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True Likeness

January 12, 2023 – July 22, 2023

Portraits serve as expressions of identity, popular taste, social standing, and as documents of who, when, and where. Representing one’s self in the best light or seeing others in understandable terms are motives behind why we record images of each other, whether for rituals, documentation of events, art making, or as expressions of status.

Coming to the Gregg Museum from the Van Every/ Smith Galleries at Davidson College, True Likeness presents an exhibition of contemporary portraits from diverse makers in a variety of media including video, photography, painting, collage, installation, sculpture, printmaking, and drawing. Artists, some familiar, others more on the fringe of the art world, hail from all over the United States. Their own identities, and those presented through their works, provide a snapshot of who we are as a country. The exhibition took shape over the last few years as overt and coded hate speech became congruent with one of the most divisive elections of our time. For this reason, it became increasingly apparent that highlighting and celebrating diversity was paramount.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant mask mandate taught us not to focus on superficial characteristics, but instead to reflect on our profound similarities as humans, a notion many of the artists included in True Likeness address through their art.

True Likeness was co-curated by Tom Stanley and Lia Newman.

Collage of yearbook images from a 1959 yearbook.
John Monteith, No. 96 (Charlotte H.S. 1959), 1997

Participating Artists

Endia Beal is known for her photographic imagery and video installations exploring the relationships of women of color within the corporate space, as based on her own experiences. She earned a dual BA in Art History and Studio Art with a concentration in Photography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her MFA in Photography from Yale University School of Art. Previously, Beal served as Gallery Director and Curator at Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University.

Antonius-Tín Bui identifies as a queer, gender-nonbinary, Vietnamese American artist. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, they earned a BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Since graduating in 2016, Bui has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Kala Art Institute, Tulsa Artists Fellowship, and Halcyon Arts Lab. These opportunities have allowed Bui to greatly expand their practice beyond hand-cut paper techniques.

Sam Doyle was an artist born on the island of St. Helena, SC. His work gained national attention after being included in Black Folk Art in America: 1930-1980 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1982, and has since been exhibited at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Art Museum of the University of Memphis; New Orleans Museum of Art; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; among others. His work was collected by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat and can be found in notable institutions such as the American Folk Art Museum, New York; Milwaukee Museum of Art; New Orleans Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. In 1985, contemporary artist Ed Ruscha posthumously dedicated a painting to Doyle, Where Are You Going, Man? (For Sam Doyle), which is now in the collection of Eli Broad and The Broad Museum, Los Angeles, CA.

Amir H. Fallah lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He received his BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and his MFA from UCLA. He has exhibited his work internationally, including at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro; The Sharjah Biennial 2009; Third Line Gallery in Dubai, UAE; Gallery Wendi Norris and Baer Ridgway Exhibitions, both in San Francisco; Cherry and Martin, Mary Goldman, and LA Louver galleries in Los Angeles; and 31 Grand and Frederieke Taylor Gallery in New York; among others. He has been a visiting lecturer at such institutions as University of Southern California, UCLA, Cleveland Institute of Art, University of New Mexico, Otis College of Art and Design, and Maryland Institute College of Art. Additionally, Fallah was the founder and editor for more than a decade of Beautiful Decay magazine.

LaToya Ruby Frazier holds a BFA in applied media arts from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and an MFA in art photography from Syracuse University. She also attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. Frazier has exhibited work widely in the US and internationally at such institutions as the Brooklyn Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Frazier is the recipient of numerous awards, including Honorary Doctorate degrees from PennWest Edinboro and Pratt Institute, a 2011 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, the 2012 Theo Westenberger Award from Creative Capital, the 2016 10th Anniversary Gordon Parks Foundation Award, and fellowships from the MacArthur Fellows Program, TED Fellows, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the American Academy in Berlin. Her work can be found in private and public art collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, JP Morgan Chase Collection, and the Library of Congress, among others. She is currently Associate Professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Juan R. Fuentes, graduate of San Francisco State University, is a cultural activist, artist, and printmaker who has dedicated his career to social change. His works address issues related to social justice, international struggles for liberation, and local communities of color, in particular the Chicano, African American, Middle Eastern, Asian and Native American struggles for equality, peace, and justice. In 2007, after ten years as Director of Mission Gráfica at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Fuentes resigned and created Pajaro Editions, a printmaking studio that is part of Consejo Gráfico Nacional, a collective of Chicano/Latino print studios. His prints and posters have been exhibited internationally and can be found at the Mexican Museum and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art and the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C.; the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles, and California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA), University of Santa Barbara, where his personal archive has been set up. Fuentes is the recipient of such prestigious awards as the Harriet Barlow Award from Blue Mountain Center, Activist Award from Southern Graphics Council International, and Art is a Hammer Award from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, among others. He has taught at City College, San Francisco, the California College of the Arts, Oakland, and was visiting faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute print department.

Raymond Grubb is a photographer born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and raised in the foothills of North Carolina near Morganton. He earned a degree in biochemistry from Davidson College in 1974. He first worked in the medical field for several years, then became a baker, and later a fine art and commercial photographer. He lives and works in Charlotte, NC, where he exhibits his photographic portraits with SOCO Gallery.

Holly Keogh is a native of Charlotte, NC, where she resides. Her studies include a year at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, in 2012, before earning her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After graduation, Keogh participated in the inaugural artist residency of the Goodyear Artist Collective. She is currently represented by SOCO Gallery and has exhibited with various galleries in the Southeast. In 2019, she was selected to participate in the Pienkow Artist Residency in Chelm, Poland, where she received the People’s Choice Award. Keogh was a Spring 2020 artist-in-residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Charlotte.

Deborah Luster‘s work has been widely exhibited, including at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago; Prospect. 1 International Biennial, New Orleans; and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; among other venues. Luster has been honored with such prestigious awards as a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship; a Robert Gardner Fellowship, Peabody Museum, Harvard University; Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize for Documentary Photography, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University (with C.D. Wright); and an Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, SFMOMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, New Orleans Museum of Art, and other public and private collections.

Clyde Eugene “Gene” Merritt was a self-taught artist born in Columbia, South Carolina. As an infant, a bout of heavy fever left him with permanent cognitive disabilities. When he was twelve, after his mother committed suicide, Merritt and his father moved to Fort Mill, SC. There he attended high school but never graduated. He became dependent on alcohol, and worked a variety of odd jobs. After his father’s death in 1981, he stayed briefly in a nursing home before becoming a ward of the state, dependent on an adult foster care program. After being recognized by the late curator Geneviève Roulin, his works were acquired by the Collection de ‘Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, established by modernist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985). Merritt’s works have since been exhibited worldwide and are included in several important museum collections.

Dan Robert Miller was born in South Carolina’s Orangeburg County and was raised by a single mother who died when he was just nine years old. By the time he was fifteen, he had worked various jobs, such as picking cotton, working in a sawmill and driving a truck. His health eventually began to fail and during a period of depression, he found what he called a “God-given gift” for woodcarving. A self-taught artist, Miller lived in Orangeburg County until his death in 1991. Miller’s Abraham Lincoln and MLK/RFK/JFK (also referred to in previous exhibition catalogs as Standing Figure and The Kennedys and King) were exhibited in Tree of Life, the 1995 inaugural exhibition of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD.

John Monteith is a self-taught artist from New Jersey. His work has been seen in solo exhibitions at such venues as the Tapps Art Center in Columbia, SC; the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts in Woodstock, NY; SOMA NewArt Gallery in Cape May, NJ; Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC; and, in 2000, at the Edward M. Smith Gallery at Davidson College. His work has also appeared in group exhibitions around the US and abroad at the Maison de Lyon, France; the Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PA; and Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, among other venues. Monteith has been featured in articles and photography publications, notably appearing in Mountain Xpress newspaper and New York Magazine in recent years. He currently lives in Columbia, SC.

Kameron Neal is a queer Black artist and designer based in New York City. He constructs kinetic environments using stop-action photography, video, glitch, humor, and performance. Forbes described Kameron’s solo exhibition at Detroit Art Week 2019 as “an absurd escape that simultaneously provokes and entertains.” Neal uses technology to craft compelling performances that address identity and challenge socio-political ideologies rooted in racism and bigotry. Neal earned a BFA in Graphic Design from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Currently in residence at CultureHub in New York, he previously participated in residencies at the Public Theater’s Devised Theater Working Group and Ars Nova in New York, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE. Neal’s work has been exhibited at such venues as Signature Theatre, New York; New Orleans Film Festival; the Center for Collaborative Arts & Media, Yale University; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA; and the RISD Museum, Providence, RI. His graphic work has been published in National Geographic, HYPEBEAST, and Studio Magazine and was featured in music videos for Billy Porter and Rufus Wainwright

Wendy Red Star, of Apsáalooke (Crow) and Irish descent, was born in Billings, MT, and grew up in Pryor, MT, on the Crow Reservation—a rural community and sovereign nation. She earned her BFA in sculpture from Montana State University, Bozeman, and her MFA in sculpture from the University of California, Los Angeles. Red Star’s work has been exhibited at institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Newark Museum of Art; Portland Art Museum; Hood Art Museum at Dartmouth College; St. Louis Art Museum; Minneapolis Institute of Art; and Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, among others. She has also served as a visiting lecturer at institutions across the United States and abroad. Red Star was awarded an Emerging Artist Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. Red Star lives and works in Portland, OR.

Bill Thelen, born in Milwaukee, WI, holds a BFA from the University of Wisconsin and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Since 1998, he has shown work in solo exhibitions across the US at venues including the Allcott Gallery at UNC, Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston, the Rubenstein at Duke University, Green Gallery West in Milwaukee, Vox Populi in Philadelphia, and the Branch Gallery and Spectre Arts in Durham, among others. His work has been included in Frieze, The New York Times, Art in America, Time Out London, Sculpture, and other publications. Thelen has held residencies at UNC-Chapel Hill, Obracodobra in Oaxaca, Mexico, and The Rubenstein at Duke University. He has also worked as a curator for institutions including CAM Raleigh and the Flanders Gallery, and served as director of Lump in Raleigh. Thelen lives in Raleigh, NC.

Mickalene Thomas holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and an MFA from Yale University. Her work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Bass Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, Georgia Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and La Conservera Contemporary Art Centre, Ceuti, Spain, among others. Her work has also been featured in group exhibitions across the US and abroad and can be seen in numerous international public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Thomas has received prizes and grants from the USA Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellowship, Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation, Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award, and the Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts. Thomas lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.From the collection of John and Teenuh Foster: The Fosters’ art collection has been shown at the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and more than a dozen other institutions. Their collection and John’s writing have been featured in numerous publications, including Harper’s, Raw Vision, Don’t Take Pictures, and Newsweek Online. John Foster has an MFA in painting, and is an Emeritus member of the Board of Trustees of SPACES (Saving and Preserving Art and Cultural Environments), and the Folk Art Society of America. Foster lives in St. Louis, MO.