Home Is Where the Art Is: See the Places That Shaped Artists like Sally Mann and Romare Bearden
There’s something about home that sticks with us and shows up in the things we create, and that’s evident in plenty of artworks at the High Museum.
By Katie Domurat, Coordinator of Museum Interpretation, High Museum of Art
Several of the incredible exhibitions at the High Museum of Art this fall have underlying themes about the importance of place or home. From Romare Bearden depicting the different cities where he grew up to Sally Mann documenting her scenic Virginia homeplace, many artists we’re showcasing tell stories of how the places where they’ve lived have shaped their artistic journeys.
The first show in the High’s fall lineup, “Something Over Something Else”: Romare Bearden’s Profile Series, is on view through February 2, 2020. Romare Bearden was born in 1911 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He documented his childhood growing up in Mecklenburg County in Part I of his Profile series. For Part II, he shifted to his young adult life in Harlem, New York. This autobiographical series of collages depicts memories that influenced both Bearden’s art and life.
Liza in High Cotton shows a childhood scene when Bearden went to play with his friend Liza. As he approached Liza’s house, her grandmother told him that Liza couldn’t come out to play because it was high cotton and everyone was working in the fields. In this painting, Bearden reflects on the greenery of the fields and the hot sun setting behind the workers. The painting reflects what a fall afternoon in the South would have looked like in the early 1900s.
An image from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library archives reinforces the accuracy of Bearden’s memory of children and adults working in the cotton fields in the early years of the twentieth century.
Similarly, Sally Mann takes a close look at the South in her upcoming exhibition Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings, on view through February 2, 2020. Mann hails from Lexington, Virginia, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, and her works often reflect on what it means to live in the South. Mann frequently connects her love of the South to her love of her family by inserting them in the rustic landscapes of rural Virginia.
For example, On the Maury shows the Mann family floating in a canoe on the Maury River, which runs by their family farm. This farm is the same one Mann grew up on herself, and it serves as a continuum in the Mann family history.
The property’s beauty drew Mann to this spot in both personal and creative endeavors, and she took many photos there for her Immediate Family series.
This personal history with Southwest Virginia strongly dictated what kind of art Mann would produce because place serves such a central role in her work.
The Maury, in particular, serves as a backdrop for many of Mann’s works, including The Alligator’s Approach. In this photo, one of her daughters naps peacefully against a folded-up lawn chair as the Maury flows behind her. Mann shows her love of this place by capturing the everyday moments she enjoys with her family.
A different approach to the importance of place in art can be seen in our exhibition Fine Lines: American Works on Paper, on view through March 22, 2020. Fine Lines showcases an array of works on paper that illustrate different facets of daily life in the nineteenth century. Drawing at this time was a medium of convenience, so American artists often made illustrations of their immediate surroundings. As a result, place played a significant role in their art.
In this drawing, Julian Alden Weir depicts the interior of his home and shows his dogs relaxing around the hearth. Weir defines home in this scene as a cozy spot with pets by the fire. This seemingly mundane moment illustrates how this artist lived and also reflects on a personal moment.
Thomas Satterwhite Noble shares a depiction of his hometown in the drawing Cincinnati from the Ohio River. Noble felt great pride for his city and helped to co-found the Art Academy of Cincinnati. In this drawing, he illustrates his hometown’s industrious nature by showcasing smoke billowing from the factory smokestacks along the Ohio River. Noble found plenty of inspiration for his art in the views around his city.
Whether home means memories, a specific location, or a certain moment in time, these exhibitions at the High can take you there. Come experience how the idea of home manifests in different ways for different artists.