Four years ago, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum received one of the largest and most significant gifts in its then-12-year history: the 53-piece collection of husband and wife Barbara Burgess and John Dinkelspiel. The collection included works in a wide range of styles, subjects and media all focused on Southern art. Represented in the collection are 21 pieces from South Carolinian JonathanGreen, along with works by noted African-American artists William H.Clarke, James Denmark, Cassandra Gillens and others.
A selection of works from this exceptional collection, along with a new Jonathan Green painting, will comprise an exhibit titled Passionate Collectors and 25 Years of Jonathan Green, on display at the museum beginning Sept. 22.
In recognition of Jonathan Green’s efforts highlighting Gullah culture, the exhibit’s opening coincides with the Art Museum’s annual Gullah Culture Celebration, a day of entertainment and activities taking place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 22. Regular gallery hours for Passionate Collectors continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 29.Former Bostonians, Ms. Burgess and the late Dr. Dinkelspiel (who passed away in March 2013), relocated to the Lowcountry and fell in love with its art and culture. Their art collection quickly grew to encompass numerous works by Green along with pieces by nearly a dozen other Southern artists, as they became not only collectors but advocates for Southern art and artists.
Through Green, the couple was introduced to the outreach projects of the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, in particular, its work with children and school groups. At the museum, they felt their collection would find a permanent home and would also be the basis for a host of activities that would enlighten and inspire future generations of art lovers and artists.
The Burgess-Dinkelspiel collection of Jonathan Green paintings were created over three decades and feature familiar images drawn from his own personal experiences, steeped in the traditions of family, community and life in the Lowcountry. They have drawn national and international attention to the wonderfully unique Gullah culture that has enriched the coastal regions of the Southeast for centuries. Green’s art, which has been featured in several previous exhibits at the Art Museum, captures the essence of simple acts of joy, whether dancing, fishing or walking on the beach.
An avid historian as well as artist and arts advocate, Green recently launched an initiative called Project RICE, an acronym that stands for Race, Ingenuity/Injustice, Culture and Economy. The Lowcountry RICE Culture Forum, an organization whose aim is to discover and revive the significance of rice cultivation and its legacies and use this history as a launching pad for broad discussions of race, class, art, trade, history and economics in the Southeast, will meet this year in Charleston, September 12-14. Green talks passionately about how the cultivation of rice led to prosperity in the Lowcountry, yet this part of slave history isn’t taught in schools. The artist would like to see history texts give credit to his ancestors’ economic contributions to the region from their work in the rice fields. For his part, Green is currently developing artworks that incorporate the subject of rice culture. One of these works, an oil painting titled Lowcountry Rice Culture, is featured in Passionate Collectors. The work depicts a woman flaying sustenance rice in a technique used by her African ancestors.
Also appearing in the exhibition is a recent acquisition of art collector Barbara Burgess, a work painted in coffee by Cuban artist Reynier Llanes. Llanes, who now calls Charleston home,is a former artist in residence of Jonathan Green Studios, and his work in coffee was exhibited at the Art Museum in 2011.