WILSON, N.C. – Barton Art Galleries is pleased to announce the opening of two painting exhibitions for the month of October. Jennifer O’Connell’s “Familiar Places” exhibition and the “Hobson Pittman: At Home & Work” exhibition will be on display from September 27 to October 30.

An opening reception for these exhibitions is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 27, from 2 – 4 p.m. in the Barton Art Galleries located in Case Art Building. This event is open to the public free of charge, and the community is invited to attend.

On Friday, Oct. 2, the Barton College Friends of Visual Arts (FOVA) will host a dinner and lecture featuring Massachusetts artist Jennifer O’Connell from 6-8 p.m. and, on Tuesday, Oct.20, at 2 p.m., J. Chris Wilson, professor of art at Barton College, will present a lecture focusing on the late North Carolina native Hobson Pittman and his paintings for members of the Barton College Friends of Visual Arts. These two events will be by invitation only for members of FOVA. Those interested in joining the Barton College Friends of Visual Arts may contact Frances Belcher, in the Office of Institutional Advancement, at 252-399-6357.

During the month-long exhibition, recent works by O’Connell will be on view in the Virginia Thompson Graves Gallery, and the Pittman paintings will be featured in the Lula E. Rackley Gallery. Despite being separated by generations, the work of these two exceptional painters creates a tranquil harmony in the solidarity of their domestic interiors.

O’Connell’s work presents scenes of rooms in her colonial home in Hadley, Mass. Rather than depicting these intimate spaces in natural color, the rooms and furnishings are highly saturated – a rich visual symphony where colors are wrought with emotion. “These scenes are inspired by what the mind conjures, (where) perception is influenced by contemplation,” shared O’Connell. Through the color saturation, one begins to ponder the emotional state of the artist during the time each painting was executed. This contemplation is reinforced by the sense and evidence of habitation, without actually seeing any people. “Despite the vacancy, there is the feeling that the room has been frozen in the midst of action, and the occupants have simply vanished from view,” said Gérard Lange, director of exhibitions for the Barton Art Galleries. “There is a sense of life and activity, but the scene appears to be a moment in which the artist’s mind may have begun to wander.”

As rooms are presented repeatedly, one can witness changes in decorating and, therein, the passage of time becomes apparent. “As I paint in my home, I am witness to everyday changes which reveal stories,” O’Connell continued. Completed over the span of days and weeks, the compositions reflect natural changes occurring daily. Objects in the paintings appear to have been touched and moved, yet the person responsible is absent. In her working and reworking of the scene, O’Connell’s rooms cease to be mere domestic genre and start to live and breathe of their own accord. In these paintings, she transforms the images of her unoccupied private spaces into a self-portrait, where not only her life but also the act of living is placed on display.

O’Connell earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from the University of New Hampshire and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from SUNY Plattsburgh. Additionally, she studied fine art at the University College Chester in England. She has received numerous awards, grants and fellowships, and has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She is represented by Adam Cave Fine Art in Raleigh, Left Bank Gallery in Wellfleet, Mass., and Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, Mass.

Born in the rural Edgecombe community of Epworth near Leggett in 1899, Pittman showed artistic promise at a very early age and was encouraged to pursue his creative talent by his first art instructor, Molly Rouse. He attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1925, continuing his studies at Columbia University. In 1928, Pittman was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and traveled to Europe for the first time, where he visited major art museums and completed a series of watercolors. From that point forward, Pittman traveled between the United States, Europe, and the Orient, teaching and studying painting.

Although he never lived in Edgecombe County again, Pittman took the memories of his home-place with him. Often devoid of people, these paintings of spacious Victorian rooms and southern gardens are romantic and nostalgic, and hearken the sense of a distant memory. “He often would exaggerate the massive windows and doorways he remembered from his childhood, that seemed larger than life,” shared Buddy Hooks, director of the Hobson Pittman Memorial Gallery in Tarboro. The stark wooden homes with 10 and 12-foot ceilings, enormous doors and windows provided strong elements to mix with Pittman’s imagination creating compelling and somewhat mysterious scenes. Pittman once shared, “I have always been interested in painting things of the past – things I have loved and still do. Things I feel and understand.” The quiet ambiance of the scenes is often deafening in the solitude, which is depicted. Charged by the subtle mix of interior and exterior lighting, one gets a sense that the world has stopped turning in a moment where a youthful recollection is pondered by a mature mind.

From the late 1950s until the end of his life, Pittman used a riotous palette of color. Throughout the course of his life, blue-greys, fawns and taupes, muted greens and wines gave way to tangerine, watermelon, turquoise, hot gold and chartreuse. Likewise, his subject matter waxed and waned covering all sorts of styles and genre. It was for his floral still lives that Pittman won notoriety in the 1920s and 1930s. In these canvasses, one can sense the influences of Henry McFee, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Fernand Lèger, and the German Expressionists. “If I have made any contributions to painting, I firmly attribute it to a concentrated study of the masters,” said Pittman. “I try very hard not to be biased in my opinions or in my appreciation, but to be tolerant of all types and periods of good painting.”

Pittman earned high regard throughout the United States for his oils, pastels, and watercolors. He was also considered one of the best art instructors in the nation and was sought by numerous colleges, universities, and art organizations to lecture and teach.

Pittman’s career was sparked by numerous awards, and his works are included in many public collections including the Corcoran Gallery and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Philadelphia Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Works in this exhibition are on loan from the Hobson Pittman Memorial Gallery, located within the Blount-Bridgers House in Tarboro.

Gallery hours are Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the exception of holidays. For additional information, please contact Gérard Lange, director of exhibitions, at 252-399-6475 or email: glange@barton.edu.

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Questions?  Please contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations, at 252-399-6529 or email: kdaughety@barton.edu.

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