“Art Of The State” Offers A Vital, Sprawling Survey Of North Carolinas Rich Arts Legacy

“Art Of The State” Offers A Vital, Sprawling Survey Of North Carolinas Rich Arts Legacy

Lisa Roberts. village art. North Carolina Visual Arts Festival | University of North Carolina Press. November 2022


From the very beginning, the ambition of State of the Art. to celebrate the fine arts of North Carolina were clear . Written by Raleigh resident Lisa Roberts, with photographs by Durham-based photographer Lisa Gutvals and published by UNC Press, the 272-page book is a dynamic and comprehensive overview of North Carolina contemporary art. As noted by former director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Larry Wheeler, wrote in the preface, “[This] is the first comprehensive contemporary look at the rich variety of people, places, and materials that characterize the art of North Carolina. from the north.

The arts of the country are organized by region. Like a slow ride down I-40, starting in the mountains and moving east, plunging into Charlotte and the Sandhills region, summarizing the dominant trends and characteristics of each region. Western North Carolina focuses on the community surrounding Penland Vocational School; The Sandhills section showcases the region's internationally recognized ceramic heritage; And the Triangle area is marked by the North Carolina Museum of Art, vibrant community college museums, and famous artists like Beverly McIver and Thomas Sayre.

The book itself is impressively designed and rich in engaging artistic imagery, often linked to the profiles of artists and collectors. These clippings, separate from, but interrupted by, the main text, give the book the feel of a well-organized gallery, with individual fragments hanging on the wall and united by a common theme. As Roberts told me via email, his goal with these profiles was to show "not only a wide range of art in terms of media, messages, methods and styles, but also a wide range of 'human stories'".

Understandably, Roberts did a lot of research for the book.

Roberts, a journalist and founding editor of WALTER magazine, says he did more than 200 interviews for his investigation, which spanned more than three years. The Gottwal photographs are a notable addition, documenting the artists and their art with playful and playful precision. Many artists work with their characters. Stairs, ovens, sewing needles and scissors remind the reader of the deep physicality of even the most interesting parts of creativity.

As Seagrove glass artist Sara Band notes in her book, “art is blessed with infinity.” But his support has much more to do with specific concerns. Why has North Carolina developed an arts community worthy of celebration in books and museums? Roberts wrote in the preface: "The state itself cultivates this art with its extraordinary natural beauty, accessibility and quality of life." All of this may be true, but it may explain why the biotech company is taking up residence here just as much as the sculptor.

Roberts later approached this distinction when he noted the contribution of social structures and the ideals held by the state. Notable local institutions such as the GreenHill Center in Greensboro, which exclusively exhibits contemporary art from North Carolina; the North Carolina Pottery Center at Seagrove, which maintains a traditional form of craft dating back to the founding of the state; The influential Charlotte Light Factory Photographic Art Center, which has trained Queen City photographers since 1973 and showcases the work of Diane Arbus and Sally Mann, serves as a cultural anchor, providing vibrant forums and support networks for local artists.

While there are a number of individual fundraisers, there is also a small but important focus on the role of government and community leadership. As Roberts wrote in the book, the North Carolina Museum of Art was "the only museum in the country built on a collection purchased by the state." The United Nations Higher Education System, with its fine arts master's programs, affiliated museums and cultural programs, has created creative outposts across the state.

While country art is (rightly) praised for all of this, what goes on behind its pages can put the reader off. Can you imagine the North Carolina Legislature creating a conservatory like the University of North Carolina School of the Arts today? Does this creative foresight coincide with the hard and narrow view of many reactionary "tar heel" leaders?

As an exploration of North Carolina's distinctive contemporary art scene, Art of the State succeeds as a thoughtful visual account of where we are today. The question remains about the future. The book quotes Durham artist Stacy Lynn Waddell in a book that discusses representation, a concept that resonates with both artistic expression and aspects of identity: “Who should be represented and how? Why is this presentation important and who decides?

In The Art of the Country , readers will find a thoughtful eulogy of the country's artistic heritage. With this legacy in the rearview mirror, Waddell's questions take on a broader format for artists and art lovers alike.


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