Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Mint Museum of Art

Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Charlotte, NC



The Duke Energy Gallery: Tradition and Change


The development of craft, from the utilitarian objects of America' s 19th century rural economy to the contemporary art that studio craft is considered today, is presented in the Duke Energy Gallery, opened May 13, 1999 at Charlotte's Mint Museum of Craft + Design (MMCD).

The debut of the second floor gallery completes the permanent collection installation for the new museum. "Currents in Craft," which premiered at the January 10, 1999 opening of MMCD, features contemporary studio craft. The Duke Energy Gallery traces the evolution of craft in four stages: Rural and Farm Crafts (1800-1885), the Arts and Craft Movement (1888-1930), Southern Appalachian Handicraft Revival (1930s) and Modernism (1940-1980). Sub-themes include Carolina Craft, Cultural Identity, Anti-Esthetic, Naturalism, Whimsy, Women's Work and Pattern and Decoration.

Early craft forms and rural economy crafts were utilitarian, from Daniel Seagle's "Meat Storage Jar" (1830) to John A. Craven's "15 Gallon Masonic Jar" (1855). Examples include European influences such as the "Moravian Plate" (1800) and craft forms that continued from the colonial era. The extent of uses include a "Ring Jug" (to carry drinking water) and a salt-glazed stoneware "Gravemarker" (l885). While the wares were practical, they did not preclude artistry and commentary as seen in Chester Webster's incised drawings of birds and fish on his "4 Gallon Syrup Jug" (1845) and a "Political Pot Praising North Carolina Governor Jonathan Worth" (1865) from an unknown Piedmont potter.

The Arts and Craft movement that originated in England sought to preserve the quality of hand-made design. Early 20th century art pottery featured in the Duke Energy Gallery include vases from noted American potteries Rookwood (Cincinnati), Newcomb (New Orleans), Grueby Faience (Boston) and Weller (Zainesville, Ohio). Several George Ohr vases are featured. The "mad potter of Biloxi" was one of the first artist-potters to tear away at the boundaries of ceramic decorative arts.

Carolina traditional and folk craft comprise much of the Southern Appalachian handicraft-revival material on display. Samples include a J. Martin Woody "Setting Chair" (early 1930s), a Tallulah Falls (Georgia) "'Lace' Basket" and an Enoch Reinhardt "Swirlware Teapot" (1938). Appalachian crafts were associated with the tourist trade and were often combined with local products, such as a Jugtown honey pot.

Federal programs, such as the Qualla Arts and Craft Mutual, Inc. on the Cherokee Reservation, were established to preserve and promote traditional craft, often as tools of rural economic development. A sculpture by Qualla member and noted woodcarver, Amanda Crowe, from her student days at the Art Institute of Chicago, is on display. So is a weaving by Crowe's teaching colleague on the reservation, Doris Coulter, a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Arts, who first studied weaving at Penland School in the late 1940s. Both woman had solo exhibitions at the Mint in 1957.

The influences of Modernism are readily found among North Carolina potters between 1940 and 1970 in such examples as a C.C. Cole "Ring Handled Garden Urn" (1940). Henry Varnum Poor's ceramic "Untitled Figure of Goddess and Alligator" (1940s) is a stunning example of the artistic and sculptural properties craft assumed.

Craft in the 1960s reflects countercultural influences in the use of material associated with indigenous cultures, like macrame, beadwork and feathers. The back to the land movement coincided with the identification of craft as an alternative lifestyle. In North Carolina, art communities formed around Penland School, the land cooperative Celo Community and Gypsy Hollingsworth's farm in Walnut Cove. In this cultural climate of postwar America, the crafts field developed as a new art form, leaving behind the traditional boundaries of utility and decoration.

One trend associated with craft material and processes is naturalism, exemplified by Dempsy Calhoun's rustic bench and Silvia Heyden's crocheted horsehair rug. Irreverence is also associated with the craft personality, as seen in Bob Trotman's "Polkadot Chair" and Rob Levin's "Late Venetian/Early Neurotic" glassware, both whimsical interpretations of decorative art.

"The presentation found in the Duke Energy Gallery is told largely through a Mint Museum collecting perspective," stated MMCD curator Mary Douglas. "The historical North Carolina Pottery Collection assembled by Dorothy and Waiter Auman of Seagrove and the purchase awards from the Piedmont Craft Exhibitions held at the Mint from 1964-1982 provided a regional view of the development of crafts that was taking place throughout the country. Our goal is to expand the museum's historical material to include the major centers of influence and the roles of individual craft pioneers throughout the nation."

Images from top to bottom: Harvey F. Reinhardt, Face Pitcher, 1930s; Cherokee Baskets, River Cane, 1920-1970; Henry Varnum Poor, Untitled Figure of Goddess and Alligator, 1940s; Robert Kopf, Trestle Table, 1975

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For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10

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