Maud Florance Gatewood

Maud Gatewood

Maud Gatewood
  • Maud Gatewood
  • Artist
  • Yanceyville, North Carolina
  • (1934-2004)

A Brush with Natural Beauty

MAUD GATEWOOD | 1934 -- 2004

     By David Perlmutt of the Charlotte Observer

She was a sheriff's daughter, and even in the rural isolation of Caswell County in the 1930s and '40s, Maud Gatewood found a critical eye and vast curiosity that served her well through a visual life. Her curiosity led her eye to cows grazing outside her childhood window, or to far-flung corners of the Earth riding camels, yaks and elephants. What she saw, she recorded on canvas.

All of it: Whether it was a crush of people storming a store for a sale; or a series of paintings of TV evangelists and politicians pandering for money -- one piece she titled "Profit/Prophet" -- or a stand of birch trees in Montana. Gatewood, one of North Carolina's best-known artists whose work hangs in museums and private collections across the country, died Monday. She had suffered two strokes recently and been unable to communicate. She was 70.

"Maud painted what she saw and she was a very keen observer," said longtime friend Dot Hodges, co-owner of a Charlotte gallery. "Nothing escaped her curiosity. She liked catching the instant." Gatewood, who lived in Chapel Hill, was born and raised in Yanceyville in Caswell County, where her father, Yancey Gatewood, was sheriff. At 10, she began to take art classes at Averett College in nearby Danville, Va. -- impressing teachers with her ability to see what most couldn't.

As a girl, she often rode shotgun with her father on patrols or moonshine still busts -- carrying a leather holster and toy gun. On a pony her father gave her, she found freedom beyond her picket-fence town, riding out to the farms and forests where she developed her lifelong appreciation for nature that constantly showed up in her work.

"She did believe there's order in nature," Hodges said. "She would look at things and find the natural patterns." Gatewood graduated from Woman's College (now UNC Greensboro) with a degree in fine arts in 1954 and earned a master's degree from Ohio State a year later. In 1963, she won a Fulbright grant to study art in Austria, under renowned painter Oskar Kokoschka.

Gatewood, never one to bite her tongue, found Kokoschka to be pompous and patronizing. "He would come around for a critique and offer the girls a bon-bon,"Hodges said. "When he got to Maud, she said: `I don't care for one of those, but I will take one of your cigarettes.' She thought his treatment was very degrading."

Returning, she came to Charlotte and to a fledgling art program at UNCC. She coordinated the program through its infancy, and left in 1973, deciding she needed more time to paint. After teaching part time at Central Piedmont Community College for two years, Gatewood moved back to Caswell County, where she was a county commissioner for years -- always the lone woman. She'd lovingly refer to the board as: "Just me and the boys." In Caswell County, she began cultivating her recognizable style, ranging from abstraction to realism, along with some figurative work and landscapes.

"You can always tell a Maud Gatewood painting," said Danville painter and longtime friend Robert Marsh. "She was daring. She'd have a stand of trees and then a diagonal comes out of nowhere. Who would do that, except for Maud?" She always impressed Marsh with her work ethic. If she wasn't painting, she was traveling. She got the adventure bug from her mother, Mary Lea, a world traveler. Often with Hodges, she traveled to India, Africa and China. "Even then she was storing up images," Marsh said.

During the 1970s, Gatewood was represented by two big-time New York galleries, but that didn't last long. "She was not as renowned as she should be, probably because she stayed in North Carolina," Hodges said. "She was a kind, generous soul." Yet she had a strong following, particularly in the Southeast. Her work hangs in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. She also won many prestigious awards, including the painting award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1972 and the North Carolina Award in Fine Arts in 1984. Five years ago, UNC Greensboro gave her an honorary doctorate. Like many artists, Gatewood was not a great self-promoter. "Maud just wasn't built that way," said Chapel Hill gallery owner Joe Rowand, who represented Gatewood for 30 years. "She lived to paint; she didn't live to promote herself. She felt she was a decent painter, but she just didn't seek out notoriety."

Charlotte Observer
November 9, 2004
© 2004 Charlotte Observer.

Studio Arts Building Named For N.C. Artist Maud Gatewood By Steve Gilliam, University Relations

When it opens this summer [2006], the new Studio Arts Building at UNCG will bear the name of Maud Gatewood, the late artist who is acknowledged as one of the state’s most important painters. UNCG trustees named the building for Gatewood, a renowned artist who was a 1954 alumna of Woman’s College (now UNCG). Located on Highland Avenue just off Spring Garden Street, the 99,000-square-foot structure is a North Carolina Higher Education Bonds project and is being built at a cost of $17.6 million. A formal dedication will be held October 5 as part of UNCG’s Founders Day activities.

“There could be no better choice than Maud Gatewood as the namesake for our Studio Art Building,” said UNCG Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan. “She was a one-of-a-kind individual who graduated from this institution and then went on to achieve national and international recognition for her painting. She was one of the state’s finest artists, and it will be an honor for this university to put her name on a new building that will benefit our art and design students for years to come.”

Maud Florance Gatewood, who died in November 2004 at the age of 70, is considered by art historians, curators, museum directors and collectors as one of the most important painters in North Carolina history. Her namesake, the Maud Gatewood Studio Arts Building is located on Highland Avenue near the Weatherspoon Art Museum, which holds five Gatewood paintings in its collection, and will receive some of her other paintings from her estate. Upon completion, it will house UNCG’s departments of Art and Interior Architecture. Scheduled to be completed this summer, the building will open its classrooms, design studios, foundry, ceramics studio, art gallery and outdoor sculpture garden to students this fall.

At the age of 16, having skipped two grades in school, Gatewood entered Woman’s College where she earned her B.A. in fine arts in 1954. A year later, she completed an M.A. in painting at Ohio State University and later studied at UNCG and Harvard University. Later in her career, she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Salzburg, Austria. She exhibited widely in the southeastern United States throughout her career and won numerous awards for her work. Her life and work was chronicled in an hour-long documentary, “Gatewood: Facing the Canvas,” which was produced by UNC-TV.

Will South, curator of collections at the Weatherspoon, said of the artist, “Maud was one of the state’s most fiercely independent artists. She set a standard for both innovation and integrity in her work.” She had other activities beyond her art. In 1976, Gatewood was elected as the first female member of the Caswell County Board of Commissioners and served as chairperson until 1980. During her tenure, she advocated economic development, land use planning and expanded human resource services for the county. She also served on numerous state, local and national boards and commissions, including the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, Piedmont Triad Council of Governments and N.C. Arts Council.

The Weatherspoon Art Museum held a Gatewood retrospective exhibition in 1994 that covered 40 years of her painting. The exhibition later traveled to five museums throughout the South. Gatewood was honored by UNCG with an honorary doctorate in fine arts in 1999.

Source: The University of North Carolina Greensboro University News (2 May 2006).


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