The history museum presents the exhibition “Art through the ages”
LUMBERTON – The late Benjamin Forest Williams is known for many things; most notable being the first curator of the NC Museum of Art.
What many don’t know is that his roots go back to Lumberton, where he was born on Christmas Day in 1925. His mother, Mamie Williams, served as Lumberton Postmaster until 1958.
An artist, he studied at the Corcoran School of Art and Black Mountain College before eventually graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then studied in France with Henri Matisse before being recalled to North Carolina to join the North Carolina Museum of Art in 1949, where he was appointed curator in 1956 and served until 1979. He was also curator of the Arts at North Carolina State University, and was instrumental in starting the Friends of the College series and the Gregg Museum.
Williams’ imprint returns to his home in Lumberton, through the Robeson County History Museum‘s latest exhibit, ‘Art Through the Ages’.
Through the exhibition, the museum shows how art transcends time in many different forms. Some of the art features the work of past artists and other more contemporary artists – most of them from the creative minds and hands of Robeson County.
The idea for the exhibition arose from the art collection already accumulated by the museum.
âWe have a lot of pieces here that are museum pieces,â said Faye Middleton, president of the museum. âThey are made by the locals and they are made locally. “
Those who walk through the museum will see a variety of works over the past seven decades.
Works will include those by Lumbee artist Joan Blackwell, who uses a blend of medium and experiences with texture to tell the story of Lumbee’s Native American traditions and culture.
Three-dimensional art in papier-mÃ¢chÃ© form is also on display by Fairmont artist Grace Martin Collins, who produced the works during the periods of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Collins is able to capture nature in motion in his works said Monica Doares, who loaned artwork from her own collection to the museum for the exhibition.
âThe delicacy and details on the leavesâ¦. Doares said of a coin depicting a hummin bird floating on a branch.
Photographs by Nancy Johnson and sculpted gourds by Pembroke artist Frank Harris are also on display at the exhibit, Middleton said.
One of the paintings on display by an unknown artist is said to have crossed paths with Benjamin Williams’ desk during his time at NCMA, as discovered by Doares, who also worked at the museum. The image was borrowed from Charles Campbell, who said the painting belonged to his family.
By researching the origins of painting, Doares was able to uncover the connection Williams had between her and Lumberton. She discovered that years ago the paint had been damaged while the Campbells were renovating the kitchen and bringing it to the NCMA for repair, which was often done at the time.
âWhen you get something fixed at the museum and you try to take it out, someone has to sign it and he (Williams) did it,â Doares said. “We thought he was the painter, but after working on their (NCMA), I realized he was the one who returned the painting to its owner.”
Doares believes the painting shares the creator of two other paintings on display at the History Museum, which were done by a traveling artist. This type of artist traveled from city to city to “earn a living” by producing paintings of the local environment for residents, Doares said.
âYou can tell the technique of the trees and the sky – it’s the same guy,â Doares said.
Some works of art are available for purchase and many works of art are on display for those to view and “appreciate the creative spirit of the artist”.
The museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Exceptions are made on major holidays.
Tomeka Sinclair can be contacted at [emailÂ protected] or 910-416-5865.