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Myths and Metaphors: The Art of Leo Twiggs


Myths and Metaphors: The Art of Leo Twiggs, will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art January 30 through March 28, 2004.

This exhibition of the work of Leo Twiggs, accomplished artist, educator and art administrator, brings a compelling body of work to the Georgia Museum of Art. The batik paintings on view are a testament to Twiggs's life experiences and are driven by powerful beliefs and unwavering opinions regarding the world around him. (right: Loe Twiggs, Blues at the Beach, 1999, batik and painton cotton mounted on board, 33 1/2 x 30 inches (frame). Collection of the artist)

Twiggs, a native of St. Stephen, South Carolina, received his degree in art from Claflin University and was the first African American to receive an Ed.D. in art education from the University of Georgia. Since 1964, Twiggs has been at South Carolina State University where he has served as chair of the art department and Director of the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium. In 1998, Twiggs retired from teaching and now devotes himself to his studio work. In 1981, he was the first visual artist to receive the South Carolina Governor's Trophy known as the Elizabeth O'Neil Verner Individual Award. In 2001, he was asked by First Lady Laura Bush to design an ornament for the White House Christmas tree.

Leo Twiggs has developed many themes over the course of his career as an artist. These inherent ideas and beliefs are clearly, though often subtly revealed in his chosen medium, batik painting. The batik process, an Indonesian method of hand-printing textiles by wax coating the parts not to be dyed, is an essential element of his work. His use of the process results in the suggestion of aging artifacts preserved from a time long passed. Among his persistant themes are familial ties and the perseverance of man in the face of adversity. The music and poetry that have arisen from America's black heritage are also important aspects of his work. Hurricane Hugo, which led to destruction in the low country of South Carolina, inspired a series of his images.

Perhaps the most difficult and compelling theme he has contemplated is the meaning of commemoration in the form of the Confederate battle flag. His approach suggests a very intense desire to contradict the traditional authority of this symbol. His flags and other commemorative images are evidence that he has transformed this emblem and made it his own, through personal legacy and attrition. Twiggs is reclaiming his heritage as an African American and southerner through these flag images. The worn and tattered representations of the flag, almost disintegrating before the viewer, reveal a strong sense of shared history and unresolved conflict. The complexities and richness of this artist's work provide visually compelling images that include thought-provoking challenges, as meaning and substance are both considered.

The catalogue will include a preface and introduction by William U. Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art, and essays by Frank Martin of South Carolina State University and Marilyn Laufer, guest curator for this exhibition. The retrospective will travel to the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Greenville Museum of Art in South Carolina, among other venues.

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