“Gods and Monsters: Images of Faith and Horror” opens Friday, Sept. 16 in Sweet Briar College’s Pannell Gallery. The art exhibition featuring works from the permanent collection will be on view through Dec. 9.
There also will be “An Evening of Monstrous Performance,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 in the gallery. Sweet Briar students and faculty from the music, theater and dance departments will perform selections that highlight the theme of monsters and gods — for example, songs from “Phantom of the Opera.”
The exhibition of 52 works from watercolors and prints to manuscripts and archaeological artifacts represents more than 500 years of art in one room, from 1425 to 2000. Curator and Sweet Briar Art Galleries director Karol Lawson says she’s been noodling the show’s concept for a couple of years. It’s inspired by a 1937 portfolio of Expressionist woodblock prints by German artist Renate Geisberg-Wichmann, titled “Der Totentanz,” which means “The Dance of Death.”
The portfolio was the gift the late Jennifer Crispen, Sweet Briar’s longtime field hockey coach.
“It is quite moving but also rather disturbing — imagine the terrors of Germany in 1937,” Lawson said. “I started noticing other images in the permanent collection that resonated with “Der Totentanz” — monsters and freaks, violence and inhumanity.
“As I took note of those I also started paying attention to the images we have of benevolent saints and religious transfiguration. So the exhibition started coming together.”
Lawson will organize the show with monsters on one side and gods on the other “with images and artifacts in the middle that bridge that gap.” She says it explores a range of themes from repentance to judgment and salvation, war, oppression and death.
Artists range from Albrecht Dürer to José Posada. Cultures and faiths represented include Tibetan Hinduism to Native American deism to traditional western Christianity.
“One might consider this a difficult topic for an exhibition to cover — the darker and the lighter sides of human character — and so broadly at that,” Lawson said. “But these are images and ideas all of us grapple with in our lives. To scare and be scared, to comfort and be comforted, what is good versus what is bad. I think, too, this will resonate very well with the year’s common reading, Reza Aslan’s ‘Beyond Fundamentalism.’ ”
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (434) 381-6248 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.