I have family roots in Hickory. My grandmother lives there and my mother went to high school there. In that high school, they put in the Hickory Museum of Art. This museum centers around displaying modern and contemporary artwork. The ones I saw came from local artists from the Hickory and the North Carolina areas. The museum itself has a small and intimate size with gently curving staircases and arched windows.
The museum people dedicated the first floor to North Carolina artists such as Joel Urruty and Priscilla Wallace. I liked Joel Urruty’s sculpture because his smooth abstract subjects reminded me of Henry Moore. Urruty’s simplistic renderings of humans and animals looks as though he caught them in the middle of a transformation. Regarding Priscilla Wallace? I am more ambivalent to her work. It reminded me of Wassily Kandinsky with his amorphous colors and nothing else. However, in this place of contemporary art that revels in the abstract, the first floor has a little room exhibiting paintings and drawings of landscapes. One odd aspect of these works? They have no information card detailing the who, what, when, where, and sometimes why. On the other hand, some of the works do have names and dates on the canvas or on the frame. According to the website, these paintings came out of the Hudson River School. You can find the artist’s names here. A little disappointing because since they have this information, why do they not make caption boxes for each piece? According to an information box, Paul Whitener donated these pieces to the museum.
The landscapes themselves range from average to genuinely lovely. One example came from Venice Moonrise by Samuel Coleman. I simply adore his use of a pink and blue color scheme. Furthermore, I do enjoy some of the tree paintings and this dark atmosphere they give off. Reminds me of Caspar David Friedrich and the Romantic Movement. While trees in art have a tendency to act as banal decoration (see Rococo), this artist went in a different direction.
In contrast, the big show the museum put together that begins in the first floor hallway to nearly the entire second floor? They dedicated that space to Michael McCall and called this retrospective Form Orbit the Mind.
The Hickory native combines the Surrealist Found Object theory with Jenny Holzer style one liners and the I Ching philosophy with his art. Plus, some art that have a political edge as well. With the I Ching, McCall puts pages he took from books about the philosophy in nearly every artwork in the show. Using geometric shapes, he gave his work this instant mystical quality. My favorite from this exhibit comes from the Star Tetrahedron, a work that combines pages of the I Ching with da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Talk about combining ideals. Another good one comes from the gold and black sand painting Alpha/Omega. According to the caption box, this deconstructs the symbols humans use to represent themselves. All in all, McCall renders humanity in its purest form. Another series he put together that relies heavily on the Found Object style comes The Adventures of the Six-Pack. McCall created a series of bottles and painted them with blue sand. A video recording shows him decorating New York City with these bottles while Frank Sinatra sings New York, New York. As I looked at this series, I could not help but wonder with the many bottles, has McCall created commentary about materialism and excess trash?
On the second floor, they also showed pottery and glassware. These came from the Moody and the Luski Collection. By the way, they have a Chihuly and a small one to boot. The name of the title? Saxony Seaform Set with Scarlet Lip Wraps. In my mind, they resemble an giant upside down rubbery blue mushroom. Other standout artists were people such as Jon Kuhn with his glassware that could pass as computer chips. Also, I liked Ken Carder with his pottery of rendered faces. For those interested in photography and film, they feature stills and a “highlight reel” of a movie from the UNSCA School of Filmmaking. The film itself entitled Paradise tells a story of visiting a planet and trying to survive it. The cinematography of the film gave off a professional feel, resembling Ridley Scott’s Alien. If one goes further down the hallway, you can look at black and white photos of the auditorium. These images that capture the auditorium’s early design emanates a haunted quality.
On the third floor, they dedicated the entire space to the Folk Art scene. Now, on Folk Art, I do not care for it all that much. At best, I find some good ones, and at worst, they come off as Hildegard of Bingen imitations. Especially with the way Folk artists use religious motifs. This probably comes from my bias as someone who has had training in painting and ceramics from high school to community college, but I just am not taken by artists such as Vernon Burwell. They feel so immature with their execution. However, I did like a few in display here. I liked the work by McKendra Lee and Charlie Saine. I really enjoyed William Thomas Thompson’s Seven Headed Beast. The way he rendered the animal so amorphous and full of blood, how delightfully nightmarish and grotesque. The same goes for Quentin J. Stephenson’s Beaver Teeth Totem, also delightfully grotesque. I also loved the painting The Angel Pouring Blood on the Earth for that reason. I give credit to the Folk Art community for the talent and ability to express that in art.
By the way, has anyone found the difference between a Folk artist and an Outsider artist?
ETA: I decided to rewrite this review.