Collection Connection: Fever Within and the Distant Landscape

Ronald Lockett, Traps, 1995.

“Collection Connection” blog essays suggest a motif, style, material, or other element that links works of art on view at the Ackland Art Museum. What connections can you find on your next visit?

*Click images to enlarge*

Currently on view in the exhibition Fever Within, Ronald Lockett’s Traps (right) includes a circular hole in the weathered metal of the upper right corner that reveals a distant landscape scene. Framed by rusted tin, a mountain range and water suggest a setting for the deer seen in the foreground. As the landscape isn’t fully integrated with the rest of the imagery, it also seems like an ornament, an embellishment of sorts, in contrast with the trapped deer.

The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist

Battista Dossi, The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist, c. 1530.

Many Renaissance artists treated distant landscapes in a similar way. In Battista Dossi’s Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist (left), for example, the verdant hillside with Renaissance buildings could be understood as part of the setting – the place Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and John are traveling to or from. The boundary between the foreground and background is not as pronounced as the one we see in Traps, but Dossi’s landscape also functions as a kind of ornament – not essential to a picture of the Holy Family, but a beautiful addition to it that reinforces the notion of a journey.

In Lockett’s A Place in Time (below) the same motif appears, here enclosed in a three-dimensional frame and echoing a second nearby circle in which a skeletal animal appears.

Landscapes painted in a circular format appear in European and American art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jasper Cropsey’s Landscape with Mountains at Sunset (below) is one such example. Both artists and art lovers experimented with a device called a Claude glass – a round mirror that reflected the scene behind the viewer’s back. The idea was that the reflection improved the scene by making it more picturesque than what one could see by looking directly at it.

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Ronald Lockett, A Place In Time, 1989.

Cropsey_Landscape

Jasper Francis Cropsey, Landscape with Mountains at Sunset, c. 1850.

CAROLYN ALLMENDINGER is the Ackland’s Director of Academic Programs.

IMAGES: Ronald Lockett, American, 1965-1998: Traps, 1995; found tin, colored pencil, and nails on wood. William S. Arnett Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation, L2015.2.1.

Battista Dossi, Italian, c. 1490-1548: The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist, c. 1530; oil on wood panel. Ackland Fund, 85.22.1. On view in Gallery 13.

Ronald Lockett, American, 1965-1998: A Place In Time, 1989; wood, cloth, net, tin, industrial sealing compound, oil, and enamel on wood. William S. Arnett Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation, L2015.2.10.

Jasper Francis Cropsey, American, 1823-1900, Landscape with Mountains at Sunset, c. 1850; oil on paper. Ackland Fund, 85.19.1. On view in Gallery 16.

 

Meet the Staff: Debbie Pulley

Debbie Pulley is the Ackland Art Museum’s Security Supervisor.

How long have you been at the Ackland?
I started at the Ackland in August 1990.

What brought you to the Ackland?
I had been working for Northern Telecom Security for about six years, and I wanted to do something different in the security field. I applied for both a detention officer job at the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and a position with UNC Security at the Ackland Art Museum. Both offered me a job, and my husband said I should take the UNC Security position. I’m so happy I did!

What do you do at the Ackland?
As the Security Supervisor, I’m on-call 24 hours. I’m responsible for training the security staff, protecting the Ackland’s collection, and assisting the visitors. I also train the Museum’s work study gallery assistants, make sure operating policies and procedures are implemented and followed by all personnel at all times, and monitor the Museum’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.

What is a memorable Ackland experience?
In August of 1990, the Museum staff was moving back into the building following a three-year closure for renovations. On December 2, 1990, I got to see the reopening party for the newly redesigned Ackland Art Museum. Then-director Charles Millard and Chancellor Paul Hardin were on-hand to receive ‘Welcome Back’ posters from children as we opened the doors (see photo). What an evening!

What is your favorite thing about working at the Ackland?
Seeing our growing collection. I also love working with university and K-12 students, as well as meeting visitors from all over the world.

SEE. MORE. ART.: What is your favorite arts experience in the Triangle?
I love DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center).

Editor’s Note: Debbie Pulley was chosen as the UNC Department of Public Safety’s 2016 Employee of the Year. UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken presented Pulley with the recognition at the department’s annual awards ceremony Friday, June 17, 2016.  Pulley—who was also recognized for 25 years of service to the agency—was cited for the fresh passion she brings to her job every day as well as for leading by example and her kindness to her team, museum staff, and visitors to the Ackland.

Meet the Staff: Alice Southwick

ALICE SOUTHWICK is the Manager of the Ackland Museum Store.

 

How long have you been at the Ackland?
I came to the Ackland prior to the opening of the Ackland Museum Store in 2010 to help with getting the Store launched. I became the full-time Manager of the Store in March 2011.

What brought you to the Ackland?
I jumped at the chance to work with the Ackland since I’d seen a couple of exhibitions and I loved the people I was meeting. Everyone on staff was so enthusiastic and dedicated. It seemed just the kind of place I would like to work.

What do you do at the Ackland?
I manage the Ackland Museum Store which is a job I love since it involves working directly with lots of people–both within the Museum and University but also the general public. I enjoy meeting people and derive a lot of energy from getting people excited about the Ackland Art Museum and the Store.

What is a memorable Ackland (or Museum Store) experience?
There have been so many, but I distinctly remember coming to the Ackland prior to working here. There was an exhibition on Aldwyth (Aldwyth: work v. / work n.: Collage and Assemblage 1991 – 2008) that I came to see with a couple of friends from Raleigh. I was really knocked out by the exhibition and the Museum. I likened the Museum in my mind to some of the smaller museums I had encountered in Europe–it had an intimacy that I found delightful.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Museum Store?
Definitely the people. I have an amazing and talented group of people who work with me in the Store and I am extremely fond of them. We seem to bond over the experience–even when some of them have moved on to other things, we remain good friends. Our customers are the best, too. They are loyal and wonderful people who enjoy coming to the Museum and to the Store. They are passionate about supporting what the Ackland is trying to do by keeping its exhibitions free, educating people of all ages, and being involved in its community.

SEE. MORE. ART.: What is your favorite arts experience in the Triangle?
I’m a gallery hopper and I love going to galleries for the openings, especially of people I know. I live in Raleigh so First Fridays are a big thing there and lots of fun.

BONUS QUESTION: What has been your favorite exhibition that has been on view at the Museum Store?
Each of our shows in the Store has been pretty unique, but one of the earliest ones we did was really fun. It was an exhibition of Ron Liberti’s posters from the last 20 years. We had this huge wall of Ron’s colorful posters for local bands over the years. Ron went all out and even did one-of-a-kind t-shirts. We had a band and it was so much fun to talk with people who were buying the posters about their time as students at UNC during the late ’80s and ’90s. They are now raising families and engrossed in their own careers so it was a fun “blast from the past” event for them.

Meet the Staff: Scott Hankins

SCOTT HANKINS is the Ackland Art Museum’s registrar.

6846ef81-7b1b-413e-9f58-cfca56fd55cfHow long have you been at the Ackland?
I’ve been at the Ackland for 10 years.

What brought you to the Ackland?
In 2005, Rebecca and I found ourselves tired of New Jersey and began looking at different opportunities. Rebecca took a chance and applied for a development job at UNC. When she got the interview we decided to make a weekend trip to come to North Carolina for the first time and explore. We feel in love with North Carolina and decided this is where we wanted to be. Then when the position of Assistant Registrar opened here, I applied and the rest is history. There were two things that initially attracted me to the Ackland. First, was the planned expansion. At the time I was working at the Newark Museum and they were working on the beginnings of an expansion project. I really wanted to work at a museum doing an expansion and get the experience that comes with it. So seeing the Ackland doing the same thing was attractive. The second thing was that it was part of a University. I was really interested to see how a museum worked within a University structure and how it integrated with the education mission of the University.

What do you do at the Ackland?
I’m the Registrar, I manage the collection.

What is a memorable Ackland experience?
There are so many, how to choose. One of my favorite moments was hanging Jim Hodges, You (the flower curtain in More Love). I really enjoyed installing More Love in general, but there was just something about that moment.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Ackland?
I work with amazing people and great art.

SEE. MORE. ART.: What is your favorite arts experience in the Triangle?
The Georges Rousse installations in Durham. We had just moved here and it was this really cool public art moment. I remember walking around downtown Durham with Rebecca and seeing the different installations. It was very cool.

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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Uzzle Buzz: Just Down the Road

“Uzzle Buzz” is a series of blog posts, written by various authors, that respond to or comment on some aspect of our exhibition All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle.

Molly Irwin is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, double-majoring in Biology and Studio Art. She is the Photography and Design Intern for the Carolina Asia Center. 

Anyone who has ever been on a road trip knows those long stretches where there is seemingly nothing to see. Endless trees line the sides of the road and a great expanse of highway lies ahead. Making good time guarantees seeing this same view for 200 miles. However, sometimes the desire to have a little adventure can change this road trip into a journey through American history.

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Burk Uzzle, American, born 1938: Star Warehouse, South Carolina, 1997,1997; gelatin silver print. Ackland Art Museum: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anonymous Gift, 2008.3.51.

Burk Uzzle’s more recent photography grants a glimpse into the life of a person who chooses to take the roads less traveled. Uzzle’s mission to find and document the everyday sites around the nation has allowed him to come across treasures that are rich in history, such as the scene of Star Warehouse, South Carolina, 1997.

This photograph evokes the memories of a once bustling town that was bypassed as time and progress marched ever onward. This little town is no longer one that is consistently driven through on road trips, but one that must be found by deviating from the interstate. The lack of cars and people along with the lonely Star Warehouse, water tower, and buildings create a sense of passing. Continue reading

Uzzle Buzz: Mustang Girl

“Uzzle Buzz” is a series of blog posts, written by various authors, that respond to or comment on some aspect of our exhibition All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle.

Marie Li is a student at Columbia University majoring in Art History and Business Management. During the summer of 2016, she was communications intern at the Ackland Art Museum.

Every year, as the sweet summer air creeps up on North Carolina with dragging feet, I am galvanized. Not by the thought of long days, crisp evenings, and cool drinks, but by the tantalizing promise of possibility. Like many other Americans, I commit myself anew to eating healthier, venturing outdoors, and exercising more often. And like it or not, this regiment centers on running outside (as opposed to on a treadmill, within an air-conditioned gym), and forcing my lungs to muddle and struggle through the dense, unforgiving humidity.

I discovered on a personal tour of his collection that, like me, Burk Uzzle also partakes in the occasional morning run. Unlike me, however, he brings his camera. And it was on one of these runs that Uzzle captured the “Mustang Girl,” in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Burk Uzzle, American, born 1938: Mustang Girl, St. Petersburg, FL, 2001, 2001; gelatin silver print. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anonymous Gift, 2008.3.52.

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Uzzle Buzz: Uncertainty and Risk

“Uzzle Buzz” is a series of blog posts, written by various authors, that respond to or comment on some aspect of our exhibition All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle.

Nic Brown is an assistant professor of English at Clemson University. He is the author of the novels In Every Way, Doubles, and Floodmarkers, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Garden & Gun, and the Harvard Review, among many other publications.

I interviewed Burk Uzzle a few months back for a profile in Garden & Gun. I had quite a bit left over from that interview that I couldn’t use because of space and editorial needs. Much of it stayed with me. In fact, some of it concerns Uzzle’s belief in art flourishing outside of editorial guidelines. In that spirit, I’m happy to now have the space here with the Ackland to continue writing and thinking about him. –NB

When Burk Uzzle was twenty-one, he was married, had two sons, and was living in Atlanta with his family trying to make ends meet by taking photographs. The family was so poor that in place of a dining table they ate off a board that they had closed in a window, making it stick out straight.

A year later Life hired him as a staff photographer and had him move to Chicago. Uzzle was so accustomed to poverty that he directly checked into the Chicago YMCA. When his editor heard, he immediately moved Uzzle into a hotel with an expense account. One of Uzzle’s first assignments was to fly to South Dakota to shoot a blizzard, but he didn’t own a warm enough jacket, so upon arrival he bought a huge shearling one, only to then have to fly to some tropical locale for his next assignment, still wearing his shearling jacket.

After only a few years with Life, Uzzle quit to hitchhike across the country in hopes of taking photos that captured the experience. Life hired him again when he returned, on the strength of his work. Soon he quit again.

“I never really liked taking orders from editors,” he says. “I would decline assignments so I could do what I thought I should do.”

At Woodstock, which Uzzle initially visited out of curiously but ended up getting stuck at because of the New York State Thruway getting closed, he found many of his photographer friends in the press pit in front of the stage. “You’re wasting your time down here,” Uzzle told them. He had quickly come to realize that the real pictures of interest weren’t of Joan Baez or Canned Heat on stage, but of the skinny-dippers in the ponds, of the young people trying to stay warm in the fields. While his friends followed the orders of their editors and stayed put in the press pit, Uzzle borrowed film from them, walked up the hill, and captured on it images that have become so iconic that when we now think about this turning point in the country’s history, we see in our mind a Burk Uzzle photo.

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Burk Uzzle, American, born 1938: Wheels With Legs, 1983; gelatin silver print. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Anonymous Gift, 2008.3.6

The point is, Uzzle has lived his life with an almost daredevil belief in art, eschewing financial stability and comfort for a single-minded trust in the work itself. “I’ve always lived for the picture,” he says. It seems terrifying.

And yet he’s still doing it.

Not long ago, Uzzle spent a year shooting 8×10 film while putting 350,000 miles on his old Chevy van, driving around, just looking for the picture. “I zig-zagged across the country, developing film in Motel 6 bathrooms,” he says. He was doing this not on payroll, not on assignment, but just looking for pictures. This from a guy who used to be president of Magnum Photos, who has lived long enough and richly enough that he can recall personal lessons received from his friend Henri Cartier-Bresson. I don’t know about you, but seems to me most people in Uzzle’s position would probably be sitting in an endowed chair at some university somewhere taking pictures of the view out their window. As Uzzle puts it, though, “most of my life has been spent driving around the country in a van.”

Artwork hung in a museum is, in a way, like reading the history of war. We see the outcome as inevitable. Here is the art hanging right here, it was meant to be here; here is the winner of this war, they were always going to win. But of course, as people will tell you who lived through wars, the outcome is never foretold. So it is with art. In Uzzle’s life, as he was shooting many of the photos in this exhibition, what he probably saw in his future was less a vision of his name on a museum wall, and more a vision of his dinner resting atop a board closed into a window.

What I’m getting at is something we hear about often – the struggle of the artist. Uncertainty and risk. Burk Uzzle has spent a life taking the biggest risks, putting all of his chips on the table. So take a look. He’s spent years now cashing them in. The payoff has been developed, matted, and framed. It’s like we all know the best poker player in town, and not only is he still playing, he always shares his winnings.

–Nic Brown, August 10, 2016

Uzzle Buzz: “American Culture Studies at its Best”

“Uzzle Buzz” is a series of blog posts, written by various authors, that respond to or comment on some aspect of our exhibition All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle.

Townsend Ludington is Boshamer Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, of American Studies and English at UNC-Chapel Hill.

All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle, which opened at the Ackland Art Museum on June 24th, is one of the most provocative exhibitions the Museum has offered during the many years I have had the pleasure to live in Chapel Hill and teach at the university. “Provocative” in no way meaning salacious, but because—along with the fine catalogue of Uzzle’s photographs and an insightful essay by Professor Patricia Leighton—we learn so much about the art of photography.

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Burk Uzzle, American, born 1938: Family and Friends, Daytona Beach, FL, 1997, 1997. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anonymous Gift, 2008.3.48. © Burk Uzzle.

Uzzle rightly considers himself both artist and photographer; no one would challenge him. All 42 of the works on view display the visual acuity of a greatly talented professional; each has a narrative about some aspect of American life during the turbulent years 1968-2014. Ordered chronologically, the first photographs take us back into such monumental moments as the death of Martin Luther King and its aftermath; Woodstock; the Peace movement, and then—like Uzzle himself, it would seem—into a more elegiac mood in the last photographs.

But always there are counterpoints: that of young friends and raw sexuality in Family and Friends, Daytona Beach, FL, 1997 immediately preceding the pastoral, Huck Finn qualities of River Bank Dive, Georgia, 2001. Continue reading