The Hunter Museum of American Art is a major attraction in the heart of Chattanooga, with a collection of more than 3,000 pieces of art.
About ten years ago American Legacy featured an artist named Whitfield Lovell in an article titled “Whispers from the Walls.” The Bronx-born Lovell, whose three-dimensional tableaux—life-size charcoal portraits on pine board, punctuated with everyday (and not so everyday) objects found in flea markets and antique malls, tel the life stories of ancestors, family, and once anonymous individuals from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
There are stories here, stories to be narrated by each of Whitfield Lovell’s spare renderings of humanity. It is the use of juxtaposition that one might notice first – that each piece is composed of a charcoal or crayon drawing on a slate of wood or cream paper, and an artifact, a found object from everyday life (a figurine, a bit of rope, a chain, a knife, a fabric bouquet). The composition is clean, as if portrait and artifact are located near each other without abrasion or overlap.
Prestidigitations & Permutations By Karl F. Volkmar In one of the more curious moments in nineteenth century Europe’s fascination with spiritual phenomena and the occult, Alphonse Louis Constant, under the pen name Eliphas Levi, wrote books on the history and practice of transcendental magic in one of which he explains how to communicate with the…
Whitfield Lovell: Autour Du Monde BY JULIE L. MCGEE, Nka I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation. David Drake The American artist Whitfield Lovell has been collecting and using vintage accoutrements—the material culture of late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century African American life, including photographs — for many years. He is best…
Recent Work by Whitfield Lovell and Visions From the South BY ERIC D. BOOKHARDT Excerpt: Whitfield Lovell collects old photographs of African-Americans, often decked out in their best suits and posed formally before the camera. Displaying fine draftsmanship, he recreates their images on wooden planks and then incorporates antique symbolic objects in his eloquent sculptural…
Whitfield Lovell collects old photographs of African-Americans, often decked out in their best suits and posed formally before the camera. Displaying fine draftsmanship, he recreates their images on wooden planks and then incorporates antique symbolic objects in his eloquent sculptural assemblages. Deuce is emblematic: A black couple from a century ago posed with a Victorian chair. Extending from the front of the sepia wooden planks is a tabletop covered in antique lace and vintage silverware. The vintage objects and eerily photographic images contribute to a resonant sense of “presence” that allows us entry into a time and place different from our own, yet so familiar that we can readily relate.
“THE IMPORTANCE OF HOME, FAMILY, ANCESTRY feeds my work entirely,” says Whitfield Lovell, known for his large-scale images of African Americans, drawn in charcoal on weathered wood planks. “African Americans generally were not aware of who their ancestors were, since slaves were sold from plantation to plantation and families were split up.”
Artifacts of a bygone era—barn doors, a spinning wheel, tin snips, playing cards, a revolver, a tin cup—are culled by Whitfield Lovell for his tableaux. All are worn smooth by the hands of individuals long dead, for whom these were means of diversion, labor, self-defense or sustenance. Lovell animates the lost narratives embedded in these personal effects with shadowy charcoal portraits based on anonymous studio photographs, some drawn directly on the artifacts, others on aged wood boards.
The Interior of the “Object” of the home, the objects that furnish these homes, the objects that absent people once used: chairs, beds, glasses, guns, medicine bottles, tools, tubas and record players are in the foreground, while reserved, watchful figure seem to be inside the walls that envelop us as we enter someone’s long abandoned home.