An extraordinary series is developing in North Carolina, a Southern regional artist's vision is coming to life, and a portrait of the state of North Carolina is being made. J. Chris Wilson, professor of art and artist-in-residence at Barton College, has embarked on a journey across North Carolina and is now working toward a goal of 100 paintings that will showcase the state's richness and scenic diversity. Wilson's From Murphy to Manteo – An Artist's Scenic Journey series of paintings captures the heritage and history of North Carolina through a personal voice, continuing in the regionalist tradition of the South.
Described as a champion of American regionalism, Wilson takes audiences on a unique journey through North Carolina, presenting vast, yet detailed, panoramas of scenic landscapes along the U.S. Highway 64 corridor, a 563-mile journey from the mountains to the sea. On Wilson's journeys across the state, he captured multiple compositions of large landscapes — including waterfalls, cotton fields, country roads, mountains and coastlines — and used them as the inspiration for a comprehensive portrait of the North Carolina landscape.
"I have been painting the North Carolina landscape for more than 35 years, but the current body of work began to take shape as a series more than a decade ago," said Wilson. "Although I began the journey seeking only to represent North Carolina scenic landscapes, along the way I found something of myself reflected in the scenes. My wish for the series is that viewers might find something of themselves reflected in the paintings also."
Several of Wilson's large landscape paintings included in his From Murphy to Manteo series are on exhibit in the lobby of the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. His detailed and painterly oil-on-canvas works, some measuring nearly 16 feet in width, often portray more than the camera lens or eye can see. Wilson currently has 27 of the large-scale oil paintings completed, and he plans to add another 73 by 2014. When the series is complete, the 100 paintings will serve as a broad-sweeping survey of North Carolina vistas.
The From Murphy to Manteo project evolved after Wilson became interested in serial landscape images while teaching at a university in Japan during a sabbatical. He began to visualize the entire state of North Carolina as potential subject matter for a series, a visual journey for viewers to experience.
"We are pleased to have Chris' beautiful paintings on view in the museum lobby," said Ken Howard, Director of the North Carolina Museum of History. "Our permanent exhibit The Story of North Carolina chronicles over 14,000 years of the state's history. Chris' series of paintings From Manteo to Murphy is a perfect complement to this exhibit, as it gives our visitors an artist's representation of some of the counties featured in the exhibit."
Although a Georgia native, Wilson has resided in North Carolina since the early 1970s. He began teaching art at Barton College in the fall of 1974 and is currently in his 37th year with the College. Wilson's designation as artist-in-residence is the first in the history of the school. He has exhibited throughout the Southeast and all across North Carolina. Wilson's art is represented in numerous public and private collections in the United States, especially in the Southeast, and in England, Japan and Saudi Arabia.