Artist and Sense of Place Works Now On View at the O Exploring History, Practices and Identity of the Students’ World

At the heart of the Ogden Museums of Southern Art’s mission is educating the public in the visual arts and culture of the American South. Since 2001, the Ogden Museum’s residency program, Artist and Sense of Place, has paired professional artists with local schools to explore the history, practices and identity of the students’ world. Working with elementary school students in the medium of the artist’s choice, the artist spends three weeks in a school exploring the influences of geography and sense of place. Upon completion of the residency, students visit the Museum to view their finished works of art.

On view now in the Education Gallery at the Ogden Museum is the Artist and Sense of Place exhibition featuring works from our most current Artist in Residency program, Rhythms Stories and Places with artist, Carl Joe Williams, along with works from past Artist in Residency programs such as The Faces of Hope/ Los Rostros de Esperanza with Natalie Barnes and The Magical Garden of Gretna Park with Roberto Ortiz. Let’s take a look at the ideas and teachings behind the student works on display.

Artist and Sense of Place
Rhythms, Stories and Places
Esperanza Charter School
Carl Joe Williams, Artist

Our most recent artist in residence, Carl Joe Williams, worked with 180 third, fourth and fifth grade students at Esperanza Charter School, exploring themes of family, community and memory. Inspired by the rich tradition of Southern quilt-making, students recounted treasured memories of people and events in their community, drawing them onto paper and finished with crayons and watercolor. Key features of Southern quilts, such as color, repetition and geometric patterns, were emphasized – demonstrating Southern quilts as more than objects of function, but also as artistic narrative devices.

Native New Orleanian Carl Joe Williams began his formal training in the visual arts as a high school student at the New Orleans Center of Creative Art (NOCCA), and in the 1994, received his B.F.A. in Painting from the Atlanta College of Art. Portraying vignettes of New Orleans life and its people, Williams’ work is characterized by rhythmic, chromatic pattern, what the artist describes as “symphonies of color.” Williams’ work was featured in the 2014 Crystal Bridges Museum State of the Art exhibition and are publicly displayed in permanent installations at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and on the Veterans Boulevard thoroughfare in Metairie, Louisiana.

Artist and Sense of Place
The Faces of Hope/ Los Rostros de Esperanza
Esperanza Charter School
Natalie Barnes, Artist

In 2014, artist Natalie Keller Barnes collaborated with second, third, fourth and fifth graders of Esperanza Charter School to create a textile collaboration entitled Faces of Hope. Inspiration for this work was drawn from Southern self-taught artists, as well as Barnes’ own classical art education.

Barnes emphasized to students the rich history of quilt-making in the South, an artistic tradition steeped in symbolism, community building and resourcefulness. Elaborating on the relevancy of an artist’s work to their environment, Barnes led students to examine the richness of New Orleans in its festivals, cuisine and visual landscape. Encouraged to paint in washes of bright, bold hues, these self-portraits reflect the rich diversity and vibrancy of New Orleans, as well as the experiences of many students with strong Central and South American roots.

As a finished piece, the collection of quilts also features the felt handprints of the students, illustrating the bonds between the individual student and the class, the relationship of the class to Esperanza, and the school to its community. While the majority of the quilts created were returned to the school, the quilt on exhibition today is part of the Ogden Museum Education Department Collection.

Artist and Sense of Place
The Magical Garden of Gretna Park
Shirley T. Johnson/Gretna Park Elementary
Roberto Ortiz, Artist

When Roberto undertook this residency in 2010, he had just returned from Puerto Rico where he had produced a series of oil painting inspired by the islands tropical vegetation. Drawn to the park-like setting of the school, he conceived this project for Shirley T. Johnson/Gretna Park Elementary to pass on his love of painting and to make students aware of their natural surroundings.

Ortiz brought leaves from local trees and shrubs to the school so that students could observe closely the characteristics of the different varieties. On a square of gessoed canvas each student drew a leaf, or leaves or an abstract pattern inspired by the foliage. Then, they painted with acrylics, mixing colors and experimenting with brushstrokes. The many artist represented here invite you to stroll through their garden admiring the multitude of colors, shapes and styles in their rows of vegetation. While the majority of the pieces created were returned to the school, the work on exhibition today is part of the Ogden Museum Education Department Collection.

Come see the Education Gallery exhibition on the third floor through November 25, 2018.