St. John Erickson
Five is far too small a number to encompass all the visual arts shows
that stood out from the crowd in what was a remarkably good year in
Hampton Roads and Southeast Virginia.
But here's my annual list of exhibits that were so distinguished and
rewarding that they deserve extra attention:
"Swamp and Other Wetlands," oil
paintings and watercolors by Ray M. Hershberger. Feb. 7-March 16, This
Century Gallery, Williamsburg. More than 2 years of study and painting
enabled this noted Norfolk artist to transform a previously unsuspected
realm of roadside marshes, swamps and even algae-laden ditches into
evocative visions of both the physical world and some deeper, less
easily defined power.
"30 Americans," contemporary
works by African-American artists from the Rubell Family Collection.
March 16-July 15. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk. This densely layered
and revealing collection started by underscoring the undeniable impact
of race — then battered away at that old paradigm of preconceptions
and stereotypes with a group of independent talents intent on taking off
in their own directions.
"African-American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights
Era, and Beyond," from
the collection of the Smithsonian American Museum of Art. Sept. 28-Jan.
6, 2013. Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary,
Williamsburg. This stellar exhibit of 100 works from the country's
biggest and most renowned collection of African-American art proved to
be particularly strong in early work documenting the energy and passion
of the pioneering black artists who fled chronic poverty and hardening
segregation laws in the South to make new lives in such Northern
communities as Harlem.
"Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts," featuring
individual works and gallery-size installations by pioneering studio
glass artist Dale Chihuly. Oct. 20-Feb. 10, 2013. Virginia Museum of
Fine Arts, Richmond. Beginning with an opening-day crowd of 6,500
people, the museum's guards and motion-activated alarms worked overtime
to deal with bedazzled admirers who can't resist the impulse to lean in
and even touch one of Chihuly's beguiling, often otherworldly flights of
color, form and imagination.
But what you saw made the crowds and the drive to Richmond more than
"50 Great American Artists," 50th
Anniversary Celebration Exhibition. Oct. 21-Jan. 13, 2012. Peninsula
Fine Arts Center, Newport News. Made up of objects drawn largely from
small museums, galleries and private collectors — plus some critical
loans from the Smithsonian, the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Virginia
Museum of Fine Arts — Pfac curator Michael Preble's unexpectedly rich
and rewarding show outperformed many similar exhibits that boasted
bigger and better-known lenders.
Erickson can be reached at email@example.com and
757-247-4783. Find him at dailypress.com/entertainment/arts and