ABINGDON — The William King Museum of Art is highlighting Northeast Tennessee craftsmanship in its upcoming exhibit.
Called “Tennessee Fancy: Decorative Arts of Northeast Tennessee,” the exhibit opens next week in the museum’s Cultural Heritage Gallery. Curator Katie Edwards said visitors will get a glimpse into the bold, unique art made in this region between 1780 and 1940.
“We’re looking to celebrate our relationship and our unique connection to Northeast Tennessee,” Edwards said. “Being based in Southwest Virginia, occasionally it is a struggle to get people to the museum, even though a large part of our permanent collection and a large part of the shows that we do here directly relate to East Tennessee. So we’re hoping that this will be a big invitation to everyone in Northeast Tennessee to come on over the state line, just barely, and join us in this big celebration of the state.”
What to expect
Tennessee Fancy will take a close look at the things that made Tennessee art special, from colonial times to the mid-20th century. The exhibit will highlight furniture, pottery, paintings and textiles, Edwards said, along with some of the artisans who created them.
During that time period, Tennessee artists created a host of innovative designs, from the cobalt and manganese glazes on pottery from Haun, Decker and Cain, to the highly patterned woods and ‘rope and tassel’ inlay of Greene County cabinetmakers. A new generation of painters, including William Harrison Scarborough and Samuel Shaver, also thrived painting portraits in present-day Sullivan and Hawkins counties.
In addition to seeing some of those works, Edwards added that visitors may notice an interesting contrast between Tennessee and Virginia art during those years.
“Virginia was very restrained during this period. Things were beautiful, finely crafted, definitely very elegant and a little bit more modest, whereas as soon as you cross over into Tennessee, things become much more extravagant and elaborate, particularly with the furniture,” Edwards said. “Craftsmen were using a lot of different techniques per piece, so you see a lot of different inlaid patterns, lots of intricate carving and detailing, and the same for the pottery. So you might have something that’s more austere in Virginia, and then you cross over into Tennessee, and suddenly there are these contemporary looking glazes and wild patterns and lots of engraved pieces. So that’s something that we’re really excited to take a look at.”
How to attend
The exhibit will open April 1 and run through Oct. 31 at the museum, located at 415 Academy Drive in Abingdon. Admission is free and visitors can view the exhibit anytime during the museum’s operating hours: Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
Masks are required upon entry, Edwards said, and the museum will not host large crowds at this time. No opening reception will be held for this exhibit, but museum staff hope to hold a celebration later this year for both Tennessee Fancy and an upcoming contemporary exhibit.
“We’re hoping to plan something for the late summer, in which we’ll be celebrating this and a contemporary show that we have coming up called Mastering Craft, which is about contemporary craft in the region,” Edwards said. “There’s a lot of overlap in terms of technique and material, and even some visual elements in that. So we’re hoping to have some kind of event that’s going to celebrate craft in the region, but that will be definitely later in the year and, of course, dependent on the pandemic.”