Feature Articles

November 2011

Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, Presents Exhibition Focused on Women Artist and Photography

The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, is presenting two new exhibits including: Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art and Camera Works: Masters in Photography, both on view through Jan. 8, 2012.

Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art, on view in the Main Gallery, will examine the challenges faced by women artists over the past 300 years. Camera Works: Masters in Photography, on view in the Rotunda Galleries, features twentieth-century masters of photography selected from the Gibbes permanent collection and local private collections.

“These exhibitions demonstrate the wide-ranging and versatile aspects of the museum’s 150-year-old collection,” stated Angela D. Mack, Executive Director.

Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art highlights a number of extraordinary women working in a variety of media and artistic styles. The exhibition pays tribute to those women who defied convention and paved the way for women to achieve success as professional artists.

In the 1700s, women faced considerable obstacles to becoming professional artists, primarily caused by social pressures and the lack of access to formal artistic training. Henrietta Johnston moved to Charleston (then known as Charles Town) in 1708 when the Church of England’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts appointed her husband, Gideon Johnston, Commissary for South Carolina. The Johnston family faced considerable financial hardships upon arriving in Charleston, and to help support her family, Henrietta created and sold pastel portraits. Henrietta Johnston is considered to be the first female professional artist in America and the Gibbes Museum of Art houses the largest public collection of her work. Five (5) pastel portraits by Henrietta Johnston are included in the exhibition.

Women artists from the Charleston Renaissance period are also well represented in the exhibition. During this period of time between the two World Wars, Charleston experienced a resurgence in all aspects of cultural life including literature, music, historic preservation, and the visual arts. Among the leaders of the Charleston Renaissance were artists Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, and Anna Heyward Taylor, all of whom created numerous works depicting the historic architecture and beautiful landscape of Charleston and the surrounding Lowcounty region.

The exhibition also recognizes the impressive cadre of female artists working in the region today from sweetgrass basket maker Mary Jackson to classically trained, realist painter, Jill Hooper, Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art honors the achievements of past generations while acknowledging the creativity of professional female artists working in the 21st century.

Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art is sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, The Women’s Council of the Carolina Art Association, and Where magazine.

In the early 20th century, New York-based artist and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz launched a photo journal, Camera Work, to promote the then-novel idea that photography could be an art form rather than simply a documentary medium or a lesser substitute for painting. The exhibition Camera Works: Masters in Photography features images captured by Stieglitz and his collaborator Clarence White, as well as Berenice Abbott, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White, and other renowned 20th century American artists who embraced and explored the creative possibilities of early photography.

Through careful composition, post-production manipulation, shedding light on new subjects, revealing the beauty of the everyday, or capturing striking patterns in unexpected places, the artists in this early circle of innovators pioneered styles and techniques that bravely exposed the potential of their chosen medium. These photographers figured out how to make a camera work.

Writer Robert Marks, a Charleston native, collected works of this era and donated many of these pieces to the Gibbes in the 1970s. Much like Stieglitz’s initial push to move photography beyond the traditional, this donation expanded the Gibbes’ photograph collection beyond historical portraits, adding true art shots and catalyzing the museum’s enthusiasm for collecting photography. Camera Works: Masters in Photography showcases many of the photographs that Marks and others gave to the museum, as well as photographs of the period borrowed from private collectors.

Camera Works: Masters in Photography is sponsored by Charleston Gateway magazine.

The Gibbes is offering many related programs in conjunction with these two exhibits. Contact the Museum for further information.

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905. Located in Charleston’s historic district, the Gibbes houses a premier collection of over 10,000 works, principally American with a Charleston or Southern connection, and presents special exhibitions throughout the year. In addition, the museum offers an extensive complement of public programming and educational outreach initiatives that serve the community by stimulating creative expression and improving the region’s superb quality of life.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 843/722-2706 or visit (www.gibbesmuseum.org).


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