LUMBERTON — A collection of the works of local artist Joan Blackwell is on display at the Robeson County History Museum.
The History Museum is located at 101 S. Elm St., Lumberton and the exhibit displays Blackwell’s work on canvas and gourds.
Blackwell is a recent graduate of UNC Pembroke and is currently enrolled in the university’s master of arts degree in Art Education. She came to art later in life after working in the defense industry in Washington, D.C.
“Yes, it’s a completely different field; I wish I had started in art,” Blackwell said. “I decided to study art education after working with young people with the Lumbee Tribe. I enjoyed it so much.”
After retirement, Blackwell’s first foray into art was painting gourds. From it, she developed a curriculum for teaching young people. It was not long before her inspiration moved to canvas.
On display at the Robeson County History Museum is a three-panel mural she created for the Boys and Girls Club in Pembroke. The work serves to inspire native youth with visions of history and culture — past, present and future. She also produced a book explaining the iconography in the work.
There is also a piece on Lumbee hero Henry Berry Lowrie. As a native artist, Blackwell’s work is of native images. Her mentor, UNCP art professor Joseph Begnaud, describes her art.
“As far as her imagery is concerned, I would call her a symbolist,” Begnaud said. “Besides working in the field of native art, her work is very personal. I think dreamlike is a good word for it.”
Blackwell adds: “I have a certain technique. I use bright colors and make peaceful and serene scenes. I like to make people happy.”
Her work is spiritual, and she is exploring that theme further in an independent study this semester.
“I am doing a series of Buddhas,” she said. “I meditate every day. I enjoy the tranquility.”
Blackwell has enjoyed studying at UNCP, and she said she is having a good semester this spring, studying ceramics, art history and the independent study. Her work has been on display in many venues on campus, and she is pleased to bring it to the museum.
“The Robeson County History Museum is a hidden gem that I did not discover for several years after I moved home,” Blackwell said. “It took me some time to put this exhibit together, and I’m looking forward to sharing it.”
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