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Monday, December 7, 2015

Georgia Art

Mural of Rome, Georgia, ca. 1930-43, A WPA project by Peter Blume
Georgia's premier art museum.
It's been quite some time since I wrote regarding a particular state's art culture (May 2, 2015) when I highlighted the art of Florida.Today I want to move a little further north to the state of Georgia. We spent a few days there this spring visiting our son, his wife, and her daughter. He's a staff sergeant in the Air Force station at Warner-Robins AFB located almost exactly in the center of the state. From there we took in the High Museum of Art (right) in Atlanta and Stone Mountain just east of the city. Both top the list insofar as Georgian art is concerned. But inasmuch as I've already covered them in some detail, I'll mention them only in passing regarding the art of the great state of Georgia.

A jazz themed work by African-American artist, Corey Barksdale
As with most states, Georgia's art centers upon its artists, its history, its people, it's landscape, and finally the museums which display it all. First, its many outstanding artist. Inasmuch as there are so many, Atlanta being a wealthy and vibrant art market, I could spend pages and pages just highlighting a few of the best. Instead, I've chosen just one, not because he's necessarily the best the state has to offer, but for the simple reason, I like his work. I'm talking about the African-American painter Corey Barksdale (above). Though born in Nashville, young Corey grew up in a matriarchal family of artist, his grandmother being a quilt artist, his mother quite gifted in design. Barksdale came to Georgia to study at the Atlanta College of Art in 1994. Since then he has proven himself as one of Atlanta's most prolific artists. His subject matter ranges from human figures to non-objective abstracts. In recent years he has concentrated his efforts on themes that portray the love and strength existing within Atlanta's African American community.

This controversial mural depicting slavery had, until recently, greeted visitors to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Part of a series of murals produced by the Atlanta-based artist, George Beattie, in 1956, it was intended to help chronicle the state's agricultural history. The Georgia Museum of Art, has rescued it from storage as part a video narrative which will also depict Native Americans, mainly as background images in dealing with a new approach to this sensitive issues.
Like the other states of the old Confederacy, Georgia daily struggles to come to grips with is southern heritage while distancing itself from the tragic history the state has endured almost from the time the British General, James Oglethorpe founded the colony in 1732 as a haven for imprisoned debtors. In fact, however, most were what was termed at the time the "worthy poor." The colonists included many Scots whose pioneering skills greatly assisted the colony, poor English tradesmen, artisans, and religious refugees from Switzerland, France and Germany, some 150 Protestant religious refugees from Austria, as well as a number of Jewish refugees. All religions were welcomed except Roman Catholics whom it was feared would align themselves with the largely Catholic Spanish colony in Florida. Originally, slavery was forbidden by Oglethorpe; but once he left the colony in 1743, the ban was lifted and since that day, the state has had to deal with this scourge both in terms of its history and its art (above).

The Trail of Tears, 1942, Robert Lindneux
Native Americans have not fared well as part of the history of Georgia either. Robert Lindneux depicts in his 1942 painting, The Trail of Tears (above) the plight of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations as they were uprooted from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern U.S. starting in 1830, and sent to an area west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Cherokee Nation removal in 1838 (the last forced removal east of the Mississippi) was triggered by the discovery of gold near Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1829. Between 2,000 and 6,000 of the 16,543 Cherokees relocated by the federal government, perished along the way.

Victory or Death by Keith Rocco
And finally, perhaps the greatest tragedy in American history played out very heavily in the state, starting about 1861 when Georgia joined the Confederacy. The state became a major theater of the Civil War. Major battles took place at Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta. In December 1864, a large swath of the state from Atlanta to Savannah was destroyed during General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea. Some 18,000 Georgian soldiers died in service, roughly one of every five who served. In 1870, following the period known as Reconstruction, Georgia became the last Confederate state restored to the Union. Keith Rocco's Victory or Death (above) depicts the last stand of the Savannah Guards (18th Georgia Battalion) at Sayler's (or Saylor's) Creek. Warren C. Dockum of the 121st New York was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing the flag of the Savannah Volunteer Guards.

Foothills of Georgia, Terri Bennett Webb
Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, GA
Terri B. Webb's Foothills of Georgia (above) deals with a quieter time, everyday history set in the a rural Georgia landscape. Yet, despite its rural, aquarian, past, Georgia has a great number of urban centers starting with the At-lanta megalopolis but include-ing Augusta, Macon, Marietta, Savannah, and quite a num-ber of others, each having their own major museums, not to mention their own, peculiar form of "street" art (bottom). Savannah, Georgia, has two such museums, the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum and the Telfair Academy. Augusta has its Morris Museum of Art while Athens, Georgia, boasts the impressive Georgia Museum of Art. Marietta, Georgia, has its own Museum of Art as well (all depicted below). But perhaps one of the most surprising art museums in in the state is hardly what you'd expect to find east of the Mississippi--The Booth Museum of Western Art located in Cartersville, Georgia (above, right).

Georgia has an impressive wealth of art and the wealth to support museums to house it.
Art by the people, for the people, and above the people.

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