Potts, A Life of Stories by Claudia Wilburn.

Artwork by Claudia Wilburn featured in Italian exhibition

Sep 11, 2020
Michael Lowe
Ethel Almond Roberts (Wilburn), 1894-1932 by Claudia Wilburn
Ethel Almond Roberts (Wilburn), 1894-1932 by Claudia Wilburn

Claudia Wilburn has a story to tell, and now she’s sharing it with the world.

Three mixed-media artworks by the Brenau Art & Design Department chair and director of the university’s Center for the Arts & Design are included in the exhibition Fragmented Identities, part of the Borders Art Festival, Sept. 3-Oct. 2 in Venice, Italy.

The altered woodblock prints — Potts, A Life of Stories; Ethel Almond Roberts (Wilburn), 1894-1932; and Robert Harmen Wilburn (Wilson), 1878-1962 — feature Wilburn’s grandfather, great-grandmother and great-grandfather, respectively, and are part of the larger collection Navigate by Reckoning, an artistic deep dive into Wilburn’s family history.

Each piece is displayed with a QR code so that viewers can use their cell phones to listen to an oral history of the person depicted in the corresponding artwork, which Wilburn said fits well with the exhibition’s theme and echoed in her artist statement: “Some of these stories are simple, some dramatic and some complicated, but all are interwoven in my memory with the complex evolving tales told around the family table.”

Much of Wilburn’s work is autobiographical and draws on the connections, paths, family and community present in the Southeastern American experience. Her work has been featured in dozens of exhibitions and garnered numerous awards, including the one that led to the opportunity in Venice. After her Ethel Almond Roberts woodcut won second place in Art Room Gallery’s Portrait exhibition last year, an organizer of the Italian exhibition saw the piece online and reached out to Wilburn.

While Wilburn — who grew up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and received her MFA from the University of South Carolina and her BFA from Clemson — is currently teaching and unable to travel to Italy to see her work on display, she said she remains grateful and excited for the opportunity to share her work and her family’s story with an international audience.

Robert Harmen Wilburn (Wilson), 1878-1962 by Claudia Wilburn
Robert Harmen Wilburn (Wilson), 1878-1962 by Claudia Wilburn

“It’s great to have some international recognition and be part of a diverse group of artists from around the world,” said Wilburn, who added that “it was also kind of fun to tell my father that I was sending his dad and grandparents to Italy.”

“The only time my grandfather ever left the country was in World War II, and I’m fairly certain that neither of his parents ever left the country or even the Southeast,” she said. “So to be able to share their stories, to share our stories, is truly special.”

Jim Eck, Brenau provost and vice president of academic affairs, commended Wilburn on her achievement.

“It is great to see our faculty’s work appearing across the globe,” Eck said. “We not only appreciate the great work Claudia has done as an artist but also as an educator and the director of our Center for the Arts & Design.”

Video Links:

Potts, A Life of Stories

Ethel Almond Roberts (Wilburn), 1894-1932

Robert Harmen Wilburn (Wilson), 1878-1962