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Gatewood's work creates variations on Southern themes

Maud Gatewood is a nationally known painter whose favorite subjects come from her birthplace of Yanceyville in Caswell County -- right below Danville, Virginia and right above Greensboro. Her current exhibit at Hodges Taylor Gallery plays to her strengths.In her paintings, Gatewood often manages to stop time and let us see Southern scenes we know but don't think about much. For example, in "Beside the Store" she has painted a rusted metal barrel where an absent figure is burning trash. The painting lets us appreciate the patterns and direction of the smoke and the upside down license plate nailed to the side of the building.

Hodges Taylor has organized Maud Gatewood -- The Last Fifty Years, a mini-retrospective of the painter's career, put together in honor of the 50th reunion of her Women's College (now UNC-Greensboro) class. Gatewood has had a stroke and this timely exhibit honors her for her work as a Professor of Painting at UNC-Charlotte, primarily in the 1960s, and as a recipient of a Fulbright Grant to study in Austria with Oskar Kokoschka and, among many other awards, an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from UNC-G.

Gatewood has been a great traveler touring all over the globe: Iran, Australia, Africa, India, China, etc. However, it seems that she felt most at home in Yanceyville where her father was Sheriff and she was elected a County Commissioner after moving back there following her teaching days at UNC-Charlotte.

Gatewood immersed herself in the history and art of every country she visited and has always exhibited a strong grasp of the movements in contemporary art. The exhibit includes work done in the 1950s when Jackson Pollack had turned the art world upside down with Abstract Expressionism. "Montgomery Street," Gatewood's painting from 1956-1958, turns houses and lawns into abstracted shapes of orange and green. "Spillway," a rural North Carolina scene painted in 1975, features intense flowing water and rain both indicated by broken lines painted an equal distance apart.

Gatewood also paints figures. "On Paradise Island" is a large canvas featuring a woman in a bikini who fills the entire image and is wearing an orange hat. "Consuming Cause" is a painting featuring several intense, angry figures who look like they're ready to fight. At first these people appear to be political protestors until we read from the back side a banner that tells us the nature of their madness - they're at the opening of a sale.

"Wet, Heavy Snow" features a huge white shape that takes up almost 80 percent of the canvas and is a strong example of minimalism.

The most beautiful piece in the show is also about snow. It's a small work, "Snow Study, 1977," which features diagonal lines of white falling across a horizontal grid of black lines. The viewer can easily be convinced that he or she is in an actual snowstorm -- perhaps in Caswell County.

After our press time on Monday, Maud Gatewood passed away at the age of 70. The exhibit continues at Hodges Taylor Gallery through December 24. Gallery hours are Tuesday - Friday from 10am - 5pm and on Saturday from 10am to 3pm. On Thursday, November 18, at 7pm at the Mint Museum of Art, 2730 Randolph Rd., there will be a free screening of a documentary about Maud Gatewood.

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