By Lilie Hart
Romare Bearden would have turned 100 last year, and to honor his life, his accomplishments and his innovative art the Nasher Museum is showing “Romare Bearden: 20th Century American Master“. In addition to viewing the exhibition itself, I also attended my first gallery talk by Sarah Schroth, the Nancy Hanks senior curator. I wasn’t sure how a gallery talk worked, if we would be sitting in an auditorium listening to a lecture or something altogether different. Well it turns out it’s exactly what it sounds like. We started at the beginning of the gallery and walked through.
Sarah didn’t just talk about the specific work of art we were standing in front of, she talked about how Bearden was born in Charlotte , but that he moved away at a young age and never returned, yet his work is heavily influenced by Charlotte and the South. Bearden once said “I never left Charlotte, except physically.”
We stood in front of Pilate (Misty Island) and Sarah mentioned how Bearden used cubism and bright colors, which Sarah mirrored in her vibrant dress and stockings I can only describe as flamingo pink. She also talked about the relationship not solely between Bearden and the painting, but Bearden and the subject that he was painting. Sarah described Bearden as having depicted the woman “faithful to her figure”, and as a woman I can assure everyone that the woman in this picture would appreciate that, but he also changes her. Bearden “flattens” her in Sarah’s words, but still uses her silhouette to depict her clearly.
It was great to hear about why the Nasher Museum placed certain paintings together and how they juxtaposed one another. My favorite pairing was Untitled by August Herbin and Three Women by Romare Bearden. They both possessed the most amazing blue colors that really popped on their own, but placed next to one another I honestly couldn’t imagine them apart.
Bearden’s paintings are beautiful, but they also hit close to home for me as he uses local North Carolina and southern influences. I can relate to old country roads and houses, or baskets of bright fresh berries. Bearden is vibrant and refreshing.
Photo by J Caldwell