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Telfair Museums commissioned Savannah-based artist Dana Richardson (American, b. 1980) to paint a site-specific painting on the third-floor landing wall of the Jepson Center. Late Afternoon near the Academy depicts a landscape of Telfair Square. Inspired by Launching Savannah’s Art Scene: Founders of the Savannah Art Club, an exhibition focused on the founding members of the club who wanted to “develop art appreciation in individuals, and further art in the community,” Richardson depicts the elongated shadow of a painter at her easel as two people watch her progress. Down an avenue of trees, the painter looks toward the Telfair Academy ahead. The figures not only reference the people who attended classes through the Savannah Art Club in the 1920s, but also Richardson’s personal connection to her teachers and outdoor painting. The relationship between teacher and student was an aspect of the club, but also of plein air painters throughout history who often learned out in the environment from an individual as opposed to the closed rooms of an academy of art.

Richardson has spent myriad hours looking at the environment and how it both conforms and seems to bend the rules of perspective; how colors relate to one another; how static objects change from reality to the flattened forms of paint on a canvas; and in that way, she feels a connection to the Romantic ideals of the 18th and 19th centuries that privileged individuality and subjectivity. Many Romantic painters sought an emotional connection to nature, often painting out of doors. This lineage of being inspired by one’s environment continued through the work of the Impressionists, the members of the Savannah Art Club, and to the present day. Not bound by tradition, Richardson’s own interpretation of the landscape is more important than adherence to what is directly in front of her. Working with color in unapologetic ways, Richardson often places colors together that vibrate and push each other forward. She thinks of her work as “color shards in a crystal.”

Dana Richardson, 2020, photograph by Geoff Johnson

About the Artist:

A native of Sewanee, Tennessee, Richardson holds a B.F.A. and a M.A.T. from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She spent a year at the Marchutz School of Painting and Drawing in Aix-en-Provence, France. The school focuses on perception and the theories of Cezanne, whose studio was a few meters from the school. The Vermont Studio Center awarded her a scholarship for a monthlong residency. She has also studied the landscape at the Art Students League in NYC, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the New York Studio School of Painting and Drawing. She lives and works in Savannah.

Late Afternoon near the Academy by Dana Richardson is commissioned by Telfair Museums and curated by Erin Dunn, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

#art912 is an initiative dedicated to raising the visibility and promoting the vitality of artists living and working in Savannah through exhibition opportunities, public programs, and outreach.