Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 21, 2013

Portsmouth home to late artist

Southern Ohio Museum has large collection of Carter works, more

Lee Ward
The Independent

PORTSMOUTH — Led by their teacher, a trail of well-behaved children trickles through the downstairs gallery of the Southern Ohio Museum.

The students are coming for an art education program at the museum on Gallia Street, just part of the mission the museum seeks to fulfill.

Home to some stunning permanent collections, the museum recently welcomed two new directors, Mark Chepp and Charlotte Gordon, to its staff.

At the same time, the museum opened the exhibit “Ohio Designer Craftsmen: Best of 2013,” a show that includes a large amount of fabric art as well as installation pieces, glass, sculpture and other pieces by artists from the Buckeye state.

The exhibit will continue through Sept. 20.

Tamie Beldue’s “Pliable Observations” will continue through Aug. 10 with an artist gallery talk and reception at 5 p.m. Aug. 9. Beldue’s exhibit of portraits in graphite and wax are soft and subtle and many convey a dreamlike state.

Among the permanent collections is the Clarence H. Carter Collection.

Carter, a native of Portsmouth, studied at the Cleveland School of Art and, at 30, was the first resident of Ohio to have a painting purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the museum bought a painting called “The Creepers,” which was painted in 1936. He won the 1972 Cleveland Arts Prize for the Visual Arts and is considered by many to be the most successful artist to come out of Cleveland.

Tom Bridwell, facilities manager at the museum, said when Carter died in 2000, the museum received the contents of Carter’s studio, which included his easel, a painting that was in progress, 36 spiral-bound notebooks of letters written by his wife and a chest of drawers that contained historically significant information.

“During his life, he never admitted to painting from photographs,” Bridwell said. “But that chest was full of photographs. Compositionally, you can track them almost exactly to the painting.” He added while Carter made much of his income from his watercolors, he also used watercolors to workout ideas he would later paint in oil on a much larger scale.

He said Carter and a friend of his traveled to photograph scenes he would later paint. Often his paintings depicted a difficult life in beautiful surroundings and his ability to accurately portray textures gave rise to the term superrealism. Much of his subject matter came from his upbringing in the Portsmouth area. “The Flood,” thought to have been inspired by the flood of 1913, was his first prize-winning entry in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s annual juried showcase of regional artists, The May Show, and  brought him $25, according to clevelandartsprize.com. Cleveland industrialist Ralph Coe purchased it for $100 from the show. Years later, Carter bought it back. The painting had a special place in his heart, he said, because it was the work that had brought him to the attention of the museum’s director, William Milliken, who became his champion.

Bridwell said Carter’s watercolors brought him between $3,000 and $4,000 each and many collected his works in the 1930s and ’40s.

Although known for realism, Bridwell said, in his later years, Carter became more abstract.

“He was a champion of the old style, of realism and naturalism,” Bridwell said. “Then in the 1960s, as he got older and maybe became more aware of his mortality, that’s when the more modern pieces began.”

A series of huge canvases the artist referred to collectively as “Over and Above” featured giant insects, birds and other animals peering over walls at the viewer, according to clevelandartsprize.com.

The museum also includes The Carl Ackerman Collection of Historic Photographs, which consists of more than 10,000 historic local photographs archived at the museum.

There is a library with a wealth of art books and the permanent exhibit “Art of the Ancients: The Ohio Valley,” which is a collection of 10,000 ancient objects ranging in age from 1,500 to 8,000 years old.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.