Martinsville, Virginia


New Exhibits at Piedmont Arts

By: Lauren Brooke Ellis | Programs and Public Relations Coordinator

December 28, 2023


Piedmont Arts is preparing for the newest slate of exhibits that will grace the galleries. The Gee’s Bend Experience, Jonathan Lee’s ‘Antiquity Second Hand,’ and works by Karen Despot will be on display from Saturday, Jan. 27 to Saturday, March, 26. The community is invited to join Piedmont Arts for a free opening reception in honor of the museum’s new exhibits on Friday, Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made on or by calling the museum by Jan. 22.

Known for its bold, improvisational designs and the use of recycled fabrics, Gee’s Bend’s patchwork quilting tradition began in the 19th century and continues today. These quilts constitute a crucial chapter in the history of American art. The residents of Gee’s Bend, Alabama (also known as Boykin) are direct descendants of the enslaved people who worked the cotton plantation established there in 1816 by Joseph Gee. After the Civil War, the ancestors of Gee’s Bend’s residents remained on the plantation working as sharecroppers. When cotton prices fell during the Great Depression, the community faced ruin until the Federal Government purchased 10,000 acres of the former plantation and provided loans enabling residents to acquire and farm the land. Unlike the residents of other tenant com­munities, who could be forced by economic circumstances to move — or who were sometimes evicted in retaliation for their efforts to achieve civil rights — the people of Gee’s Bend could retain their land and homes. Cultural traditions like quilt making were nourished by these continuities. Today, the non-profit organization Sew Gee's Bend Heritage Builders works to promote the quilters of Gee’s Bend and has fostered collaborations with major fashion houses like Greg Lauren, Chloe and Marfa Stance and exhibitions at major museums around the world including the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

‘Antiquity Second Hand’ is an exhibit featuring the works of Jonathan Lee. Lee is an artist and librarian living and working in Richmond, Virginia. His studio practice explores ephemeral memory, secret histories and social constructions; often through abstracting activated materials. His social practice utilizes multi-modal approaches to engage individuals, small groups, and communities with ideas through discussion, art making and display. Lee's work is made predominantly from used, discarded or repurposed materials. By altering their original form and function, Lee investigates how information is created, interpreted and renewed through individuals, communities and systems. By engaging in both art making and the research process, he solves problems of his own design while reflecting on problems in the world. Lee's work responds to both the materials and the maker, a collection of personal and communal experiences where patterns and connections are both made and broken.

The Lynwood Artists Gallery features works by Karen Despot. What makes Despot unusual is her multi-disciplinary expertise. She is equally skilled as a seamstress, a portrait painter, mural designer and painter, furniture design painter, jewelry designer and maker, wedding planner (including designing and creating the gowns of the bride and wedding party), graphic designer and art instructor. Her interest in the arts has been life-long and varied, she has produced and taught, and opened the first gallery in the area to showcase and promote local artists as well as her own school of art.

The Lynwood Artists Gallery is curated by Lynwood Artists, an organization for practicing artists in the Martinsville-Henry County area. Its members share a desire to stimulate understanding and enjoyment of fine art and the artistic process, while providing area artists with opportunities to exhibit and further develop their talents.

Exhibits are sponsored by Betty Blessin, Imogene and Isadore Draper, Ben Gravely, Mallory and Richard Joyce, Debra Poirier and George Mehaffey, Jennifer Reis and Pete Mannen, Joan and Monty Montgomery, Madie and Jim Rountree, Gail Vogler, Brenda and Joe Williams, and Lynwood Artists.