'The Voyage of Life: Art, Allegory, and Community Response' Opens at Reynolda House Museum of American Art

  • July 19, 2021 20:25

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Thomas Cole, Home in the Woods (1847), oil on canvas, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse
Charles Willson Peale, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Robinson (1795), oil on canvas, Reynolda House Museum of American art
Edward Hicks, Peaceable Kingdom of the Branch, (1826-30), oil on canvas, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse
Eastman Johnson, The Storyteller of the Camp (Maple Sugar Camp) (1861-66), oil on board, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Original Purchase Fund from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, ARCA, and Anne Cannon Forsyth
Jacob Lawrence, Builders No. 2 (1968), gouache and tempera with graphite underdrawing on paper, © 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Fairfield Porter, Keelin Before the Reflected View, No. 2 (1972), oil on canvas, Courtesy of Barbara B. Millhouse, © 2021 The Estate of Fairfield Porter / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Thomas Cole, engraved by James Smillie, Voyage of Life: Youth (1854-55), engraving, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse
Albert Bierstadt, Niagra (1869), oil on canvas, Wake Forest University Simmons Collection, SC1942.1.15

The Voyage of Life: Art, Allegory, and Community Response opened July 16 to members, first responders, and Wake Forest University faculty, staff, and students, with Weekend of Gratitude, and opens on July 20 to the public at Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, N.C., and runs through Dec. 12. In this exhibition, three centuries of American art will illuminate the chapters and most defining moments of every individual life. Works by artists including Andy Warhol, Romare Bearden, Alice Neel, Fairfield Porter, Lee Krasner, Robert Colescott, Keith Haring, Endia Beal, and Grant Wood, will be featured alongside community-sourced stories and reveal critical moments in the voyage of life, with its heydays, rough patches and new starts. 

The Voyage of Life explores how each person “plays in his or her time many parts,” attaining awareness as children, striking out as individuals, embracing or avoiding change during adulthood, and learning new ways of being in old age. Community members of all ages have made correlations between the art featured in the exhibition and their own experience, and these observations will accompany curatorial descriptions throughout the exhibition and on social and digital channels throughout the exhibition. Promised gifts will also be featured, demonstrating the museum’s goal of increasing representation by artists of color, and select loans from Wake Forest University (WFU)’s Student Union Collection of Contemporary Art and the Lam Museum of Anthropology will complement Reynolda’s featured holdings, mirroring the city’s remarkable collecting legacy. 


The exhibition uses the river as a metaphor for the natural ebbing and flowing of  life. The various stages of life explored in The Voyage of Life include childhood; teenage years and young adulthood; relationships; work and play; community and tragedy; and aging/later years. The time period for exhibition-featured community stories has closed, however, the museum will continue to invite the public to share their stories leading up to the exhibition opening and throughout the run of The Voyage of Life for a chance to be featured on Reynolda’s social media channels. Visitors will also be able to share their stories on the museum's lobby walls during their visit. 

Lee Krasner, Birth (1956), oil on canvas, © 2021, Gift of Barbara Millhouse, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“We are extremely grateful for the chance to pause and reflect on humanity through the creation of a community-focused exhibition that connects us together through life experiences and the beauty of art,” said Allison Perkins, executive director, Reynolda House, and Wake Forest University associate provost for Reynolda House and Reynolda Gardens.

The Voyage of Life has been curated by Phil Archer, deputy director, Reynolda House; Allison Slaby, curator, Reynolda House; Jennifer Finkel, Ph.D., Acquavella Curator of Collections, Wake Forest University; and Andrew Gurstelle, Ph.D., Academic Director, Lam Museum of Anthropology, Wake Forest University.

Exhibition tickets for The Voyage of Life are available online at reynoldahouse.org/voyage

Tags: american art

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