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Native American Studies Center presents:

Solitude and Mystery: John Julius Wilnoty

Exhibit dates: August 14th, 2015 through January 14th, 2016

John Julius Wilnoty has been described as a “legendary” figure among Cherokee artisans. A member of the Eastern Band, Wilnoty was born in 1940 in the Bigwitch community of the Qualla Boundary and later lived in Wolftown. He grew up with little formal education. As a sculptor, he is completely self-taught, taking up carving when he was about 20 years old. Because of his innate skill, Wilnoty became an overnight sensation, creating hundreds of stone carvings, each with its own mysterious iconography.

Wilnoty had not been carving very long when he gained the attention of the public. His “Eagle Dancer” was a masterful carving that used the natural grain of the wood to emphasize the movement of the dancer. The sculpture was declared a “masterpiece” by all who saw it. Columnist John Parish dubbed the artist the Cherokee’s “Michelangelo.” Wilnoty quickly and quietly became “famous,” his work in high demand.

Although Wilnoty had only begun to carve in the 1960s, in 1964 he was recruited by the federal Indian Arts and Craft Board to teach a workshop for the Choctaw tribe in Mississippi. By 1971, he was a member of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, the Cherokee’s prestigious artisan cooperative. Less than a decade after he began carving, Wilnoty was honoured with an exhibition that celebrated his “impressive carving skills” and his “highly imaginative and expressive handling of sculptural forms.” In 1972, he was given a second solo exhibition, this one at the Pasadena Art Museum in California. That exhibit included 25 pieces in red and grey pipestone from a private collection. Over the next decades, the Smithsonian and the Washington, DC-based Indian Arts and Crafts Board collected many of his works.

Since that time, Wilnoty continued to carve, but did less carving after seriously injuring his hands and fingers with tools that must remain sharp enough to gouge hard stone. His son, Fred and grandson, Freddy Bear carry on the Wilnoty name and legacy. An exhibition of Wilnoty’s work—with samples by his father, sons, and grandson—is titled: “Solitude & Mystery: John Julius Wilnoty.” The exhibit will showcase never-before-seen work by John Julius Wilnoty selected from an extensive private collection. Sponsored by the North Carolina and the Jackson County Arts Councils, the exhibit will later travel from the Native American Studies Center at the University of South Carolina in Lancaster to the Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum where it will be on view in 2016.

For questions about this release or for more information, contact Curatorial InSight at:

See Lancaster SC and Lancaster County Council of the Arts presents

“Between the Springmaid Sheets” Exhibit.

“Between the Springmaid Sheets”, an exhibit of works of art from legendary Colonel Elliott Springs’ daring 1940’s and 1950’s ad campaign will be on view for the months of November and December in Lancaster, SC.  The controversial campaign is credited with rescuing a struggling textile business and helping Springs Cotton Mills become a giant of the industry.  “Between the Springmaid Sheets,” will be exhibited in the Lancaster County Council of the Arts’ Galleries  at The Historic Springs House, 201 West Gay Street, Lancaster, SC 29720, with a public reception being held from 2-4pm on the afternoon of Sunday, November 15, 2015. 

The exhibit portrays the story of World War I flying ace, Colonel Elliott White Springs’ inheritance of his father’s struggling enterprise in 1931 and the ad campaign of racy images and innuendo-laced text that helped catapult the cloth business to prominence.   A collection of original illustrations and associated advertisements by internationally known illustrators is the principle focus of “Between the Springsmaid Sheets”.  Springs commissioned illustrators, including James Montgomery Flagg, George Petty, and Rockwell Kent to create “Springmaids” and female employees sometimes modeled for them.  The depictions of attractive young women, featured in risqué ads, created controversy that served to further promote Springs Mills products.

The company gained prosperity by the 1950’s, but not by advertising alone. Elliott White Springs worked to modernize ,expand, and begin the manufacture of finished goods after World War II. Previously, the Springs mills had produced unfinished cotton fabric and now began turning out processed cloth, manufactured into finished items - primarily bed sheets. Springs was very successful and the mill in Lancaster was, at one point, the largest in the United States.

Understanding the new structure’s success depended on a national market for finished goods, Springs developed a humorous, provocative ad campaign.   Almost twenty years earlier, he had proposed the idea of transforming a typical sexy ad into a cartoon to his father, and when the concept was brought out in the post-war world, the public’s imagination and dollars were captured by its intellectual properties.  With witty captions that described actions in the ad, such as “How to Put the Broad in Broadcloth” and “Bungled Bundling”, the campaign was captivating when it was released.  Today, it still is as the motivations and societal circumstances that built the successful “Springmaid” brand are explored through the illustrative works that make up the exhibit.  

“Between the Springmaid Sheets” is on loan from the Springs Close Family Archives at the White Homestead in Fort Mill, curated by Karen Derksen, director of Winthrop University Galleries. Hours for the Historic Springs House are 8am-5pm Monday – Thursday and 8am-12pm on Fridays.  The exhibit is sponsored by The City of Lancaster in partnership with Lancaster County Council of the Arts. 

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