State of the Arts

Bone doll by Buddy Snipes. Photo courtesy of American Folk

The next two weeks offer a couple of unconventional opportunities to connect with local culture and influence. From an art exhibit featuring folk-heritage takes on seasonal spirit to a film focused on the German-born Bauhaus movement in America (and, specifically, Western North Carolina), it’s an insider’s perspective on regional art and craft.

The spirit of the season

The forthcoming weeks of holiday retail drudgery have long been synonymous with snowy window displays, scarf-wearing teddy bears and small, green-capped elves.

Spirit, a new exhibition opening Friday, Nov. 29, at American Folk, dodges that would-be holiday medley. That’s to say, gallerygoers won’t find Christmas-tinged, snow-covered angels or palmable holiday tchotchkes there, says Betsey-Rose Weiss, the gallery’s owner and curator.

Instead, Weiss is using these final weeks of 2013 to celebrate a year’s worth of rare finds, culled from studio visits to the more than 60 artists her gallery represents. Each year, she saves those special items for the annual exhibition, now in its 13th iteration. Among the offerings, there are pots and jugs imbued with functional-meets-spiritual folk-life heritage, wood-paneled paintings and bone dolls that suggest a greater sense of being.

“[They’re] pieces that evoke an undeniable spirit,” says Weiss. “The show is about that spirit — the spirit of the work and the season.” In each case, something immediately grabbed her attention. The works embody a deep personal reflection or intention. They’re steeped in spirituality, she says. It’s that spirit that has proved to be a signifier, definer even, of many folk artists and their works. The exhibition includes hand-carved woodwork by Lonnie and Twyla Money, paintings by Lucy Hunnicutt and Liz Sullivan, and small dolls and relic-like objects by James Buddy Snipes.

The group exhibition
Spirit opens Nov. 29 at the American Folk, 64 Biltmore Ave. A reception will follow on Friday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 8 p.m. as part of the Downtown Asheville Art District’s final art walk of the year.

Bauhaus in America

Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center’s current exhibition, Shaping Craft + Design, recent ReVIEWING conference and its ongoing itinerary of programming have all focused on the relationship and evolution of craft and design — particularly in the WNC region. But for several months, a secondary current of design, that of the Bauhaus school, has surfaced in each of these programs.

On Thursday, Dec. 5, the resource center will continue that conversation with a screening of Bauhaus in America, a film highlighting the German-founded architecture and design school’s impact on American art, architecture and design. Following the showing, UNC Asheville professor of philosophy and BMCM+AC’s board chair Brian Butler will lead a discussion.

The film begins with narratives from three former students of the original German Bauhaus school. It details the school’s inception, its closure and the lasting aesthetic and conceptual legacies as told by students, teachers, artists and architects who were part of the movement — many of whom found refuge in Black Mountain College and WNC.

The Bauhaus school was founded in 1919 by architect and designer Walter Gropius. But mounting pressure from the Nazi regime forced it to shutter in 1933. The architectural diaspora that followed saw many of the students and teachers, as well as Gropius, flee to various institutions across the United States. One of those instructors, Josef Albers, settled at Black Mountain College, where he taught design and painting courses from 1933-49.

“The Bauhaus tradition was planted here, particularly at Black Mountain College, and it flourished,” says Butler. The legacy of traditional Southern and Appalachian arts and crafts tends to restrain connections to the German-influenced style, he says. That has ultimately delayed full recognition and further discussion of the Bauhaus and Modernist impact on the area’s craft and design movements.

“The furniture industry is the obvious link. But somehow [Bauhaus] doesn’t read as either Southern or North Carolinian,” says Butler. It’s clearly impacted the region, beginning with it’s initial introduction to the area in the early 1930s. “It’s weird that North Carolina doesn’t clearly embrace this tradition of Bauhaus design,” he adds.

The screening of
Bauhaus in America takes place on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in downtown Asheville. $5 for members and students, $7 for nonmembers.

— Kyle Sherard writes about visual arts for Xpress and can be reached at

About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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