Franklin Fifth Helena by Cynthia Talmadge

Franklin Fifth Helena is an architectural installation within the Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown comprised of sand-painted wall panels that create a fantastical imaging of the real-life intertwined lives of the movie icon Marilyn Monroe and her psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson.

Franklin Fifth Helena

‘A FANTASTICAL IMAGING OF THE INTERTWINED LIVES OF MOVIE ICON MARILYN MONROE AND HER PSYCHOANALYST DR. RALPH GREENSON’

By Jen Sudul Edwards

On November 4, 2022, Mint Museum Uptown opened a new major acquisition to the collection: Franklin Fifth Helena by Brooklyn-based artist Cynthia Talmadge.

An 8-by-11-foot room built within the gallery, the installation is comprised of sand-painted wall panels and a ceiling that create a fantastical imaging of the intertwined lives of the movie icon Marilyn Monroe and her psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson. The result is mesmerizing and surprising in every way: the sand — intricately mixed by hand and meticulously applied to the surface with fine paintbrushes— mimics the precise color studies of 19th-century Impressionists and Pointillists while utilizing a simple commercial material (Talmadge often buys her sand in bulk from wedding supply companies).

The recognizable objects layer and interact to create an imagined narrative about the relationship between Monroe and Greenson, who treated Monroe at the end of her life. While very specific in her references, Talmadge also explores the complicated ramifications of the cult of personality, the patient-doctor relationship, and how all of these affect the limited power and agency granted to women in this country.

Talmadge’s gallery, 56 Henry, arranged for outside donors to support the acquisition of the work by The Mint Museum, but the on-site build was extensive and complicated. The Mint’s architect-of-record, Aubrey Springer, oversaw the construction and permit process, which required additional lights and sprinkler systems to be installed to meet code, as well as extensive coordination with the Mint’s building staff, the Collections and Exhibitions team, 56 Henry, and Talmadge — who came to Charlotte for a week in October to help with the installation.

Learn more Talmadge and her fascinating and complicated process in the video below, generously underwritten by Aaron and Marie Ligon who are helping the Mint further build a competitive and compelling contemporary art collection.

Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, is chief curator and curator of contemporary art.

Lydia Thompson in her studio

Artist Lydia Thompson at work in her home studio.

On the daily: 24 hours in the life of artist Lydia Thompson

By Liz Rothaus Bertrand

For Lydia Thompson, a working artist and professor of ceramics at UNC Charlotte, the past is always present. She is fascinated by “our abodes,” and how we interact with them. Inside these spaces, we carry our own stories, as well as those of former inhabitants and vestiges from our lives elsewhere. Thompson’s recent work focuses on issues such as forced displacement, gentrification, and what gets left behind when a home is abandoned. 

“You can see the emotions of a structure when it starts to deteriorate, especially when it’s been abandoned,” Thompson says. “You can see layers and layers of cultures that lived in there.” 

As Thompson wraps up a three-year term as UNC Charlotte’s chairperson of the department of art and art history, she’s also looking toward the future. After spending much of her career in leadership positions at universities throughout the United States, she is eager to return to a schedule with more time for teaching, studio work, and leading community workshops. 

“I really love working with the community,” she says, “because the artwork just sits in the gallery and I want to bring it alive.”  

While her weekdays have been mostly filled with administrative duties she finds time for studio work on the weekend. Take a look at a typical Saturday for the renowned ceramic artist, filled with her sketchbook, the kiln, and some thought provoking documentaries. 

Lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

5 AM: I wake up and start my day with some personal reading. The books I’m reading are always centered around projects I’m working on. Books I’ve recently read include Feeding the Ghosts by Fred D’Aguiar, Root Shock by Mindy Thompson Fullilove, and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

6 AM: I check emails, maybe look at Instagram, and have two cups of coffee, followed by a full breakfast of pancakes or eggs. I reserve the yogurt and oatmeal for Monday through Friday. I keep a sketchbook nearby at all times. Because I don’t have a lot of time to work in the studio, I’m always making lists.

7:30 AM: I head down to my basement studio — I am happy to finally have a dedicated studio space — and open the kiln. Even though I know what the result is going to be, I love the anticipation. The excitement of seeing a fired piece never goes away. 

Because slabs are heavy, I work on them while I have the most energy of the day. I spend a couple of hours focused rolling out and flipping slabs. I use a template and make a cardboard model before I actually cut anything out to be sure it’s going to work when I put it together.  

While working, I usually put on the television show “Columbo” or listen to a podcast. I feel like detective Columbo is the underdog who is misunderstood. I think of myself and my career in terms of being misunderstood sometimes. People see me and never think I’m the director or the person in the leadership role at UNC Charlotte because I’m an African American woman. They’re always surprised when they find out who I am. 

I also enjoy listening to podcasts. I love Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us,” and “Business of HYPE,” with host Jeff Staple. 

9:30 AM: If I have slabs set up, I start building the interior structure and putting the walls together. I start busting up things, making rubble so I can dip all of it in glaze and put it in the piece.  

11:30 AM: It’s time to glaze. I look at the wooden bases and check the inventory of what needs to be done before setting up. I usually glaze my pieces three or four times. 

Noon: I take a lunch break, which is usually leftovers — homemade pizza, maybe a salad or a tuna sandwich — and enjoy time in my backyard with a quick stretch and check on the garden my fiancé planted. We have green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, squash, lettuce, and green peppers.

1:30 PM: Back to the studio. I set up the piece a little more and then do some glazing. This takes time and can be tedious because I put masking tape where I want another color to appear. But it gives me the result I’m after. I glaze for an hour and a half and then let it dry.

2 PM: I get another cup of coffee that I don’t really need.

3 PM: I’m always working on two or three pieces at the same time, so it’s helpful to review where I am with projects. I go back to my sketchbook and then I repeat the cycle I began at the start of the day, except for the slab rolling. 

Studio time is so important. It’s dedicated time to work and to review work you’ve done, especially the work that wasn’t successful. Even though you want to throw it in the trash, you’ve got to look at it and say, “Why did this not work?”

6 PM: It’s time to get dinner ready. We try to eat healthy, and I walk every day after dinner and sometimes in the morning, too. I also stretch. It helps to keep your body in tune, especially if you’re doing ceramics.

7:30 PM: My fiancé and I unwind watching movies, but I’m sketching all the time — at night, when I’m in bed or while I’m looking at the TV. I look through the sketches and pull out the ones I think will work. 

We like to watch suspense, thriller, love stories, and futuristic movies. I love documentaries. With the Black Lives Matter movement in focus, I’ve been watching documentaries, such as Black Wall Street, Amend, Coded Bias, and I Am Not Your Negro about African American history. They’re tear jerkers for me because this is reality. I think we’ve come really far, but the only way we can change certain mentalities is to start when people are very young. It’s hard to understand unless you actually walk in someone else’s shoes. I just don’t want people’s eyes to roll when we continue to have these conversations because it really has impacted lives. The way you treat a certain group of people still has an impact on their life and where they are in this country. There’s just no way around it.

9:30 PM: I go to bed fairly early. By 9:30 or 10 o’clock, I’m out. I’m done.

Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a writer and editor based in Charlotte who is passionate about the arts.  

Three works of art that remind us to revere Native American culture and craft

By Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion, and Rebecca Elliot, Assistant Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion

Native American Heritage Day is celebrated the last Friday of November. Designated by President George W. Bush in 2008, it celebrates and recognizes the importance of Native Americans and their cultural heritage to our past, present, and future. Works of art by Native American artists encapsulate tradition, rich artistry, and stories that are passed down through generations. The Mint Museum’s Native Americas collection showcases works from Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, from the nineteenth century to today. Objects from the Native Americas collection are on view at Mint Museum Randolph, as well as the Craft+Design galleries at Mint Museum Uptown. Following are three works of art by Native American artists that chronicle their roots, relationships, and environments.

Diego Romero 

Diego Romero (Cochiti, 1964–). Bowl, late 20th century, earthenware with slip paint. Gift of Gretchen and Nelson Grice. 2017.43.34

 

This bowl is part of an ongoing series of ceramics and prints by Diego Romero that chronicles the adventures of the Chongo Brothers, named for a characteristic hairstyle of Navajo and Pueblo people, a bun gathered at the nape of the neckthe chongo. Romero’s ceramics are impeccably hand built with local clays from the hills of Northern New Mexico.

The strong graphic design is a combination of geometric motifs related to ancient Mimbres pottery, pop art and comic-strip aesthetics. Chronicling the societal injustice rampant on and off the reservation, Diego Romero sometimes softens these difficult narratives with his cartoonish style.

Trained at UCLA, his work is included in museums and private collections in the US and Europe. In 2019 Diego Romero received the Native Treasures Living Treasures Award, given to artists who have made outstanding contributions to indigenous arts and culture. 

Diego Romero ceramics are hand built with clay from the hills of Northern New Mexico. Courtesy of Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Diego Romero’s bowl is on view at Mint Museum Randolph, in an installation featuring Pueblo ceramics from the Grice Collection. Experience more of Romero’s work through a virtual tour of his current solo exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, New Mexico, Diego Romero vs. The End of Art

 

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Susan Point 

A collection of wooden circles surrounding a large disk with two fish carved into it

Susan Point (Canadian, Coast Salish [Musqueam First Nation], 1952–), Salmon Spawning Run, 2012, carved and painted Western red cedar. Project Ten Ten Ten commission. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Fleur Bresler, Libba and Mike Gaither, Laura and Mike Grace, Betsy and Brian Wilder, Amy and Alfred Dawson, Aida and Greg Saul, Missy Luczak Smith and Doug Smith, Beth and Drew Quartapella, and Kim Blanding. 2012.107. Art © Susan Point 2012. Image © Mint Museum of Art, Inc. © Susan Point, 2012.

 

 

The round shape of Salmon Spawning Run is based on Susan Point’s well-established spindle whorl motif, which represents the Coast Salish, a First Nations tribe. For thousands of years salmon have sustained the Coast Salish people as the primary food source. As such, salmon are highly honored and respected. Symbolizing abundance, prosperity, renewal, and fertility, the fish and their eggs are depicted here in a composition that reminds us of the importance of clean water other sustainable resources to protect our natural environment. cedar from a tree trunk found on communal land, and painted the carved wood with natural pigments.  

Susan Point’s artwork symbolizes the natural resources that are central to life of the Coast Salish, a First Nations tribe. Image courtesy of the artist

One of a group of artists responsible for the resurgence of Coast Salish art and culture, her public art projects include works at Vancouver International Airport and the Museum of the American Indian, in Washington, D.C. She has received numerous awards including the Order of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and a British Columbia Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Salmon Spawning Run is a part of Project Ten Ten Ten and is a site-specific work on view in the Craft & Design galleries at Mint Museum Uptown. 

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Tara Locklear 

Tara Locklear (United States), Bobble for Bob Necklace, circa 2017, walnut, laser cut plexiglass, recycled skateboards, costume jewelry, oxidized sterling silver, and other mixed media. Gift of Porter • Price Collection. 2019.93.117

 

Tara Locklear’s one-of a kind jewelery is inspired by her environments and includes repurposed elements, such as wooden skateboards. Image courtesy of the artist

Tara Locklear’s jewelry is inspired by urban environments and includes repurposed elements such as pieces of wooden skateboards. She made this necklace as a tribute to her jewelry professor and mentor, Robert Ebendorf, after his retirement from East Carolina University (ECU). Its materials range from ones she explored as a student there to ones she focuses on in her current practice. Locklear earned a BFA in Small Metals and Jewelry Design from ECU in 2012. She lives and works in Raleigh, North Carolina and is a member of the Lumbee Tribe. 

Summer Wheat (American, 1977–). Foragers, 2020, colored vinyl on mylar, 805.5 x 738.5 inches. T0263.1a-qqqq. Photo credit: Chris Edwards

Summer Wheat’s monumental Foragers underscores the Mint’s ongoing commitment to women artists, perspectives historically underrepresented in museums

By Michael J. Solender

Uptown visitors meet with a fresh sensory experience this fall as Mint Museum Uptown reopens its doors following the Covid-mandated lockdown. As guests enter the towering glass-paneled Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium, they’re enveloped in warm jewel-toned light bathing the space of the new 96-panel “stained glass” installation Foragers by contemporary American artist Summer Wheat.

And while the quiet beauty of hand-drawn, collaged and placed colored vinyl panels encourage many to slow their pace and reflect in the grandeur, the imagery of strong, powerful women, taking on traditional male roles of hunters and providers, makes a clear and confident statement—women are represented on their own terms, making vital contributions.

The messaging is not accidental. Wheat’s work is deliberate in pushing back on gender objectification and unidimensional portrayal often depicted in museum collections. “Histories we tell, and the histories told to us are never really true,” Wheat says, her slight Oklahoma drawl elongating her cadence. “They’re only telling one side of the story, and there’s a lot that’s left out.”

Wheat, a mid-career artist whose work has been displayed in museums only within the past few years, is bucking a trend unfavorable to women. Just 11 percent of all acquisitions and 14 percent of exhibitions at 26 prominent American museums over the past decade were of work by female artists, according to a recent study by art market information company Artnet.

Recognizing this historical underrepresentation of women’s voices on public display, the Mint is leading the way to better balance the scales. “We have a strong community partner and advocate in Wells Fargo whose values align so closely with the museum on this important social and cultural issue,” says Todd Herman, Mint Museum President & CEO, “Something  we really admire and treasure in the relationship we’ve had with Wells Fargo is they collaborate with us and push us further in ways that make the community better. Their Women Artist Fund and their support of our Foragers installation is a wonderful example of that.”

Charlotte knows Wells Fargo as a significant community partner and stalwart investor in our region’s diversity and success. Their foundation focuses on projects and innovation at the community level such as awareness and social change, increasing housing affordability, and access to capital for businesses. Last year, they contributed more than $14 million in support of projects and programing in the Charlotte region. In addition to programmatic work with quantitative measure, like the number of low-income individuals placed into safe and affordable housing, a component of the foundation’s work focuses on bringing perspectives and understanding to social issues through the arts.

“As company, we’re one of the largest small business lenders to women owned businesses,” says Jay Everette, Wells Fargo’s senior vice president of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. “With the arts and culture sector of our [philanthropic] work, we realize putting a focus on female artists helps elevate and escalate women’s voices through promoting their artwork. Not only is Foragers a significant work by an important female artist, it’s also public art that anybody can come in and access without having to pay a fee.”

It was the Mint Museum’s 80th anniversary celebration and the 2016 Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibition that served as a catalyst for the formation of the Wells Fargo Foundation Women Artist Fund according to Everette. “We were beginning to formulate some of the strategies on this and through the exhibition discovered there were a group of other women artists leading the way in the movement.  But they did not have gallery representation. They were not being picked up by museums after the abstract expressionist movement.”

Inspired, the Wells Fargo Foundation set about to address and help reconcile the imbalance of female representation in museum collections. “The Women Artist Fund was established three years ago, and we’ve been successful in helping to place and acquire seminal pieces of art in permanent museum collections across North Carolina,” says Everette. Other museums benefiting from the program include the Cameron Museum of Art in Wilmington, The Weatherspoon Museum of Art in Greensboro, and The Blowing Rock Art Museum in Blowing Rock.

Admirers of Summer Wheat’s Foragers, on display through September 6, 2022, will be pleased to note that through the generosity of The Wells Fargo Foundation Women Artist Fund, the artist’s work With Side, With Shoulder, a large painting where Wheat’s technique extrudes paint through wire mesh, has been acquired for the Mint’s permanent collection.

Mary Myers Dwelle, one of the Mint’s female founders would undoubtedly be pleased.

Foragers is part of the exhibition In Vivid Color: Pushing the Boundaries of Perception in Contemporary Art that opens Oct. 16 at Mint Museum Uptown.

Michael J. Solender is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, American City Business Journals, Metropolis Magazine, Business North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer, and others. He develops custom content and communications for businesses and organizations.

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