Columbus State University’s Bo Bartlett Center welcomes a pair of new exhibitions on Tuesday, Feb. 7 to its RiverPark Campus galleries. They feature the first solo exhibition by artist Kate Capshaw and a new series of work by the center’s namesake, Bo Bartlett.
Capshaw’s “Unaccompanied,” available through May 12, is comprised of 20 oil portraits, 18 studies and an audio component by Joshua-Michéle Ross. It is an artistic outgrowth of Capshaw’s inquiry into the invisibility of youth experiencing homelessness.
“Earthly Matters” also opens on Feb. 7 and celebrates the work of renowned realist painter and Georgia native, https://www.bobartlett.com/. This selection of his recent works examines humankind’s impact on and interaction with nature’s elements. This exhibition was curated by the Gibbes Museum of Art and is a traveling exhibition. It will remain at the Bo Bartlett Center through April 28.
The two exhibitions will be presented alongside each other with a public reception on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“The Bo Bartlett Center at Columbus State University is thrilled to be hosting Kate Capshaw’s exhibition, ‘Unaccompanied,’” said Michael McFalls, the Bo Bartlett Center’s interim director and a professor in CSU’s Department of Art. “We saw this as an excellent opportunity to showcase her work with Bo’s exhibition ‘Earthly Matters.’ While the two artists will be presenting alongside each other, Kate’s work diverges significantly from Bo’s. ‘Unaccompanied’ shifts the viewer’s gaze to a more intimate, individual experience. This multidisciplinary exhibition allows community members and students to have a deeper conversation about race, class and the homelessness crisis.”
In late 2016, Capshaw began to seek out several organizations and youth centers around the country that are proactively responding to the growing numbers of homeless. She collaborated with them to welcome young individuals to sit for an alla prima session, a classical painting technique where a subject is captured in one session. These sessions began in the artist’s home city of Los Angeles and proceeded to take place in seven more cities including San Francisco, Fargo, Porcupine, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, and New York City.
In every portrait, Capshaw paints the sitter against a dark backdrop, drawing the viewers’ focus to the subtle emotions on their faces and the unique elements of their personalities visible through their choice of clothing or hairstyle. Imbued with confidence and dignity, these portraits build on the long, art historical tradition of using portraiture to depict noteworthy individuals.
To create a fuller, more dimensional profile of the young people in the exhibition, Capshaw collaborated with sound artist Ross to create a sensory experience through audio recordings, collecting the voices and conversations of these individuals remarking on some of their earliest memories and their hopes for the future.
Pictured: “Shae”, by Kate Capshaw, 2021, oil on linen panel, 22×64 in.
Bartlett’s most recent work, “Earthly Matters” depicts his appreciation for the beauty of ordinary moments that imbue his work with an underlying luminosity and frankness. His subjects, both human and animal, find themselves in precarious environmental situations, either from their own doing or by forces beyond their control. His larger-than-life scenes—often placed against an expanse of open sky—break down the barriers between the subjects on canvas and the viewers, who are invited to contemplate their role in the narrative.
Bartlett’s settings seem familiar and feel distinctly American, but the narratives are open-ended. He offers suggestions through his paintings’ titles and content, but viewers are left to determine the story for themselves. Masterfully rendered with luminous realism, his paintings challenge viewers to consider their own actions and humankind’s broader impact on the world around us. The exhibition addresses themes of family, faith, social justice and the environment—all of which contribute to the beautifully complex matters that give purpose and meaning to our short time on Earth.
Pictured: “Thin Veil,” by Bo Bartlett (American, b. 1955), 2021, oil on linen, 82×100 in.; image courtesy of the artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY.
For more information about the exhibits or the Bo Bartlett Center, visit bobartlettcenter.org.
Artist’s Profile: Kate Capshaw
Kate Capshaw (b. 1953, Fort Worth, Texas) was raised in Ferguson, Missouri. She attended the University of Missouri-Columbia receiving a B.A. in Education and a Master of Education in Special Education in 1976, after which she taught for two years. She set up primary and secondary Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with learning differences in the rural consolidated district of Southern Boone County.
In the years that followed, Capshaw moved to New York City and in 2009 she began her art studies—drawing, painting and portraiture. In 2016, she saw a way to use portraiture to bring public awareness to youth homelessness and other issues. In March 2019, three paintings from the work that began in Los Angeles were selected as finalists in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious juried triennial: the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Following their selection, the portraits debuted in the exhibition “The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today.” The national tour opened on Oct. 29, 2019, in Washington, D.C. It concluded in St. Louis in January 2022.
Artist’s Profile: Bo Bartlett
Born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, Bartlett began drawing as a young child, expressing himself visually before he was able to speak. Following high school graduation, Bartlett traveled to Florence, Italy, where he studied drawing and fresco painting with American artist Ben Long. He later moved to Philadelphia and in 1981, earned a certificate of fine art from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He came of age in an era of artistic experimentation when eschewing tradition was the norm. Bartlett, however, forged a path devoted to figurative art painted in his unique realist manner, luminous and full of interpretive possibilities.
After many years living in Philadelphia, Seattle, and traveling the world, Bartlett and his wife, artist Betsy Eby, returned to Columbus in 2012 and took up residence in Bartlett’s childhood home. In 2018, he established the Bo Bartlett Center. He was the 2017 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, presented annually by the Gibbes Museum of Art’s young associate group, Society 1858.