Hunter Museum Opens “Whitfield Lovell: Deep River”

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

Thursday, May 9, 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.

Hixson Kiwanis Scholarship Dinner Will Be Held Sunday

The Hixson Kiwanis Ham and Chicken Dinner will be held on Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Hixson Middle School cafeteria.  The cost is $10, children six and under are free.  Carry-outs are available. All money raised will go to the Hixson Kiwanis Scholarship fund, which has been in existence for over 20 years.   Students are selected from a group of nominees ... (click for more)

Historical Meeting Held At The Brainerd Mission Cemetery

The chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution, hosted the Chattanooga Area Historical Association, met Monday evening at the Brainerd Mission Cemetery.  Approximately 50 people were in attendance for the event.   Marti Rutherford introduced Hamilton County Historian Linda Mines who presented a historical program on the ... (click for more)

City Council Approves 8-Story Height For Proposed Building Behind The Chattanooga Choo Choo

A day after the Planning Commission rejected  a seven-story apartment building on the 1200 block of Cowart Street, the City Council approved a building that could rise to eight stories behind the Chattanooga Choo Choo. After the meeting, Jon Kinsey, former mayor and Choo Choo managing partner, said, "We are not planning an eight-story building. We just went through the ... (click for more)

Lee University Social Media Threat Suspect Identified, Charged And In Custody

Lee University student Olayinka Opaso, from Nigeria, 18, confessed on Tuesday to a senior Lee University official about his involvement in the Yik Yak post describing potential threats to Lee University students. Opaso was immediately placed into custody by the campus security director, Matt Brinkman. Mr. Brinkman transported Opaso to the Cleveland Police Department where ... (click for more)

A New Commercial Look For Signal Mountain

A speaker at the Signal Mountain Town Council meeting last night presented some very interesting information about the council’s new bigger and brighter vision of our commercial area. Councilman Spalding presented a list of sign changes to the Design Review Commission that the council wants and several of those items were approved last night.  Still to come on the list are ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: So Why Pick A Fight?

On Tuesday I spied a picture that proclaimed “The Mayors Say…It is time for a Smoke-Free Community.” Apparently the newest clown on our horizon has led a group of very knowledgeable and learned people into an ambush because even country music’s Travis Tritt can tell you this means T-R-O-U-B-L-E. You are about to mess with the wrong group of people. The mayor of Lookout Mountain, ... (click for more)