By Jason Camey
Although not quite filling Bucksbuam with smoke and bullets, the Faulconer Gallery’s new exhibition Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection opened with a bang on the final Friday of last month, August 31. The exhibition has since simmered with the haze of the age-old war of secession.
Civil War Era Drawings is a compilation of drawings lining the perimeter of Faulconer, depicting various battles, and life during the war. Most of the art was actually drawn on-site at battlefields and serves as a primary source account of occurrences during the American Civil War.
All the various details of the show itself also compliment the drawings. A nice addition to the exhibition was the Union and Confederate flags, showing the opposing sides in the Civil War that ultimately became united as our nation.
A standout drawing is “Bayonet Charge on a Rebel Fort at James Island, South Carolina.” Its exceptional details express a sense of rush including inkblots and pencil streaks. In the background of the drawing, the artist, William T. Crane, wrote, “murderous cross-fire of grape canister, & musketry” and the “gallant and most daring bayonet charge of U.S. troops under Brig. Gen. Stevens.”
Even the cut paper silhouettes and prints by the contemporary artist Kara Walker, hung in the corner of the gallery, serve to illuminate the vintage quality and age of the drawings.
Overall, the show provides accounts, both modern-day and historical, to the time of the war.
“I hope it brings an awareness,” said Daniel Strong, Associate Director of the Gallery and Curator of Exhibitions.
This awareness allows the students and the community to relate to things that occurred during the Civil War. Many of the soldiers were underage teenagers fighting in a real war, something that a lot of people don’t realize or in general don’t know.
Everyone in the museum has worked hard in making this possible for our campus and community.
The process started a couple of years ago, in March 2010. The original impetus for the exhibition was for History professors to use it as a teaching tool.
Civil War Era Drawings began at Boston College. The exhibition was so successful that coordinators choose to bring it on tour.
“[At] some point, it was turned over to an organization for touring assistance,” Strong said.
Eventually, Faulconer signed on and brought it to Grinnell.
The show has peaked interest in the Gallery for a diverse group of people, on campus and in the community.
“We did notice that in the opening we saw people either that we hadn’t seen before or we hadn’t seen in a while” Strong said.
The museum team, led by Tilly Woodward, Curator of Academic and Public Outreach, has composed an array of activities that bind the exhibition to different activities on campus with the hope that many more people come to see the exhibition before it ends in mid-October.
Woodward has specifically worked on connecting the exhibition with programs involving the school and the community.
The Sons of Union Veterans will provide a living history camp presentation on September 15 from noon to 5 p.m. on the lawn just north of the Faulconer Gallery as a special part of the Faulconer’s Community Day. Families can also enjoy Civil War era games, hands-on activities, refreshments and tour of Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection.
Then, on September 20, Sarah Purcell ’92, History, will put Faulconer’s exhibition in the broader context of Civil War visual culture with a lecture.
Purcell has done scholarship on the meaning of death during the Civil War, and will relate Civil War Drawings to the larger culture of photographs and print culture. She will also discuss how the spectacle of death helped to shape the political and social meanings of the Civil War.
On Saturday, September 29, the Grinnell Orchestra, directed by Eric McIntyre, Music, will present a concert of music related to the Civil War, with tenor Michael Oxley, Music, singing popular songs from the era.
Finally, one of the most important events tied to the exhibition is a gallery talk with Judith Bookbinder, curator of Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection.
On October 2, Bookbinder, a professor of Fine Arts at Boston College, will speak about the exhibition and the larger collection of drawings from which it was drawn.
All the events will provide greater context on the Civil War and on the exhibition itself, raising awareness through many media and methods.