Thursday July 25, 2013
Artists explore civil rights, politics, military leaders
From the Underground Railroad to politics to portraits of military leaders, paintings from three Louisville artists capture aspects of adversity, struggle and victory in a new exhibit at Louisville’s historic Metro Hall.
The exhibit, titled “Struggles and Triumph”, is part of the ongoing Rotunda Art Project and features work from Joyce Garner, Jordan Lance Morgan and Mark Priest. It will be on display through November 1.
Priest’s paintings chronicle the epic struggle for freedom by abolitionist activist Harriet Tubman and the slaves who risked their lives to escape bondage. Joyce Garner’s Election Series is a whimsical and symbolic representation of the electoral process. Jordan Lance Morgan paints portraits with iconographic imagery of politicians, soldiers, and artists who contribute their skills and intellect for the greater good.
“With images ranging from everyday individuals to iconic American leaders, this display is a perfect fit for Metro Hall where so much of our local history, debate and civic progress has unfolded,” Mayor Greg Fischer said.
Priest’s oversized painting of a runaway slave, “Drop Him! Catch Him!”, makes a dramatic presentation hanging on the grand staircase leading from the second floor rotunda of Metro Hall. His paintings commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
“Collectively, the works presented here examine the intersection between the humble and the heroic and the role of the individual within grand historical movements,” said Slade Stumbo, the exhibit’s curator.
The Rotunda Art Project series is produced by the Louisville Visual Art Association in partnership with the Mayor’s Office.
Visitors may see the exhibit anytime the building is open to the public, which is generally weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no charge to enter Metro Hall, but people are required to go through security and show a photo ID.
Statement from the Curator
As the curator, I am pleased to present the third exhibition of the Metro Hall Rotunda Art Project series, Struggle and Triumph. As we continue to emerge from the recent economic crisis and shift our collective mood from pessimism to optimism, it is important to remember that the very notion of triumph is predicated upon the endurance of hardship and struggles.
This exhibition explores a diversity of perspectives on the theme of struggle and triumph as represented in the works of three local artists: Mark Priest, Joyce Garner, and Jordan Lance Morgan. Priest’s paintings chronicle the epic struggle for freedom by abolitionist activist Harriet Tubman and the slaves who risked their lives to escape bondage. Joyce Garner’s Election Series is a whimsical and symbolic representation of the electoral process. Jordan Lance Morgan paints portraits with iconographic imagery of politicians, soldiers, and artists who contribute their skills and intellect for the greater good. Collectively, the works presented here examine the intersection between the humble and the heroic and the role of the individual within grand historical movements.
Although this is an art exhibition rather than a history exhibition, since the theme of Struggle and Triumph has greater social implications and since many of the works depict historical figures and events, the curator has included an educational component: information labels that briefly discuss various topics raised by the works of art and recommendations for further reading on those subjects. Beyond their aesthetic value, artworks play an important role in public discourse. The works in this exhibition provoke thought and dialog beyond the subject of art and serve as illustrations that may the study of American history and culture.
I would like to thank and commend Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville Metro Government, and the Louisville Visual Art Association for making this exhibition possible, and for their commitment to bring great local art to our public spaces.
– Slade Stumbo
Joyce Garner is a self-taught Kentucky artist and owner of the Garner Narrative Contemporary Fine Art gallery located at 642 East Market Street. Garner is also represented by galleries in Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee and her works have been exhibited in various galleries across the country. Garner states that her intent is shaped by how she uses art in her personal life; she prefers works which reward extended contemplation. "I love to sit in front of a piece in the mornings with a cup of hot tea in my hands, and let my mind go. I want art that gives me a place to go."
Garner’s Election Year series represents the democratic process in vivid colors. The carousel is employed as a symbol of life’s cyclical nature. Garner reminds us that as the carousel turns, the individual horses rise and fall, representing life’s ups and downs as well as the overlapping of personal and public events. In Local Politics, Garner depicts a variety of Louisville’s most well-known attributes, such as the Belle of Louisville, the horse racing industry, trollies, and the city’s architecture and ample green-spaces, all of which at one time or another have been political causes.
Jordan Lance Morgan
Jordan Lance Morgan is a recent graduate of the Hite Art Institute of the University of Louisville. He has received several notable commissions, including portraits of former Assistant Chief of Louisville Police Edward L. Mercer and Mayor Francis Debono of Marsa, Malta. The works by Morgan selected for this exhibition are of Founding Fathers and military figures except for Martydom of the Master, which is a self-portrait of the artist as the architect of Solomon’s Temple. This painting represents the role of the artist in society while in Masonic tradition the builder serves as a metaphor for leading a constructive civic life.
Morgan states, “While my paintings reflect a desire for realism, my main concern is to emphasize the tension between the illusion of volume and the flat picture plane. Beyond these formal interests, my subject matter is heavily influenced by Freemasonry, various religions and historical iconography.” Art historian Caroline Arscott referred to Morgan’s attention to detail and “distracting” backgrounds as examples of the influence of 19th century Pre-Raphaelites on contemporary figurative art. Morgan’s portraits are energized by the contrast between his detailed depictions of the central figures and the flatter treatment of his background images, which reference history and legend.
Mark Priest is a professor of painting at the Hite Art Institute of the University of Louisville where he completed his undergraduate studies before earning his Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. Priest is the recipient of various grants and awards for his research on the Underground Rail Road. Priest’s dramatic historical narrative paintings have been featured in exhibitions across the nation. Priest describes his artworks as “chronicles of an almost silent part of history.”
The paintings in this exhibition depict the perilous flight to freedom of escaped slaves and those who courageously risked their own lives and liberty to assist them. In preparation for his paintings, Priest traced various routes of the Underground Railroad and completed some works on the locations that they depict. Priest notes, “Forever etched in my memory are an infinite number of untold stories of individuals who toiled tirelessly to attain freedom.” Priest strives to create dramatic compositions to portray the intensity of each moment he depicts. For instance, in his depiction of Harriet Tubman in Leverton House
, he captures both the determination of her cause and the uncertainty of her own fate. Drop Him Catch Him
, is painted not from the perspective of bystanders on the ground, but from above, thus placing the audience in the position of runaway slave Charles Nalle as he jumps from a window to avoid capture. To view more of the artworks of Mark Priest online, visit www.markpriest.org