Reynolda House Museum of American Art Acquires Stephen Towns’s “Flora and Lillie”
Reynolda House Museum of American Art has acquired “Flora and Lillie,” a painting by Stephen Towns, a contemporary painter and fiber artist whose recent exhibition “Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance” examined the American dream through the lives of Black Americans. Using labor as a backdrop, Towns highlighted the role African Americans have played in building the economy and explored how their resilience, resistance and perseverance have challenged the United States to truly embrace the tenets of its Declaration of Independence.
Towns’s “Flora and Lillie” (2022) has an important connection to Reynolda. The painting was inspired by Towns’s Winston-Salem residency during the summer of 2022. During a two-week period, Towns explored the history of Winston-Salem and the Piedmont Triad, engaging in research and conversation around the many contributions of Black North Carolinians to the industries that transformed the region. In the Reynolda Archives, a photograph of Flora Pledger and Lillie Hamlin—residents of Reynolda’s Five Row, a village for laborers—captured his attention. The photograph is now beautifully reimagined as a work of acrylic, oil and metal leaf on panel.
“I saw this photograph of Flora and Lillie, and no matter where my research took me during my time in Winston-Salem, these women were fixed in the back of my mind saying, ‘paint us, paint us now,’” Stephen Towns said. “I wanted this piece to be one of love and dignity to these women and to all the people who worked at Five Row to make Reynolda House what it is.”
“Stephen Towns has created an incredibly meaningful painting inspired by the history of African American labor at the Reynolda Estate,” said Allison Slaby, curator, Reynolda House Museum of American Art. “We are thrilled to have acquired this piece as its acquisition aligns with our goals of adding more work by artists of color to the Reynolda collection.”
“‘Flora and Lillie’ belongs at Reynolda,” said Allison Perkins, executive director of Reynolda House and Reynolda Gardens. “It is a striking painting that honors two individuals whose story will forever be told as part of our permanent collection. We invite everyone to come see it in its new home on the second-floor balcony of the historic house.”
The acquisition of “Flora and Lillie” was made possible through the generosity of the Wells Fargo Foundation.
“The Wells Fargo Foundation is delighted to have been able to fully fund this acquisition by Reynolda House,” said Jay Everette, National Director of Community Relations at Wells Fargo. “The Wells Fargo Foundation has a focus on increasing diverse artists in Museum permanent collections. The Foundation also directs a majority of its financial investments to strengthen marginalized communities by investing in pathways to economic advancement and generational wealth. Towns’s work highlights the work and community contributions of African Americans, and this work in particular helps to highlight the Five Row residents that were vital to the history of Reynolda.”
Hours and Admission
Reynolda House Museum of American Art, located at 2250 Reynolda Rd., is open to visitors Tuesday–Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is charged, though several free admission categories apply. Reynolda Gardens is open from dawn to dusk daily, free of charge. The Greenhouse is open Tuesday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reynolda Village merchants’ hours vary. No ticket is needed to shop at the Reynolda House Museum Store.
Reynolda is set on 170 acres in Winston-Salem, N.C. and comprises Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village Shops and Restaurants. The Museum presents a renowned art collection in a historic and incomparable setting: the original 1917 interiors of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds’s 34,000-square-foot home. Its collection is a chronology of American art and featured exhibitions are offered in the Museum’s Babcock Wing Gallery and historic house bedrooms. The Gardens serve as a 134-acre outdoor horticultural oasis open to the public year-round, complete with colorful formal gardens, nature trails and a greenhouse. In the Village, the estate’s historic buildings are now home to a vibrant mix of boutiques, restaurants, shops and services. Plan your visit at reynolda.org and use the free mobile app, Reynolda Revealed, to self-tour the estate.
Image above: Stephen Towns (born 1980), Flora and Lillie, 2022. Acrylic, oil, metal leaf on panel, 48 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the Artist Studio and De Buck Gallery.
June 29, 2023