‘Life Lessons’ to open in Benedict Gallery

| February 7, 2014

UPDATED Wednesday, Feb. 12.

Artist reception postponed due to inclement weather

Tomorrow’s reception for the opening of “Life Lessons: The Teaching Artist” has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in Benedict Gallery. The exhibition is being installed this week as planned.

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“Life Lessons: The Teaching Artist” will open Thursday, Feb. 13, at Sweet Briar College’s Benedict Gallery with a reception for artists May Carter, Jill Jensen and Rosalie Day White from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Admission is free and open to all. The exhibition will be on view until April 20.

Loosely organized around the theme of teaching artists, the show’s concept is one in a progression of exhibitions in the Benedict Gallery connected to the College’s mission, says Sweet Briar art galleries director Karol Lawson.

“Potter’s Field” detail, 2011-2012, collagraph, relief print, paint, embroidery, stitched, by Jill Jensen.

Preceding it in the fall were “New Girls: The First-year Experience 100 Years Ago,” an exhibition of students’ personal artifacts illustrating early Sweet Briar traditions, and “Familiar Friends,” architectural plans showing the campus’ original buildings.

“I try to program Benedict Gallery — indeed all our galleries — each year in a way that one exhibit leads in a logical or natural way somehow to the next. Sometimes there is an obvious common theme, sometimes not,” Lawson says.

“This year I have developed exhibitions that refer in some way to the learning or teaching experience, an obvious nod to Sweet Briar’s history and mission.”

Benedict also has long been used to exhibit the work of local artists. Putting the two objectives together led Lawson to invite White, Jensen and Carter.

“They all teach art, and have for many years, in the Amherst and Lynchburg region, and they are all quite accomplished in their various media, and have throughout their careers challenged themselves to grow,” Lawson says.

“Rosalie is a painter; May is a ceramicist; Jill is a textile artist. But more than that, they are all thoughtful, reflective, articulate women whose artworks not only charm the eye but also reach out to stir the heart and mind.”

Ceramic bird-shaped vessel by May Carter.

Carter, who directs the pottery studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lynchburg, will exhibit part of a clay series she’s been working on for some time. They are animal figures transformed from a bowl or other pottery piece into fish, an alligator, a lizard, a dragon and birds.

“Every piece I make like this is a logistical problem in construction: how to make it somewhat functional and yet call to mind the creature I have in mind,” she says.

She has come back to the pieces over time, experimenting, simplifying — not unlike what she teaches her students.

“The lesson I try to convey to students is not only how to do it, but how to make their work change and hopefully evolve and grow.”

Jensen’s “Potter’s Field” is a single work made up of 13 parts, employing painted fabric, collagraph and relief prints, and embroidery for both text and drawn images. The piece was inspired by a section found in nearly every cemetery — where the poor and unidentified are buried. The images represent children who were “left out of a loving society through abuse and untimely death and hence relegated to the potter’s field,” she says.

“Snow in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” oil on board, by Rosalie Day White.

Jensen, a longtime instructor at the Academy of Fine Arts, along with numerous art centers and schools throughout the state, says “Potter’s Field” juxtaposes happy images of childhood with a devastating reality.

“From a distance, the viewer encounters images of pastel-colored children’s clothing and angels, but closer examination reveals a different story.”

White’s painted scenes offer a different perspective, but she, too, urges a closer look at the subject.

“Everyday events, people and places always give us life lessons, even if we don’t realize it at the time,” says the former Amherst County Public Schools art teacher. “In my work, I am trying to get people to see, not simply look. I want them to open their vision and learn — often to notice that which they may see every day, but never really view or think about.”

White also teaches at the academy. Read more about the artists at academyfinearts.com/classes/instructors.

For more information on the exhibit, please contact Lawson at klawson@sbc.edu or (434) 381-6248.

Jennifer McManamay

Category: Art Galleries, Arts Management