Out of Town: Highlands' Bascom Center for Visual Arts Summer Exhibitions

Some of the most contemporary art in Western North Carolina is not in Asheville. If you’ve already visited the City’s current exhibitions and have an itch to hit the road for art, the Bascom in the town of Highlands has one of the South’s most foward-thinking programming in a beautiful, rustic setting. Just 80 miles South of Asheville, and a ride that will take one into a world of waterfalls and winding gorge roads, it’s the perfect road trip for art and nature lovers.

Getting There (2 hour drive):

Via Brevard 
Via Franklin


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Established in 1985, the Bascom has evolved into a prominent cultural institution in the southern Appalachian region, and moved to its present six-acre, architect-designed campus in 2009. Its town of Highlands, with its stunning scenery and favorable climate, has been a popular haven for Southerners since the 19th century.

Here’s the current line-up of exhibitions at the Bascom


The Bascom Outdoor Sculpture Invitational

The Bascom’s first biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition curated by Cashier’s sculptor, Wesley Wofford. Works by living American artists from the Southeast are installed throughout the campus and along the Margaret and Horst Winkler Sculpture Trail. Work will remain on display through January 9, 2016.



Lands Beyond: Otherworldly Landscapes and Visionary Topographies
Through August 30

The most compelling landscape art has always incorporated elements of visionary perception; the artists of the Hudson River School, for instance, sought to capture the sense of rapture and the sublime that the untamed American wilderness stirred in them, and sometimes inserted imagined ancient ruins into their nature scenes. But visionary power is amplified to extraordinary effect in the exhibition Lands Beyond: Otherworldly Landscapes and Visionary Topographies, curated by Tom Patterson.

Writer and independent curator Tom Patterson has long been a champion for visionary and self-taught art of the Southeast. Patterson’s first curatorial project, a 20-artist show titled “Southern Visionary Folk Artists” (co-curated with Roger Manley) opened in early 1985 at R.J. Reynolds Gallery in Winston-Salem, NC, and featured the work of now-legendary artists such as the Reverend Howard Finster, Sam Doyle, St. EOM, Georgia Blizzard, and Raymond Coins. While working on “Southern Visionary Folk Artists,” Patterson moved to Winston-Salem to join forces with Jonathan Williams for the Jargon Society’s Southern Visionary Folk Art Project, a three-year effort to document examples of this non-academic art. (The Jargon Society was Williams’ small press, initially operated from Black Mountain College in the 1950s.) Patterson’s first two books were among his many projects under Jargon’s auspices, St. EOM in The Land of Pasaquan (Jargon Society, 1987) and the now-collectible Howard Finster: Stranger from Another World, (Abbeville Press, 1989).

The artists in Lands Beyond represent a new generation of American visionaries. While Patterson is best known for his curatorial work and publications on self-taught artists, Lands Beyond mixes the work of academically trained artists such as Brian Mashburn and Scott Eagle with autodidacts such as William Fields and the late Anthony Dominguez, the only artist in the exhibition who is no longer living and actively producing work. Patterson’s first foray into mixing self-taught and academic art was High on Life, his 2002-2003 show at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Given that in the post-Internet era, a clear demarcation between the contemporary art world and that of the “Outsider” artist no longer exists, the common thread in these artists’ work is what one might call a Visionary sensibility: vivid, dream-like portrayals of complex other-worlds, and a strong, lingering presence of the hand of the artist, which allows the viewer to vicariously experience the mark-making process. Patterson gives his take on what constitutes Visionary art: “The word ‘visionary’ doesn’t speak to an artist’s formal training or lack thereof. That’s the way I see it. I don’t really care about the training issue, one way or another. It’s all about the art for me. And the artist.” Patterson writes about some of the individual artists in the show: “The late Anthony Dominguez focused his visionary perception on New York City’s unique particulars and its hidden zones, where he spent over 20

Sublime Beauty: The American Landscape
For the 2015 summer season, The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts in Highlands, NC, is proud to present the exhibition Sublime Beauty: The American Landscape. The show consists of approximately 30 works drawn from museum and private collections throughout the Southeast, as well as loans from the Albany Institute of History and Art in New York. “There are some excellent Hudson River School paintings in this show that come from a private collection that haven’t been exhibited publicly in decades, if ever,” says Margaret Browne, the Bascom’s Exhibitions Curator. “A beautiful Sanford R. Gifford and a big Asher B. Durand, to name just two. Anyone who is serious about 19th-century American landscape painting needs to see this show. But everyone who appreciates the natural beauty of America will love it, and that’s most of us!”
Sublime Beauty: The American Landscape provides visitors not only with a history of 19th-century American landscape painting, but also with a thoughtful discussion of this country’s changing relationship with that landscape, as the United States tried to reconcile the preservation of its natural splendors with the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny and its industrial ambitions. The exhibition will include early works by founding Hudson River School practitioners such as Thomas Doughty and Thomas Cole, mid-19th century works by Asher B. Durand and Sanford Gifford, and later examples by William Louis Sonntag, Sr. and Herman Herzog. A circa-late 1860s painting by Mary Josephine Walters, a student of Asher B. Durand, will allow an opportunity to see a rare and major work by one of Durand’s most gifted pupils, especially significant because Walters was working at a time when women artists faced many challenges.
The show’s curator is Graham C. Boettcher, Ph.D., Chief Curator and William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Graham is one of the leading Americanists of his generation and we’re honored to have him curating this show,” said Browne. “He knows what makes a great American painting, and he knows where the best examples of this work are in the Southeast.” Boettcher was a contributor to the exhibitions and publications American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880 (Tate Britain, 2002) and Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery (2008). Among the numerous exhibitions Boettcher has curated at the Birmingham Museum of Art are Into the Woods: American Art and the Natural Sublime, Sea Fever: American Art and the Aquatic Imagination, and A Masterpiece in Our Midst: Robert S. Duncanson’s “A Dream of Italy.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, including an introductory essay by Dr. Boettcher and a color illustration and extended catalogue entry for each painting. The catalogue contributes new knowledge to the field of 19th-century American art, thanks to original research conducted by Boettcher on many of the paintings in the show.

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