Tuesday, June 28

A Day with Norman Rockwell at the Taubman Museum of Art

One of the greatest things about living in the Blue Ridge Mountains is that people in this area love and support the arts. Recently my mom took me to spend a day in Roanoke at the Taubman Museum of Art to celebrate my 31st birthday.  We love the museum - we were there on opening day in 2008 and try to visit as often as possible so we don't miss any new exhibits. On this visit, I took some personal photos to share with you all and show you why I love this jewel of a place. Currently, there's a large and colorful installation by Rachel B. Hayes in the atrium called Not Fade Away that I'm totally in love with - Hayes' work is inspired by quilt making and this fabric sculpture was created using multi-colored nylon and light gels. When the sun is shining the floor of the atrium and information desk are bathed in rainbow colors!

What drew my mom and I to the Taubman for my birthday was the featured exhibit American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell, which was at the museum through June 12th and featured works from the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. My mom has been a fan of Normal Rockwell since childhood and we almost always had a Norman Rockwell calendar in the kitchen when I was young, so many of the pieces in the exhibit were like old friends.

Since most of Rockwell's images are familiar as illustrations in magazines, art books, or calendars, it was wonderful to see how large they are in real life, particularly works like the Four Freedoms series. The exhibit featured printed text guides as well as adult and family guided tours that could be accessed with a cell phone. The audio tours featured Rockwell's son explaining some lesser-known information about each painting. Most of Rockwell's models were neighbors and friends, and different paintings can feature very different characters, like Abraham Lincoln and Ichabod Crane, that Rockwell actually based on the same real model. My mom was especially drawn to Rockwell's portrait of a coal miner because it reminded her of her dad.

Another aspect of Rockwell's work that surprised me was how tactile many of his paintings are, as you can see from the actual globs of paint on the artist's palette above. If there's a stucco wall in a Rockwell painting, you can bet he gave it the actual texture of stucco. I think it's interesting that he put so much attention to detail to paintings that were reproduced mainly as flat magazine covers. His attention to detail also came into play in his dedication to visiting history museums and collecting antiques to ensure that the props he painted in historical scenes were accurate. I also learned a lot about Rockwell's character - while I mainly associated him with his cute, nostalgic images of children and dogs from the 1940's and 50's, one of the main reasons he left The Saturday Evening Post to work for Look magazine in the 1960's was so he could paint images of the civil rights movement. One of his most famous  civil rights paintings, The Problem We All Live With, was included in the exhibit, as were his notes and studies for his 1965 work Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi). Seeing how Rockwell's career matured and transformed from his early works for Boy's Life in the 1910's to portraits of American presidents was really educational and inspiring.

After spending two hours just in the Rockwell exhibit, Mom and I headed to one of our favorite galleries in the Taubman - Contemporary Redux. This gallery rotates contemporary pieces from the museum's permanent collections. Two of my favorite new additions were Russell U. Richards' 2009 Inaccurate Map of Roanoke (the kind of thing that makes me wish I was an art teacher) and Yoko Ono's A Box of Smile (because how John and Yoko is a plastic box with a mirror in the bottom?).

In addition to Not Fade Away, there are currently two more site-specific installations upstairs in the Taubman. The first room features Amanda McCavour's Neon Clouds and Ice Crystals. Magical to look at, Neon Clouds was frustratingly difficult to photograph because it's made of very thin orange, yellow, green, and blue embroidery thread. In the gallery, it has an ephemeral quality that's impossible to capture. It was begging me to walk around, walk underneath, and look at it from every angle.

On a quick fashion note, I felt very art museum appropriate in my new Stitch Fix split-back blouse and Yogi Surprise mala necklace. I tried not to ask my mom for too many museum portraits, but it was my birthday, and, you know, she gave birth to me, so I didn't feel too bad!

The museum's other temporary installation is The Stir City Piece by Jonathan Brilliant. Sure enough, it's constructed with coffee stir sticks and sleeves, and I was convinced that the brown paint on the walls was actually coffee until I was close enough to touch it (I didn't - I'm a good museum guest). I LOVE huge art pieces, so the twisting organic shapes filling the gallery and the creative materials made me want to spend my time living in this exhibit.

Check out the scale! The shapes are as big as trees and I loved seeing the simple materials up close.

On our way out, we snapped a few more photos of Not Fade Away, then visited the adorable Rockwell-themed photo area set up by local business Black Dog Salvage (have you seen their television show, Salvage Dawgs, on the DIY network?). They had several Rockwell-inspired scenes, including a Thanksgiving dinner, a lunch counter, a living room, and the artist's studio, along with props. After a quick photo session, we met Mr. Q for dinner at our favorite Cajun restaurant, The Quarter, then strolled around the City Market to burn a few calories before heading home. I love the days that my mom and I spend together soaking up the culture and friendly vibe of Roanoke, and I'm always a little happier that I live here afterward.

Sign up for Stitch Fix here - Sign up for Yogi Surprise here

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way by the Taubman Museum of Art, Stitch Fix, or Yogi Surprise for this post - I just love sharing my favorite things here on the blog and my reviews are always honest. This post contains referral links for Stitch Fix and Yogi Surprise.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for linking up with Fun Fashion Friday!

    Dawn Lucy