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The history of African-American art reflects the larger story of America, a land that saw millions of enslaved Africans brought to its shores during the colonial and antebellum periods. These forced immigrants were stripped of their own cultural traditions and compelled to create new narratives in a strange and unforgiving land. Opportunities to freely express themselves or to receive specialized instruction in art were rare for African Americans in the antebellum period and equally so even after the abolishment of slavery at the time of the Civil War. Only by the time of the 20th century, with developments such as the Harlem Renaissance, did a growing culture of African-American visual art begin to blossom and burst onto the national scene. Though still hampered by continuing prejudice and a lack of opportunity, African-American visual artists have nevertheless emerged to become a strong voice in the contemporary art scene in the United States.

Over the past several decades, the Huntington Museum of Art has been building a distinguished collection of work by African-American artists. Included in the group is a painting by the most celebrated African-American artist of the 19th century, Henry Ossawa Tanner, an internationally successful painter and teacher. Perhaps the most widely known work by an African-American artist in the HMA collection is by one of Tanner’s students, William Edouard Scott. His painting Lead Kindly Light appeared in 1918 on the cover of The Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP that was edited by well-known African-American intellectual W.E.B. DuBois. It has been featured in exhibitions at major institutions and was recently highlighted in the PBS documentary Reconstruction: America After the Civil War. Another early 20th century work is a watercolor by Richard Lonsdale Brown, a talented West Virginia artist whose work was also featured in The Crisis. Prints by 20th century master Romare Bearden will also be included.

Many of the works in the collection have been acquired to commemorate the participation of artists as guest instructors in the museum’s Walter Gropius Master Artist Workshop program. Thom Shaw, E.B. Lewis, Nanette Carter, Willie Cole and Donald Earley have all led workshops, as have Joyce Scott and Carrie Mae Weems, both of whom have been honored with MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Awards.

Several artists with local ties will be featured in the show, including quilt artists and Huntington natives Tina Williams Brewer and Theresa Polley-Shellcroft, both former Gropius Workshop leaders, and poet/artist Elaine Blue. Works by prominent self-taught artists will also be on view, including selections by William Hawkins, Clementine Hunter and Dilmus Hall.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Art Quilts by Denise Roberts

January 16 - April 11, 2021

Award-winning quilt artist Denise Roberts credits the curved landscapes that surround the winding roads of her home state of West Virginia as a major influence on her work. Through the meandering arcs and bold shapes and colors that appear in her quilts, she achieves a brooding sense of energy and character. She reaps the bounty of the thousands of hours she has invested in studying and perfecting the technical side of her artistry, utilizing a masterful grasp of free and improvisational cutting, fabric dyeing and surface design to create textiles that stretch far beyond the historical bounds that often limit the quilter’s art. Though rooted in timeless craft traditions, her work is more akin to that of abstract painters, connected with them through a bold use of color and form in their purest manifestations.

A West Virginia resident since the age of nine, Roberts has lived in several locations around the state, including a stretch in the mid-1980s when she settled in Huntington. After she and her husband welcomed their first daughter, they moved to the Morgantown area, and in 2008 they bought a farm in Albright, West Virginia (Preston County), where she set up her professional studio and still resides. She spent many years following a traditional quilter’s path, but in 2005 she began studying with some of the leaders in the improvisational quilting field, especially Ohio-based artist Nancy Crow. Her work has been featured in many national and international exhibits, including Color Improvisations 2, which was shown at the Huntington Museum of Art in 2019.

This will be Roberts’ first solo show and will highlight selections from three thematic series that have occupied her attention over much of the past five years. All the quilts feature the energetic lines and striking colors that have become characteristic of the artist’s mature work. After many shows with a limited number of her work, the prospect of seeing a large selection together in one gallery will provide a tantalizing treat to museum visitors.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

The Daywood Collection

January 23 - July 11, 2021

Among the most beloved treasures in the Huntington Museum of Art is The Daywood Collection, which came as a gift to the Huntington Museum of Art from Ruth Woods Dayton in 1966. Assembled by her husband, Arthur Spencer Dayton, and Mrs. Dayton, this rich group of objects reveals the Daytons’ strong emotional and intellectual response to art.

The Daytons had entered the collecting world in 1916 when they received a gift of the painting Munich Landscape, by Ross Sterling Turner, as a wedding present. That would be the beginning of a collection that would eventually number more than 200 works of art, including more than 80 paintings.

Many of the works are modest in size, deliberately chosen to fit comfortably in their Charleston, West Virginia, residence. The collection includes many of the great names in 19th and 20th century American art, such as Childe Hassam, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer and others, as well as stellar examples of European art including Henri Le Sidaner’s Window on the Bay of Villefranche, the First Prize winner in the prestigious 1925 Carnegie International Exhibition.

Though 40 of the Daywood paintings will be away from Huntington in a national touring exhibit, the HMA presentation of the collection will include many favorites such as Joyce by Howard Somerville, and Childe Hassam’s stellar work from his famed “flag” series, Lincoln’s Birthday Flags, 1918. The show will also highlight the rich and deep collection of drawings and prints that was assembled by the Daytons, with works ranging from prints by old masters such as Rembrandt to later examples by John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, Martin Lewis and Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

When she gave the collection to the Huntington Museum of Art, Ruth Dayton expressed a great deal of personal satisfaction in knowing that it was going to be cared for and displayed in a proper manner, remarking that “the Daywood Collection will always have a home in West Virginia and will continue, through the years, to bring pleasure to art lovers in the State as well as to visitors from throughout the nation.”

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the addition to the Huntington Museum of Art facility that made the gift possible, the display of The Daywood Collection stands as a fitting tribute to the Daytons and their extraordinary legacy.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Craig Subler

January 30 - April 25, 2021

Contemporary West Virginia artist Craig Allen Subler brings a unique set of experiences to his work, drawing upon his lengthy career as both a working artist and a museum administrator.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, he did his undergraduate studies at the Dayton Art Institute and obtained graduate degrees, including an MFA, from the University of Iowa. He later served as the Olsen Professor in the Department of Art and History and the Director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Gallery of Art. From 1980-2001 he curated more than 180 exhibitions, ranging from shows of work by Jasper Johns, Yoko Ono and Robert Rauschenberg to a unique exhibit on the topic of African hats, and produced 30 exhibition catalogues.

Subler’s art has been seen in more than 84 group exhibits and 15 one-person shows. He has received several public commissions and his work is included in many museums and private collections.

He is currently retired and living and working in his studio in Gerrardstown, West Virginia.

In his exhibition at the Huntington Museum of Art, Subler’s drawings, prints and paintings focus on the complexity of the museum experience. Museums are highly choreographed and artificial domains where curators, educators and designers cluster objects to create clear and defined narratives. Yet as visitors walk through the museum, they encounter individual rooms that feature objects not related to those they have just experienced. In his work Subler focuses on making a new narrative through the juxtaposition of spaces and objects. His works present a complex accumulation of fragments and viewpoints. It is puzzling for the figures that inhabit these works, while reminding us of our own museum encounters.  

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.