Road through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial.
Photographs and Oral Histories by Jessica Ingram
Ancestors: Ancient Native American Sculptures of Tennessee
Charles Cagle: The Shock of the New
From Realism to Abstraction:
Tennessee Painting 1920 to 1970
An exhibition of more than 70 paintings from the Tennessee State Museum’s collection will open in the museum’s Changing Galleries on October 30. The exhibit entitled, From Realism to Abstraction: Tennessee Painting 1920 to 1970, covers a period in art history where painters were exploring new techniques.
Tennessee, like the rest of the western world, experienced many new artistic trends in the years between 1920 and 1970. Among the painters with Tennessee ties working during this 50-year time frame were: Carl Sublett, Philip Perkins, Avery Handly, Carroll Cloar, David Driskell, Aaron Douglas, Willie Betty Newman, Walter Stevens, Louis Jones, Bertha Herbert Potter, George Ayres Cress, and Beauford Delaney.
Artistic trends were moving to a less formalized presentation of subject matter, and freer handling of the materials, according to the museum’s art senior curator Jim Hoobler who organized this exhibit. Those trends can be seen here in landscape, portraiture, still life, and pure abstraction. “Being a conservative environment,” he said, “Tennessee moved slowly to embrace these new movements.” However, the advancements which occurred during this period are what produced the art of today, he continued.
From Realism to Abstraction: Tennessee Painting 1920 to 1970, complements the retrospective of Charles Cagle’s work, which is being shown concurrently in the museum’s Changing Galleries. Both exhibitions are free to the public and will be on view through May 15, 2016.

Opens at Tennessee State Museum on October 30, 2015
An exhibition of 30 photographic images created by photographer Jessica Ingram, who was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, will open at the State Museum on October 30. The exhibit, Road through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial includes both photographs and oral histories by Jessica Ingram. It will be on view in the museum’s Changing Galleries and is free to the public. Ingram traveled to various locations in the American South associated with the turbulence of the 20th century Civil Rights era to document these important historic sites.
Ingram, a native Tennessean, is currently an assistant professor at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. The concept for the photo-documentary was inspired by Ingram’s visit to a former slave market in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2009.
“While wandering around downtown Montgomery, I found myself in front of a large, ornate fountain situated on a brick pavilion,” explained Ingram. “A historical marker said I was standing on the former Court Square Slave Market. The language on the sign presented cold facts, including the dollar values for slaves, but said nothing about the meaning of the place. I’m from the South, and was raised with an awareness of the devastating history of slavery, but this site sparked something in me that caught fire.
“I was curious about what other hidden histories and sites I might be passing as I drove around the South. So I began researching and photographing places where Civil Rights era atrocities, Klan activities, and slave trade occurred. In Pulaski, Tennessee, not far from where I grew up, I found the room where the Ku Klux Klan was founded. The original historical marker on the building has been unbolted, flipped around, and reattached so that only the back of it can be seen. I visited the banks of the Tallahatchie River, where the disfigured body of 14-year-old Emmett Till was dumped. I traveled to the Armstrong Rubber Company in Natchez, where Wharlest Jackson was murdered by a car bomb on the day he received a promotion to a job formerly reserved for whites.”
Ingram goes on to say, “In addition to taking photographs, I have been gathering historical ephemera and recording oral histories from family members of victims, Civil Rights era journalists, and investigators looking into cold cases.”
“Unlike the Court Square Slave Market back in Montgomery, there are no historical markers at the places I’ve been documenting. As the years pass and the landscape transforms itself in ways both beautiful and banal, all that remains to remind us of these events are the memories and voices of those who lived through them.”
State Museum Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell said, “I was personally very moved by the concept, as well as the images, in Jessica Ingram’s photo-documentation. While many of us know the stories associated with these sites during Civil Rights era, it is disheartening to see that many of these locations continue to remain overlooked and unacknowledged even today. However, in the last couple of years, more acknowledgement has occurred.”
In 2012, New York Times reporter David Gonzales covered the project for the paper’s Lens publication. He wrote, “Ingram betrays an intensity about her work, her voice tinged with surprise at how banal some of these locations appeared, despite their role in history. She wondered if other people were even aware of what had happened there. She worried whether something was lost in other places, where some of the more famous locations had been readied for tourists.”
Road through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial will be on view through May 15, 2016.
Ancestors: Ancient Native American Sculptures of Tennessee
October 30, 2015 – May 15, 2016​
An exhibition of ancient Native American statues, on view together for the first time, will open at the Tennessee State Museum this fall. Admission is free.
Ancestors will showcase a Pre-Columbian stone statuary tradition that was found primarily between the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. The statues were often found in ancestral pairs, each containing a male and a female. All have long been separated since their discovery, and most have been taken far outside the state. The exhibit, which will reunite some of the pairs, will include many which have never been shown.
The exhibit will feature a male sculpture considered to be among the greatest pieces of ancestral Native American art found in the United States. At 19” high, he has made way onto numerous covers of books and magazines, and is included on a U.S. postage stamp for the Art of the American Indian series. In 2014, this statue on loan from the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, officially became recognized as the State Artifact. He will join his female mate, which has been graciously loaned by John C. Waggoner, Jr. of Carthage, Tennessee. They were discovered at the Sellars Farm State Archaeological Area in Wilson County, Tennessee, which was once a Native American village from the Mississippian period occupied approximately 700 to 1,000 years ago.
The 28 stone sculptures in this exhibit represent the largest group of Tennessee-Cumberland style statuary, including 14 from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., two from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, two from the McClung Museum, five from the State Museum’s collection, and five that are held in private collections.
Ancestors: Ancient Native American Sculptures of Tennessee will be on view in the museum’s Changing Galleries through May 15, 2016.
Pictured above: Pre-Columbian male sculpture from the collection of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Tennessee. Photograph courtesy of David H. Dye
Charles Cagle: The Shock of the New
October 30, 2015 – May 15, 2016​
A retrospective exhibition of 33 paintings by Charles Cagle (1907–1968), an early modernist artist from Tennessee, will open in the museum’s Changing Galleries October 30.
Cagle was born in Beersheba Springs, Tennessee in 1907. After the family moved to Nashville, he attended Hume-Fogg High School.
He studied at Watkins Institute of Art and Design and Peabody College in Nashville, as well as the Pennsylvania Academy of the
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