New Exhibition at Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries Features Self-Taught Artists « News @ ODU

By Amy Matzke-Fawcett


You may have seen the bright yellow posters on campus recently bearing an intimidating green creature with that name.

It is the creation of the artist WD Harden, made in 1998 using paint on linoleum. It’s also the title of an exhibition at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries on Monarch Way through December 17.

“The ‘ALLiGATER HELLHOUND’ was sort of a continuation of my iconic hellhound paintings, inspired by the great Delta bluesman Robert Johnson and his song ‘Hellhound on My Trail,'” Harden said.

He said he was honored to have it part of the galleries collection.

The exhibition highlights self-taught artists whose work was central to Baron and Ellin Gordon’s collection. The Williamsburg couple donated hundreds of pieces to the gallery that bears their name.

The current exhibition includes 50 works that have not been exhibited in recent years and represent just a few of the hundreds of pieces in the permanent collection, said Cullen Strawn, executive director of arts at ODU and director of the Gordons. Galleries.

“The Gordons were very passionate about self-taught art and got to know the artists whose work they personally collected,” Strawn said.

Getting to know the artists, especially those who are contemporary self-taught artists, was part of the appeal of the collection, the Gordons said in a 2011 interview.

“We just got excited about how many things we had seen…. I can talk to some of these artists and sit and shoot the breeze with them for an hour, two hours, see what they think , and I think , and then I appreciate their paintings more,” said Baron Gordon, who died in 2017. “I can’t talk to Picasso, I can’t talk to Van Gogh, etc.”

The exhibition includes an audio component, with folk and traditional music played in the gallery to represent the cultures of the places where the pieces in the exhibition were created. Some pieces come from Virginia or other parts of the South, and others from further afield, including Belize.

“Social inequality and civil rights, spirituality, celebration and poverty, love and death, longing and protest are all part of daily life expressed here through sight and sound,” said said Strawn.

After the exhibit closes in December, some of the pieces may reappear as part of an ongoing on-campus public art initiative to install pieces in publicly accessible spaces.

“ALLiGATER HELLHOUND” is on display until December 17 at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries at 4509 Monarch Way in Norfolk. For more information on exhibitions, events and times, visit the gallery exhibitions page.

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