“Past and Present” Features Historic Furniture and Its Influence Today

Wilson, N.C. – The Barton Art Galleries of Wilson and the Hobson Pittman Memorial Gallery of Tarboro are proud to present “Past and Present: Celebrating Two Centuries of North Carolina Decorative Arts,” an exhibition that concentrates on historic North Carolina Furniture and its influences on the contemporary form.

“Past and Present,” which opened at the Barton Art Galleries this past Monday, will host a reception for the public on Sunday, Feb. 24 from 2-4 p.m. The exhibition will run until Friday, March 21.

Featured artist and guest speaker Brent Skidmore, Craft Campus Director at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, will lecture on Friday, Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. on “The Creative Process,” and again at 11 a.m. on “The Contemporary Furniture Form.” Area collectors will informally lecture on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. on “What is collecting and why they collect?” These lectures will be held in the Barton Art Galleries. They will be open to the public at no charge, and the community is invited to attend.

Skidmore, whose background is in sculpture, primarily makes studio furniture these days. Over the past 17 years, his teaching career has included appointments at universities as well as craft programs across the nation including Penland, Arrowmont, Anderson Ranch and Peter’s Valley. His work and processes are included in a recent Lark publication titled “The Penland Book of Woodworking.” Skidmore has shown his work extensively across the United States, Finland, and Dubai, UAE. Recent shows of Skidmore’s personal work have included the Smithsonian Craft Show and SOFA-Chicago.

In addition to his commitment to family, studio work, and educational positions, Skidmore serves as an advocate for craft education, scholarship, and the professional development of young artists. After running Brent Skidmore Studio for seven years, he returned to teaching at the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2004. Most recently, he has accepted the position of Director of the UNC Asheville Craft Campus. In partnership with Buncombe County and others, The Craft Campus will be a cross-disciplinary facility with a focus on Craft Studies while serving as a model for green building technologies focused around the use of methane generated by a former landfill. Slated to open in 2010, the campus will be a leading center for innovative craft studies, interdisciplinary learning, creativity and scholarly research, while providing state-of-the-art studio facilities for UNC Asheville students and faculty.

Other participating craftsmen in the furniture exhibition include Vivian Beer, Brian Bortz, Michael Brown, Stan Corbett, Matt Gibson, Robb Helmkamp, Susan Link, Timothy Maddox, Mike Shelley, Sylvie Rosenthal, Hart T. Wiggins, Julius Whitley, and Brian Wurst.

The distinguished collection of antiques on loan for the exhibition includes a walnut brandy case or cellaret, found primarily in northeastern North Carolina or Southside Virginia. This example is on a beaded leg frame, circa 1780. The yellow pine bottom has lost the bottle dividers. The hardware is replaced. The exposed dovetail construction square case and straight beaded legs are late 18th century cabinet making details. The case was given to Blount-Bridgers House by the Merkle Pulley family in 1969. Also from the Blount-Bridgers House is a small Federal Period walnut table owned by Ethel Pike Bass, the wife of Dr. Spencer B. Bass, Sr. Mrs. Bass was a passionate collector of southern antiques, the majority of which she discovered locally in the 1920s and 1930s. This table, circa 1790, exhibits features of the light and delicate furniture forms popular in the new republic after the American Revolution. All of walnut construction, this original has a one board top of figured walnut secured with wrought nails. The top has a shallow chamfer on the underside to lessen the visual impact of this solid table. The skirts are of thick 1 1/8th inch planks, which fives a strong sense of presence to a table of small dimensions. Each leg has slight camfer to the inside, which follows the style of George Hepplewhite, an English cabinetmaker. This table is devoid of inlays or painted decoration, which is observed in other tables of this period. The presence of “the neat and plain” task lingered in the early South. The table is faithfully copied on the occasion of the 200 anniversary of “The Grove” by Whitley’s Treasures in Wood of Stantonsburg. It is a fitting tribute to the quality cabinet making and taste in Tarboro and Edgecombe County.

Additional pieces on view during the exhibition include:

A painted blanket chest from Bertie County, circa 1720, features prussian blue paint on yellow pine, the “6 board chest” is distinctive of the original Chowan River basin form. It has molding on its top and a corbelled foot.

A mule ear chair from Edgecombe County is circa 1840, with black paint over a red base. The chair has its original woven corn shucked seating.

A Windsor arm chair from Halifax County is of mahogany wood with yellow pine arms and seat supports, circa 1820. The oak splat, numbered VI, indicates the chairs were available in sets of 6/8/10/12. The American versions of the Rococo pattern were very popular.

Two Nash County Murray Town chairs, with maple turned uprights and hickory members, have their original split oak seating. The Murray Town chair was prolifically produced from 1790-1950s.

A table of non-academic form emulates the latest taste in “styles” from Nash County, circa 1810. The table is of yellow pine wood with hand wrought nails and a brown wash paint.

A swing leg table of black walnut, Matthew Whitaker’s of Shell Castle, circa 1825, features drawers with good figured walnut, drawer sides of yellow pine and a drawer bottom of poplar. The table has its original surface.

A lamp-black and oil painted Warren County arm chair, circa 1790 with its original split oak seating, denotes a finial distinctive to that area’s craftsmen. It is pinned with wooden dowels.

A Warren County stretcher desk of yellow pine, circa 1780, features a decorative plantation gallery on top with turned oak spindles and oak legs. (Clack) Robinson is inscribed on inside lid.

For additional information, please contact Susan Fecho, chair of the Department of Art at Barton College, at 252-399-6480 or 252-399-6477 or email: sfecho@barton.edu. The Barton Art Galleries, including the Virginia Thompson Graves Gallery and the Lula E. Rackley Gallery, are located in the Case Art Building, at the corner of Gold Street and Whitehead Avenue on the campus of Barton College. The Barton Art Galleries are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.


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