June 4, 2009 — In observance of the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth, the University of Virginia Art Museum will display works by major artists inspired by his innovative literary creations.
"The Expanding Eye: Art Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe," on display Sept. 12 through Jan. 3, 2010, will emphasize the fact that his legacy is both artistic and literary. His thrilling and challenging words inspired many visual artists from the 19th century to the present.
Poe attended U.Va. briefly before becoming one of the most influential writers in history. His ongoing legacy can be related to the daring and explorative spirit of Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village, which will be the focus of a concurrent show. Poe was a member of the first class of Jefferson's University, and, although Poe's fantastic tendencies seem opposed to Jeffersonian rationalism, both men shared interests in architecture, languages, technology, exploration and invention.
The exhibition will include works by James Ensor, Felix Vallotton, Frederico Castellon, Odilon Redon, Alice Neel, Nathan Oliveira and Shusaku Arakawa. Their art constitutes aspects of what might be called the metaphysical voyeurism of Poe, with images that give the viewer a revelatory shock, sometimes horrible in itself, and opening up vast psychological or spiritual territory, as Poe did in his writings.
From Redon's presentation of the eye as a hot air balloon to Oliveira's monumental series of black-and-white lithographs visualizing Poe's story of "A Descent into the Maelstrom," these works encourage the eye and the mind to expand and experience the seemingly endless dimensions of Poe's imagination.
As part of the celebratory nature of this exhibition, the museum will hold a horror story competition open to anyone living in Charlottesville. Material must be original and contain a maximum of 1,000 words. The winners will be invited to read their stories at the exhibition.
The museum also invites people to extemporize ghost stories of similar length. Two or three people will be chosen to do this on the evidence of submitted brief proposals of a theme.
All will read during the evening of Oct. 30, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., but extemporized and written material will be judged separately. Quality of performance will be factor in judging extemporized stories. Prizes will be awarded.
Brief proposals and completely written stories should be submitted to the museum no later than Oct. 1.
The exhibition will also be the subject of a lunchtime talk given by Stephen Margulies on Nov. 10 at noon in the museum.