Visions from Above: The Enduring Legacy of William Edmondson
On the 80th anniversary of William Edmondson’s solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Cheekwood celebrates the incredible work, life and legacy of one of Nashville’s most beloved and respected artists in its latest exhibition, Visions from Above: The Life and Work of William Edmondson – featuring over 20 Edmondson sculptures from our collection.
Born to two former slaves in Davidson County in the late 1800s, William Edmondson was the first African-American artist to achieve a solo exhibition in the MOMA. After receiving little to no formal education, Edmondson said he began sculpting after receiving a vision from God. His work began with tombstones and led to carving figures such as animals, local citizens and influential members of the African-American community.
As an institution with one of the largest collections of Edmondson sculptures, we are proud to have teamed up with local film producer and Edmondson historian, Mark Schlicher, to co-curate the exhibition and host a special panel conversation on Sunday, October 22. Schlicher will serve as moderator during the panel, featuring Fisk University history professor Dr. Reavis Mitchell, artist and historian Thaxton Waters, and curator and art teacher Michael McBride.
Sunday, October 22
Free with admission or membership
Schlicher, a Nashville-based filmmaker, has spent the last five years researching Edmondson’s life, work and legacy, and has poured his findings into a very special documentary, Chipping Away, the Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson.
An excerpt from Schlicher’s documentary will be viewed during the panel discussion, with edited footage playing on loop during the exhibition, on view through November 12.
Edmondson’s work deserves to be admired and celebrated not merely for its “simplicity,” but for its subtlety, its deep themes and symbols, and the impressive technical skill and aesthetic vocabulary he developed.
A note from Mark Schlicher:
“William Edmondson’s work is loved by many, but it still surprises me how little he is known outside of collectors’ circles. His sculpture appears deceptively simple. In his lifetime it was often described as “childlike”, “primitive”, and even “crude”. The story of his life and his “discovery” by the art world elite reads like a Cinderella story…a tale that is pleasant and reassuring, but ultimately limiting. I believe that we risk misunderstanding and undervaluing William Edmondson.
In creating my documentary film, I’ll peel back the onion to reveal deeper truths about William’s life, his work, and the artistic legacy he has left for us. As I have researched, I’ve discovered a richer story than I imagined. Edmondson’s work deserves to be admired and celebrated not merely for its “simplicity”, but for its subtlety, its deep themes and symbols, and the impressive technical skill and aesthetic vocabulary he developed. “Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson” will aim to be both an accessible and engrossing biography of a great artist arising in an unlikely time and place, and an appreciation and celebration of his artistic achievements that continue to inspire artists eight decades later.
I’m excited to join in a public conversation with such eminent artists and historians as we examine William Edmondson’s work, life, and legacy.”
About Mark Schlicher
Mark Schlicher is a Nashville-based documentary filmmaker, whose work has been shown nationally on PBS, HBO, Lifetime, TBN, and Smithsonian Channel. His upcoming feature documentary, “Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson”, is the product of over five years of original archival and primary-source research, and expert interviews. The film is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee. Mark is currently soliciting donations to finance completion of the film. Selected footage from “Chipping Away” is featured in the main exhibition gallery, and a fifteen minute work-in-progress excerpt from “Chipping Away” will be shown during the panel discussion on October 22. “Chipping Away” is slated for a Spring, 2018 release.
Mark’s other film credits include producing and directing a biography of George Washington Carver. He provided cinematography for HBO’s “Mavis!” documentary, and the national PBS’s documentary “Nashville 2.0: The Rise of Americana”. Mark also serves as an adjunct professor of Cinematography at Watkins College of Art, and is a practicing figurative sculptor, having studied under Alan LeQuire and others. Mark earned his degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He resides in Nashville with his wife and “Chipping Away” co-producer, the well-known stage director, actor, and ceramic artist Jackie Welch Schlicher.
Visit www.ChippingAwayMovie.com to learn more or to support the film.