In fact, the show was pulled together in just about six months through the combined efforts of three curators, particularly
Noted for its cultural richness,
Haskell, who lives in
The museum made a good call in extending the stay of the show from the usual two or three months. It ends
Haskell and another
The show ambitiously surveys nearly every aspect of artistic output associated with
With at least 200 objects in one big room, it's surprising that the exhibit does not look crammed or chaotic. Media are clustered for comparison, and label text is provided for every object.
A goal was to reveal "something about mountain culture that has often been ignored or, at worst, denied: the Appalachian penchant for assimilation of new ideas and innovation on old ones," Haskell wrote.
That point seems important, and could have been more stressed throughout the show regarding the older items. It is fascinating to read how certain objects came to be designed, such as the circa 1930 Roanoke settin' chair, a fireside seat with slats and posts curving backward for increased comfort, from Haskell's collection. That design would seem an improvement on its close kin, the stiffer ladderback chair.
The best part of this show is the chance to compare the old and the new.
The settin' chair, for instance, sits on a platform near a 2002 maple and walnut bench handcrafted by
A more contemporary approach comes from
The most memorable pieces in the show are the contemporary works commenting on the Appalachian lifestyle, such as the weavings by
Plume, who taught until 2012 at
Ulmann did so because she felt the Appalachian ways were dying out. Plume, in turn, used a computerized Jacquard loom to capture some of those images, yet in a ghostly way. Plume's work suggests a memory that is fading, as old photos do.
Comparisons occur between media, too. Painter
Like the basket makers, she is very attuned to nature, especially birds and their painstakingly woven nests. Stryk's mixed media work "Ephemera" suggests a nest with feathers woven into it that has turned into a kind of tornado.
Without these marvelous contemporary examples, the exhibit might feel a bit dry, and a tad too didactic. With them, the show gives off the lively scent of a regeneration in progress.
But if this show's assertions are true, that regeneration has always been there, embedded in Appalachian culture.
If you go
Who "Changing Appalachia: Custom to Cutting Edge"
Contact 393-8543, www.portsmouthartcenter.com
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