Hunter Museum Opens “Whitfield Lovell: Deep River”

Exhibition By The MacArthur “Genius Grant” Winning Artist Opens May 18

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Hunter Museum of American Art will present “Whitfield Lovell: Deep River,” an exhibition of work by internationally renowned artist Whitfield Lovell. The exhibition opens to the public May 18 and will be on view through Oct. 13.

Mr. Lovell, the 2007 winner of the MacArthur Fellowship (nicknamed the Genius Grant), is known for his thought-provoking images of anonymous African Americans from the 19th to early 20th centuries.

The highlight of this exhibition is “Deep River,” a large, site-specific installation that Mr. Lovell has created specifically for the Hunter Museum. Mr. Lovell's multi-media space explores the legacy of African Americans who fled from slavery in pursuit of freedom during the Civil War.

Mr. Lovell was inspired by learning of Camp Contraband, a Union encampment on the edge of the Tennessee River which became a safe haven for those who made it across. The word, ‘contraband,’ was a term used to refer to slaves, or any illegally smuggled goods. It was common for these people to assist the Union Army in various ways, including serving as cooks and valets, blacksmiths, scouts, building roads and frequently digging graves to bury the many casualties, and also eventually enlisting in the Union Army. “Deep River” incorporates drawing, sculpture, video, sound and music. The installation presents aspects of the struggles and triumphs of historical events in unexpected ways. Although the inspiration for Mr. Lovell's narrative begins with Chattanooga's history, his work is universal in its discussion and exploration of passage, memory and the search for freedom.

The exhibition also features artwork created since 2008, including the artist's signature “tableaux” that are constructed of intricate charcoal drawings on vintage wood juxtaposed with found objects. Mr. Lovell prefers to leave the history of his salvaged wood intact, never removing the layers of age paint, adding only his Conté crayon drawings and the objects he has collected over the years. He fully engages our senses and emotions, especially in pieces such as “Pago Pago” and “Autour du Monde.” Both works feature uniformed soldiers, referencing the service of African Americans through two world wars for a country that still didn't acknowledge their civil or human rights and a military that was not fully integrated. Billie Holiday's rendition of the song, “I Cover the Waterfront,” emanates from “Pago Pago,” seductively lulling the viewer into a sense of longing. Numerous globes are placed in front of “Autour du Monde” invoking both the adventure of travel and dangers of fighting abroad for soldiers.

“The vintage radios that are part of several works in the exhibit remind us of the important role that radio broadcasting played in communicating both with the soldiers and with the home front,” said historian Julie L. McGee.

Also included in the exhibition are a number of mixed media drawings from Mr. Lovell's ongoing “Kin” series. Each of the “Kin” works features a portrait along with a single object. The pairing of the two creates intriguing narratives that are left open for the viewer's interpretation. Unlike the tableaux, the images come from mug shots, photo IDs, passport images and photo booth shots that Mr. Lovell has collected. References to slavery and subjugation inevitably rise to the surface when looking at some of these pieces.

However, according to Mr. Lovell, "they do not inform the creation of these works."

Whitfield Lovell: Big River is organized by the Hunter Museum of American Art. 

Related Events

Friday, May 17, 6 p.m.

Art Wise: Distinguished Speakers at the Hunter Museum presents Whitfield Lovell

Whitfield Lovell, the MacArthur Award winning artist featured in the Hunter's new temporary exhibition, Big River, will discuss his work. Program sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Community Trust. 

Thursday, Oct. 3, 6 p.m.

Exploring Whitfield Lovell and Our History with Dr. Clark White

Historian, musician and self-described “organic” public intellectual and “bluesologist” Dr. Clark White of the UTC Department of History to explore the stories found in the art of Whitfield Lovell.

Perry Perkins Endorsed By Chattanooga Fire Fighters

The Chattanooga Fire Fighters Association Local 820 has publicly endorsed Perry Perkins for County Commission District 7 in the Republican primary election.  "The Chattanooga Fire Fighters Association is pleased to announce our endorsement of Perry Perkins," said Jack Thompson, president of the Chattanooga Fire Fighters Association. "Perry's community service and experience ... (click for more)

Huey And Cobra Rides Delayed

Due to inclement weather in Atlanta the Huey and Cobra Rides being hosted by the Hixson Flight Museum will be delayed until Sunday at 1 p.m. There will be military vehicle and cockpit tours on Saturday. The rides will take place at the Hixson airport (Dallas Bay Skypark) 1824 E Crabtree Road.  The Museum of Flight provides tours and gives airplane rides in the vintage ... (click for more)

Bus Driver Will Not Face Charges In Tragic Bus Accident

Sergeant Tommy Sturdivan announced in a Friday afternoon press conference that the investigation into the death of six-year-old Zackery Bryant at Chattanooga Valley Elementary has been officially declared complete and that there will be no criminal charges. Zackery died tragically on Monday morning after being hit by a school bus after stepping off. According to Sgt. Sturdivan, ... (click for more)

Soddy Daisy May Begin Effort To Allow Wine In Grocery Stores; Concussion Forms Required For Sporting Events; WWTA Chided For Causing Potholes

The Soddy Daisy Commission is considering taking steps to allow wine in grocery stores now that Tennessee lawmakers have voted to lift restrictions. To have the law appear on the next ballot for a vote, Mayor Janice Cagle said a petition with an amount of signatures totaling 10 percent of the number of voters in the last general election will have to be collected. Commissioner ... (click for more)

State Moving Forward In Educational Improvements

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education released the following statement from President and CEO Jamie Woodson regarding the 2014 legislative session in Tennessee and HB1549/SB1835, which passed the General Assembly Thursday: After a year of extensive public and legislative conversation regarding higher academic standards and related strategies to improve student learning, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Nudge By Angel Kilbride

Way above us, high in the heavens, a handsome angel everybody calls Ben yelled to Saint Peter on Thursday and told him, “Better send me a couple of rubies and maybe an amethyst … Dad’s crown just got bigger.” To you such a scenario may sound silly and foolish but Bill Kilbride, a dynamic genius who has just been named as president-elect of Chattanooga’s Chamber of Commerce, knows ... (click for more)