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Acquisition News

JAMES CASTLE

Eight works on paper by self-taught artist James Castle recently were donated to the Weatherspoon by the artist’s archive. Museum visitors may recall seeing Castle’s soot drawings in the exhibition, Inside the Outside: Artists from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation in 2016. Although diverse in theme—from landscape and figures to cultural products and advertising—each drawing illustrates the artist’s interest in line, shape, and tonal smudges.

Castle lived in isolation his entire life due to location and condition. Deaf and mute, he resided on remote family ranches in Idaho, far away from any art communities. Castle’s parents were rural postmasters whose home also served as a general store. The family’s businesses inspired the artist, who used paper from mail catalogues and advertisements for groceries as art materials. Castle also repurposed the packaging, twine, heavy cloth, and leather that were a part of the family businesses as inspiration and artistic materials. In addition, he created his own inks and graphite from soot collected from the wood-burning stove and other crushed materials mixed with his saliva. The Weatherspoon is pleased to add these striking drawings to its renowned collection of works on paper.

James Castle, Untitled (Distant Farmscape), not dated. Soot on butcher’s paper, 6 1/4 x 8 1/2 in. Weatherspoon Art Museum. Gift of James Castle Collection and Archive LP in honor of William Louis-Dreyfus and Nancy Doll, 2020.8.1. © James Castle Collection and Archive LP
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GINA ADAMS

Thanks to a generous gift from Seymour and Carol Cole Levin, the Weatherspoon is honored to add to its collection two artworks by Gina Adams, both of which are currently featured in To the Hoop: Basketball and Contemporary Art. Acknowledging both her Native and colonial ancestry, Adams mines histories of cultural preservation and forced assimilation. In that context, basketball holds mixed connotations for her. She acknowledges that many Native Americans see the game as a path to both higher education and acceptance into popular culture. But, she also notes that basketball’s history in Native communities goes back to early twentieth-century boarding schools that forced indigenous students to assimilate to White culture. Covered with her own hybrid vocabulary of designs inspired by those found in Native arts, Adams’s ceramic basketball and enlarged archival photograph bear witness to these conflicting associations.

Gina Adams, Honoring Modern Unidentified 27, Spirit That Remains, 2015. Oil and encaustic on ceramic, 9 in. diameter. Weatherspoon Art Museum. Purchased with funds from the Carol and Seymour Levin Acquisition Endowment, 2020.5.1. © Gina Adams, photo by Aaron Paden, courtesy of the artist and Accola Griefen Fine Art, Brooklyn

Gina Adams, Girls Native American Indian Basketball Team I, 2016 (detail). Photograph, oil, and encaustic, 30 x 30 in. Weatherspoon Art Museum. Purchased with funds from the Carol and Seymour Levin Acquisition Endowment, 2020.5.2. © Gina Adams, photo by Aaron Paden, courtesy of the artist and Accola Griefen Fine Art, Brooklyn
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WILLIAM CHRISTENBERRY

William Christenberry is known for his elegiac photographs made largely in Hale County, a small rural area in central Alabama. His images memorialize the South and speak without nostalgia of the passage of time and how the past is embedded in our experience of the present.

At the start of his career, Christenberry used a Kodak Brownie camera he’d been gifted as a child to photograph images as studies for the content of paintings. His first photographs were black and white portraits of ramshackled buildings, as here. Soon thereafter he began to use color film in an effort to capture a sense of the presence of the original structures within the surrounding landscape of rural Alabama. The Weatherspoon owns one of these later images as well.

Near Stewart Alabama illustrates Christenberry’s relationship with Walker Evans, an earlier American photographer who had visited Hale County, Alabama, on assignment for the Farm Service Administration and then again in 1936 for Fortune Magazine along with the writer James Agee, gathering material that formed the basis of their 1941 book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The book had a profound influence on Christenberry; in turn, when Evans met the younger artist in the early 1960s, he called Christenberry’s Brownie photographs “perfect little poems.”


William Christenberry, Near Stewart, Alabama, 1960 (detail, printed later). Gelatin silver print, Brownie negative, 4 1/4 x 6 1/2 in. Weatherspoon Art Museum. Purchased with funds from the Burlington Industries Endowment, 2020.7. © The Estate of William Christenberry / Hemphill Artworks LLC
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ELIZABETH TALFORD SCOTT

Elizabeth Talford Scott's title for this artwork cites the traditional craft techniques used in its creation and evokes its narrative theme. As is typical of Scott’s quilts and wall works, the piece is composed of everyday materials–here simply cotton and thread–and features intense colors. Scott often utilized techniques based on African craft traditions, such as stripping, piecing, and appliqué, and included symbols of (or actual elements from) the natural world–from rocks and buttons to stars and insects–as both personal spiritual references and as a means to elicit emotions in the viewer. Through such abstraction, she drew upon memory to chronicle her own family’s life experiences and, by extension, that of the broader African-American community, offering joy, respite, and celebration while engaging the past.

During her lifetime Scott exhibited in New York at the Studio Museum of Harlem, the Museum of American Folk Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1998, the Maryland Institute College of Art mounted a retrospective exhibition titled Eyewinkers, Tumbleturds, and Candlebugs: The Art of Elizabeth Talford Scott, which featured Knots and Snakes.

Elizabeth Talford Scott, Knots and Snakes, 1982 (detail). Stitched quilt and fiber media, 25 x 21 in. Weatherspoon Art Museum. Gift of Carol Cole Levin in memory of Betty Beatrice Person, 2019.30. © Joyce J. Scott and Goya Contemporary Gallery
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ROGER MINICK

What motivates people, at great expense of time, money, and effort, to visit famous sites of wonder and curiosity? In the early 1980s, Roger Minick sought to find out. Minick is widely known for his series of photographs called Sightseer that documented tourists visiting national parks across the United States. Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park, California belongs to this series and is Minick’s most famous image.

Unlike earlier landscape photographers who primarily were attracted to nature’s grandeur, such as Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and Ansel Adams, Minick was more interested in capturing the cross-section of sightseers who visited these historic sites. Created just as he started using color film, the series conveys the irony and humor he saw in the vivid colors and illuminating styles of the sightseers’ clothing, especially when juxtaposed against the surrounding landscape. This image shows a woman with her back to the photographer admiring the breath-taking view—one that happens to be printed on her headscarf that she likely purchased from Yosemite’s gift shop. Her position posed between two crevices also mimics that of the waterfall printed on the scarf. Minick’s image succinctly transmits the awe of encountering something of iconic beauty, the tradition of taking the obligatory snapshot to prove that you witnessed it, and the acquisition of a souvenir to commemorate the experience.

Roger Minick, Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park, California, 1980 (detail), from the series Sightseer. Chromogenic pigment print, 16 x 20 in. Edition 7/50. Weatherspoon Art Museum. Gift of Charles Weinraub and Emily Kass, in honor of Nancy Doll, 2019.24.11
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