December 3, 2001
New exhibit features late artist's work
By Eric Rangus email@example.com
Fay Pullen Fairbrother was 49 years old when she died from lung cancer
on Feb. 18, 1997.
Her death ended what had become an increasingly important artistic career.
However, fragments of her work live on. Several of Fairbrothers
creationsa quilt here, a photograph there, a handful of birdcages
scattered everywhereare on display through Dec. 31 in the Schatten
Corridor Gallery of the Woodruff Library as part of the exhibit, Fragments
of Fay: Reconstructing an Artistic Life.
Fragments of Fay is sponsored by the Emory Womens Center,
and the majority of the works were donated from the collection of Atlanta
artist Lucinda Bunnen, a close friend and patron of Fairbrothers.
Were grateful we found a place to give her art the public
viewing it deserves, said Womens Center Director Ali Crown.
The exhibits journey to Emory began with the donation a year ago
of several of Fairbrothers photographs to the Womens Center
by Bunnen. Fellow artist Lily Friedlander suggest Bunnen contact Crown.
The series of black and whites, Self Portrait: Grief, detailed
Fairbrothers condition during her chemotherapy treatments. Stark
images of the artists bald head often mixed with birds provides
an arresting portrait. These photos are displayed in the exhibit.
After temporarily displaying them in the Dobbs Center, Crown contacted
Valerie Watkins, director of the Schatten Gallery. Crown sought Watkins
advice about how to further honor the work. Impressed with Fairbrothers
art, Watkins immediately knew she wanted to put together a full display.
Watkins then got together with Bunnen, who provided her with additional
pieces for the exhibit, which opened Nov. 19.
The photographs represent just a portion of Fairbrothers diverse
work. On one side of the Corridor Gallery sit three quilts of the artists
making. One incorporates turn-of-the-century photos of African American
women among the quilts squares. The unique style of mixing photography
and quiltmaking is one Fairbrother mastered. A group of her quilts, called
The Shroud Series, is on display at the National African American
Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. They display muchmore disturbing
images such as lynchings.
The posed studio portraits of black and white families illustrate
the sameness of the family group posed in their Sunday best; you know
the children are taught the same morals and values, read Fairbrothers
words that accompany the Smithsonian exhibit. But where does the
process go wrong with the KKK meetings
resulting in black men hanging
Fairbrother, a native of New Orleans, was well into her 40s when she
earned bachelors and masters degrees in art history and a
master of fine arts degree in photography. When she was diagnosed with
cancer in August 1995 and given 18 months to live, she was a photography
professor at the Univer-sity of Oklahoma, where she earned both her graduate
Knowing she had limited time, Fairbrother worked feverishly to complete
her final project, Caged Spirits, which made its debut at
the Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Art in Buffalo, N.Y., about
a year later.
That exhibit featured 31 birdcages, each chronicling important moments
in womens lives from birth to death. The overriding theme is womens
oppression. Of the original works, just three remain and all are on display
in the Corridor Gallery. One of them contains a photo of Fairbrothers
mother and a touching story about her.
After Fairbrothers death, Bunnen took possession of the works but
was unable to keep them because of the massive amount of space they required.
Unable to find a permanent place to display them, she donated the majority
to pet stores for needy bird owners.
I think its something she wouldve liked to have seen
reconstructed, Bunnen said of the exhibit, which is free and open
to the public. She was very proud of what she did.
Other items, including Fairbrothers obituary from the Norman, Okla., newspaper, and correspondence donated by another friend, Marilyn Carlton, also are on display.