Report from Greensboro, North Carolina

In October, the Art Department of the University of North Carolina Greensboro invited me for a visit, and while I was there I participated in a panel discussion that had been organized by Barbara Campbell Thomas at the beautiful Weatherspoon Art Museum in conjunction with the Maud Gatewood exhibition. I visited a slew of talented MFA students, who had recently returned from their all-expenses-paid trip to Europe where they saw the Venice Biennale and other major exhibitions, and they were full of good ideas. The UNC Greensboro MFA program is fully funded, which means that none of the students has to pay tuition. I missed the Faculty Show by a day, but I had a chance to visit some of the faculty studios, as well as some local art organizations, and the art-filled home of Carol Cole, an absorbing artist and art collector who lives near the university. Overall, Greensboro strikes me as an impressive art town with affordable space.

[Image at top: Barbara Campbell Thomas, 2015, Partita for so many voices, acrylic and fabric on canvas, 9 x8  inches.]

Paintings in Professor Mariam Stephan‘s studio, which is attached to her house, feature shifting perspectives and unstable architectural forms. On a Fullbright in Egypt, Stephan was impressed by the sense of history, the changes that have taken place in the landscape over geologic time, and the current political upheaval. She’s working toward a January solo show in Cairo.

 Mariam Stephan, Weight Web, oil on canvas.

Good idea: Stephan stretches latex gloves over the jars on her palette table to keep turps fumes from escaping and she uses a brick as a brush holder.

Stephan’s husband Ibrahim Said uses their garage as a studio. Trained in the traditional Egyptian pottery industry, Said says that his father was his first teacher and the rich cultural heritage of Egypt was his second. Said’s beautiful vessels combine contemporary approaches with traditional shape, pattern, and craftsmanship.

Said’s ceramics line the mantle on the left and one of Stephan’s paintings hangs on the back wall.

Christopher Thomas‘s studio is in a building behind the rural house he shares with Barbara Campbell Thomas and their two sons. Thomas runs the art department’s Foundation Program.

Working with projected images, Thomas makes large, process-intensive abstract drawings and paintings that reference fabrics and compost heaps.

The view at sunset outside Thomas’s studio windows.

In a recently rebuilt garage next to their house, using paint and collaged fabrics, Professor Barbara Campbell Thomas crafts very small paintings that seem enormous in the jpeg format.
She believes that monumentality isn’t necessarily related to size. Readers may recall the post Campbell Thomas contributed this summer about the paintings she saw in Italy.

Her palette table.

Campbell Thomas’s collection of patterned fabrics and plaids are an important element in her work.
Professor Jennifer Meanley works in a studio on campus that has floor to ceiling windows and glorious morning light.

When I stopped in, Meanley was covering the big, dripping mural on one of the walls with figurative pencil drawings. She said she works in many modes, from abstract and figurative, to text-based projects, developing imagery from memory. She also showed me some engaging animated text pieces on her laptop. I wanted to see more. Meanley has mad artmaking skills.

A small Maud Gatewood (American, 1934-2004) painting from 1970 on view in the lobby of the new art building. Gatewood, a longtime resident of North Carolina and alumna of UNCG, left part of her estate to the UNCG Art Department, which helped pay for the department’s new digs.

In a nearby case, some of Gatewood’s small three-dimensional objects caught my eye.

Another important member of the Greensboro art scene is Carol Cole, who moved to Greensboro because she felt that the art community was one of the most progressive in the South. A sculptor, Cole is interested in the body, and her sculptures all take the form of large phalluses topped with breast-like forms. Her sprawling art collection is full of breast imagery, including a wonderful Lee Lozano painting.

This early drawing has served as the basis for many of Cole’s sculptures.
On the final day, Campbell Thomas and Stephan took me to CAM Raleigh where we saw Sarah Cain’s energetic project “The Imaginary Architecture of Love,” an installation that I reviewed here.

Our last stop was at Artspace, another Raleigh non-profit, where we saw a two-person show that featured neatly layered sculptural paintings by Laura Moriarty (above) and some terrific contemporary-meets-prehistoric pieces by Bushwick-based sculptor MaryKate Maher.

MaryKate Maher

MaryKate Maher

We made it back to the airport in time for my late afternoon flight, and I was home in time for dinner. Thanks, Greensboro, for having me–let’s do it again sometime. Look for Barbara Campbell Thomas’s work in NYC at an upcoming show at The Painting Center and for the UNC Greensboro MFA Thesis Exhibition at Southfirst sometime this summer.

Related posts:
Sarah Cain: Super fun and not too complicated
Drawing links at the Weatherspoon


 Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

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