Whitfield Lovell’s Cage

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Whitfield Lovell, Cage, 2001. Charcoal on wood and found objects. Collection of Julia J. Norrell. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

I know why the caged bird sings . . .
–Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird,” 1983

The first act of liberation is to destroy one’s cage.
–Michael S. Harper, poet, 1977

From the front, the cage attached to the lower body of this drawn woman could be associated with the shape of a dress, perhaps even as an indirect reference to the cage-like construction of garments such as 19th-century crinolines. Yet from the side, the cage extends out and becomes suggestive of a pregnant womb. It is harmoniously married to her frame, yet it simultaneously traps her. The contradiction speaks to the uneven treatment women historically have received, being at once matriarchs in the domestic sphere and victims of subjugation and inequality in the public one.

Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works is on view through Jan. 8, 2017.

In the Conservation Studio with William Christenberry

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Collections Care Manager Laura Tighe in the Phillips’s conservation studio

We were saddened to hear of the passing of beloved Phillips trustee emeritus and distinguished artist William Christenberry earlier this week. His work continues to resonate and impact in our galleries and beyond. Here, Collections Care Manager Laura Tighe is matting and preparing a microclimate frame for two color photographs by the artist. The works (“Bread of Life,” near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1989/printed 1995 above at left; “Church across Early Cotton (Vertical View),” Pickinsville, Alabama, 1964/printed 2000 below and to right) will be part of an upcoming solo exhibition in December 2016 at Maryland Institute College of Art.

Nobody, No Time!

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Whitfield Lovell, Kin VI (Nobody), 2008. Conté on paper and wooden chain, 30 in x 22 1/2 x 7/8 in. Collection of Julia J. Norrell © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

With the provocative subtitle for this Kin and the symbolism of the chain cradling the female face, Whitfield Lovell explores the sense of alienation of the ordinary individual while also challenging assumptions about what it means to be accepted in society. Lovell chose to depict this woman because she immediately felt like someone he knew, reminding him of an older relative. “Nobody” is also the title of a 1905 song written by Bert Williams and Alex Rogers that was later performed by Nina Simone, one of the artist’s favorite singers.

Nobody
When life seems full of clouds an’ rain
and I am filled with naught but pain,
who soothes my thumpin’ bumpin’ brain?
Nobody
When winter comes with snow an’ sleet,
and me with hunger and cold feet,
who says “Ah, here’s two bits, go an’ eat!”
Nobody
I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody,
I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time!
And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime,
I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time!
When I try hard an’ scheme an’ plan,
to look as good as I can,
who says “Ah, look at that handsome man!”
Nobody
When all day long things go amiss,
and I go home to find some bliss,
who hands to me a glowin’ kiss?
Nobody
I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody,
I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time!
And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime,
I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time!
Nobody, no time!”
–lyrics by Bert Williams and Alex Rogers, 1905

Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works is on view through Jan. 8, 2017.