Catch and Release: Seafood Imagery from the Ackland Art Museum and the North Carolina Museum of Art

September 26, 2012 - November 4, 2012

dinosaurs and sea shells

Catch and Release considers how various cultures throughout history have used and understood seafood. On view in the Ackland’s second-floor Study Gallery, the exhibition includes a self-guided walking tour describing paintings in the permanent collections of the Ackland Art Museum and the North Carolina Museum of Art.

For centuries, the sea was mysterious and misunderstood, but as humans have learned more about it, they have harnessed it and used it to their advantage in various ways. While some seek basic nutrition in the oceans’ contents, others overindulge in its delicacies, and still others flaunt their oceanic findings as a point of pride and conquest. Much like this evolving understanding of the sea, resources gleaned from the ocean have taken on different characteristics as they have been represented visually in Western art. Art featuring seafood is therefore often an indicator of society’s relationship to water, involving fascination, curiosity, greed, gluttony, power, fear, hunger, or a combination of these concepts.

Catch and Release is the culmination of a new scholarship, the Joan and Robert Huntley Art History Scholarship for a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, that supports collaboration between the Ackland Art Museum and the North Carolina Museum of Art. In keeping with the goals of the Scholarship, this exhibition aims to unite objects from both collections in a way that is unique to these two museums. Bringing these collections together through the theme of seafood is a successful method for a number of reasons. Many highlights from both the Ackland’s and the NCMA’s collections include images of food from the sea, and the interdisciplinary nature of this theme allows for a variety of teaching opportunities. Water as a natural resource is an important issue in today’s society, and the UNC-Chapel Hill pan-campus theme for 2012-2014, Water in Our World, reflects this significance.

Image Credit: Henry Winckles, Prehistoric Shoreline and Fossils, print, British, 19th Century.