Artists Chosen for W.Va. Sesquicentennial Exhibit

Creative works by two area art professors are featured in a special state sesquicentennial show this summer.

James Haizlett, associate professor of art at West Liberty University, and Kenn Morgan, professor of fine arts at Bethany College, are among 18 artists selected to participate in a special exhibition at the Huntington Museum of Art. The show, which opened in June, continues through Sunday, Sept. 22.

The title of the exhibition is “A Sense of Place: The West Virginia Sesquicentennial Artist Invitational.” The show at the art museum is open to the public for viewing.

Some of the invited artists are Mountain State natives who have spent their lives in West Virginia and others are “transplants” from other states and countries.

Morgan noted that he is a “transplant” from Portsmouth, Va. He said he arrived at Bethany as a college freshman in the fall of 1967 and essentially has called West Virginia “home” ever since that time.

The holder of Bethany’s Jennie Steindorf Renner Chair of Fine Arts, Morgan has been teaching visual art at Bethany College since 1989.

For the Huntington Museum of Art exhibition, Morgan’s entry is a mixed-media painting titled “Tempus Fugit! An Autobiographical Diptych.”

Haizlett’s entry in the show is called “Marcellus Oklahomus: Invasive Species.” The sculpture stands 36 inches tall and is made of welded, found objects, he said. The piece has a stinger – a large drill bit protruding from its posterior – and sharp teeth, wings and long, grabbing fingers.

“The piece is my reaction to the Marcellus drilling boom,” Haizlett commented. “West Virginia has a long history of having its natural resources removed with little concern for the people who live here or the environment. I am not completely against the responsible use of natural resources, as long as it is done honestly and with respect for the land and people who live near these sites.

“Unfortunately, I have witnessed little of any of this in the present Marcellus drilling boom,” Haizlett remarked. “Hopefully, with some awareness, the next 150 years will be more kind to the environment, animals and people than the first 150 years have been.”

The sesquicentennial art exhibition was designed to present many viewpoints, according to Huntington museum officials. Traditional and contemporary styles of art and many varieties of media, including painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography and video, are included in the show.

“We asked each invited artist to create a work in their preferred medium and in their unique personal style using ‘sense of place’ as a broad guide, referring to this theme as an intensely personal response to the environment, both social and natural, which the individual experiences in daily life,” said Jenine Culligan, organizing curator of the exhibit.

“This sense can also refer to the individual’s perception of the whole state and their feelings, attitudes and influences living, working and residing in West Virginia,” Culligan explained.

Culligan and Brad Boston, museum education assistant, visited each artist’s studio and created a travelogue and a film that features the artists’ studios, schools and towns. The film was shown as part of a special event and an artists’ reception that marked the opening of the exhibition.

Other artists participating in the exhibition are Christian Benefiel and Sonya Evanisko, both from Shepherd University; James Biggs and Mark Tobin Moore, both from Concord University; Andy Bloxham, West Virginia Wesleyan College; Jennifer Boggess, Fairmont State University; Liza Brenner, Glenville State College; Michael Doig, Davis and Elkins College; Molly S. Erlandson and Reidun Ovrebo, both of West Virginia State University; Hayson Harrison, Natalie Larsen and Peter Massing, all of Marshall University; Grant Johnson, Alderson-Broaddus College; Erika Osborne and Michael Sherwin, both from West Virginia University.

The exhibition is sponsored by Macy’s Foundation, Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment, West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission to the museum is free on Tuesdays. Admission also is free to children younger than 18; active-duty military personnel and their immediate families and veterans and their immediate families.