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William Christenberry to Present Artist Talk at Washington and Lee

Artist William Christenberry , whose work is currently featured in exhibition in Washington and Lee University’s Staniar Gallery, will present an Artist Talk at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, in the Concert Hall of Wilson Hall at W&L. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“William Christenberry: Site/Possession” features paintings, photographs, constructions, “dream buildings” and the “Klan Room Tableau.” The exhibition originated at the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville, where it was curated by Dr. Andrea Douglas, curator of collections and exhibitions.

Christenberry’s work focuses on his native South, and the majority of his paintings, drawings, sculpture, and photography capture the region around Hale County, Alabama, where he was born and raised.

Born in 1936 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Christenberry attended The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where he received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. and studied under noted abstract expressionist Melville Price. Since 1968, he has taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C.

Although the Staniar Gallery exhibition offers a broad range of Christenberry’s works, including the photographs for which he renowned, the show features drawings from as early as 1959 when Christenberry was honing his artistic skills and from as recently as 2006. The subjects of the drawings range from Southern gourd trees to tenant houses to his eerie “dream buildings.”

One of the particular features of the exhibit that Christenberry will address in his lecture is his controversial “Klan Room Tableau,” a multi-media presentation that features paintings, drawings, found objects, sculptures and series of fabric klansmen in hooded robes. The story of his fascination with the Klan is a deeply personal one, dating to his attendance at a Ku Klux Klan meeting.

Asked about the tableau during an interview on National Public Radio’s Studio 360 in 2006, Christenberry said, “I’ve been criticized for even undertaking this but my feeling and my argument is how can I turn a blind eye to racial prejudice and injustice?…It’s a tough piece. It’s meant to be. You’re not meant to be comfortable in there.”

Both Wilson Hall, site of the Artist Talk, and Staniar Gallery are located in Washington and Lee University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts. The exhibit continues through April 10. Gallery Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment (540/458-8861).