Arts & Culture

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Nov 2, 2012 - Apr 21, 2013

Wickham House 200: Inspiring New Art Two Centuries Later

 A collaboration between the Valentine Richmond History Center and the VCU School of the Arts

The Wickham House is a spectacular example of 19th century Neo-Classical architecture and displays some of the country's finest examples of interior decorative painting. Today, the house and its contents continues to foster artistic creation. Students from the nationally recognized Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts have created site-specific works of art inspired and informed by its architecture and history. This innovative project allows the visitor to investigate new interpretive approaches for historic houses. The exhibit explores contemporary responses to the House in a variety of media and disciplines.

Perpetual Dusk by Sohail Abdullah
Perpetual Dusk by Sohail Abdullah
Perpetual Dusk by Sohail Abdullah

Robin's Room, 2012

Sohail's light installation gestures toward Robin, the enslaved butler who went to work before dawn and did not return to his room until after it was dark.  He missed the hours of changing light-an anxious time that the view will experience by peeking into the room for the door.  Dusk speaks of longing, of waiting, of anticipating arrival, and of perpetual inconsequence.

Oh!  No We never Mention Her by Rachel Cohn

Drawing Room, 2012

Rachel's dual piece gives voice back to a song in one of the Wickham family's music books.  A record player, which the visitor is invited to activate, reproduces the song that the artist recorded using her own voice, while it simultaneously triggers a praxinoscope, an amusement from the 19th century showing kinetic images related to the song's lyrics.

Potato Peelers by Sacha Ingber
Potato Peelers by Sacha Ingber
Potato Peelers by Sacha Ingber
Potato Peelers by Sacha Ingber

Entryway, Landing, Girls' Room, 2012

Sacha replicates in clay a common kitchen utensil, with the aim of creating a series of portraits of it, distinguishable by their differing surface treatements--which “resonate with the eclectic, sometimes eccentric, sometimes subdued interiors” of the house.  Ultimately, these artifacts are a reference to domesticity, taste, and ornament.

From the Window by Raewyn Martyn
From the Window by Raewyn Martyn
From the Window by Raewyn Martyn
From the Window by Raewyn Martyn

Boys' Room, Washroom, 2012

Raewyn's large sheets of peeled latex paint are draped over a period chair and a table.  The skin-like qualities of the paint itself have the potential to be both beautiful and slightly unsettling.  The process of layering thin coats of tinted transparent acrylic latex paint results in shifting lace-like patterns within the sheets.  Their translucency responds to the light within each room.

Reflecting the Past by Lili Un
Reflecting the Past by Lili Un
Reflecting the Past by Lili Un

Ladies' Parlor, 2012

Lili's work revolves around memory and history, and our relationship to them today.  a faceless mannequin dressed in a period costume opposes a minor reflecting ghostly images of 19th century-Richmond, an arresting portrait of Mrs. Wickham...and the visitor, who become an essential part of the scene, giving it a timeline and symbolizing both a separation and a connection.

Portrait of John Wickham by Adriane Connerton

Boy's Room, 2012

Adriane’s painting is a portrait of John Wickham that encompasses both historical research and invention in response to this research. Examining John Wickham through a discourse of fact and fiction, the viewer is invited to draw their own interpretations of this renowned historical figure.

Signs of Wealth by Bethany Gingrich
Signs of Wealth by Bethany Gingrich

Basement near Stairs, 2012

An interpretation of an enslaved woman in traditional clothing from the 1800s emphasizes the darker values of society at the time. Owning slaves was a sign of wealth, as well as the expensive textiles required to clothe the slaves. The rich slave owners clothed themselves with luxurious silks and opulent embroidery but offered their slaves scraps of fabric with little time to sew or one overused garment a year. This enslaved woman of the Wickham House is wearing a simple, dirty garment, and an uncharacteristically extravagant apron. Bleed dyeing and the expensive toile pattern of the apron show the struggle between the values the rich women of the house placed on textiles over their disregard for the treatment of enslaved people.

Untitled by Nicholas Irzyk

Mrs. Wickham's Library, 2012

Starting with an engraving of John Wickham from the museum's collection, Nicholas used basic image software to find an updated “portrait” of Mr. Wickham. This “portrait” which is offset lithographed on paper was culled from a searched group of images similar to the engraving in color, form and content uploaded onto the web. Chosen for its abstract qualities, the free print offers a compressed example of our evolution as an image based culture, as well as allowing patrons to take a piece of the “collection” home with them.

A Two Month Longer Christmas at the Wickham's by Veronika Pausova

Butler's Office, 2012

Veronika’s piece for the Wickham House is a painting of the dining room. The dining room is an active room; the table especially, where things are constantly being consumed, exchanged, and rearranged in a kind of elaborate, large-scale still life. The dining room, in a way, is a stage within which human dramas play themselves out.  Displayed in the Wickham house, this painting becomes a story within a story, staging what is already staged.

Foundation by Andrea Vail
Foundation by Andrea Vail

Small Bedroom, 2012

Andrea's fabric stones speak specifically of those “free and enslaved men and women who managed the daily operations... outside the view of the family.” Fifteen small sculptures, whose average size is similar to that of the human heart, are formed of silk organza and leafed with gold. Organza, chosen for its self-sustaining strength, serves as compliment to the vitality of these individuals.  “Foundation” provides the enslaved with a new presence of honor and visibility.

Exquisite Layers by Lili Un & Celina Suh

Dr. McClurg's Room, 2012

This two-person collaboration deals with the history that is buried in Richmond. Like the old layers of paint left bare in the main parlor of Wickham House or the presence of cobblestones beneath our concrete roads, Richmond itself is a living hybrid of old and new.

“Exquisite Layers” incorporates traditional painting with the new-age kinetic media of animation and projection. Lili Un, a senior in Painting at Virginia Commonwealth University, will draw inspiration from a wall in Wickham house where the original paint job has been left untouched. She is inspired by the contrast of the old paint job and the fresh coat overtop. She deals with layers of paint and fabric in her work. Celina Suh, a senior in Kinetic Imaging, created a one-channel animation projected overtop of Lili’s piece. The inclusions of the surrounding walls in the installation create an environmental experience.

Credits: Exhibit

Director of Collections & Interpretation — Meghan Glass Hughes
Registrar/Collections Manager — Jackie Finney Mullins
Director of Public Relations & Marketing — Domenick Casuccio
Museum Technician — Bethany Gingrich
Museum Technician — Janet Lundy
Intern — Debbi Sherman Price
Intern — Katherine Poole
Intern — Natalie Otsuka
Sponsors — Bill & Pam Royall

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.