Fresh Paint

Gallery by Lindley Estes
Issue 71 • January 2019 • Richmond

They’re vibrant, they’re massive, and these murals capture Virginia’s history in a manner that only Richmond could pull off.

Above: Higgle & Company by Chris Milk

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The murals of Fresh Paint: Murals Inspired by the Story of Virginia were first seen by the public in late October at The Virginia Museum of History & Culture. It’s a “first-of-its-kind” show according to the museum, which commissioned Virginia artists to paint murals inspired by the museum’s nine-million-item collection.

Mural artist and exhibit co-curator Nico Cathcart said, “Murals are a cultural phenomenon in Richmond. We have one of the best collections of both local and international artists in the world adorning our streets. By taking this art movement, and bringing it indoors in the context of the VMHC, we are essentially using this contemporary piece of Virginia's history to tell a story about how we see the past.”

Along with Cathcart, artists commissioned for the project included Mickael Broth, Christina Wing Chow, Hamilton Glass, Chris Milk Hulburt, Amelia Langford, Austin Miles, Toobz Muir, Noah Scalin, and Ed Trask. The artifacts chosen for inspiration run the gamut: a painting of Natural Bridge, a WWI uniform, a hat worn at the 2017 Women’s March, a 1921 photograph of social reformer Janie Porter Barrett, James J. Audubon’s “The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America,” a rare early automobile made in Virginia, and a sword recovered from a Civil War battlefield near Petersburg.

By Any Means by Austin Miles

Andrew Talkov, Vice President for Exhibitions & Publications and co-curator of Fresh Paint, said visitors are delighted when they recognize the work of artists that they’ve seen on buildings, in businesses, and in their community centers and schools. They’re also surprised at how the murals draw connections between the present and the past. Even more surprising, said Talkov, is how these murals are housed at an 187-year-old institution, providing an artist-led forum for a discussion about the interpretation of Virginia’s history.

“Our understanding of history is based on the study of artifacts and the collection of evidence left by people after an event has occurred,” he said. “Each generation builds on that history through further study, the discovery of new evidence, or reflecting on the available evidence from fresh perspectives. Fresh Paint provided an opportunity for local artists to encourage us to look at historical objects and their meaning in new ways.”

Cathcart also noted that the story of Virginia is still evolving. “I think the show presents a diverse cross section of people who currently live in Virginia, and gives focus to the issues that are concerning us as a society,” he said. “The exhibit focuses on how current Virginians see the past and opens a dialogue on how we should move forward as a state.”

Still Relevant by Ed Trask

Fresh Paint will be on display through April 14 in the Virginia Sargeant Reynolds Gallery at the VMHC. Admission to Fresh Paint is free for members or included with the museum’s suggested admission. Learn more at virginiahistory.org.

Photography provided by The Virginia Museum of History & Culture

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