Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Exposing Artists' Inspiration

Last week, I joined a small group of media folk to preview the Delaware Art Museum's summer exhibit, “Exposed! Revealing Sources in Contemporary Art”. What a treat! It was wonderful to hear the Curator of American Art, Heather Campbell Coyle, talk so enthusiastically about the pieces and the fascinating background information she amassed in her research for the show.

First in our tour was the oldest piece in the exhibit: a 1964 offset lithography piece by Eugene Feldman entitled Friend's Wife (Mrs. JFK). The stark, grainy image grabs you, revisiting the raw emotion in the original Eddie Adams photo of Jackie O at Kennedy's funeral.

As expected (and to my delight), there is a series of large Warhols lining the wall. The seven colorful screenprints of Mao, 1972 come from a 10-piece portfolio. I've been enamored with all things Andy Warhol since I was a teenager (thanks to junior-high art teacher, Mrs. P.), so of course I was thrilled to see these extraordinary works, on loan from a private collection. They’re classic Warhol—irreverent, campy and powerful.

Another piece that struck me was the enormous 60-piece Deluxe by Ellen Gallagher, an African-American artist whose expansive creation features the techniques of collage, laser etching, clay, and crystal embellishment, incorporated into ad pages of Ebony magazines from the 1960s. You could literally spend hours with this piece and not take in every meticulous detail. It is a breathtaking and brilliant commentary on culture, beauty and media imagery.

Coyle’s favorite pieces include the Gallagher and a series by Richard Prince, based on pulp fiction nurse novels from the 1950s and 1960s. She noted that she enjoyed discovering the “backstory” to these artists’ inspirations, how they derived information and images from pop culture, poetry and media, and made it their own. “It adds a richness to the story if you know what the artist started with,” she said.

You can also read Coyle’s blog on the exhibit at
Don’t miss this exhibit, on view until October 4.


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