After five months of display at Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum of Art, Whitfield Lovell’s “Deep River” will close on Sunday, Oct. 13.
Lovell, known for his drawings of African-Americans from the first half of the 20th century, uses found objects to bring the past into the present. Notably, a large site-specific piece called “Deep River” was created solely for the Hunter installation.
What: Whitfield Lovell's "Deep River"
Where: 10 Bluff View Ave.
Hours: Mon-Tues, 10-5 p.m.; Wed. 12-5 p.m.; Thurs. 10-8 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 10- 5 p.m.; Sun. 12-5 p.m.
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According to a release from the Hunter, “Lovell prefers to leave the history of his salvaged wood intact, never removing the layers of age paint, adding only his Conté crayon drawings and the objects he has collected over the years…”
But for many visitors to the installation, Lovell’s ability to create a community dialogue has been the most important element.
Adera Causey is curator of education at the museum. She said the Lovell exhibit is an extension of the larger goal of the museum’s efforts to create that dialogue.
“In terms of an exhibit, it’s really broken new ground,” she said. “It’s about using art as a spark.”
Causey said it was interesting how different people viewed the exhibit depending on their cultural background. For African-Americans, the images are extremely familiar.
“We had one woman stand in front of a piece saying ‘that’s the look my mother gave me,’” she said. “So many people were sharing and disclosing. I would have to step and give people space…”
Lovell’s pieces include “Pago Pago” and “Autour du Monde,” which feature uniformed soldiers in a military that was not fully integrated. The latter piece features a number of globes to invoke “both the adventure of travel and the dangers of of fighting abroad for soldiers.”
Causey encourages first time visitors to “Deep River” to visit with a completely open mind.
“Come with open eyes,” she said. “Try not to read a lot on the walls ... bring someone you can talk to. The point is to just experience it.”
The signature piece is "Deep River," created after Lovell learned about Camp Contraband, a Union encampment on the edge of the Tennessee River. The camp became a secure place for those who made it across. Both slaves and smuggled goods were referred to as "contraband." A multimedia piece, "Deep River" incorporates drawing, sculpture, video, sound and music.
As “Deep River” comes to a close, staff at the museum are gearing up for future exhibits. The annual Spectrum Gala on Nov. 9 features works for sale. Go Figure: Selections from the Hunter Museum’s Permanent Collection opens on Nov. 26. In February, AFRICAN AMERICAN ART: HARLEM RENAISSANCE, CIVIL RIGHTS ERA, AND BEYOND will highlight the work of 43 black artists who explored the African American experience from the Harlem Renaissance through the Civil Rights era and beyond.
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