Remembering Dr. Mary Sheriff

The staff of the Ackland Art Museum mourns the loss of one of our long-time UNC-Chapel Hill colleagues, Dr. Mary Sheriff, W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Art History in the Art Department, who passed away 19 October 2016.

Dr. Sheriff was internationally renowned for her research in the fields of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century French art and culture, particularly in the areas of creativity, sexuality, gender, and, more recently, travel and cultural exchange. In all these areas, and in her capacity as chair of the Art Department, Mary was a treasured friend of the Ackland, engaged in advising on acquisitions, interpreting exhibitions, and encouraging her many advanced students to take advantage of professional development opportunities at the Museum. She avidly used the Museum’s collection in her undergraduate and graduate classes, firmly believing in the importance of object-driven teaching and research. For many years, she served on the Ackland’s Academic Advisory Committee. For several decades, the Ackland’s exhibition program has been enriched by projects undertaken with her forceful guidance by her graduate students, just as many works of French art owe their place in the collection to her advocacy, enthusiasm, and expertise.

Carolyn Allmendinger, the Ackland’s director of academic programs and a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s PhD program in Art, recalled how much fun it was to get a few minutes with Mary in front of an interesting work of art in the galleries. “It was always clear that in addition to the depth of understanding she had about all the literature, all the contextual issues, that she just truly enjoyed the pleasures of looking closely at eighteenth-century art.”

Peter Nisbet, deputy director for curatorial affairs, praised Mary Sheriff’s passionate belief in the ways in which the Ackland could bolster the efforts to create and maintain a first-rate department of art history at UNC-Chapel Hill, covering as broad a range as possible of the world’s visual art traditions. “Mary could be counted on to hold the Ackland to the same high standards she applied to herself and her students,” Nisbet recalled. “We have lost a great champion for serious engagement with art and an energetic partner in our enterprise.”

Ackland Art Museum director Katie Ziglar noted that, although she had arrived too recently to get to know Mary, her effect on the Ackland was easy to spot. “We pledge to continue on her path of creative cooperation with our Art Department colleagues,” Ziglar affirmed. “I speak for all of us at the Ackland in sending our deepest condolences to her husband Keith and all her family and friends following this terrible loss.”

Meet the Staff: Emily Bowles

EMILY BOWLES is the Ackland Art Museum’s Director of Communications.

 
bowles_roaminggnomeHow long have you been at the Ackland?
My first day working at the Ackland was August 30, 2010, so as of this writing I’ve been here over six years.
 
What brought you to the Ackland?
A job that was the perfect mix of my backgrounds in the arts and in communications. And a freelancing gig that was about to dry up after eight solid years.
 
What do you do at the Ackland?
I make sure that the word gets out about all the amazing exhibitions and programs that we have going on. That means I’m responsible for the website content (text and images), our bi-weekly eNews, media relations, press releases, advertising, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), printed invitations and posters, e-fliers and printed takeaways, flat screen TV slides, etc. It’s a big job because we are a very active museum.
 
What is a memorable Ackland experience of yours?
I have several, and most of them fall under the category of highly anticipated works of art arriving in the building; I call them “Big Truck Days” or “Big Crate Days.” There’s a wonderful, heart-stopping moment when you get to see in person the work of art that you’ve been “seeing” reproduced in small jpgs during months and months of exhibition planning. The hush when the loaned Francis Bacon is finally on the wall. The “oooohs” when a Roy Lichtenstein painting is uncrated. There’s also the thrill of unusual pieces being installed after months of anticipation, like the time an Indian rickshaw was steered into our lobby. During the Ackland’s 2013 exhibition More Love, it was Jim Hodges’ “spider web” piece Hello, Again (1994-2003) being deftly installed in a corner of the ceiling and his huge curtain of flowers, You (1997), being hung.
 
What is your favorite thing about working at the Ackland?
As you can guess from my previous answer, for me it’s the chance to see great works of art up close, in person, and this is always possible working at the Ackland because I can walk downstairs to the galleries at any time. I studied art history both as an undergrad and as a graduate student. I never take for granted the opportunity to look closely at a work of art when it’s right in front of me. It’s the reason why I am devoted to getting the Ackland the attention it deserves: everyone should know about and visit a world-class art museum and see art from all over the world, up close and in person.

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