Art History Amateur Reports: The Cameron Art Museum


Yesterday, I visited the Cameron Art Museum.  First off, this museum probably has the most women artists in a museum I have visited.  I am aware of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, D.C., but this museum has the most women artists in a mixed gender museum.  The museum’s architectural style consists mostly of a dark building, nothing too fancy.  They do have three glass pyramids on top.  A touch of Egyptomania, or an homage to the I.M. Pei pyramid in the Louvre?

However, the interior of the Cameron has something special.  In the Permanent Collection of the museum, they painted various rooms  in different colors.  The Cameron calls these series of rooms The Kaleidoscope.  While yes, many other museums often use different colors besides the typical white, such as the Smithsonian African Art Museum and the Vatican Museum, the Cameron tweaks this concept.  Each colored room matches up with the colors of the artwork exhibited.  It makes the museum part of the artwork.

If you click on the links in the artist’s names, you will notice that nearly all of them came from North Carolina.  The most commonly featured artists in the Permanent Collection consist of Henry Pearson, Elisabeth Chant, Claude Howell, and Juan Logan.  Out of all the artists, Henry Pearson has the most work featured.  It probably helps that he came from North Carolina.  Claude and Elisabeth come in second behind in terms of quantity, and Claude was born in Wilmington.  From the first room to the last, Pearson’s work is everywhere, starting with his prints of German Romantic artists such as Casper David Friedrich in the Black room, to his sculpture in the White Room.  Regarding his prints, they all have a black rectangle added.  For those wondering why, I cannot say.  However, his other painting also exhibited in the black titled,  The Man Who the Trees Loved, also has black rectangles.  According to the caption next to the work, Pearson took inspiration from geometry.

Going to Elizabeth Chant, one of her paintings stood out to me, this painting was Merlin and Guinevere from 1901.  When I was looking at this painting, I noted how Pre-Raphaelite this looked.  It had all the motifs the movement celebrated such as the Medieval subjects.  The only difference was that the color scheme was not as rich as a typical Pre-Raphaelite painting.  It turns out I am not the only one who thinks so.  One of the paintings featured excerpts from an essay by scholar Anne Brennan about Chant.  Brennan said she was worldly, did “pre gothic”, and that Chant taught Claude Howell.  Finally, Juan Logan.  Looking at his painting Bad Dog on A chain in a parking lot, I could tell he took inspiration from Joan Miro.  He used bold color backgrounds and he rendered the subjects with simple lines and shapes, just like Miro.  I noted that in other works, he liked triangles.  In some paintings, he can make them foreboding and give a sense of unease.  One example comes from his painting of Ku Klux Klan members.

The following paragraphs contain artists who did not have much work on display, but were enjoyable to look at.  John Beerman was one artist who stood out.  They also had an Audrey Flack sculpture.  Her Medea was a sculpture painted in green and was in a green room.  By the way, yes, this is the same Audrey Flack who did the Marilyn (Vanitas) painting.  You should also check out her other sculpture, because her work is amazing.  Going back to Medea, Medea’s intense expression and the green walls surrounding it gave the work a mystical and heavy feel.  Not only does the museum walls complement the art, they merge into each other.  I cannot even imagine the painstaking detail the organizers had to go through when putting these exhibits together.  I talked with the cashier working at the gift shop, and she informed that the permanent exhibits’ heavy atmosphere has received mixed reactions from visitors.  I also enjoyed Maud Gatewood’s artwork.  An artist named Mabel Pugh also stood out for me with her work Through the L.G.  However, I did not care much Minnie Evans’ The Christ painting.  Having seen her other work, I know she has done better.  She also seemed like a modern-day Hildegard of Bingen.  For an example, click here for one of Hildegard’s work.  Also, I’m not the only one who made this connection.

Another artist I liked was Luther Sullivan and his work 3 Poses.   I also enjoyed Albert Christ-Janer.  To me, his work exudes a lot of emotion.  They convey this sense of sadness, which probably came from the fact that he made his work near the time he died.  Robert Delford Brown makes dirty and eerie photos of Max Ernst.  Tom Zito photographed Georgia O’Keeffe.  Susan Harbage Page made a great photo entitled Nun with Apples.  She shows a talent for creating symmetry and harmony.  Ruth Pinnell has men meld with trees in Untitled from 1987.  When looking at Daniel Chester French’s bust of Gay, I notice how it lines up perfectly with Robert Delford Brown’s photos.

However, the most well-known artist exhibited goes by the name of Mary Cassatt.  The Impressionist painter who followed the Japonisme style.  Mary Cassatt and her Maternal Caress (A), By the Pond (B),  and Under the Horse Chestnut Tree, and Barefooted Child.  In order for one to enjoy these tender paintings, one must see them in person.  Cassatt’s light delicate style resembles a caress itself.   

A.  B.

With this museum having so many women artists, Cassatt acts as an indirect figurehead.  Furthermore, the Japanese art style also figures predominantly in the exhibits.  They start with Cassatt, then traditional Japanese prints made by Kunisada II and continues with sculpture.

The Real McCoy Collection is nothing but kitsch.  However, they were able to have the Tiffany and Co. create dishware

The Recollection: The Past is Present was an African-American art show.  The three most prominent artists were Beverly Buchanan, Amalia Amaki, and Lillian Blades.  Beverly Buchanan’s work entitled Shacks were small sculptures of buildings from stores, to churches, and houses.  In contrast, Lilliana Blades is a Bahamian artist who created large wall sculptures.  Each resembled a puzzle, and a piece represented an aspect of domestic life.  Finally, Amelia Amaki uses Pop Art concepts in her artwork.  She commemorates Michael Jackson by decorating fans with photos of the recently deceased pop star on fans.  In a way, she uses humor and puns as to remember the King of Pop.  After all, she is a fan who decorates his image on fans.  She also decorates them with American flags.  Amaki has an incredible talent for patterns and has a fantastic sense of color.  This rings true especially with her Red Rose jewelry box.  She decorates the jewelry box with a voluptuous red color and accentuates it with a large red rose.  Furthermore, one part of the collection showed off quilts ranging from simple patterns to sequential art.

All in all, the Cameron Art Museum holds a tiny but substantial spot in Wilmington, North Carolina.  The place combines the local flavor of North Carolina with art from around the world.

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