UNC Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum (WAM) stands, as it always has, on the cutting edge of the contemporary art world. That is true not only in the art that hangs in the galleries, but in the artists who visit the UNCG campus.
Next Thursday, March 15, WAM and the University Concert and Lecture Series (UCLS) will host Sanford Biggers, a mixed-media artist who was featured in the Jan. 15 New Yorker magazine’s “Onward and Upward with the Arts” column. As UNCG’s Falk Visiting Artist, his work is currently on display at the Weatherspoon, in an exhibition curated by Dr. Emily Stamey. His UCLS lecture will be in Elliott University Center Auditorium at 7 p.m.
Biggers – often called a “polymathic” artist – articulates themes of history and identity through a complex array of artistic nuances and cultural references. His works in the Weatherspoon’s show are layered on an unusual and symbolic medium – antique southern quilts.
“He was interested in quilts because of the stories, true or otherwise, of quilts being used as signals on the Underground Railroad,” explained Stamey.
The images that Biggers applied to the quilts relate to astronomy, navigation, music, graffiti, sacred geometry and Buddhism. Within the pieces, viewers can find references that span from the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” to Ralph Ellison’s groundbreaking novel “Invisible Man” to elements of the transatlantic slave trade.
Accompanying these mixed-media paintings is a film, “Moonrising,” which features figures wrapped in quilts moving through a wooded landscape, while others appear in a meadow in golden masks. The film, produced by Biggers and his band Moon Medicin, serves as a meditation on the theme of migration, further linking the quilt artworks to the history of the Underground Railroad and human beings in pursuit of freedom.
The Sanford Biggers exhibition is on view at WAM through April 8. The quilts are displayed in the first-floor Tannenbaum Gallery and “Moonrising” plays next door, in the Falk Gallery.
In April, student writers in UNCG’s MFA Writing program will share original works inspired by the exhibition. They will read their work April 5 at 7 p.m., in the Tannenbaum Gallery, and a reception will follow.
For the March 15 talk, complimentary parking is available after 5 p.m. behind the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Visitors may also pay to park in the Oakland Avenue and Walker Avenue Parking Decks as space is available. For more information, visit the WAM’s Falk Visiting Artist Talk page.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Sanford Biggers