Winston-Salem Delta Arts Center to feature works by Gastonia native John Biggers

Winston-Salem Delta Arts Center to feature works by Gastonia native John Biggers
October 29
00:00 2015

Above: Harvesters II by John Biggers (Submitted photo)

By Ashlea Jones
For The Chronicle

John T. Biggers (1924–2001), an African-American muralist, painter, educator and Gastonia native, has not been forgotten. Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts Center presents, “Remembering John Biggers,” an exhibition of his prints and drawings.

The exhibit, from Nov. 3, 2015, through Jan. 30, 2016, will feature works from Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts’ permanent collection and the works from private and public collections across the state.

An opening reception will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, in the Simona Atkins Allen Gallery at Delta Arts Center.

“Everyone should definitely come out,” said Joanne Fant, an associate at the Delta Fine Arts Center.

Biggers came into prominence after the Harlem Renaissance. Biggers was introduced to art at the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) after he enrolled in an art class taught by art educator Viktor Lowenfeld, a Jewish refugee from Austria.

“John Biggers is a native of North Carolina, and we always want to celebrate the achievements of our own,” said Dr. Alison Fleming, secretary of the Board of Directors and co-chair of the exhibition committee at Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts Inc. “At the Delta Arts Center, our exhibits often focus on artists in our community. Biggers was not only an artist, but an educator. He earned a doctorate in education at Penn State University and taught at Texas Southern University. He understood the significant role that art plays in all of our lives, and promoted this through education.”

The relationship between Biggers and Delta Arts Center dates back to his participation in the landmark exhibition “Reflections: The Afro-American Artist,” which was hosted by the Delta Arts Center and held at the Benton Convention Center in 1972.

A year after the exhibition, the center purchased the painting Laundry Women from Biggers and donated it to Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). The “Remembering John Biggers” exhibition will feature two pieces donated by WSSU: the Harvesters II and the Black Key Drawing for Family Arc.

“‘The Remembering John Biggers’ exhibition is a wonderful kind of retrospective of his work,” stated Endia Beal, director of WSSU’s Diggs Gallery. “You get to see many of his paintings, his drawings and really look at his study of saco geometry and the African Aesthetic. I think the exhibition is going to be a wonderful commemoration of all the great things that he’s done.”

The current exhibition will highlight prints and drawings created by Biggers from the 1960s to the 1990s, including a limited edition of lithographs that accompany the poem “Our Grandmothers” by Dr. Maya Angelou.

“John Biggers is part of an elite group of artists that hail from North Carolina; remembering them and their art helps us to promote our state, and to encourage future artists,” said Fleming. North Carolinians can relate to the ideas and images he depicts, and these pieces are a valuable part of our heritages.”

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