1983)
Peterson Guerrier paints in a powerful and ambitious style wherein the viewer is seemingly given primacy to the sitter. Yet through this image – its composition and details chosen and structured by Guerrier — the artist has denied revealing what he has seen, the soul and familiarity of a relationship that he holds close.
Guerrier grew up in Miami and attended Design and Architecture Senior High thereafter securing a Fine Arts degree from College of Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. He works in both painting and photography– interested primarily in extremes, juxtapositions, and duality. His approach to mark making is instinctual and creates figures through the transformation of layers of color and multiplying shapes. Guerrier’s layers employ strokes of bright colors, softer deposits of color, and drips, which may all combine and saturate the surface fusing into a whole. Drawing from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, for Guerrier, his brushstrokes create a description, a statement, which on its own is powerful, but when related to additional movements and statements, coincidentally build an image- “every physical description resolves itself into a number of statements, each of which refers to the space-time coincidence of two events A and B.”
Beauty is only the beginning of a conversation.
(b. Orlando, FL 1993)
Boy Kong is interested in creating stories — a new folklore of unbelievable lions and tigers described as though they have just been discovered, reported, and then depicted only as delighted and tense storytelling can convey. His works on paper, canvas, and wood all twist with energy where neon or pastel colors serve to enliven or sustain, respectively, that strength and awe. Animals take on human traits and supplementary eyes, symbols that create myth and metaphor.
Kong is a self-taught painter, illustrator, muralist, and collage artist. Inspired by a mixture of Ukiyo-e, Surrealism, Graffiti art, and animal folklore, Kong’s visual style connects elements of these styles with a mastery of color and rhythmic application. In a short time his body of work has become immediately identifiable throughout the media he works in without succumbing to a singular aesthetic. Kong divides his time between Orlando and NYC.
Color, lines, movement and impact. Those are the main points that itch my mind and beat me up when I think about (my inspiration).
Kelly Joy Ladd
(b. Tallahassee, FL 1977)
Kelly Joy Ladd responds to themes of light and darkness, cycles that are intended to be introspective and celestial at the same moment. In her assemblages of torn or cut paper on canvas, the artist takes a therapeutic approach to the repetitiveness of her process. Perfect circles are bent or cut to form texture and tone within the works that build up from the canvas. Her intention is to leave viewers awe inspired by the potential of self and the universe.
Ladd is a self-taught artist who grew up in Orlando and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Liberal Studies degree with a focus in astronomy and creative writing. While she has never been formally trained in the arts, throughout her life, Ladd has always painted or created art on her own terms as well as through creative ventures performing at Disney or writing and editing with Hardrock.com, Garden Design, Florida Travel + Life, and Parenting magazines. When her husband became ill and severely allergic to paints and various chemicals, Ladd had to channel her practice in a new direction. Choosing paper, Ladd now rips, cuts, and folds paper into visions of her meditations, connecting these internal pieces to the great wonders of the astronomical universe through name and form.
Color excites me, but I also honor the sleek simplicity of black and white. Even more, I’m enthusiastic about texture and dimension…I love the playful, unexpected and dimensional element that textured paper brings to canvas.
—Kelly Joy Ladd
American Youth: Our Future is an exhibition to support and foster the creativity of Orlando’s talented teen artists. In this exhibition’s second year, the Mennello Museum of American Art will hold a juried art show for which a Call for Art was open to all Orange and Seminole County high school students as part of our increasingly expansive, diverse, and inclusive exhibition program. American Youth: Our Future aspires to empower rising artists and give them a space to engage in conversations through their art with our community. This year’s artists chosen to be included in the exhibition are Manuel Delgado Ordaz, Miller Georgoudiou, Zoe McDonagh-English, Maria McKenna, Paula Meja, Shannon Song, and Valentyna Willard.
OUR ORLANDO and AMERICAN YOUTH are curated by Katherine Navarro, Marilyn L. Mennello Associate Curator of Education and is organized by the Mennello Museum of American Art.
Friday, August 24, 2018 Catered by Runway Catering
Members-only Preview 5:30–6:30 p.m.
American Youth Winners Announcement
$10 for Non-Members | Free for Mennello Museum Members
Our Orlando Artists Panel
Saturday, September 15
1 – 2 pm
Curator Katherine Navarro will moderate a panel discussion with the artists from OUR ORLANDO as they consider creativity in practice, inspiration, and the stories yet to tell. Join Sarah M. Bender, Peterson Guerrier, Boy Kong and Kelly Joy Ladd as they discuss their experiences in the art world.
Boy Kong, A Prayer, 2017, acrylic, oil and horse hair on wood. Courtesy of the artist and Gitler &_____ gallery
Shifting Gaze: A Reconstruction of The Black & Hispanic Body in Contemporary Art presents a selection of works from Dr. Robert B. Feldman’s extensive collection of contemporary art. The artists gathered in the exhibition have all drawn upon art history, American history, and popular culture to create powerful works that, independently and collectively, present a broad range of concepts about identity, beauty, belonging, and religion, as well as work with deep gravitas around poignant issues of race, sexuality, violence, displacement, vulnerability, erasure, and visibility.
The title is evocative and an emblematic reference to art history and the critical social agency of our current times. Through various media, such as painting, sculpture, drawing, and collage, the Black and Hispanic body (physical and metaphoric) is implied or materializes with subtlety in some instances, beautifully unfolds in others, and in a few, is direct, dramatic, and heartbreaking. The symbolic framework of the Shifting Gaze and Reconstruction helps generate a larger dialogue between the works on view and the specificities of a diverse African & Hispanic Diaspora in our current physical, social, and political landscape, as revealed through each artist’s personal experience and distinctive aesthetics.
The Shifting Gaze, who is looking at who engages perception, seeing and objectification while Reconstruction represents a rebuild, new articulation, and possibly new constructs via a new voice – from the past and projected into a resonant now. The power of this collection, conceptually, formally, across contexts, sensibilities, and interests is the result of the extraordinary vision and passionate quest of the Winter Park collector Dr. Feldman who shares with us an unparalleled visual intellect fueled by his knowledge, curiosity, humanity, and keen eye.
Shifting Gaze: A Reconstruction of The Black & Hispanic Body in Contemporary Artfeatures works from the following artists:
Nina Chanel Abney
Mark Thomas Gibson
Jennie C. Jones
Samuel Levi Jones
Toyin Ojih Odutola
Ebony G. Patterson
Paul Henry Ramirez
Hank Willis Thomas
Exhibition is curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Mennello Museum of American Art.
Join us for the opening reception!
Friday, October 19, 2018
Members-only Preview 5:30–6:30 p.m.
$10 for Non-Members | Free for Mennello Museum Members
Shifting Gaze Panel Discussion
October 20 | 11:30 am – 1 pm
At Orlando Museum of Art
Mennello Museum Executive Director Shannon Fitzgerald will moderate a panel discussion with artists and gallerists from the exhibition “Shifting Gaze: A Reconstruction of The Black & Hispanic Body in Contemporary Art from the Collection of Dr. Robert B. Feldman”: Radcliffe Bailey, Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, Mark Thomas Gibson, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Vaughn Spann and Carlos Vega.
NOTE: This panel discussion will be held in Orlando Museum of Art’s Auditorium.
Ebony G. Patterson, Untitled I-beyond the bladez series, 2014, Mixed media on paper, 30 x 36 inches. Collection of Dr. Robert B. Feldman, Winter Park, FL. Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.
Courtesy of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art; College of Charleston School of the Arts
This exhibition features new work by multi-media artist Jiha Moon (Korean, Born 1973). Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Moon harvests cultural elements native to Korea, Japan, and China and then unites them with Western elements to investigate the multi-faceted nature of our current global identity as influenced by popular culture, technology, racial perceptions, and folklore.
This exhibition is organized by the Taubman Museum of Art in collaboration with the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina. The exhibition is curated by Amy G. Moorefield, Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the Taubman Museum of Art and Mark Sloan, Director and Chief Curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art with special assistance from Andrea Pollan, Curator’s Office, Washington, D.C.; Saltworks Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia; and Ryan Lee Gallery, New York, New York.
Opening on January 19, 2018, the second annual Mennello Museum Invitational will again highlight new work by contemporary regional artists whose work enriches our community and our lives in Central Florida. The Mennello Museum Invitational serves to support our local artists, provide visibility for their work and introduce them to new collectors while giving our community an amazing opportunity to build their collection of art.
This group exhibition will be on view in the museum’s Marilyn Gallery from January 19 through March 2, 2018. and will serve as a heart-filled embrace of our creative community. The public opening will be celebrated on January 19, 2018, with an Opening Reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It is a great opportunity to see some incredible local artwork right out of the studios.
All work in the Mennello Museum Invitational will also be featured and available for purchase at the Evening with Fabulous Friends Gala on March 3, 2018. The artists have generously donated 50% of their proceeds to benefit the Mennello Museum.
The 2018 selected artists include Weronica Ankarörn, Stephen Bach, Susan Bach, Matthew Cornell, Genevieve DeMarco, Todd Fox, Peterson J. Guerrier, Saulius Jankauskas, Martha Lent, Anne Mayer, Roland Rockwood, Andrew Spear, Lillian Verkins, and Vickie Wilson.
The Mennello Museum Invitational is curated by Paul T. Scarborough, Shannon Fitzgerald, and Katherine Navarro as an invitation to artists to present work in a group exhibition while supporting both the museum and the artists.
The Mennello Museum Invitational and GRACE HARTIGAN 1960-1965, THE PERRY COLLECTION:
Preview & Opening Reception Friday, January 19, 2018
Members-only Preview 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Public Opening Reception Free for members | $10 for Guests
6:30 – 8:30 pm
Lillian Verkins, Five Palms, 2016, acrylic.
Vickie Wilson, Flower, 2017, acrylic on canvas.
Roland P. Rockwood, SOUBIROUS IV: The Imperial Prosecutor of Lourdes, 2017, acrylic, aluminum, reflective mylar, newsprint, pastel on wood panel with frame.
Andrew Spear, The Truth, 2017, acrylic and paint pen on canvas.
Julie Heffernan uses the power of paint’s materiality and immediacy in the Mennello Museum’s exhibition, WHEN THE WATER RISES: RECENT PAINTINGS BY JULIE HEFFERNAN. She brings form to the reality of our environmental and sociopolitical problems. This exhibition debuts nine new works by Heffernan.
Heffernan’s work explores the imagery of the mind’s eye to create complex environments. Her recent paintings create alternative habitats in response to the environmental disaster and planetary excess. With rising waters, she imagines worlds in trees or on rafts in which undulating mattresses, tree boughs, and road signs guide the journey. Construction cones interrupt the landscape signaling places to stop, enter tiny interior worlds, and reflect on the human condition—its hopeless activity, violence, failure, and redemption. Heffernan tends these alternative environments to safeguard bounties we cannot live without. In other moments, she names and points fingers to those people and activities implicated in recent calamities of both the physical and socio-political environment. Intricately wrought, Heffernan’s paintings evoke the fantastical allegory of Hieronymus Bosch and the sublime of Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt.
WHEN THE WATER RISES: RECENT PAINTINGS BY JULIE HEFFERNAN is organized by LSU Museum of Art, Baton Rouge and curated by Courtney Taylor, Curator, LSU Museum of Art and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays by Taylor, art critic and writer Eleanor Heartney, and LSU Professor of Art Kelli Scott Kelley.
Julie Heffernan, Camp Bedlam, 2016, oil on canvas, 68 x 104 inches. Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery.
GRACE HARTIGAN 1960-1965, THE PERRYCOLLECTION presents a rare selection of paintings and collages that represent Hartigan’s noted Abstract Expressionist style as it evolved in the early 1960s toward new levels of abstraction and representation. Long overlooked, Hartigan was a key innovator among the painters of the New York School.
Hartigan’s reputation as an important contemporary artist increased throughout the 1950s; she was the only woman represented in the much heralded MoMA’s 1956 show Twelve Americans that included Sam Francis, Philip Guston, Franz Kline, and Seymour Lipton; and her work was an integral part of MoMA’s New American Painting exhibition that toured eight countries in Europe in 1958 and 1959 and included Jackson Pollock, William de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky, Clifford Still, and other leading Abstract Expressionist painters. She was the only woman artist in both exhibitions.
More recently, Hartigan has been included in survey exhibitions looking at Abstract Expressionism from the lens of the 21st Century including: Abstract Expressionist New York at MoMA, 2010 that celebrated the achievements of a generation that catapulted New York City to the center of the international art world nearly seventy years ago and the groundbreaking exhibition Women of Abstract Expressionism organized by Denver Art Museum, 2016 thatcelebrated the often unknown female artists of this mid-twentieth-century art movement.
Hartigan is likewise noted for her influence on three generations, during her more than 40 years teaching graduate students as director of Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Hoffberger School of Painting, Baltimore.
The variety of paintings in this exhibition range from 1960 – 1965, and they are assembled by Hartigan’s Washington D.C. dealer, the late Beatrice Perry. They are characteristic of Hartigan’s style at the time, a style of vivid color and texture painted on a large scale.
Similar works of this period are found in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Albright Knox Art Gallery, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy. The selection also demonstrates the shift in mood and thought as Hartigan transitioned from her studio and work life in New York to Baltimore, Maryland where she lived, painted, and thought until her death in 2008.
I think the thing about Hartigan that I admired the most is her purposefulness in her work. No matter the economic realities or the ebb and flow of the art world she had a plan for her work and she stuck to it. Her journals are very useful when it comes to learning about her thoughts and ideas as well as the day to day struggles to make ends meet while trying to paint and build a career in New York in the 50s.
—Michael Klein, Guest Curator, New York
Grace Hartigan, Reisterstown Mall, 1965, oil on canvas, 80 x 102 inches. Collection of Hart Perry.
In partnership with the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, the Mennello Museum is proud to present TIME AND THOUGHT: ART OF THE UNITED STATES FROM THE CORNELL FINE ARTS MUSEUM. This exhibition, on view at the Mennello Museum from September 19, 2017 through January 7, 2018, is drawn from the Permanent Collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida and organized by its Curator, Amy Galpin, Ph.D.
The history of art of the United States is rich and varied. Often seen in comparison to their European counterparts, American artists demonstrated ingenuity as they sought to display power and identity through portraiture, revel in the beauty of their natural surroundings through landscapes, and comment on conflicted and troubling histories in the spaces in between. The artists who are represented in this exhibition serve as key conduits for which time—and specifically American history—is marked.
Moreover, this presentation not only focuses on the technical skill of the artists included but how these individual works represented prevailing concepts and trends during the time in which they were created. The list of artists in this exhibition includes Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, John Kensett, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, Grandma Moses, Jacob Lawrence, and Ed Ruscha.
In this exhibition, we are asked to think about time, place, and environment with a literary quote:
“Time and Thought were my surveyors, They laid their courses well.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Song of Nature”
Please join The Mennello Museum of American Art in celebration of the opening of TIME AND THOUGHT: ART OF THE UNITED STATES FROM THE CORNELL FINE ARTS MUSEUM.
City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the Friends of the Mennello Museum of American Art, the Mennello Museum Board of Trustees together with Executive Director, Shannon Fitzgerald, invite you to the opening reception.
The Mennello Museum of American Art opened our 2016 Fall Exhibition season by featuring three extraordinary women sculptors: Alice Aycock, Deborah Butterfield and Barbara Sorensen.
The museum presents three outstanding American sculptors whose work powerfully explores materials and process in three different compelling ways to contemplate nature and the environment ranging from wind, earth, mountains, water and horses. Nationally renowned artists Alice Aycock and Deborah Butterfield push boundaries in scale, human perception and grace in aluminum, bronze, fiberglass and found scrap metal that awe. In addition, Orlando and Aspen based artist Barbara Sorensen creates works in clay and aluminum that beautifully explore both the fragility and forces of our earthen elements. The season is a celebration of women sculptors who have, for decades, significantly contributed to the still largely male-dominate field of sculpture in monumental ways.
Alice Aycock: Waltzing Matilda and Twin Vortexes
Grounds for Exhibitions − Inaugural Outdoor Exhibitions Series
September 2016 through September 2017
The Mennello Museum inaugurates Grounds for Exhibitions with two large-scale works by American sculptor Alice Aycock installed in the Marilyn L. Mennello Sculpture Garden. The beautiful twin works, Waltzing Matilda and Twin Vortexes were originally part of series of seven sculptures in Aycock’s significant outdoor exhibition on Park Avenue in Manhattan entitled Park Avenue Paper Chase. Grounds for Exhibition features year long large-scale sculpture exhibitions by nationally renowned American artists who otherwise would not be shared with Orlando audiences.
Shannon Fitzgerald states: “It is thrilling to inaugurate this outdoor exhibition program with such beautiful work by Alice Aycock, one of America’s most recognized and respected sculptors of her generation. I think visitors will delight in experiencing the stunning sculptures nestled in our lakeside landscape that challenges perspective, materiality, whimsy, and nature—in all its power and fragility. She continues: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for our community to contemplate the vital role art has and the impact it can have when shared in the Public realm.”
Deborah Butterfield: Horses from Florida Collections
October 14, 2016 – January 8, 2017
The horse for Deborah Butterfield serves as a metaphoric self-portrait – it represents the embodiment of historic and deeply ingrained feelings of strength, beauty and an inherent spirituality. The horse can transport us from place to place and from realm to realm; since prehistory it has remained one of the most constant images created by human beings. Her work is a combination of abstraction and reality. Butterfield has sculpted horses from many materials including mud and sticks, copper, scrap metal, and cast bronze. She creates sculptures that are strong, grand—yet always gentle—representing grace, gesture, solitude, and beauty.
Barbara Sorensen: Recent Acquisitions & New Work
October 14, 2016 – January 8, 2017
The Mennello Museum of American Art is delighted to share with the community recent acquisitions from celebrated artist Barbara Sorensen. Based in Orlando and Aspen, Sorensen has long been inspired by nature and the diverse materiality of our every changing environment. Michael A. Mennello has followed Sorensen’s career for over thirty years, has acquired work for his personal collection, purchased work and donated it to Orlando Museum of Art, and is now gifting 14 major pieces to the Mennello Museum of American Art in honor of Marilyn L. Mennello. For this acquisition highlight exhibition, Sorensen is also creating a new, site-specific installation that continues her experimentation with materials, movement and form as located in nature and constantly shifting, in undulating rhythm, pattern and palette.
Barbara Sorensen creates work in clay and aluminum that beautifully explores both the dynamism and force of nature, but also its calm and quietude that remain in and outside time. We are thrilled also by the opportunity to unveil a new body of work entitled Ripples created this summer in her mountainside studio specifically for our space. It will inspire and surprise!
The Museum published an exhibition catalog on the occasion of this exhibition.
The Mennello Museum of American Art presents the transcendental work of William Eggleston. Please join us for the opening reception on June 23, 2017. Learn more.
The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston is guest curated by American novelist, Megan Abbott, and includes 36 color and black-and-white photographs from the University of Mississippi Museum’s remarkable permanent collection, including some photos never before exhibited.
William Eggleston, a renowned American photographer, is acclaimed for elevating color photography and transforming ordinary scenes into fine art. Through the eye of Eggleston, nothing is ordinary, despite his photographs’ apparent depiction of ordinary things and ordinary people doing ordinary things. Eggleston once said, “I am at war with the obvious,” a phrase curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art thought apt enough to use as the title for a 2013 exhibition of his photographs from their permanent collection
A Memphis native, Eggleston acquired his first camera in 1957 at age 18. During his time studying art at Ole Miss, his interest in photography grew. He soon began to experiment with color negative film. Today, Eggleston is a world-renowned innovator of color photography, transforming ordinary scenes into fine art.
The exhibition is organized by the University of Mississippi Museum, who owes its vast collection of Eggleston photographs to the generosity of Dr. William R. Ferris, scholar, author and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi who personally donated his collection to Ole Miss. Ferris, a photographer and longtime friend of Eggleston, describes him as “the greatest living color photographer.” “He is the Picasso or Faulkner of what he does.” Ferris continues, “This exhibit allows everyone to know his work, which is part of the legacy of Ole Miss.” Michael Glover, art critic for the British newspaper The Independent, agrees. His review of the 2013 opening of the permanent Eggleston installation at the Tate Modern was headlined, “Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the world’s greatest photographer.”
Greatest or not, art critics agree that Eggleston’s work has shaped art photography since 1976, when the Museum of Modern Art presented the now famous exhibition William Eggleston’s Guide, its first-ever solo exhibition of color photography. Since that watershed exhibit, Eggleston’s work has influenced art photography and even filmmaking. Film directors citing his influence include John Huston, Gus Van Sant, Joel and Ethan Cohen and David Lynch.
It was Lynch who brought Eggleston to the attention of the exhibition’s guest curator, American novelist Megan Abbott, University of Mississippi’s 2013-2014 John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence and an Edgar Award-winner. Abbott has drawn her own inspiration from his photos for many of her novels. She helped choose the pieces for the exhibit, which capture scenes from more than two decades. “To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch,” she said. “When you look long enough at his photographs, like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images, you get lost in it. You’re in another place.” Acclaimed photographer, first cousin and Eggleston protégé Maude Schulyer Clay served as consulting adviser for the exhibit. In 2015, German photo book publisher Steidl produced a collection of Clay’s portraits titled Mississippi History. Steidl discovered her photographs while working with Eggleston on the multi-volume set Chrome (2011) and Los Alamos Revisited (2012).
Eggleston’s published books and portfolios, include Los Alamos (actually completed in 1974, before the publication of the Guide) the massive Election Eve (1976; a portfolio of photographs taken around Plains, Georgia before that year’s presidential election); The Morals of Vision (1978); Flowers (1978); Wedgwood Blue (1979); Seven (1979); Troubled Waters (1980); and The Louisiana Project (1980). William Eggleston’s Graceland (1984) is a series of commissioned photographs of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, depicting the singer’s home as an airless, windowless tomb in custom-made bad taste. Other series include The Democratic Forest (1989), Faulkner’s Mississippi (1990), and Ancient and Modern (1992). In 2016, The Democratic Forest was presented in a solo exhibition at David Zwiner, New York with a new publication.
Of his 2013 Metropolitan Museum exhibition, At War with the Obvious, New York Times critic Ken Johnson writes “But photographs like Mr. Eggleston’s are not like movie images, which come in linear sequences, establishing explanatory narratives around scenes that would be mysterious, were they viewed in isolation. There is no before and after here, so the photographs remain provocatively enigmatic, which accounts for much of their poetic resonance. His pictures tease the mind, eliciting associations and possible meanings that swirl around them like bugs around a light bulb.”
In 2016, The New York Times Style Magazine featured Eggleston on the cover of the “Greats” edition, photographed by famed contemporary photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Writer Augusten Burroughs wrote “A visit with the American Master of color photography reveals him to be every bit as brilliant, confounding and heartbreakingly soulful as the pictures he makes.”
A clear spring rises somewhere on the home place, for the human strain begins there for Mr. Eggleston, and we see it in what follows: it turns into a river that runs through, or underneath, every place succeeding it. Whatever is done to block it or stop its flow, it surfaces again. Pure human nature proves itself in likely or unlikely places.
William Eggleston, born in 1939 currently lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston is organized by the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses with exhibition support provided by the Friends of the Museum. Additional support by Dr. William R. Ferris and the Eggleston Artistic Trust.
William Eggleston, Untitled, 1973, color photograph.
Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.