Arts & Humanities Campus News

Exhibition shows the value of early 20th-century Southern artists

Dusti Bongé (1903-1993), “Where the Shrimp Pickers Live,” 1940. Oil on canvas. Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS. Gift of Dusti Bongé Art Foundation, Inc. 1999.012 Photo provided by the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation.

Art history constantly changes and evolves as people learn more about their past and seek new and more inclusive perspectives. The traveling exhibition “Southern/Modern” tells an important story that has been largely absent from American art history. Organized by the Mint Museum in collaboration with the Georgia Museum of Art, it debuted at the latter on June 17.

In 1949, a curator at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote, “little of artistic merit was made south of Baltimore.” Despite the growth in scholarship in the intervening years, the emergence of museums and collections in the South focused on its art, and numerous exhibitions and publications about individual artists from the region, there have been relatively few efforts to address Southern art in a comprehensive fashion.

“Southern/Modern” takes a broad view of the South. It considers artists working in the states below the Mason-Dixon Line and as far west as those bordering the Mississippi River. Featuring works created between 1913 and 1955, the exhibition is structured around themes including current events and social issues, urbanization, religion, the environment, artists’ colonies and how these creators interpreted the latest trends in modern art. It also takes a broad view of artists working in the South, examining the central role played by women artists and artists of color. It provides a fuller, richer and more accurate overview of the artistic activity in the region than has been presented previously.

Curated by the Mint’s senior curator of American art Jonathan Stuhlman and independent scholar Martha Severens, the exhibition includes more than 100 paintings and works on paper by artists from the Southern United States, as well as some artists living outside of the region who made significant bodies of work during visits to the South.

Artists in the exhibition include Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Dusti Bonge, Carroll Cloar, Marie Hull, Jacob Lawrence, Blanche Lazzell, John McCrady, Will Henry Stevens and Hale Woodruff, as well as “many others both well-known and awaiting further discovery,” Stuhlman said.

“‘Southern/Modern’ began as an idea over a decade ago as I came to know our collection and other collections in the region and gained a deep appreciation for the art that I was discovering. It has truly been a pleasure and an enriching journey of discovery to bring this exhibition to life, and I am both excited to share it with the public and deeply appreciative of all the private collectors and museums who generously lent their works to us,” Stuhlman said. “It was also a pleasure to work with the scholars who lent their time, talent and insight to the informative and beautifully designed publication accompanying the show.”

“Southern/Modern” will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art through Dec. 10, followed by the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, in January 2024, Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, in July 2024, and The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, in October 2024.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog published by the University of North Carolina Press, containing more than 175 rich illustrations and a dozen essays by contributing curators and leading art scholars. Shawnya Harris and Jeffrey Richmond-Moll at the Georgia Museum of Art serve as the in-house curators at the first venue, and both contributed to the catalog.

Lead support for “Southern/Modern” is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation for American Art. Additional support comes from the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Betsy and Alfred Brand Fund at The Mint Museum.

Related events include:

  • A Toddler Tuesday on Aug. 22 at 10 a.m. (for ages 18 months to 3 years; free but register by emailing
  • An Artful Conversation on Lamar Dodd’s painting “Bargain Basement,” led by curator of education Callan Steinmann, on Aug. 23 at 2 p.m.
  • A curator talk by Harris on Sept. 13 at 2 p.m.
  • Student Night, geared to UGA students, on Sept. 21 from 6-8 p.m.
  • And a Family Day on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Family Day is sponsored by Lucy and Buddy Allen and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art. Student Night is sponsored by the UGA Parents Leadership Council.