Graham Family exhibit shows that art is all in the family

Published 10:29 pm Friday, October 28, 2016

A unique collection of art opened with a reception Thursday evening at the Firehouse Gallery.

Titled, “Not far from the Tree: the Legacy of Art in one Southern Family,” it not only features an eclectic collection of paintings and photography, but chronicles, through art, the history of the Graham family of Bainbridge.

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The exhibit, designed by two sisters, Linda R. James of Wisconsin, and Jan James Niedringhaus of Tennessee, is the result of their genealogy research of their Southern ancestors. They are cousins of Berry Penhallegon. They soon discovered seven generations of artists and musicians, all starting with the matriarch of the Graham family, Lucy Lotitia Dickenson, known as “Mama Lou.” She raised the Graham children after their mother, and her only child, died in 1922 of influenza.

The exhibit is divided into four sections, each one with historical explanations.

The tone is set as you enter the front door. You are greeted with a set depicting Mama Lou’s room. One of her fine paintings is on the wall, the furniture is of the late 19th century, complete with her rocking chair, and family photos on the side wall, alongside the family tree.

Then, to add a touch of myth and mystery, there is the family’s claimed connection to the famed artist Benjamin West, known as the “American Raphael.” There is a ring on display believed to contain a self-portrait painted by West and given to the family.

The exhibit will continue on Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. through November 13.