In the installation Walk Humbly, Nell Gottlieb (b. 1945) provides a counterpoint to the exhibition Pieces of History, also on view. She uses multiple media to examine her Wallace family legacy of slavery in their Shelby County plantation. Walk Humbly reflects her reckoning with this past through the creation of material objects, such as Ritual Vessel, made from black clay with embedded crumbled brick made in 1840 by persons enslaved at the Wallace House, blistered by a torch and fired. The Harvest employs fine china plates with fired-on images of 19th century Black and white Wallace matriarchs, surrounded by those of their descendants coming together in homecoming. She has developed new work specifically in response to decorative objects in Pieces of History. Her hope is to provoke discussion of the root of these objects in the cotton economy that was built on the institution of chattel slavery and the unpaid labor of the individuals the planters had placed in bondage.
Nell Gottlieb grew up in Birmingham and now lives and works in Austin, Texas. She is president of Klein Arts & Culture, the organization founded by Wallace descendants to promote racial reconciliation. Walk Humbly, the exhibition title, is from the title Fear God and Walk Humbly: The Agricultural Journal of James Mallory 1843-1877, edited and published by the University of Alabama Press in 1997. Mallory was part of the kinship network of the antebellum Wallaces. It was his daughter who received, in celebration of her wedding, the Mt. Ida Quilt in Pieces of History.
Above: Photograph of the 2022 installation of Nell Gottlieb’s (American, born 1945) work Bearing Witness at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama.
Artist Nell Gottlieb hopes, through her art, to provoke discussion of the root of these objects in the cotton economy that was built on the institution of chattel slavery and the unpaid labor of the individuals the planters had placed in bondage.
Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama.
Support for this exhibition was provided by lead sponsor Alabama Power Foundation. Additional support was provided by sponsors Mr. Will Hill Tankersley and Dr. Kristin Tankersley and co-sponsors AmeriFirst Bank; Balch & Bingham, LLP; and Valley Bank.