An art professor from Patrick Henry Community College is showing an exhibition representing three years of work in a new show at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke.
Gerry Bannan’s “Vanitas” is described as a collection of still life arrangements connected to the art tradition vanitas, which comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible from a passage that states: “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.”
“The point behind this is the idea that the word vanity is referring to futility,” Bannan said. “When someone says, ‘all my efforts were in vain,’ it’s more about the futile than being egotistical. The purpose, spiritually, is to remember and be humble in the face of your own mortality. The vanity refers to the efforts and achievements that one makes in life, but one should always remember in the end that your earthly life is finite.”
Bannan used BIC brand crystal ballpoint pens to create nine pen and ink drawings on Mylar, a form of polyester material.
“A lot of people found that fascinating because these pens are such a common, every day, mundane writing tool,” he said. “But I have found them to be wonderfully versatile at art making in that they have a great range of tonal quality… People are familiar with them. When they look at my drawings and think about their experiences with BIC pens, I think it connects them to the work in a way that you don’t get connected to a bronze sculpture because it’s not something people do every day.”
Bannan’s drawings in the exhibit range in size from 12-by-16 inches to more than six feet long. The largest is 20 inches high by 72 inches long.
“People often ask how long they take to create, and they can take a very long time to make,” he said. “It takes months for some of the larger ones. Art making takes a lot of time, and sometimes people don’t realize the actual time that an artist needs to put into the creation of their work. People may think if a person is talented then the work just happens, but there’s always an element of actual time that needs to be put into developing the work.”
Bannan said his drawings also include a great deal of memento mori imagery, which is Latin for “remember death.” He said this is depicted by symbols including skulls, fading flowers, ribbons and scissors.
In addition to his drawings, he’s also displaying two still life tableaus from the setups he used in creating the artwork.
“Building up these collections of objects is part of the drawing process,” he said. “The curator visited my studio and said she would like to have one or two of them included in the exhibition. It’s really great because it makes me think of them differently as maybe artworks in themselves, whereas before, I always thought they were in service of the drawing.”
Bannan received his bachelor of fine arts in printmaking from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pa. and his master of fine arts from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s participated in solo and group exhibitions in several states including Virginia, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Bannan also owns BanG Studios in downtown Roanoke, a fine arts gallery and studio he operates with his wife Betsy Bannan.
“Vanitas” will be on display until March 21, 2015. Bannan will give workshops and gallery talks in connection with the show, some of which are planned for early next year. Check www.taubmanmuseum.org for details.
Amy G. Moorefield, deputy director of exhibitions at Taubman, curated this exhibit. To find out more about Bannan’s work, visit www.gerrybannan.com.
School is back in session but you can still get away for a little weekend adventure. Load up the family for a fun day trip to Martinsville-Henry County, Virginia in search of public art. You’ll be amazed at the variety of exhibits on display throughout the community.
A drive through the historic Uptown District of Martinsville will take you past four significant outdoor murals. The “Circus Mural”, by John Stiles, is located at the corner of Franklin and Main Streets in Martinsville. It is a cheerful look back in time to 1920 when the circus came to town. The work depicts a parade of elephants wearing colorful banners as they plodded through the streets to herald the upcoming performance. You can even see an actual photo of this day in time by visiting the nearby Martinsville-Henry County Historical Museum on Church Street.
“Old Glory”, located on Franklin Street in Martinsville at the Theatre Works Black Box is a 38’ by 18’ American Flag painted by world renowned artist Scott Lobaido. Just looking at the incredible detail of this mural you can almost see the flag rippling in the wind. The most remarkable thing about it is that the creation was completed in just one day! Lobaido, known for his speed painting techniques, created the patriotic work in honor of local veteran, Cpl. JB Kerns who lost three limbs while serving in Afghanistan.
The “Uptown Farmers’ Market Mural”, by Betty LaDuke, depicts the role of agriculture in society and showcases the people that help bring food to our tables. After the mural was mounted to the wall at the Market on Church Street in Martinsville, a group of high school students under the direction of local artist Celia Tucker created their own interpretations of LaDuke’s work. The student’s wooden painted cutouts of produce and farmers can be seen throughout the Market.
The newest mural in Uptown Martinsville is “June German Ball.” Located on Martinsville's historic Fayette Street, the mural depicts a fictional scene from one of Martinsville's famed June German Balls, which were popular within the African American community in the early part of the 20th century. These balls were held yearly, in the heat of June, and featured celebrated entertainers from the Jazz age like Jimmie Lunceford & His Dance Orchestra, who performed at the event in 1938. The mural was designed and painted by Abigail Kieselbach and Briana Amos, interns participating in the New College Institute's summer internship program; local artists Charles Hill, Iris Gillispie and Lex Hairston; Piedmont Arts intern, Ally Sneed; New College Institute's Coordinator of Experimental Learning, Katie Croft; and Piedmont Arts' Director of Marketing, Communications and Design, Bernadette Moore.
Just a short walk from Uptown, you can see a variety of sculptures. The brushed steel sculpture, “Kabuki Dancer” by Barry Tinsley can be seen on the grounds of Piedmont Arts on Starling Avenue. Artist Ed Dolinger created a variety of sculptures, inspired by nature, that are found along the Uptown Connection Trail and Silverbell Trail in Martinsville. They include large-scale leaves, Silverbell blooms and small bronze sculptures of native Virginia wildlife. Young children will especially love searching for Dolinger’s bronze animals that are “hidden” along the corridor of the Silverbell Trail. There are eight animals to be found, including a rabbit, frog, turtle and trout.
Just a short drive from Martinsville, in the Village of Fieldale, you’ll find an iconic structure now repurposed as a piece of trail art. The 1931 Fieldale Iron Bridge was a beloved part of the community as many tales revolved around events that occurred on, above and under the bridge. The iron truss bridge spanning the Smith River was slated to be destroyed in 2009 to make way for a more modern concrete bridge until the community rallied together to preserve a piece of it. Located in Fieldale along South River Road, the structure now bears the names of nearly one-hundred past and present residents that cared to see the bridge saved by contributing financially to the preservation effort.
For a more lighthearted category of art, drive around the community to see how many painted brontosaurus sculptures your family can find. Part of the exhibition “Dinosaurs on Parade” you can find the long-necked dinos in a variety of places throughout the community. See if you can locate the cowboy, the student, the mirror-ball dino and even the friendly fellow named “Bud Ice-cream-a-saurus.”
Two of the area’s indoor murals are available for viewing on weekdays. Inside the SunTrust Bank on Church Street, a 73-foot long mural by Richmond artist H. Warren Billings hangs just behind the teller’s counter. The mural, which took a year to complete, highlights Virginia and local history. It features eight detailed scenes from 1705-1832, including: The Capital in Williamsburg; Richmond; The Henry County Courthouse; The Colonel Joseph Martin House; The Major John Redd House; Stratford Hall; Redd House; and Lover's Leap in Patrick County.
One of the most historic works of art in the community is the 1939 fresco, “Manufacture of Furniture” by Walter Carnelli. The mural is located in the historic Bassett Post Office on Fairystone Park Highway in Bassett and it depicts scenes of furniture makers at work. This is one of a series of murals across Virginia that was commissioned by the WPA under the Treasury Department. The fresco technique involved painting onto wet lime plaster. As the plaster dried, the pigments were embedded and became part of the building’s walls.
From industry and architecture to history, nature and culture, the topics of area works of public art are very diverse. Have fun discovering each of these area treasures with your family and who knows - you might inspire a future generation of artists!
If you need help locating any of these public art sites, visit the Martinsville-Henry County Visitor Center (191 Fayette Street, Martinsville) for maps and helpful information. While there, pick up a copy of the Family Fun Passport that will enable you to earn a free t-shirt, just for visiting some of these sites.
The Patriot Players at Patrick Henry Community College are putting on a show this fall explores love and acceptance, and has cast members doing a little soul searching of their own.
On the surface, “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: A Musical Comedy” is a comedic show that follows a group of pre-teens as they compete for the spelling championship of a lifetime, while also revealing funny and touching stories from their home lives. Director Devin Pendleton said he hopes audience members will walk away entertained but also enlightened about issues affecting youth.
“This show is a first for us in being able to showcase difference,” he said. “I think the show hints to the fact that we can all come together in a diverse way, which is what theatre is. We have the opportunity to forget all the issues that await us outside the theatre door and feel safe – even if it’s only for a few hours.”
Bryan Dunn, a theatre instructor at Magna Vista High School and playing the role of William Barfee, said his character takes nerdiness to a new level.
“He’s someone who has been bullied all his life and feels the only way he can control things is to bully everyone back,” he said. “But in the end, he actually allows people to be nice to him and he allows someone to change him.”
As part of the show, the community will have the chance to give a donation to Stand for the Silent, a group started in 2010 by a group of students at Oklahoma State University after hearing the story of Kirk and Laura Smalley’s son, Ty Smalley. He took his own life at 11 years old after being suspended from school for retaliating against a bully. The group’s mission is to address the issue of school bullying through education and understanding.
“Stand for the Silent speaks to secondary age school kids, which is where school was the worse for me,” Pendleton said. “It wasn’t until high school that I started to develop my way in figuring out who I wanted to be. With October being National Bullying Prevention Month, we're excited to bring awareness to this very important issue.”
Stand for the Silent reports that 60 percent of fourth through eighth graders say they are the victims of bullying. The organization asks that everyone take a pledge to respect each other and help victims of bullying. More information can be found at ww.standforthesilent.org.
“Stand for the Silent is very honored and proud to be supported by the PHCC Patriot Players and their show, ‘25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,’ Kirk Smalley said. “We are so appreciative of everyone for helping us to take a stand against bullying by raising awareness to it and youth suicide.”
"Spelling Bee" characters run the gambit of personality types seen in school age children, including the loner, overachiever and the dreamer. The role of Logainne S., played by Sarah Webb, is the definition of a “try-hard,” according to Webb.
“In many ways I connect with my character because I do try my hardest to do my best at everything,” she said. “I think about all the pressure I’m under as a student, trying not to crack under it and trying to please everyone. I can definitely relate.”
“Spelling Bee” also deals with characters trying to find their place in the world. Dunn said, “I think I work on finding myself every day. I look at my students and see different parts of what I was and how much I’ve grown, but I also have an understanding of how much more I have to learn.”
Brandi Collins-Burnette, a speller and part of the ensemble, said identifying with the underdog made her want to try out for “Spelling Bee.”
“I suffer from dysautonomia with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or known as POTS, so I know a little about relating to the underdog and dealing with challenges on a daily basis,” she said. “I wanted to do this show to bring a little awareness to that.”
She also added that going through middle and high school, there was a time where she didn’t know who she was as a person.
“I was the chubby kid and I had an eating disorder in high school, but being in theatre in high school and as an adult has really helped define who I am,” she said. “It’s a place of acceptance with open arms for all people. It really has given me a place to find myself.”
Jane Leizer, program director for Patriot Players, said “Spelling Bee” is a show that will make audience-goers laugh, cry, and make them think about issues that young people deal with on a daily basis.
“Let’s face it – growing up is hard,” she said. “Sometimes, kids need to talk and be recognized for the struggles they go through. Hopefully, this show will open up a dialogue among kids, parents and teachers.”
Leizer said with each Patriot Players show, there’s a new issue to tackle.
“‘Purlie’ talked about racism and love, and Shrek taught us that everyone is capable of love – even an ogre,” she said. “We have actors ranging in age from 13 to 62 in this show, and they learn a lot from each other. I’m 63 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Theatre allows you to look at all the wonderful things you can imagine and see them come to life.”
The show is rated PG-13 for some adult humor and minimal adult language. Performances run Nov. 6-8 and Nov. 13-15 at 7 p.m. in Walker Fine Arts Theatre. Tickets are $12 and available now at the PHCC Switchboard or by calling (276) 638-8777. They also will be available for purchase at the door. For additional information, visit www.patrickhenry.edu/patriotplayers.