Two art exhibits will open on Monday, August 27, in the University of Lynchburg’s Daura Gallery. One is comprised of artwork from the gallery’s permanent collection. The other is made up of items bequeathed to the University by longtime history professor Dr. Jim Owens.
“Becoming a Museum: Selections from the Collection” includes work by gallery namesake Pierre Daura, pop artist Andy Warhol, and other well-known artists. The name of the exhibit is an homage to the institution’s transition earlier this summer from Lynchburg College to University of Lynchburg.
“Contemporary Southern Folk Art: The Bequest of Dr. James Owens” includes southern outsider folk art, a genre that has been described as self-taught, visionary, naïve, and intuitive. The exhibit includes work by a number of celebrated southern outsider folk artists, among them, Annie Tolliver, Mose Tolliver, Howard Finster, and Jimmy Lee Sudduth.
Some pieces are whimsical, like Annie Tolliver’s toothy turquoise fish. Other artists — Finster, for example — incorporated religious themes into their work, along with fantastical images of spaceships and flying animals. In Sudduth’s case, he sometimes painted with mud or motor oil on discarded objects, like doors.
Dr. Owens, who taught at Lynchburg for nearly 50 years, collected art for decades. When he died in August of 2017, he left his large, eclectic art collection to the University. In addition to folk art, the Owens collection includes African masks and sculptures, Native American and southern pottery, and a variety of decorative items, prints, drawings, and paintings.
Over the past several months, graduate assistant Laura Meisner ’17 and gallery director Dr. Barbara Rothermel have been researching the Owens collection. “We have discovered that a good number, many of which are in the current exhibit, are known artists in the folk art world,” Meisner said. “It’s interesting to see how an artist’s background plays into their art, which we have seen with a few of the artists in this collection whose paintings have similar themes.”
Identifying who created some of the items has been a challenging process. Some items are unsigned and others have only initials as clues to the artist’s identity. Some of the art has yet to be identified.
“There are others that have very little information to go on, and that so far no one we have contacted has been able to help us identify,” Meisner said. “However, the process is ongoing, so hopefully we will be uncovering even more information about the many pieces of artwork and their artists that are a part of this collection as we continue forward.”
Also opening on August 27 is “Becoming a University: Photographs from the Archives,” an exhibit that tells the story of Lynchburg College and its transition to University of Lynchburg. A formal opening for all three exhibits will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 4. The exhibits will run through Friday, October 5. Daura Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free.