Black Mountain College

Faces of Black Mountain College (1933-1957)

oil paintings by Noah Saterstrom
August 31 – October 20, 2017, Blue Spiral 1, Asheville, NC

Special thanks to Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
(selected paintings, oil on canvas, 12″ x 12″)


I became aware of Black Mountain College when I was teaching at nearby Warren Wilson College years ago. As I learned about the short-lived educational experiment, my first response was what I imagine is a common one – I was overwhelmed by the number of brilliant minds all gathered in one place at one time. My second response was to be bewildered that such a pivotal laboratory of cross-disciplinary innovation has been so understated in the narrative of American Art History. Thankfully, the story of Black Mountain College is getting increasing international exposure, due largely to the efforts of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. In the wake of a global war, European exiles steeped in Bauhaus discipline and America artists and scholars inclined toward wild experimentation converged in rural North Carolina, and the result helped change the course of artistic thought. It is a profoundly hopeful, and I think deeply American, story.

This exhibition includes a selection of thirty oil portraits of faculty, students and visiting lecturers from Black Mountain College; together they influenced developments in visual art, poetry, music, dance, design, mathematics, architecture, and art criticism. While working on this series, my interest was in how to create portraits that are neither photographic realism nor fantastical interpretation, but intimate translations of those portrayed. The joy for me was allowing each portrait to respond to the often fierce personalities of the individuals. It is amusing to note that some of these Modernists would have objected to the very notion of portraiture…but such are the shifting sands of artistic philosophy.

I would like give special thanks to Alice Sebrell and the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center for encouraging and supporting this exhibition.
– Noah Saterstrom, 2017