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Lesser-known pieces trump artistic giants

By bribing them with free food, drinks and live musical entertainment, I managed to rally a group of friends to head over to Final Fridays with me last week at the Fralin Museum of Art, one of the most student-friendly artistic programs the University has to offer.

The last Friday of every month, the museum opens its doors from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to the community, inviting everyone to come hang out, check out the most recent additions to the exhibits and indulge in a free cookie or two.

Last week was a particularly special reception, as there was a whole new collection of exhibitions for the community to enjoy.

While raiding the hors-d’oeuvres tables, piling a napkin with fancy cheeses, bread and veggies, I couldn’t help but be dragged into the new works of art. The four new exhibitions include French drawings from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, master drawings from the collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman, landscapes of James McNeill Whistler, and Found Poems from a Lost Time by Suzanne McClelland.

You don’t have to be an art nerd like me to get excited by the famous names plastering the walls. In the Corot to Cézanne exhibit, pieces by recognizable names such as Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh, Edouard Vuillard, and Henri Matisse were featured. There are a variety of studies and experimental works in this collection that are interesting when compared to the well-known finished pieces that the community is used to seeing from these masters.

The Traces of the Hand exhibit was also full of striking pieces, each of which was chosen for its “superior quality and visual interest.” I was personally thrilled when I accidentally stumbled upon a piece by my favorite artist, John Singer Sargent, in this exhibit.

Though both of these large collections donated to the show were impressive, a smaller exhibition, Becoming the Butterfly, a set of landscapes by Whistler, and a more contemporary project by McClellan were just as exciting to see. Becoming the Butterfly added a different flavor to the show, displaying a series of small etchings and lithographs. Not familiar with this type of work, I was drawn up close, marveling in the detail of each tiny scene.

The last room I explored was a pleasantly surprising finale to my tour of The Fralin exhibitions. Responding to the poems of George Garrett, University creative writing professor and renowned poet, McClelland created a contemporary in-situ project, STrAY. The piece included an explosion of mixed media from drawings to printed material to photographs. The artists used Garrett’s actual words in the pieces, all while fashioning her own distinctive interpretations of the poems.

To enjoy these powerful exhibits, you don’t have to wait for the next Final Friday — stop by the Fralin any afternoon, Tuesday until Sunday.

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