Joseph Wallace King Collection
The late Winston-Salem (N.C)-based artist Joseph Wallace King bequeathed dozens of his original works to Elon University upon his death in 1996. During his lifetime, Mr. King painted portraits of diplomats, politicians, royalty, as well as local residents and central figures from Elon University’s history. However, King was not solely a portrait artist; his catalogue of work ranges from early experimental expressionistic pieces to atmospheric landscapes. Additionally, under his pseudonym “Vinciata,” King produced works that were stylistically reminiscent of the High Renaissance masters.
Elon University’s Collection of Joseph Wallace King contains examples of each “period” or style he employed. Highlights include: an artist’s sketch of Richard Nixon, an early representation of Queen Elizabeth II, a self-portrait in the Vinciata style, and several expressionistic pieces.
International Art Collection
Elon University’s most extensive collection, the International Art Collection includes pieces from Asia, Africa and Haiti. More than 400 in number, the collection represents the efforts of several generous donors. Stateswoman, educator, and 1924 Elon graduate Isabella Walton Cannon (for whom the Isabella Cannon International Centre is named) generously donated objects from her work and travels to various countries, including: China, the Republic of Liberia, Iraq, the Republic of Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
The most voluminous portion of the collection came through the efforts of Dr. James Lankton, a retired Winston-Salem anesthesiologist. Dr. Lankton presented Elon University with two large gifts (one in 1992 and another in 2003) of African art. The Lankton portion of The International Art Collection contains objects from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana. In addition to the African works from Cannon and Dr. Lankton, the collection also features two Bamana (from Mali in western Africa) antelope headdresses, known as Chi Wara and presently on display in the Belk Library, given to Elon by James and Shirley Jensen.
Also included in the International Art Collection are more than 100 pieces bequeathed by North Carolina artist, educator, and politician Maud Gatewood. The Asian objects from Gatewood, acquired through a lifetime of travel, embody her belief that the journey from “home” instills a perception of “realness” to the world. Lastly, the International Art Collection has several pieces from Haiti donated by former Elon professor Ralph Kerns.
Elon University’s Portrait Collection includes dozens of commissioned and donated works of prominent members of the campus community. Notable examples are the portraits of past Elon presidents: William S. Long, one of Elon’s founders and its first president; William W. Staley (second president); Emmett L. Moffitt (third president); William A. Harper (fourth president); Leon Edgar Smith (fifth president); J. Earl Danieley (sixth president); and Elon’s seventh president J. Fred Young.
Artists featured in the collection include Ned Bittinger, Henry Rood Jr., Joseph Wallace King, Michael del Priore, Tom Edgerton, Colleen Ward, Lisa Egeli and Peter Egeli.
Collection of Regional Artists
The Collection of Regional Artists is comprised of original works by prominent southeastern artists. In addition to her bequest of travel antiquities, Maud Gatewood gifted Elon with 18 original works including five canvases, 12 works on paper, and a ceramic piece. Gatewood, who occasionally is categorized as a “Southern” painter, defied that categorization noting that “I don’t think in those terms. I tend to think of me as me. I just paint what I see and know.” Also included in the Collection of Regional Artists is a work by North Carolina educator and artist George Bireline. Bireline, an artist of national prominence, is best remembered for his “color-field” paintings although he experimented with numerous styles over the years.
The most recent addition to the collection is a series of works by Elon photographer John T. Giancotti. Giancotti, whose work seeks to “convey the purity and innocence of life,” donated 32 original works, Kodachrome photographs from his travels to Africa, Asia and the Middle-East, to Elon University in 2010.
Collection of Public Sculpture
The pieces that generate the Collection of Public Sculpture are both large and small, some designed to weather the elements and others for display indoors. Illinois sculptor Ed McCullough’s “fascination with space, time and form” is palpable in his striking Orphic Dream #9, which was purchased in 1989 and installed outside of the Fine Arts Center. The piece is one of 13 works that compose the Collection of Public Sculpture.
Another piece in the collection is the work Civilization by Iraqi artist and former Elon visiting professor Ahmed Fadaam. Civilization, which stands outside of Arts West, was created by Fadaam during his last year at Elon and is a powerful commentary about global inequity and injustice faced by women around the world.
The Davidson Print Collection
The Davidson Print Collection consists of 42 prints purchased from the Dwight Merrimon Davidson Contemporary Print Exhibition. The exhibition, a national juried contemporary print competition, was organized by Elon University’s Art Department for more than a decade. The first exihibition opened on Feb. 11, 1990 with approximately 100 entries from 36 artists. That year 36 printmakers were chosen for the show. By 1992 the competition included artists from 22 states with the entries approaching 175. Artist in the collection include Beth Grabowski (For Want of a Good Man’s Praise), Sidney A. Cross (The Garden), Denis Dale (Chameleon Truths), Ivan Schieferdecker (Duck Blinds #1) and Donald Sexauer (Time is Passing, Remove your Masks), to name a few.
The Dwight Merrimon Davidson endowment fund was established in 1988 by C. Vincent and Eleanor Davidson Long of Burlington, N.C., in memory of Davidson, a 1905 Elon College graduate and father of Eleanor Long.
As the genesis of the Elon Art Collections, the General Collection includes numerous prints and original works donated to the university. The largest component of the General Collection is the Priestly Collection. Mary Ellen Priestly and husband S.E. Gerald Priestly were former Elon faculty members who made several generous donations to the university, beginning with their gift of an oil painting of the USS United States, one of the first “official” United States Navy ships, titled The United States by British artist Kenneth Carter.
Over the years, Elon University has been the recipient of a number of gifts from the Priestlys including 26 remarkable works by noted Japanese printmaker Sadao Watanabe. Watanabe’s work, considered Mingei or Japanese folk art, is a combined expression of his Christian faith and his interest in traditional forms of Okinawan stencil dyeing.