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Response and Memory: The Art of Beverly Buchanan

November 21, 2009 - January 31, 2010 


Response and Memory: The Art of Beverly Buchanan, a selection of bold, colorful, and expressive drawings and sculptures by this leading contemporary artist, opens to the public November 21, 2009 at the Morris Museum of Art.

Organized by the Asheville Art Museum from the collections of Ann and Ted Oliver (with the assistance of the Morris Museum of Art), the exhibition remains on view at the Morris Museum through January 31, 2010.

"Through her continued exploration of the vernacular architecture of the South, Beverly Buchanan has created richly expressive works of art that symbolize community and the energy and imagination that are required to sustain it. She is a great story teller, and, implicit in her work, lie the stories behind the rural sharecropper shacks she depicts . . .," said Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art.


Artist Biography

Beverly Buchanan, born in 1940 in Fuquay, North Carolina, was raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina, on the campus of South Carolina State College, where her father was dean of the School of Agriculture. Armed with degrees in medical technology, parasitology, and public health from Bennett College and Columbia University, she was a medical technologist for the Veterans Administration in the Bronx and then a health educator for the East Orange New York Health Department. (Although she was accepted to medical school, Buchanan decided not to go, choosing instead to dedicate more time to her art.)In 1971 she attended art classes at the Art Students League, where she studied with Norman Lewis, and, during the 1970s, Romare Bearden became a particularly important friend and mentor. 

In 1977 Buchanan moved to Macon, Georgia, to devote her full time and attention to art. Buchanan's early sculptures demonstrated an innate interest in the architecture of poverty. Made of cast concrete, clay, pigment, and other materials, these primeval, blocklike forms conveyed a sense of archaeological ruin and mystery.

Buchanan's art gradually evolved from abstract, organic forms into the expressionistic, representational works she executes today. Her sculptures are based, in part, on the sharecropper shacks that can be found along the back roads of the rural South while traveling with her father. Buchanan's sculpture and drawings challenge the icons of hopelessness; they are elegies that salute the integrity, resilience, and resolution of humankind.

"My work is about, I think, responses. My response to what I'm calling 'groundings,'" states Buchanan. "A process of creating objects that relate to but are not reproductions of structures, houses mainly lived in now or abandoned that served as home or an emotional grounding. What's important for me is the total look of the piece. Each section must relate to the whole structure. There are new groundings, but old ones help me ask questions and see possible stories as answers. Groundings are everywhere. I'm trying to make houses and other objects that show what some of them might look like now and in the past."

In 1980, Buchanan was awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the Carnegie Museum of Art, PA; the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; the Asheville Art Museum, NC; the Tubman African American Museum, Macon, GA; and the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA.

This exhibition was organized by the Asheville Art Museum with the assistance of the Morris Museum of Art. The Asheville Art Museum would like to offer special thanks to Ann and Ted Oliver for their support and assistance in organizing this exhibition. Unless otherwise noted, works are from the collection of Ann and Ted Oliver and the Morris Museum of Art. The museum is also grateful to Jane Bridges, Olivia Shelley, and the South Carolina Arts Commission for their willingness to lend works to the exhibition. This exhibition is sponsored in part by Ray Griffin and Thom Robinson.   

Related events

Thursday, December 3, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Public Opening: Response and Memory: The Art of Beverly Buchanan
Join collectors Ted and Ann Oliver as they discuss Beverly Buchanan and the development of their vast collection, which serves as the basis of the Response and Memory show. A reception follows. Sponsored by FoAAA. FREE.
Sunday, January 17, 2:00 p.m.
Film Screening and Gallery Talk: Beverly Buchanan
View "Beverly Buchanan," a program in the PBS series A World of Art: Works in Progress. Afterwards join docent and Creative Conversations member Carolyn Benning for a gallery talk. FREE. 
Thursday, February 4, 10:00-11:00 a.m. or 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Toddler Time: Roosters Rule the Roost
Learn about artist Beverly Buchanan and watch your toddlers create a colorful pastel and watercolor resist. Museum family members and parents, free; nonmembers, fee per participant. Registration required.

Related images


(above: Beverly Buchanan, Hurricane House, 2008. Collection of Jane Bridges.)


(above: Beverly Buchanan, Red Shacks, 1988. Collection of the South Carolina Arts Commission.)


(above: Beverly Buchanan, Hillside Shack, 1987. Collection of the Asheville Art Museum. Gift of Drs. Robert and Priscilla Bleke.)


Editor's note:

Alice Wynn, in an article titled Bold Expressions from issue #21.17 :: 11/18/2009 - 11/24/2009 of Metro Spirit of Augusta, GA, spoke with Ted Oliver about Beverly Buhanan. An excerpt of the article says:

"Buchanan, who gave up an acceptance to Harvard Medical School to pursue a career in art, may be considered by some to be a folk artist, but Oliver thinks otherwise.
'I think the reason that she's really not considered a folk artist is she's more of a contemporary African-American artist, but her subject matter is shacks in the rural South and folk art is so much attached to rural populations,' he said.
Oliver notes her colors and use of space in her two-dimensional oil pastels.
'The thing that really makes Beverly's works so exciting is her use of color in her bold expression,' he said. 'I think from the three-dimensional and the two-dimensional you see very bold, very dramatic uses of color and line and she likes to use a lot of diagonals in her work, so you have this motion and excitement going on.'"

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Nicole McLeod of the Morris Museum of Art for introducing Resource Library to Alice Wynn and her article which may be viewed on the Metro Spirit Web site here.

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