The work of four artists with Rockbridge County, Virginia, ties are coming together in a new, student-curated exhibition at the University of Lynchburg.
“The Rockbridge Group: Masters Along the Maury” opens with a reception at 4 p.m. Monday, April 22, at the Daura Gallery in the University’s Dillard Fine Arts Center. It will remain on view until May 17. The exhibition includes the art of Pierre Daura, Jean Hélion, Sally Mann, and Cy Twombly and explores how life, landscapes, and people in Rockbridge County shaped their art.
“We’re looking at how the place inspired them in different ways,” Teresa Gunter ’20 said. “It’s not just landscapes. The people inspired them.”
Gunter curated the exhibition with fellow students Grace Rogansky ’21, Emma Noé ’21, Christine Moore ’20, Whitney Grim ’19, and Will Tharp ’19. All are minoring in museum studies, and curating an exhibition is the culminating rite of passage for their academic program. “This is the class we’ve all been waiting for,” Gunter said.
The idea for the exhibition came up in a previous course the students took together. After they considered topics ranging from political cartoons to shadow puppets, Dr. Barbara Rothermel, museum studies professor and director of the Daura Gallery, suggested looking at the Rockbridge artists’ work.
Two of the artists grew up in Rockbridge County, while two others lived there as adults, and their lives crossed paths.
Originally from Spain, Daura moved to the county in 1939 because his mother-in-law had property there. Hélion, a French painter and friend of Daura’s, followed. Both Twombly and Mann grew up in the area, and Twombly took lessons from Daura.
A brochure for the exhibition states, “This exhibition explores the question: What happens when the lives of four distinguished modern artists intertwine among the quiet, rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains?”
Although the artists worked in different media, there are many connections between their works. For example, the exhibition will include a Mann photograph of House Mountain, a prominent landmark northwest of Lexington, Virginia, as well as a painting of the mountain by Daura.
To assemble the exhibition, the students examined the works of each artists and selected pieces to include, reaching out to other museums for loans where necessary. They researched the lives of each artist, including statements about connections between their art and Rockbridge County.
The research has been eye-opening. Grim said she learned that there is a lot more to Twombly’s seemingly random lines — which the artist described as “child-like” rather than “childish” — than she had thought. “I have a newfound appreciation for his scribbles,” she said.
The students have spent many hours writing and rewriting materials for the exhibition, including a catalog and wall text. The work has been daunting at times, but it has helped them grow.
Moore said the work has helped her become more outspoken. “I’m usually the type of person to just fade to the back. But this exhibition is important not just for me, but for all of us,” she said. “I’ve learned that it’s not bad to say what I need to say, and my input is just as important as anyone else’s. I’ve already seen myself open up more in other aspects of my life.”
Grim said it’s the least stressful group project she’s worked on. “I’ll be able to take those teamwork skills to wherever I work.”
The Daura Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admission is free. For more information about visiting the gallery, call 434.544.8595.