"From Mountain Roots..." Exhibit Opens at Folklife Center

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University will officially open a new exhibition, “From Mountain Roots….” in its Ruth Ann Musick Gallery from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9.

Admission to the opening reception and the exhibit is free and open to the public. The exhibition will be on view through mid-February 2017. For more information, call (304) 367-4403.

Featuring examples from the FSU Botany Department’s Herbarium, 23 plants from the collection have been selected for exhibition, which forms the basis of the show. The central exhibition space utilizes the standing panels to create a giant herbal, a medieval compendium of plants. In this manner of exhibiting the specimens, viewers will see how the first such volumes were organized and used. In many respects these early collections of plant images and information were the pharmacopeia of the ancient and medieval worlds.

Also accompanying the central images are three-dimensional models of basic plant parts (especially included for children), preserved (jarred) specimens and selections of material culture from the Folklife Center’s numerous individual collections that show the use of plant forms in their design and execution. Included are textiles, toys and other art forms, together with “tools” of the botanist’s trade: a vasculum for gathering plants and plant presses.

Although the exhibition has been partially on view since May, this is the premiere of the finished exhibition, capped by the addition of six new works by artist Claudia Giannini, who will be on hand for the Sept. 9 opening.

Giannini combines media, superimposing her renderings of Appalachian native plants onto topographical maps of the areas where the plants are found. The works are at once bold and delicate, for the artist employs accurate and detailed observation of the plants, coupled with brilliant, almost expressionistic passages of color. The work draws in viewers, urging them to move closer, to look carefully into the heart of each flower, seeing vividly its configuration. It may appear that each plant is a humble depiction of its kind in nature, but this closer observation reveals it to be a small world in itself.

Giannini received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from West Virginia University in 1999 with specialization in printmaking and photography and studied art history and museum education at Penn State, graduating with a Master’s in Education in 1981. She has worked in such institutions as the Smithsonian, the Birmingham Museum of Art and The Carnegie Museum of Art for more than 30 years. She currently works at the Mattress Factory museum of contemporary art in Pittsburgh.

The artist has held residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Virginia Center for Creative Arts and participated in a residency at Artists Image Resource in Pittsburgh sponsored by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. The work she created there was included in an exhibition, “9x9,” that traveled throughout the Mid-Atlantic region in 2004-2005. Giannini has exhibited her work widely, including at SOHO20 Gallery in New York, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, the Buckham Gallery in Michigan, the Sande Webster Gallery in Philadelphia, as well as throughout West Virginia. She contributed 13 images to the book, “Field Notes from Grief,” with text by Judith Stitzel, published in 2012.  Gianinni is also the author of numerous articles and exhibition catalogues.

Her work combines photographic and printmaking techniques, along with other media such as wax, collage and painting and drawing, to create images that explore our connection to the natural world and the universal search for spiritual meaning. She currently lives in Shepherdstown.

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University is dedicated to the identification, preservation and perpetuation of our region’s rich cultural heritage, through academic studies, educational programs, festivals and performances and publications. For more information about the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, visit www.fairmontstate.edu/folklife.