A new photography exhibition commissioned by Fernbank Museum of Natural History reveals Georgia’s golden history through the work of students at Atlanta’s Portfolio Center. Georgia’s Heart of Gold features 41 photographs that showcase gold’s local and historic influence—from modern-day gold panners to distinguished gold medal winners, from gold records to gold “grillz,” and from Dahlonega’s gold mines to the State Capitol’s gold dome.
Georgia’s Heart of Gold, on view from September 26, 2009-January 3, 2010, was created through a partnership between Fernbank Museum and the Portfolio Center to complement the Museum’s presentation of GOLD, a separate exhibition that combines golden artifacts, nuggets, jewelry and awards to explore the cultural significance and historical fascination with this enduring symbol of wealth, power and beauty. (Full press release on GOLD is attached.)
Georgia’s Heart of Gold highlights the diverse work of seven students and includes close-ups, black-and-whites, action shots, panoramics, worm's-eye views, bird's-eye views and more. Medals, metals, grillz, pans, buildings, musicians, jewelry—the images cover the full spectrum.
After being approached with this novel idea by alumnus James Hays of Fernbank Museum, Jerry Burns of The Portfolio Center organized a new class to create a museum-quality exhibition while providing a rich learning opportunity for the students. Structured as though students were pitching a story about gold in Georgia to a magazine, the class attacked the project with intensive brainstorming and hands-on research ranging from the historical to the whimsical, from pop culture to deeply-rooted tradition. The students delved into the hills, cities and homes of Georgia to capture their story. Now, Fernbank visitors can peek into this window of Georgia culture and see the beauty, intrigue and importance of gold in our region.
“This exhibition is special because it looks deeply into the cultural aspect of gold and how people in Georgia have interacted with it,” said Hays, Fernbank’s Vice President of Exhibitions. “For instance, our visitors will see an amazing gold coin minted in Dahlonega well over a hundred years ago in the exhibition GOLD, and on our walls they will see photographs of modern gold prospectors panning for gold in Dahlonega. It’s interesting to imagine that a similar prospector, knee-deep in a river before the Civil War, may have contributed a nugget to make the coin.”
The students are eager to see their hard work on display at the museum, something many photographers dream of for decades yet something these students were able to achieve through Fernbank before they reached graduation.
“To see my work up on the walls of a museum means a lot to me. It is the fruition of a lot of hard work and the culmination of years of gaining knowledge and confidence as a photographer,” said Portfolio Center student Chris Low. “This exhibit is sort of an introduction as a photographer to the city of Atlanta, and an amazing exit from Portfolio Center. It may be the only time I hang in a museum so I plan on soaking it up and really enjoying it while it lasts.”
The photographs in Georgia’s Heart of Gold correspond with the objects visitors will encounter in GOLD and help further the story of Georiga’s history with gold, offering personal stories to the artifacts, awards and gold specimens in the galleries.
The photographs of Artem Nazarov and Leigh Anna Thompson focus on the allure of finding gold in Georgia. Nazarov includes portraits of residents who remain fascinated by the treasures found in Georgia, from golden Civil War treasures, to nuggets found in gold mines, to the glow of the State Capitol building, topped with gold mined in Georgia. Thompson features members of the Lost Dutchman Mining Association, an organization focused on prospecting and mining for gold. Her series of photographs reveal the continued search for golden treasures in Georgia and the site of the first gold to be found here.
Justin Keoninh and Courtney Lankford embrace the cultural fascination with gold. Keoninh documented Georgia’s gold grill industry of removable gold teeth, a trend that first started with the hip-hop industry in the 1980s and continues today. Lankford showcases what gold means to individuals through cultural tradition and personal style.
Emily Dryden, Chris Low and Nathan Stoan reveal gold’s prestige through portraits and action shots of Georgians who have been awarded gold for their achievements. Dryden features the pride of several award-winning athletes and a decorated Navy veteran. Low recognizes gold medal winners from the Olympic Games, Special Olympics and Paralympics. Stoan highlights Georgia’s golden touch on the music industry through a series of portraits of local musicians.
“This was an invaluable experience for our students,” said Jerry Burns, Creative Director of Photography at the Portfolio Center. “They learned the power of narrative, the ethics of documentary work, how to seize that decisive moment, and how to work under deadline. Best of all, they were given the opportunity to showcase their work in a national museum.”
Georgia’s Heart of Gold is on view from September 26, 2009-January 3, 2010 and is included with Museum admission. Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, $13 for children ages 3-12, and free for museum members and children ages 2 and under. To reserve tickets in advance, call 404.929.6400 or visit fernbankmuseum.org.
Fernbank Museum is located at 767 Clifton Road in Atlanta. For visitor information, visit www.fernbankmuseum.org.
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