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Randolph College's Maier Museum Looks at Landscapes

Local coverage of College's 99th Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art

1/20/2010 10:39:00 AM

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The following story was published in the Lynchburg News & Advance on Jan. 20, 2010. It is reprinted with permission.

By Casey Gillis

The Maier Museum of Art’s latest exhibit is all about the landscapes around us.

Guest curator Jonathan Fineberg, an art history professor at the University of Illinois, said he wanted to do a show that “really looks at the American landscape and shows people how different it is. Everyone who looks at it sees something different.”

The annual contemporary art exhibit, the Maier’s 99th, will open with a series of events this weekend, including a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday (see box for more information).

“We curate most of the shows ourselves,” says Martha Johnson, interim museum director. “It’s good to get someone who is really accomplished (as a guest curator). It keeps things fresh and offers a new perspective.”

Fineberg chose four young artists whose points of view were as different as they could possibly be: multimedia artist Sang-ah Choi, photographer Joel Ross and painters Jeffrey Jones and Andrew Lenaghan. (They will be on hand at the reception and at a panel discussion scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday).

Many of the artists’ landscapes include examples of signage.

One of Choi’s pieces is literally a roadmap, with signs for fast food restaurants, stores and hotels, all glimpsed during trips she took from Portland, Ore., to New York City. Each one of the 14 panels represents a state they drove through and includes the state bird and flower, signs and a handful of landmarks.

“(Choi and her husband) have driven cross country a few times, and this is about their experience becoming American,” Johnson says about the Korean couple.

Ross’ photographs also place a big emphasis on signs found in southern and western landscapes, like urban graffiti found on the side of a grain bin in the middle of nowhere. In other cases, he manipulates the scenery around him, placing signs in the countryside or small towns to “draw out their unseen politics and emotional undercurrents,” Fineberg says in an essay about the artists.

The exhibit will also include five photographs from a series Ross did, taking pictures at every mile marker during an 880-mile trek through Texas. If the marker was knocked down, Ross photographed it lying on the ground. If it wasn’t there at all, he took a picture of where it should be.

“It’s very conceptual: this idea of really exploring Texas,” Johnson says. “How do you document such vastness?”

Jones and Lenaghan’s paintings also depict vast landscapes, but in very different ways.

In large and small scale oil paintings that often look like they’ve been airbrushed, Jones focuses on imagery found out west, often juxtaposing water or desert scenes with concrete surroundings.

One piece, “Mirage,” features a waterfall running over large rocks, with palm trees and Las Vegas’ Mirage Hotel in the background. He used metal leaf, a think foil used for decoration, for the hotel’s gold windows.

“It all sparkles,” Fineberg says. “It has that kind of wonderful popular culture entertainment to it. His work is like going to the movies.”

Lenaghan’s work is the total opposite, almost verging on photo-realism. His paintings aren’t of scenic mountains or bodies of water; instead he depicts crowded cities, graffiti underneath a bridge and or the sparse surroundings of an industrial park.

“He chooses these kind of decrepit scenes,” Johnson says. “He’s defining the American landscape not by its most glamorous scenery. They’re unusual views.”

If you’re going

The opening reception for “Four American Landscapes” is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday. It will be followed by a screening of “Imagining America: Icons of 20th-Century American Art,” a two-hour PBS television special based on a book by guest curator Jonathan Fineberg. A panel discussion and reception with Fineberg and all four artists is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (434) 947-8136 or e-mail .

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations


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