Work of the Week – From the Lowgrounds by Maud Gatewood
by Parker Louise Bobbitt
Because of differing experiences, understanding a perspective that contrasts with our own can be challenging at times. Art can allow us to see the world through another’s eyes.
Maud Gatewood’s From the Lowgrounds is a representational acrylic painting on canvas that demonstrates an enchanting use of color, perspective and pattern. From the Lowgrounds portrays the familiar view of cows grazing in a pasture in an unconventional way. Through her use of pink, viewers may initially question what they see: Is this a sunset? Clouds? With further inspection, the image of a distant structure and rolling hills become clear. In From the Lowgrounds, Gatewood has identified patterns in natural forms and showcased them. Capturing the peace and quiet of a moment, From the Lowgrounds gives us a glimpse into Gatewood’s perspective on the world around her.
“Lowgrounds” is a term that originated in the Southeastern U.S. in the 1650s. In Gatewood’s painting, we gain a clearer picture of this region of the United States through her eyes as a woman living in the 1983 rural South.
Gatewood was born in 1934 in Yanceyville, North Carolina. Growing up in the pastoral farmlands of the South, she developed a curiosity for her surroundings and the unique perspective that is seen throughout her work. From the barns dotting the countryside to the cows grazing in the pastures, Gatewood began to record the landscape on canvas. In 1954, she graduated from Woman’s College which is now University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Later, she earned her Master of Arts degree from The Ohio State University and went on to study art history and painting in Salzburg, Austria. Returning to North Carolina, Gatewood became an influential voice in the state’s arts community. She received many grants and awards for her work, including the North Carolina Governor’s Award in Fine Arts and the North Carolina Poster Award for the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival. Additionally, a retrospective of her works opened at UNCG’s Weatherspoon Gallery and traveled to museums throughout the South, including the Asheville Art Museum. Gatewood is remembered for her work as an artist, teacher and activist who inspired her students and shaped the Southeastern arts community.
Living in the Southeastern U.S. shaped Gatewood’s perspective of the world and gave her an ability to see her surroundings in a way that others couldn’t. With the historically underrepresented viewpoint of a woman living in the South, Gatewood captures the charm, peace and beauty of her home. For these reasons, the region continues to cherish Gatewood and her work. Today, in celebration of her impact on the arts in the American South, over a dozen museums in North Carolina and Virginia, including the Asheville Art Museum, have partnered to create the Maud Gatewood Trail. Displaying the works of this North Carolina artist across the region, we are reminded of her importance as an American artist.
Artwork above: Maud Gatewood, From the Lowgrounds, 1983, Acrylic Painting, 31.75 x 35.63 inches. Gift of Drs. Robert and Priscilla Bleke. Permanent Collection. 2011.09.24.