Fidelity Bank White Linen Night at Ogden Museum of Southern Art Featuring free admission, live music and the opening of Leaving Appalachia: The Art of Gregory B. Saunders and Louisiana Contemporary, presented by The Helis Foundation


August 3, 2022

 (New Orleans, LA)––Ogden Museum of Southern Art encourages Fidelity Bank White Linen Night goers to visit the Museum from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 6. The celebration will feature free admission, a cash bar and live music by DJ Heelturn. Additionally, the evening will host the opening of two new exhibitions at the Museum, Leaving Appalachia: The Art of Gregory B. Saunders, and Louisiana Contemporary, presented by The Helis Foundation.

Leaving Appalachia: The Art of Gregory B. Saunders is the first major museum survey of the artist’s career. Gregory B. Saunders is one of the most accomplished artists working today in the medium of powdered graphite. A master of contemporary realism, Saunders maintains a holistic studio practice in Pensacola, Florida that joins his primary medium of powdered graphite with painting, writing, carving and assemblage to explore themes related to landscape, the human figure, personal narrative and regional identity.

Bringing forth rarely-seen works from private and public collections to show the depth and breadth of the artist’s practice, Leaving Appalachia: The Art of Gregory B. Saunders, illustrates a life spent in contemplation of process and place. It is a meditation on personal narrative and regional identity. These works tell the story of an artist who chose art as a way of life, who believes in the power of visual storytelling and who seeks to understand the world around him through drawing.

“Gregory B. Saunders—through years of experimentation, innovation and dedication to graphite—has developed a studio practice that is wholly unique,” explains Bradley Sumrall, Curator of the Collection, Ogden Museum of Southern Art. “These works on paper achieve a stunning degree of realism through gestural and intuitive mark-making. He is a master of his medium.”

Saunders’ process is both additive and reductive, and involves drawing, brushing, masking, mapping,   and sanding. Every composition begins with a contour drawing, and is developed through many hours of trapping graphite powder between layers of acrylic spray to create complicated values in grayscale. He uses a filet knife to cut the paper for each drawing, creating irregular edges that often inform the final composition. Scale is a conscious conceptual decision – creating large works that can’t be regarded as preparatory drawings for another medium, but must be viewed on equal footing with paintings and sculpture.

After leaving Kentucky for Detroit in 1974, Saunders spent time living in Memphis, Nashville, Cincinnati and Greenville and South Carolina before settling in Pensacola in 1988. Everything about the landscape of Northern Florida was different than his home of Kentucky. He viewed this new environment of the Gulf Coast as exotic, and it became the primary subject of his mature work. An avid fisherman since childhood, fishing throughout the Gulf South and Caribbean is a major part of the artist’s life – and many of his landscapes memorialize fishing trips. Yet whether his works depict the dunes of the Emerald Coast or the bayous of South Louisiana, they are depicted through the hands of a Kentucky transplant, an artist who left Appalachia physically, but never spiritually.

Louisiana Contemporary, presented by The Helis Foundation is Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s annual juried exhibition featuring art work by contemporary artists from across the state. The 2022 edition is juried by Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and features 51 works by 49 artists. The Museum first launched Louisiana Contemporary, presented by The Helis Foundation in 2012 to highlight the work of artists living in Louisiana and to showcase the dynamism of contemporary artists’ practices throughout the state. Since the inaugural exhibition over a decade ago, Ogden Museum has shown works by 489 artists, making Louisiana Contemporary an important annual moment in the national arts calendar to recognize and experience the spectrum and vitality of artistic voices across Louisiana. This statewide exhibition promotes contemporary art practices in Louisiana, provides exhibition space for the exposition of living artists’ work and engages a contemporary audience that recognizes the vibrant visual arts culture of Louisiana and the role of New Orleans as a rising, international art center.

This year’s Louisiana Contemporary juror Valerie Cassel Oliver states “New Orleans never disappoints and the same can be said of the artists that inhabit The Big Easy and the state of Louisiana at large. A loud applause for the artistic vitality that is celebrated in this exhibition. And, a big thank you to Ogden Museum for providing such an important platform for this work to be seen.”

Each year, with support from The Helis Foundation, Ogden Museum honors four of the presenting artists, highlighting some of the most provocative and compelling works in the exhibition. The four awards come with cash prizes and special recognition at the Museum. The recipient of the lead award, The Helis Foundation Art Prize, will receive the unrestricted amount of $5,000. Awards will be given by the juror at a private reception for Louisiana Contemporary artists on August 5, and will be publicly announced and on view the evening of White Linen Night.

In addition to viewing the exhibition on White Linen Night, Ogden Museum invites the public to guided tours of Louisiana Contemporary with juror Valerie Cassel Oliver on August 6 at 11 a.m. and at 2 p.m. Ms. Oliver will discuss a selection of work from the exhibition alongside artists from this year’s exhibition, who will offer insights into their work. Different artworks will be highlighted on each tour. These tours are free but advanced registration is required as there is limited space available. Registration is available through Ogden Museum’s website.

For more information, please contact Capri Guarisco, Marketing & Communications Specialist, at

About Gregory B. Saunders

Gregory B. Saunders is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collection of several museums including Ogden Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, and The Goddard Center. Working in powdered graphite on rag paper, Saunders creates large drawings with photo-like clarity and detail. These drawings are done in a series and exhibited along with his sculptures, which are created in an abstract vein as a counterpoint to the graphite work.

In addition to his extensive exhibition record, Greg has created original art for Pensacola Opera’s season programs, designed a set for Loveland Opera Theater, as well as exhibitions for The Country Music Hall of Fame. Greg currently lives in Pensacola, Florida, where teaches drawing at the University of West Florida.

About Valerie Cassel Oliver

Valerie Cassel Oliver is the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Prior to her position at the VMFA, she was Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2000 – 2017). She has served as director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1995-2000) and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts (1988-1995). In 2000, she served as one of six curators selected to organize the Biennial for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

During her tenure at the CAMH, Cassel Oliver organized numerous exhibitions including the acclaimed Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (2005); Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970 with Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee (2009); and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (2012). She has also mounted significant survey exhibitions for Benjamin Patterson, Donald Moffett, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jennie C. Jones, Angel Otero and Annabeth Rosen.

Her 2018 debut exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was the five-decade survey of work by Howardena Pindell entitled, Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen. The exhibition, co-organized with Naomi Beckwith, was mounted for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and named one of the most influential of the decade. At the VMFA, Cassel Oliver organized the exhibition, Cosmologies from the Tree of Life that featured over thirty newly acquired works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Most recently, she opened the exhibition, The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture and the Sonic Impulse, to critical acclaim. The exhibition opened in Richmond May, 2021 and is currently touring through January, 2023.

Cassel Oliver is the recipient of a Getty Curatorial Research Fellowship (2007); a fellowship from the Center of Curatorial Leadership (2009); the High Museum of Art’s David C. Driskell Award (2011); the Arthur and Carol Kaufman Goldberg Foundation-to-Life Fellowship at Hunter College (2016) and the James A. Porter Book Award from Howard University (2018). From 2016-17, she was a Senior Fellow in Curatorial Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and, in Spring 2020, she served with Hamza Walker as a Fellow for Viewpoints at the University of Texas at Austin.

Most recently, Cassel Oliver was named the recipient of the 2022 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence from The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and the awardee of the College Arts Association’s 2022 Excellence in Diversity Award. In March, 2022, she accepted the Alain Locke International Art Award from the Detroit Institute for the Arts.

Cassel Oliver holds an Executive MBA from Columbia University, New York; an M.A. in art history from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a B.S. in communications from the University of Texas at Austin.

 About Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Located in the vibrant Warehouse Arts District of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana since 1999 and open to the public since 2003, Ogden Museum of Southern Art invites visitors to experience and learn about the artists and culture of the American South. Ogden Museum is home to a collection of more than four thousand works, making it the largest and most comprehensive repository dedicated to Southern art in the nation, with particular strength in the genres of Self-Taught, Regionalist, Photography, and Contemporary Art. The Museum is further recognized for its original exhibitions, public events and educational programs, which examine the development of visual art alongside Southern traditions of music, literature and local craft.

Ogden Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Admission is free to Museum Members and $13.50 for adults, $11 for seniors 65 and older, $6.75 for children ages 5-17 and free for children under 5.

The Museum is located at 925 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. For more information visit or call 504.539.9650.