“From These Hills: Contemporary Art in the Southern Appalachian Highlands” is a long-standing tradition at William King Museum of Art, Abingdon, Virginia.
First held in 1993, this biennial exhibit is unique in its geographic scope and the talented artists it has presented who live and work in Southern Appalachia. Since that first exhibition, “From These Hills” has exhibited more than 300 artists drawn from nearly 1,000 portfolio submissions. For each biennial, WKMA invites a guest curator to provide a strong, independent voice when selecting the work to be included in the exhibit. Past curators include Ray Kass, renowned artist and professor emeritus of art at Virginia Tech; Steven Matijcio, then curator for the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art; Amy Moorfield, then the director of the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University; and Courtney McNeil, chief curator at Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia.
This year marks the 14th biennial with 24 artists from around the region chosen by guest curator Rebecca Elliot, assistant curator of craft, design and fashion at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This issue of A! Magazine for the Arts focuses on four of the artists who are in this year’s show and one artist who was in a previous show and now has a solo exhibition at The Arts Depot.
The artists who were chosen for this year’s “From These Hills” are Marie Porterfield Barry, Ruby Berry, Charles Boggs, Charlie Brouwer, Alyssa Coffin, Candice Corbin, Eric Cowan, Carrie Dyer, Cavan Fleming, Mira Gerard, Charles Goolsby, L. S. King, Mary Anna LaFratta, Brett LaGue, William Major, Patricia Mink, Mary Nees, Nikki Pynn, Torrance Redford, Eva Rocha, Halide Salam, Alice Salyer, Christy Ward and Alex Younger.
The artistic genres represented include painting, drawing, silkscreen, sculpture, video, stoneware, photography, stained glass, mixed media and weaving.
Elliot described the show this way in the exhibit catalog. “Over its 26-year history, ‘From These Hills’ has consistently shown that the artists of the Southern Appalachian Highlands are as varied in their approaches and concerns as the topography of the environment in which they live. Yet, just as one mountain range gives this region its name and sense of identity, the artists selected for this year’s exhibition share much common ground in visual relationships and thematic content.
“The nonlinear format of an exhibition such as this, which refrains from imposing an overarching narrative on the works selected, offers viewers and even the artists whom it brings together the opportunity to make connections they might not otherwise have seen. This exhibit traces but a few of the possible paths connecting these artists, grouping their work into six themes: a sense of wonder regarding nature; detailed microstructures; Appalachia as subject; art as a process of spiritual and psychological transformation; human relationships in the digital age; and the challenges faced by girls and women.
“The works selected for ‘From These Hills’ in 2019 highlight a group of artists who examine issues that resonate within this region and beyond. Their dedication both to honing their skills in their respective media and to probing their experiences to garner new insights is evident. I hope that visitors to the museum enjoy viewing their art as much as I have,”
Elliot has served as assistant curator of craft, design and fashion at the Mint Museum since 2012. At the museum, she has curated or co-curated several exhibitions related to craft and design on subjects including the costume design process of William Ivey Long; the art and craft of shoemaking; and body adornment in contemporary studio jewelry. Elliot has served on selection panels for the Arts & Science Council in Charlotte and has juried shows including the Kentuck Festival of the Arts (Kentuck, Alabama), Artsplosure (Raleigh, North Carolina) and Artisphere (Greenville, South Carolina). Prior to joining the Mint, she held curatorial positions at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Cranbrook Art Museum, and assisted on numerous exhibitions on craft and design at both institutions. Elliot holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from Smith College and a master’s degree in art history from The University of Chicago.