This spring, Reynolda House Museum of American Art will host its first exhibition of Western art since opening the Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing 10 years ago. “George Catlin’s American Buffalo” will be on view at the museum Feb. 13-May 3, 2015.
The exhibition presents 40 Catlin paintings from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. George Catlin (1796-1872) was one of the first painters of European heritage to depict Native Americans. The exhibition explores Catlin’s representations of the indigenous people of the Great Plains in the early decades of the 19th century and the centrality of the buffalo to their cultures. In vivid canvases often marked by dramatic action, Catlin demonstrated the importance of the buffalo for sustenance, for housing and clothing, and in spiritual ceremonies in the lives of Plains Indian tribes.
Reynolda House curators have created several partnerships to enhance Reynolda’s presentation of this national touring exhibition. Alongside the paintings, exhibition visitors will see three first edition volumes of a work Catlin published in 1841 titled “Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians,” on loan from the Special Collections & Archives of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. A small complementary exhibition on view at the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest, “At Home on the Plains,” will showcase Plains Indians objects from its collections, including two Comanche painted hide robes and beaded moccasins from the Cree and Lakota tribes.
Collaborations with the Guilford Native American Association and the North Carolina Commission on Indian Affairs resulted in a blessing ceremony to be held the day before the exhibition opens to the public and a free community day Pow Wow planned in April.
“This exhibition provides a marvelous opportunity for our audiences to learn about the cultures of Plains Indians tribes in the early 19th century,” said Elizabeth Chew, the museum’s Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division. “We also wanted to celebrate and learn about the cultures of local, contemporary Native Americans. We’re fortunate to have such rich resources in North Carolina and on our campus that help us continue the story of American Indians several decades beyond George Catlin’s trips to the West.”
For the exhibition’s opening weekend, Reynolda House is offering a ticket package that includes admission to the museum and several added benefits. Opening weekend ticket packages include priority admission to the exhibition; a limited-edition, custom exhibition t-shirt designed and printed by Winston-Salem based Airtype Studio; a 10% coupon for dining at the original Village Tavern in Historic Reynolda Village; and a unique photo opportunity at the Museum.
“There’s something special about seeing a major exhibition like this on its opening weekend,” said Sarah Smith, director of external relations at the museum. “There’s been growing excitement about this exhibition being on view in North Carolina, and we wanted to enhance the experience of the first visitors to see the buffalo in Winston-Salem.”
Reynolda House will offer a variety of programs and events connected to “George Catlin’s American Buffalo”. Those events include:
Thursday, Feb. 19 at noon – Gallery talk by Elizabeth Chew, Ph.D., Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division: “George Catlin and the Art of the American West.” Cost is free with museum admission.
Saturday, March 7, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Mini-Symposium on Visions of the Great Plains: George Catlin and American Indians. Cost is $15, free for museum members and students. This event is sponsored by Vernon & Frankie Winters.
Joan Carpenter Troccoli: “George Catlin’s Indian Gallery”
Troccoli is co-curator of the exhibition George Catlin: American Indian Portraits, which opened in 2013 at the National Portrait Gallery, London. She is founding director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum, former director of the Gilcrease Museum, and author of Painters and the American West.
Castle McLaughlin: “Traditional Arts of the Great Plains”
McLaughlin is curator of North American Ethnography at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. A social anthropologist, her research focuses on the historic and contemporary west. She has conducted extensive fieldwork on Native American arts and art markets, ranching, agrarian economics, and the cultural history of wild horses. She teaches visual anthropology and museology at Harvard, conducts museum-based research, and has collaborated with Native American artists on several major exhibitions.
You can find scheduling and ticketing information HERE.