On Exhibit October 21 - December 1, 2023
Elizabeth Matheson Photographs 1970-2018
Upstairs Artspace will host the extensive art exhibition Uncommon: Elizabeth Matheson Photographs 1970-2018, Oct. 21 - Dec. 1, 2023, giving Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina a look at the work of one North Carolina’s most celebrated photographers.
This exhibit, originally organized by Cassilhaus (a home-based artist residency and exhibition program located between Durham and Chapel Hill), is a survey of more than 70 images drawn from Elizabeth Matheson’s 50-year career ranging from her early vintage gelatin silver prints to her stunning (and mostly unseen) self-portraits and her contemporary large-scale color work.
Frank Konhaus, a retired AV system designer, director of Cassilhaus, and noted collector of photography, organized Uncommon, and it was originally curated by Lori Vrba and Kent Corley.
For the Upstairs Artspace exhibition, photography loans have been secured from the artist and 13 individual private collectors. It is the largest and most comprehensive retrospective of Matheson’s work to date.
“This is an ambitious exhibition of an extraordinarily talented artist with an exceptional eye,” Upstairs Artspace curator Sarah Schroth, Ph.D. said. “We are most grateful to Cassilhaus for helping us bring this special exhibition to Tryon. I first encountered Elizabeth’s work when I was the Director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham. I was enchanted with the work’s poetic quality, its elegance and superb compositional sense. Everyone with an interest in photography should come see it. It’s an opportunity to see one of the greats!”
The exhibition will open at Upstairs Artspace on Saturday, October 21, with Matheson present for a Walk & Talk from 5 to 5:30 p.m, followed by a reception until 7 p.m. Also on hand will be organizer Frank Konhaus and curators Vrba and Corley. The event is free and open to the public. During the exhibition, prints by Elizabeth Matheson will be available for purchase.
“I photograph what delights me and asks for my attention,” Matheson said recently. “I know that at any moment light can beautify the most ordinary corner of the most ordinary yard and that these small jolts of elation can be captured. For more than 50 years this visual call and response has been the constant and most reliable source of my deepest joy.”
This first-ever exhibition in Tryon features Matheson’s personal and intimate experience of landscapes and interiors from North Carolina and around the world, a recurring motif reflecting an abiding interest in memory, perception, and the power of place. From Hillsborough to Havana, Matheson’s ever evolving, yet singular style rewards the viewer with an uncommon stillness and a sly humor.
Her photographs express her passion for formalism, material, and a unique visual language, exemplifying what a female artist’s gaze can produce. Matheson was one of the earliest female photographers working in the 1970s, in a field dominated by men. Her body of work has secured her a singular place in the history of photography and has had a lasting impact on photographers, both female and male.
Matheson earned her bachelor’s degree in English history in 1964 from Sweet Briar College and later studied at the Penland School of Crafts with John Menapace, a master fine art photographer.
Major solo exhibitions of her work have been held by Hollins University, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the North Carolina Museum of Art, Duke University, Western Carolina University, the National Humanities Center, and the Gregg Museum at North Carolina State University.
Her work is in the collections of Duke University, the Ackland Museum of the University of North Carolina, the North Carolina Museum of Art, among others. In 2004, Matheson was awarded the North Carolina Award for Excellence in the Arts, the state's highest civilian honor.