In the 11 months that followed the 2015 murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, artist Leo Twiggs painted as a cathartic means of processing the event and responding to the what he described as “the state’s most humane moment.” The murders at Mother Emanuel reignited debate surrounding the display of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House. South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill to remove the flag after 54 years. Using symbolism of targets, the Confederate flag and the number nine to represent those killed, the series documents Twiggs’ interpretation of the horror and the humanity that arose from the tragedy.
Leo Twiggs (born 1934, St. Stephen, South Carolina) attended Claflin University where he studied under Arthur Rose, who in 1952, the year Twiggs matriculated, created the only art program available to African Americans in South Carolina. Twiggs earned his Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from Claflin and afterwards went on to study a year at the Art Institute of Chicago. He received a Master of Arts degree from New York University in 1964, where he studied with acclaimed African American painter and muralist, Hale Woodruff. In 1970 Twiggs became the first African American to receive a doctorate in arts education from the University of Georgia. After graduation, he took a position at South Carolina State University where he established an art department and was instrumental in opening and running the I. P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium. Twiggs was named Professor Emeritus at SCSU in 2000. In 2017 he received the highest honor the state presents in the arts, the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts from the South Carolina Arts Commission. At the same time, he was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor in the state of South Carolina. He lives and works in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he serves as Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at Claflin University.
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University wishes to gratefully acknowledge the following people and institutions for the loan of art for this exhibition:
The Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina; Lynn and Flavia Harton; The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina; David and Grace Johnson; Keven and Kelly Lewis; Hugh T. Scogin Jr.; and Jennifer and Mack Whittle
For her vision, support, and generosity, we also express our gratitude to Sandra Rupp, Hampton III Gallery, Taylors, South Carolina.