The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will open a new exhibit, Thorney Lieberman: Honoring America’s Coal Miners, featuring life-size, full-length photographs of coal miners by Thorney Lieberman of Charleston. An opening reception to meet the artist and hear him talk about his work will be held Monday, June 22, at 6 p.m., at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. The exhibit and opening reception are free and the public is invited to attend.
The exhibit, on display in the Balcony Gallery, consists of 18 full-size portraits and another 18 photographs in a smaller format. The full-size portraits are photographs Lieberman has taken from the tops of the miner’s helmets to the tips of their boots. Between 30 and 40 photographs are taken in a grid, life-size, on 8-inch by 10-inch film covering the entire person. He then made contact prints from the negatives and assembled them to create a full-size person. Some of the images include pictures of a miner’s child.
Most of these portraits were shot in black and white and mounted on 16 gauge hot rolled steel sheets. The final pieces are almost seven-feet tall.
Lieberman says the goal of his project was to “. . . put a human face on the energy issue by creating a collection of life-size photographs of American coal miners, suitable for museum exhibition. These monumental portraits reveal the human essence of the coal industry and their exhibition will celebrate and honor these men and women as contemporary American heroes.”
Lieberman has been a professional photographer for more than 40 years. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., he taught photography at the Parsons School of Design in New York for three years. He also was actively taking architectural photographs, and was the principal photographer for I. M. Pei and Partners from 1970-1991. Other clients include Richard Meier, Philip Johnson, New York Landmarks Conservancy and Committee to Save Grand Central, among others. A book of his photographs of New York City entitled Manhattan Lightscape (Abbeville Press, 1990) capped his career as a master architectural photographer and is still in print.
The coal miner series is not Lieberman’s first venture into life-size photographic images. He also created a series entitled The People, which features full-size Native Americans in ceremonial regalia. That show has been on display at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art in Corning, N.Y. and Museum of World Culture in Frankfort, Germany. In addition the Native American photographs are archived in tribal museums and cultural centers throughout the country.
Lieberman’s work is included internationally in museum, corporate and private collections. He won a Governor’s Award and a Merit Award in the Division’s West Virginia Juried Exhibition 2007 for two of his coal miner portraits. He also had a major retrospective of his work entitled Several Arguments with Photography 1968 - 2008 last year at the Huntington Museum of Art as part of their Walter Gropius Master Artist series.
For more information about the exhibit, Thorney Lieberman: Honoring America’s Coal Miners, contact Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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