SUSAN J. RAWLES brought “Of Glitter and Grit: American Painting from the McGlothlin Collection” to us in February-

Traffic permitting, the Virginia Museum of Art is a quick trip up the road from Hampton Roads and, as is true of our own Chrysler Museum of Art, you don’t need a special exhibit to lure you into the car.

Instead, you can enjoy the particular pleasures of getting to know a permanent collection.  Visit, revisit, pick out favorites, pretend to own one.  It’s a nice feeling to have a relationship with a collection.

And Susan J. Rawles, Associate Curator of American Painting and Decorative Art at the VMFA, brought us exactly the glimpse we needed to lure us up the road during her lecture on February 27th.

VMFA George Bellows, “Tennis at Newport” 1920

The VMFA’s James W. and Frances Gibson McGlothlin Collection of American Art provides ample material to love- seventy-three works spanning a century from 1830 to 1930 and encompassing periods from the Hudson River School to Modernism.

Opened in November 2015 as a permanent installation, the collection was carefully and caringly assembled by a Virginia couple.   Their love of the American art scene and dedication to their community now provides all of us an opportunity to enjoy a broad collection of American masterworks right in our own backyard.  “Up the road.”

Photo: David Stover © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts August 2013 Dr. Susan J. Rawles has been the Assistant Curator of American Decorative Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 2008, serving previously as Research Associate for the American department from 1995. She received a PhD in American studies from the College of William and Mary, an MA in the history of art from Rice University, and a BA in economics and government from Smith College. A specialist in American material culture of the colonial and revolutionary periods, she is particularly interested in the socio-historical context of art and has written and lectured on topics ranging from colonial portraiture to period interiors. Part of the 2010 reinstallation team for VMFA’s American art galleries, she co-authored the accompanying publication, American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2010).




NICA GUTMAN RIEPPI discusses her hands-on experience with Leonardo’s SALVATOR MUNDI

There was a “little” story in the news last year…

Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
(Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, photo:

… about a painting which, after decades lost to public view, resurfaced in the deep south and SUDDENLY – it’s attributed to Leonardo da Vinci himself.  One of only twenty known da Vinci’s anywhere in the world.

After attribution, it sold at auction for the astronomical amount of four hundred and fifty million dollars, the highest price ever achieved by a work of art at auction.  And the buyer, initially anonymous, was later identified as a Saudi Prince.

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The intended home of the painting was the new Louvre, Abu Dhabi.  A public display of the painting was scheduled for this past September, 2018.

That same month, the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi announced that the painting’s display would be indefinitely delayed, leaving the world abuzz with questions, theories, rumors, and a twinge of fear over the painting’s fate.

This is a story of Saudi princes, Russian billionaires, Instagram-posting former directors of renown art museums.

And restoration specialists, including our January 23rd, 2019 speaker, who helped bring solid science to bear on the re-discovery of the SALVATOR MUNDI, precipitating it’s eye-watering price at auction.


NICA GUTMAN RIEPPI is a Principal Investigator at the firm Art Analysis and Research, in New York City, with over twenty years experience in the field.  She holds a dual masters in art conservation and art history and has worked at world class institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

For twelve years, she was responsible for the technical analysis of old master paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection.

And she has taught art forensics for esteemed graduate programs, including the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU.

Her lecture for the Norfolk Society of Arts detailed the four years she spent, with a small team of other experts, using the latest art forensics technology to analyze raw data and amass information towards authentication of the SALVATOR MUNDI.

As she described that experience and very frankly answered questions after the talk, the audience were wrapt by the topic and also the impression Rieppi gave each of us, in just over an hour’s time, of a shared intimacy with the story and the painting itself.

Nica Gutman Rieppi took time for a tour after her lecture with her friend, Chrysler Museum of Art’s Conservator, Mark Lewis.

Rieppi brought into poignant clarity for our community the ongoing mystery of this masterpiece and its fate.

HEATHER LENZ discusses YAYOI KUSAMA and other adventures in filmmaking!

IMG_1444Art Historian and filmmaker HEATHER LENZ presented a lecture entitled “Kusama:  Connecting the Dots” on November 28th to a packed house.  Art and film enthusiasts and many students from local universities attended, well aware that Lenz’s film “Kusama:  Infinity,” about world renown modern artist, Yayoi Kusama, had premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year to great acclaim.  Screenings began in select theaters in September 2018.

It was a long road getting to that point for Ms. Lenz.  She began working on the film seventeen years ago, when Kusama was an unrecognized name in the art world.

As a fine arts student at Kent State University, Ms. Lenz was introduced to Kusama’s work by one of her sculpture professors.  She was immediately drawn to it.  Later, after receiving an MFA in Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California, Lenz’s thoughts turned to filmmaking.  The combination of film and Kusama was yet to come.

Lenz’s first short documentary, “Back to Back,” about a bicycle inventor, was nominated for a Student Academy Award and screened in film festivals worldwide.

Her first film, “Intertwined Lives,” was the story of identical twins.

She worked as a researcher for the History Chanel, the Food Network and PBS.

She never forgot Kusama, a complex, creative personality, and a perfect fit for Lenz’s desire to combine art and filmmaking, two things Lenz now knew well.  Except that’s where the perfect fit ended.  Kusama spoke no English, lived half way around the world, and most problematic of all, was an unknown name to investors in the film making world.

Fortunately for us, Ms. Lenz persevered and began a documentary on Kusama which took seventeen years to make.

Early in her work with Kusama, and well before Kusama’s meteoric rise to fame, Lenz travelled to Japan to meet her.  After spending a rousing few hours visiting with Kusama, young Heather said her thank you’s and goodbye’s and exclaimed, “This was the happiest day of my life!”

To which Kusama, then in her seventies, replied, “Mine, too.”

And happily for us, quite unexpectedly Ms. Lenz gave permission for the Norfolk Society of Arts to premiere her documentary film, “Kusama:  Infinity” on the evening after her lecture at Norfolk’s own Naro Expanded Cinema.

It was fully attended and enjoyed to rave reviews!

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Our thanks go out to Heather Lenz, and also to the Naro Expanded Cinema for a wonderful Kusama-filled event!


JED PERL, “The Finest American (Art) Critic at work today,” discusses ALEXANDER CALDER’s early years…

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The Norfolk Society of Arts was pleased to host Jed Perl as our October speaker.

Born in New York City to parents who were artistically and intellectually inclined, Perl went to museums and concerts and talked about ideas from an early age.

He drew and painted as a child and young adult.  But he also had early leaning towards critical writing.  In his words, he was always interested in the “intense experiences” that the arts, in all their forms, can provide.

He wrote movie reviews for his high school newspaper and art criticism for the Columbia Spectator at Columbia College where he attended as a student.

It comes as no surprise, then that Mr. Perl grew up to become what one reviewer at The Atlantic described as perhaps “the finest American critic at work today in any field.”

Mr. Perl began writing for The New Criterion in the early eighties and eventually became the art critic for The New Republic, a post he held for twenty years.  He was a contributing editor for Vogue for ten years and currently publishes regularly in the New York Review of Books.

He is a professor at the New School in NYC where he teaches and, very importantly, mentors young people interested in pursuing careers in the creative professions.

He has written several historical books including New Art City:  Manhattan art Mid-Century, which was a 2005 New York Times Notable Book.  He has also written several collections of criticism, as well as edited a nine hundred page anthology on art in America from 1945 to 1970.

Most notably for us, he just recently produced his first work of biography, the monumental first volume of Alexander Calder’s life, entitled, Calder:  The conquest of Time:  The Early Years:  1898-1940.

In her review of the book, the novelist Fran Lebowitz writes, “All artists are critics, but very few critics are artists.  Jed Perl is one of those few.”



A Maverick’s Story told by a Curating Master AND Caught on Film

The Norfolk Society of Arts recently hosted the Chrysler Museum of Art’s beloved Curator Emeritus, Jeff Harrison, lecturing on the “maverick” collecting career of a man he knew well and admired, Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.


The lecture was, as expected, information and anecdote-filled, as only Jeff can do it.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture it all-  so, for a first in the hundred year history of the NSA- we filmed the lecture in full.

Check it out on our Facebook page, @nosoarts.norfolk.



September Lecture Cancelled

With huge regret, we announce  the CANCELLATION of our September 12 lecture, “Past, Present and Future of the Detroit Institute of Arts,” due to Hurricane Florence.
Many thanks to our NSA Speaker’s Committee, who worked so hard to schedule
Mr. Salort-Pons of the Detroit Institute of Arts as our season’s first speaker,

and to Mr. Salort-Pons himself, for what we hope might be a rescheduled lecture in the near future?

But for now, the weather prevails.

Florence heads for the coast (photo: the weather channel)


Our Lecture season’s starting!

12 September 2018

SALVADOR SALORT-PONS, Director, President &  CEO of the Detroit Institute of Art.

His topic is his museum:  “Past, Present and Future of the Detroit Institute of Art.”


Coffee in the Chrysler Museum’s Huber Court, 10:30.  Lecture 11am sharp!

Meryl Gordon

7 May 2018

“Bunny Mellon:  the Life of an American Style Legend”


Before our Annual Meeting and Benefit Luncheon, our season’s final speaker was the award-winning journalist and best-selling author, Meryl Gordon, currently the Director of Magazine Writing at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University.


She has written for a variety of publications, including Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, and Town and Country magazine.  And she has profiled an array of influential and popular figures ranging from Kofi Annan and John Kerry to Michelle Obama and Nicole Kidman.

Her best-selling biographies include the enticingly titled, “Mrs Astor Regrets:  the Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach,” as well as, “The Phantom of Fifth Avenue:  the Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark.”

Her latest book, and the topic of our May lecture, “Bunny Mellon:  the Life of an American Style Legend,” was released this past Fall and is already on the New York Times best seller list and in its fifth printing.

It features a woman with significant ties to our region.  Bunny Mellon built and furnished homes in Northern “horse country” Virginia, bequeathed an extensive collection of Schlumberger jewelry to the VMFA, and, along with her husband, Paul Mellon, Made substantial gifts of art to both the VMFA and the National Gallery of Art.

Meryl was accompanied for the lecture by her husband, Walter Shapiro, a noted political columnist, who, in the acknowledgement of her book, she describes as “funny and charming, comforting and smart… and even a great line editor.”













For the description of her course, the art of biography, in the NYU course catalog, Meryl poses several questions for the potential student, including this intriguing one:  “How do you choose which truth to tell about a person?”  Adding, “There are many ways.”


Dr.Kathleen Foster

28 March 2018

“American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent”

A lecture funded by the Mary Ellis Jarvie Fund, established by our good friends and supporters, Jim and Christiane Valone in honor of a beloved family member.


Dr. Foster’s distinguished career as a curator began at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, then at the Indiana University of Art Museum, and continues today, after sixteen years, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  She is a respected leader in the field of American Art and a noted expert on the works of Thomas Eakins.

She also has assembled a definitive exhibition and catalog on the American Watercolor Movement.  The topic of our March lecture, it traces what has been called a “sea change” in American art history.  A “once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation” moment.

Dr. Foster’s long-standing interest in the American Watercolor movement began in graduate school when she started work on the collection of Edwin Austin Abbey.  Over the following decades, her strong connections and respect within her field allowed her to assemble over one hundred and seventy-five fragile works of watercolor, pieces rarely loaned due to their fragile state.  The result was the exhibition of a lifetime.


Lisa Freiman


28 February 2018

“Making History:  The 2011 Venice Biennial and the Institute for Contemporary Art”

Lisa Freiman, a curator, art consultant and faculty member at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts, delivered an information-packed lecture on her experiences taking an edgy, controversial exhibit to the American Pavilion as its Commissioner during the 2011 Venice Biennale.


Ms. Freiman, pre-lecture, with NSA President McCarthy… and eager, front row guest-

In 2010, as Senior Curator of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Dr. Freiman envisioned and directed the construction of a $25M nature and art park adjacent to the museum, including eight commissioned sculptures.  Museum attendance increased by sixty-seven percent as a result and a new model for sculpture parks in the twenty-first century was established.  She definitely left a stamp on Indianapolis.

One year later, after completing one of the most arduous and competitive selection processes in the art world, Dr. Freiman was named Commissioner of the United States Pavilion for the Venice Bienalle 2011.

And for the last five years, Dr. Freiman has served as the first director of the new Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond, Virginia, scheduled to open- mark your calendars- on April 21 of this year.  Not only did she co-curate the opening exhibit, she oversaw all aspects of the building design and construction, selected and recruited staff, and conducted and completed a $37M capital campaign.

She definitely left a stamp on Richmond, too!