Why You Should Go “Way Out West” with Ackland Art Museum

I got a preview of Ackland Art Museum’s latest exhibition, which explores artistic responses to the American West.

I think it’s important to realize how special our environment is, and the lens through which we view it. How do we play into this? I think that’s a great thrust throughout the show. How people are incorporated into the landscape, and how it’s beautiful, and worth saving.

Dana Cowen, Ackland Art Museum Curator on
Way Out West: Celebrating the Gift of the Hugh A. McAllister Jr. Collection

If you want to get a dose of the beauty and culture of the American West without the five hour flight from RDU, stop by Ackland Art Museum’s latest exhibition, “Way Out West: Celebrating the Gift of the Hugh A. McAllister Jr. Collection.”

The red rock and broad horizons of the American West have long inspired the Eastern imagination. Those landscapes certainly had a hold on Hugh A. McAllister Jr., the famous cardiologist and UNC alum who, in his recent passing, donated over twenty artworks portraying the American West to Ackland Art Museum. “Way Out West” is a celebration of the McAllister gift, and marks curator Dana Cowen’s first exhibition for Ackland Art Museum.

Incorporating donations from the McAllister collection and works from Ackland’s holdings, “Way Out West” is a tribute to inspiring Western landscape s- and a critique of artistic perspectives. The exhibition asks the audience to consider just who’s looking at the landscape. What do they see, and why do they see it that way?

With works from the late nineteenth century onwards, “Way Out West” is a gathering of a wide variety of media and a wide variety perspectives. There’s no arguing with the individual and collective beauty of the paintings, photography, sculpture, and other media, and a viewer could take that beauty at face value. But “Way Out West” asks more.

Brett Weston, American, 1911-1993
Garapata Beach, California, 1954, printed in 1978
10 9/16 x 13 1/4 in.
Ackland Fund, 80.53.3
Courtesy of Ackland Art Museum

With a keen eye for cultural interaction and its impact on the environment, curator Dana Cowen creates a reckoning with the inspiration and violence inherent in artistic representation of the American West.

19th century painters and photographers captured the romance of the West’s sweeping vistas. Painters Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran and photographers Carleton Watkins and Timothy O’Sullivan portrayed the West with an eye for luminosity and European aesthetics.

However, these artists did not acknowledge the Native Americans that inhabited the West, the violence being perpetrated against them at that time, or the industry that was rapidly transforming the land. These paintings and photographs portray a pristine landscape ripe for the picking by white settlers. “Way Out West” acknowledges the beauty of these artworks while asking the audience to consider their problematic nature.

An array of work from Native American artists featured in “Way Out West” ranges from the early 20th century to present day. Highlighted artists include Awa Tsireh, Romando Vigil, and Larry McNeil. Alongside depictions of Navajo and Pueblo culture, much of the featured art critiques how non-native artists portray Native Americans. These critiques land with particular power when juxtaposed with early twentieth art from white artists that romanticized and infantilized Native Americans.

“Way Out West” also pulls from Ackland’s vast photography collection, showing work by Edward Weston and Peter Goin, among others, that explores the transformation of the American West over the course of the twentieth century.

In an examination of the effects of industry and tourism on the environment, “Way Out West” concludes with a strong message of appreciation for the beauty of the American West, and the imperative to protect it.

Ackland Art Museum will host several events for “Way Out West,” including guided tours, 2nd Friday ArtWalk events, and opportunities to create artwork inspired by the exhibition.

Further details and event listings here.

Header Image:

Thomas Moran, American, born in England, 1837-1926, Virgin River, Utah, 1908, oil on canvas, 20 x 30 inches The Hugh A. McAllister, Jr., M.D. Collection, 2019.15.22 , Courtesy of Ackland Art Museum

Follow The Triangle Guide

Twitter: @GuideTriangle

Instagram: @thetriangleguide

Facebook: @guidetriangle

Q&A: Raleigh Scratchboard Artist Dorian Monsalve

A Q&A with Raleigh-based artist Dorian Monsalve, who brings fantastical visions to life in his surrealist scratchboard art.

Looking at Dorian Monsalve’s surrealist scratchboard art is like peering through an incredibly detailed kaleidoscope. Every glance reveals a new perspective. There are a multitude of vividly colored dimensions, each etched with unconventional shapes, textures, and ghoulish faces.

Scratchboard art- scratching away layers of ink on a clayboard to create images- captivated Monsalve since he first encountered the medium in high school.

Trained in Colombia and New Jersey, the now Raleigh-based Monsalve has exhibited in the Triangle since 2015. With solo and group exhibitions including CAMRaleigh, The ArtsCenter, Trophy Tap & Table, City Gallery, and merit awards from Litmus Gallery & Studios and the Maria V. Howard Arts Center, Monsalve’s work brings fantastical visions to the Triangle arts scene.

Monsalve walked me through his artistic process, the reception to his work in the Triangle, and how his art connects him with the universe.

When did you first encounter scratchboard art, and what were your initial impressions of the medium?

The first encounter with scratchboard was in high school in my senior year. I thought scratchboard was so fun to create images just by using a sharp tool and etching away the india ink through either lines or crosshatching. The best was the high contrast on the drawings and how detailed I could be with this medium.

Totem for a Broken Soul, Dorian Monsalve

Walk us through your artistic process. How do you go about selecting the colors you’ll use in a piece? Are the images you create planned in advance, or do they emerge organically as you create?

The white clayboard can be pre-inked with any colored ink you wish rather than the black india scratchboard that already comes pre-inked with black india. In order to apply the color you will have to etch the image, then paint, or just keep it black and white. Most of the time I’m using white clayboard. I select the ink colors, layer them and apply them randomly with different materials such as plastic, metal pieces, or any elements that create different textures.

Once the ink is dry, I start revealing the imagery and scape by rubbing a steel wool all around the piece. Then I visualize and explore, always finding faces or fantasy beings.  To bring the image forward or faded away I use a fiberglass brush, then for a more intricate detail I use x-acto blades, speedball tips of different sizes and tools that I invent. All imagery that emerges is from deep inside my being and from what I call the source, always inspired by instrumental music, nature, and the micro/macro cosmos.

Psychedelic Beast, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve been exhibiting in the Triangle since 2015. How would you describe the reception to your work in North Carolina?

My artwork has been appreciated and admired among artists and all public in general. My scratchboard art has been described as mysterious, macabre, dark and transforming (enlightening). The public has interacted with my work by looking through magnifying glasses that I provide to explore all the small details. The closer you get the more images are revealed.

Emergence of the Beast, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve often described experimental scratchboard art as a way of connecting with your inner self and the infinite. Your work tends toward the surrealistic, even the psychedelic. Do you find that surrealism is the most honest expression of your subconscious world?

I believe abstract, surrealism, psychedelic or even visionary art are just a word to label certain type of artworks. The soul is our/my most honest expression of ones/my subconscious world. It all comes from the source, God or however you wish to call it. “We are the instruments receiving divine energy from the source to materialize all beauty”.

Vortex III, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve been experimenting with scratchboard art for twelve years. What are you most looking forward to seeing in your personal artistic explorations of the medium, and in the wider world of scratchboard art?

What I am looking forward in seeing in my personal artistic journey with this medium is to accept, learn and experience all my soul and being by expressing sacred images, and bringing awareness that we are all one with the universe. The same way all the parts, organs, cells, even the microscopic atoms in our bodies are part of one single being. I am a reflection of the universe, so is my artwork.

Shaman Connection, Dorian Monsalve

All images courtesy of the artist.

Follow Dorian Monsalve


Facebook: @DorianMonsalveScratchArt

Instagram: @dorianmonsalve

Twitter: @dorian_monsalve

More Q&As

Q&A: Artist Britt Flood Gets Personal with Public Art in the Triangle

Q&A: Photographer Alex Yllanes Captures the Beauty of the Triangle

Q&A: Raleigh Rapper Sean Kyd on Ambition

Follow The Triangle Guide

Twitter: @GuideTriangle

Instagram: @thetriangleguide

Facebook: @guidetriangle

Get Hype for Local Web Series

In Hype, a new web series, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

To say that Durham itself is a character in Hype, a new local web series, would be a cliché…and an understatement. In partnership with Runaway, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham as only someone who’s lived here could, with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

The Durham of Hype shapes its characters, rocks them to sleep, cracks them open and gets cracked open by them in return.

The protagonist, Smiles, ends up embroiled in Durham’s rap and startup scenes. His motivation? To buy back the house his sweetheart’s family was forced out of by rising rent costs. The irrepressible Ava (Andie Morgenlander) latches onto Smiles as her partner in the startup business.

Meanwhile, a fixture in the local rap scene, Bulldoze, and his younger brother Cris (impressively played by Dartez Wright and Melvin Gray Jr.) butt heads with Rakim Wilde (Leroy Shingu).  Wilde lacks Bulldoze’s talent, but is getting radio play.

When the parallel stories collide, fireworks ensue.

Shot on site, the scenery and rhythms of the city are right in ways an outsider couldn’t capture. The wide shots of local favorites Alley Twenty Six, The Durham and Motorco are fun anchors to Durham’s geography. Hype also captures the specific, lopsided lilt of a Durham house party to a tee. It doesn’t hurt that the rollicking soundtrack is packed with local talent.

So, is hyper-local Hype worth…you know…the hype? Yes. Easily so. Strong writing, direction, and cinematography would make this a series to watch in a market laden with good offerings. The acting doesn’t always hit the mark, and sometimes the writing could be a little tighter, but that’s okay. Hype has to be considered as the first of its kind. It makes a formidable launching pad for new series to be shot in the area.

When thinking of Hype as pioneering media for the Triangle, consider Hype as a title. Referring both to excitement and to the inflated self-marketing required to succeed, the characters in this web series confront the need to hype themselves up to the outside world.

In Hype, as in the real Durham, the bristling creativity that makes the city so exciting may also condemn it to being ruined by gentrification.

While that conflict is rarely directly addressed in the dialogue, it is keenly felt. The characters risk their livelihoods as underdogs in an underdog city. When you fail, you fail yourself, your family, and your hometown. Hype is a living, breathing portrayal of a struggle the city hasn’t resolved yet.

Hype, at its best, is simultaneously a balm and a friendly grin to anyone who’s called Durham home, as well as a primer to the area for anyone unfamiliar with its joys and pitfalls.

Yes, watch Hype. Yes, talk it up for its hometown grit and charm. But this is a series well worth watching on its own merit. Fundraising is currently underway for the next season. Get hype.

Watch Hype


Follow The Triangle Guide

Twitter: @GuideTriangle

Instagram: @thetriangleguide

Facebook: @guidetriangle

Review: Nick Dahlstrom’s con(TEXTURED) at The Carrack

In his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom explores the importance of context through oil paintings of raw meat.

In (con)TEXTURED, his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom decks The Carrack’s walls with oil paintings that are both gruesome and beautiful. In his depictions of raw meat and dried flowers, Dahlstrom explores the essence of texture and the importance of context.

Paintings of Meat?

It sounds strange, but meat as a subject is not as unusual as you might think. Dahlstrom cites Francis Bacon as an influence, an artist who portrayed meat as a subject and symbol in several of his works, including the haunting Figure with Meat.

Victoria Reynolds also comes to mind. Her paintings of meat straddle the line between gore and beauty. They’re also displayed in elaborate baroque frames. Plus, the meat is highly stylized- check out Fat of the Lamb for a prime example. Dahlstrom takes a more restrained, contemporary approach than Reynolds. He positions raw chicken, beef, and bacon simply, in negative space.

The Devil’s in the Details

Examined at close range, the array of textures in Dahlstrom’s paintings are astonishing. Great globs of paint coexist with chunks of opalescent tissue. Skeins of fat are as delicate as gossamer.

Painted in bright colors, Dahlstrom’s flowers retain the gore of the meat- the frilly tubes of an orchid look anatomical. If the bacon, beef, and chicken are reminiscent of the human body’s insides, the flowers look quite a bit like sexual organs.

It’s easy to wallow in the textured details of Dahlstrom’s work… which is probably the artist’s intention.

(con)Textured in Context

Back to the title of the exhibition: (con)TEXTURED. The definition of the word “contexture” is “a mass of individual parts woven together.” With the title in mind, the viewer must consider that every individual texture in these paintings is part of a greater whole- in the painting, and in the exhibition.

Notably, a statement is missing from the display itself, but you can find it on The Carrack’s website:

“The photograph has become synonymous with truth. Freed from context, the mind is forced to fill in the blanks likely forming falsehoods in place of realities. In the age of the artificial image “are we reading too much into it?””

Dahlstrom, by not putting the statement in the space itself, frees the art from context. Without context, the viewer can prioritize whatever they want. (con)TEXTURED is all about the importance of context. And in our current political climate and the carousel of today’s news cycle, when anyone can prioritize any detail to form the bigger picture they want to see, context is more relevant than ever.

Pertinent, beautiful, intriguing, grisly- don’t miss (con)TEXTURED. You can judge the meaning of the exhibition for yourself at The Carrack until December 23. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.

Nick Dahlstrom will be giving an artist’s talk on December 21 at 7PM during The Carrack’s Third Friday reception.

You can find more information about (con)TEXTURED here.

Follow The Triangle Guide

Twitter: @GuideTriangle

Instagram: @thetriangleguide

Facebook: @guidetriangle

Q&A: Artist Britt Flood Gets Personal with Public Art in the Triangle

Visual artist Britt Flood on inspiration and her hopes for public art in the Triangle.

Visual artist Britt Flood is all about making the private public- that is to say, she depicts our most secret moments in her public art.

The Pittsboro-based artist has exhibited work and contributed to public art installations all over the Triangle, including DPAC, the North Carolina Museum of Art, VAE, and many more. Working in a wide range of media, Flood most often explores themes of intimacy in her work.

Flowers bloom from the faces of lovers, vines twining to show two lives growing together. A kiss is rendered in neon pinks and blues. Our most private expressions of emotion become communal experiences- a point of bonding between strangers as the beauty of the intensely personal becomes accessible in the public sphere.

I caught up with Flood on her inspirations, the Triangle arts scene, and her upcoming projects.

You often depict lovers in your work, though you explore the themes of romance and intimacy in a variety of textures, color palettes, and media- for instance, Before the Kiss versus Former Lover versus Reading Together. How have your life experiences influenced your aesthetic choices in these pieces?

I have been lucky enough to experience great love and greater heartbreak. These moments have resulted in profound personal growth over the past year and have led to a curiosity in attempting to visualize intimacy. Can I exude love with one mark that connects two figures? Can I convey doubt or distrust by using line and shadow in one figure and not the other? Can I imitate intimacy with a brush? I will certainly try.

My experience has made me softer and has influenced the specific choices of the muted palette in Before the Kiss, the out of body perspective of the two figures in Former Lover, and the quiet closeness I attempted to capture through hazy shading in Reading Together. These works aim to instill a sense of lovesickness in the viewer.

“Before the Kiss” by Britt Flood

Which figures in art history most inspire you? Who among your contemporaries most inspires you?

Andrew Wyeth, Paul Wonner, and Odilon Redon are my paint gods at the moment. I greatly admire film directors Agnès Varda and Ingmar Bergman, and gain much romantic inspiration from poets William Blake and Walt Whitman.

Contemporary artists on my radar are painters Doron Langberg, Cinga Samson, Manon Wertenbroek, Ridley Howard, and Robin F. Williams, photographers Ren Hang and Harley Weir, fashion designer Iris Van Herpen, and sculptor Christian Maychack.

What would your dream studio look like?

I am currently living in my dream “home” studio – a quaint A-frame cabin in Pittsboro, NC, though I am finding my ideas and marks that I need to make are much bigger than my home studio allows.

My dream studio has tall ceilings, large white walls, and one wall of floor to ceiling windows with a view of the forest. Outside would be a garden patio that faces the ocean with a walking path leading to the water (for quick swim breaks while the paint dries of course!)

Mural at Filament in Mebane, 2018

Why do you think we’ve experienced such a blossoming of the Triangle arts scene in the last few years?

I believe the recent trends and push for public art and art/design festivals have led to a blooming art scene here. We are lucky to have amazing local arts councils providing regional artists with the opportunity for stipends, grants, and workspace to produce new work right here in NC.

With the support of the following local businesses, galleries, and festivals over the past year, I feel fortunate to have experienced part of our blossoming art scene and am grateful to have exhibited work or contributed to creative projects with these folks: NCMA, Office of Raleigh Arts, VAE, Artspace, Morning Times, Foundation Bar, Trophy Tap & Table, Hopscotch Design Festival, DPAC, The Carrack, Arcana, American Tobacco Campus, Filament, and Shakori Hills Music & Arts Festival.

In your view, what does the future of the Triangle arts scene look like? How do you see it evolving?

I envision large scale mural, public art, and interactive art festivals coming our way. I see our arts scene evolving further beyond traditional disciplines. I have my fingers crossed for more affordable artist housing and studios, in addition to more collaborative, open studios and artist residency opportunities.

“Multiples” from VAE Raleigh, 2017

You’ll be a participating artist in the Hillsborough Street Temporary Art Pedestal Project in August 2018. What is it like working on pieces that are temporary by design versus working on something intended to last forever? How does the knowledge that a piece is temporary influence your practical and aesthetic choices?

It was a pleasure working with Raleigh Arts on this public art project. Works that are intended to be temporary by nature are enchanting to me because there is a limited time and place to experience the piece. The moment a work of art is placed into the public realm, the possibility of interaction becomes instant, and that is one of the reasons I am so excited to have contributed to this project. My practice and choices are immediately affected once the decision is made for the piece to be temporary – context, colors, composition; all decisions become more bold, it’s a time to ‘go for it!’. Though it is my intention to create a lasting, meaningful impact whether a work of mine is temporary or permanent. All pedestals are now installed on Hillsborough Street, happy hunting!

Flood’s Hillsborough Street Art Pedestal

Not only will you be participating in the 2018 Monster Drawing Rally, you were also commissioned by the NCMA to create three hand-drawn gifs to promote the event. This event is designed to encourage interaction between artists and the public- how did you pull from the ideas of accessibility and interaction while creating the gifs?

I’m beyond excited to share my stream of consciousness approach to drawing and painting with the public for the second year in a row at this event. With interaction and transparency in mind, while creating the hand-drawn gifs I completed each in a public setting and allowed for the environment or experience at that moment to influence the next mark of each drawing. A greenway trail, a coffee shop, and a flight out of RDU made for great sketching spots.

Still from a gif Flood created for the NCMA

Finally, you have an exciting art installation coming up in October that will be on display at Shakori Hills Music & Arts Festival. Tell me about what the public can expect from this piece.

This installation will be explorative in the sense that it will be my first work of temporary public art that incorporates both my poetry and love of painting. Without revealing too much, this work will use light and shadow as a medium. I will be hand cutting all poems out of reflective material, adhering them to transparent surfaces, and painting gestural elements on top. When viewers pass by and under the installation, the reflective elements of the poems and brush marks will create colorful shadows on the viewers’ bodies. This will be my second year providing visual art at Shakori, in 2017 I live painted an 8ft x 8ft x 8ft mural cube by day and created light up murals by night.

Flood at work.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Britt Flood’s Links

Website: https://ello.co/blflood

Instagram: @b.l.flood

Twitter: @painter_woes

Follow The Triangle Guide

Instagram: @thetriangleguide

Twitter: @GuideTriangle