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June Issue 1999
- Mint Museum of Craft + Design Opens The Duke Energy Gallery
- The development of craft, from the utilitarian objects of
America's 19th century rural economy to the contemporary art
that studio craft is considered today, is presented in the new
Duke Energy Gallery exhibit, Tradition and Change, which
opened last month at Charlotte, NC's Mint Museum of Craft + Design
The debut of this second floor gallery completes the permanent
collection installation for the new museum. Currents in Craft,
which premiered at the Jan. 10 opening of MMCD, features contemporary
studio craft. The Duke Energy Gallery traces the evolution of
craft in four stages: Rural and Farm Crafts (1800-1885), the
Arts and Craft Movement (1888-1930), Southern Appalachian Handicraft
Revival (1930s) and Modernism (1940-1980). Sub-themes include
Carolina Craft, Cultural Identity, Anti-Esthetic, Naturalism,
Whimsy, Women's Work and Pattern and Decoration.
Early craft forms and rural economy crafts were utilitarian,
from Daniel Seagle's Meat Storage Jar (1830) to John A.
Craven's 15 Gallon Masonic Jar (1855). Examples include
European influences such as the Moravian Plate (1800)
and craft forms that continued from the colonial era. The extent
of uses include a Ring Jug (to carry drinking water) and
a salt-glazed stoneware Gravemarker (1885). While the
wares were practical, they did not preclude artistry and commentary
as seen in Chester Webster's incised drawings of birds and fish
on his 4 Gallon Syrup Jug (1845) and a Political Pot
Praising North Carolina Governor Jonathan Worth (1865) from
an unknown Piedmont potter.
The Arts and Craft movement that originated in England sought
to preserve the quality of hand-made design. Early 20th century
art pottery featured in the Duke Energy Gallery include vases
from noted American potteries Rookwood (Cincinnati), Newcomb
(New Orleans), Grueby Faience (Boston) and Weller (Zainesville,
Ohio). Several George Ohr vases are featured. The "mad potter
of Biloxi" was one of the first artist-potters to tear away
at the boundaries of ceramic decorative arts.
Carolina traditional and folk craft comprise much of the Southern
Appalachian handicraft-revival material on display. Samples include
a J. Martin Woody Setting Chair (early 1930s), a Tallulah
Falls (Georgia) "Lace" Basket and an Enoch
Reinhardt Swirlware Teapot (1938). Appalachian crafts
were associated with the tourist trade and were often combined
with local products, such as a Jugtown honey pot.
Federal programs, such as the Qualla Arts and Craft Mutual, Inc.
on the Cherokee Reservation, were established to preserve and
promote traditional craft, often as tools of rural economic development.
A sculpture by Qualla member and noted woodcarver, Amanda Crowe,
from her student days at the Art Institute of Chicago, is on
display. So is a weaving by Crowe's teaching colleague on the
reservation, Doris Coulter, a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy
of Arts, who first studied weaving at Penland School in the late
1940s. Both woman had solo exhibitions at the Mint in 1957.
The influences of Modernism are readily found among North Carolina
potters between 1940 and 1970 in such examples as a C.C. Cole
Ring Handled Garden Urn (1940). Henry Varnum Poor's ceramic
Untitled Figure of Goddess and Alligator (1940s) is a
stunning example of the artistic and sculptural properties craft
Craft in the 1960s reflects countercultural influences in the
use of material associated with indigenous cultures, like macrame,
beadwork and feathers. The back to the land movement coincided
with the identification of craft as an alternative lifestyle.
In North Carolina, art communities formed around Penland School,
the land cooperative Celo Community and Gypsy Hollingsworth's
farm in Walnut Cove. In this cultural climate of postwar America,
the crafts field developed as a new art form, leaving behind
the traditional boundaries of utility and decoration.
One trend associated with craft material and processes is naturalism,
exemplified by Dempsy Calhoun's rustic bench and Silvia Heyden's
crocheted horsehair rug. Irreverence is also associated with
the craft personality, as seen in Bob Trotman's Polkadot Chair
and Rob Levin's Late Venetian/Early Neurotic glassware,
both whimsical interpretations of decorative art.
"The presentation found in the Duke Energy Gallery is told
largely through a Mint Museum collecting perspective," stated
MMCD curator Mary Douglas. "The historical North Carolina
Pottery Collection assembled by Dorothy and Walter Auman of Seagrove
and the purchase awards from the Piedmont Craft Exhibitions held
at the Mint from 1964-1982 provided a regional view of the development
of crafts that was taking place throughout the country. Our goal
is to expand the museum's historical material to include the
major centers of influence and the roles of individual craft
pioneers throughout the nation."
For further information check the NC Instutional Gallery listings
or call the Mint at 704/337-2000 or on their web site at: (http://www.mintmuseum.org).
Mailing Address: Carolina Arts, P.O. Drawer 427, Bonneau, SC
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