As a general rule, most people try not to subjectively judge art. This mostly goes for artists who you know
personally, since most artists whose work is displayed in museums are either deceased, inaccessible or don’t care about your opinion. But there are certain works that don’t warrant a personal opinion, that are so captivating that you simply want to know more about them.
I had this experience recently when visiting the North Carolina Museum of Art, known locally as the NCMA. The museum is gigantic. You could spend hours simply viewing the permanent collection’s large variety of Italian Renaissance paintings, Snapchatting and face-swapping to your heart’s content. You could visit Auguste Rodin’s corner of the museum, home to one of the most extensive Rodin collections in the country, as well as reproductions of timeless sculptures
like The Thinker. Or you cold hear your budget laughing at you as you browse the gift shop, contemplating buying the sculpted succulents or a set of The Scream-patterned teacups.
Behind the museum is a set of trails, fields and pieces of art nestled away in the trees known as the Museum Park. Throughout the park are sculptures, paintings and prints curated by the museum to attract patrons. The trailway system connects to a set of biking and walking paths that wind throughout Raleigh. The museum encourages visitors to make use of these paths, as well as the unpaved paths through wooded areas that have been worn in by human and animal feet.
Across the walkway from the permanent collection is the NCMA’s exhibition building. The museum had recently finished its installation of artworks by artists Damian Stamer and Greg Lindquist, titled Altered Land. The collection lives up to its name, the paintings featuring landscapes that
seemed to be painted from a fading memory. Though the museum houses countless paintings, sculptures and historical artifacts from many cultures, Stamer’s paintings in particular left the deepest imprint on me. The majority of art found in both the permanent and exhibition buildings is paired with a plaque describing the artist, culture or reason behind the work, but Stamer’s paintings simply feature the title and the artist’s name. I instantly wanted to find out more. Recreations of the areas of North Carolina that Stamer grew up in, his paintings aim to reflect the fading of memories over time. His medium is oil on panel, using wood for the ease of gliding the slow-drying oil over the panels and manipulating the image to his liking. The artwork that captivated me most from Stamer’s exhibition was A Little Past Lake Michie 17. It reminded me of one of my favorite works of literary art, Walden by Henry David Thoreau, in that it visits the idea of a fading image of a lake in the woods. Its name contains the number 17 because it is the seventeenth “draft” of the painting that Stamer worked on and finally completed, as he does with all of his published artworks. He describes his motivation behind Lake Michie as a sort of renovation. “These places were ruins back then, but they’re always changing and I’m kind of documenting that change. It’s a lot of painting, taking away and building back again.”
I have high hopes that the North Carolina Museum of Art will invite Stamer back for future exhibitions. Until then, my Snapchat story will be full as I blaze the trails.