The Ackland Museum in Chapel Hill opens the fall season of the Chinese Year of the Pig with SPIRIT OF THE BRUSH: CHINESE CALLIGRAPHY AND PAINTING. Using works in its collection, the mysterious and revered Asian discipline is demystified—if only a little bit—with the inclusion of the paper, paperweights, ink stones and brushes used (which all are works of art in their own right). The collection is open now and runs through Nov. 25 (966-5736, www.ackland.org).
Venturing outside the walls of his artist-run collaboration space, Lump Gallery in Raleigh, Bill Thelen, a.k.a. Lump Lipshitz, investigates the sidekicks of the world in BILL THELEN: MINOR CHARACTER at Durham's Branch Gallery. Through Oct. 27, the artist's first solo exhibition combines drawing, painting, film and sculpture with a touch of dark humor (918-1116, branchgallery.com).
Before the North Carolina Museum of Art's LANDSCAPES FROM THE AGE OF IMPRESSIONISM imports a round-up of French painters to Raleigh in October, a special feature in its fall film series hits closer to home. FULLY AWAKE: BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (see "Remembering Black Mountain College") finally brings the little-known, now-defunct college near Asheville the attention its notable alumni—Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller—have received. The free screening starts at 3 p.m., Sept. 15 (839-6262, www.ncartmuseum.org).
Sometimes a photograph is more than just a snapshot in time, as is the case with former Indy photographer Rex Miller's ALL THE BLUES GONE exhibition at Durham's Through This Lens gallery. The show, a collection of up close and personal photos of Mississippi culture over a 10-year span, is just one part of a multimedia project that includes a book, CD soundtrack, documentary film and the Delta Blues Education Fund, a nonprofit project that teams blues musicians with school children. The exhibit runs Sept. 21-Oct. 16 (687-0250, www.throughthislens.com).
As the name suggests, the art in the show SECRETS AND LIES doesn't play by the rules. The collection, at Durham's Craven Allen Gallery, opens Sept. 22 with collages of nudes, animals and scissors from Kathryn DeMarco, designer of the 10th anniversary Full Frame Documentary Film Festival poster, and abstract, textured paintings by Linwood Hart (286-4837, www.cravenallengallery.com).
Raleigh's Artspace doesn't typically feature multimedia work, so a special exhibit that begins in September and continues through the next two First Fridays, Oct. 5 and Nov. 2, is especially worthy of mention. In a group show curated by Lia Newman, TIME-BASED MEDIA INVITATIONAL features video installations, new media creations and a performance piece, drawn from 13 North American artists. The local contributors include David Colagiovanni, Patrick Fitzgerald, Mary Shannon Johnstone, Pedro Lasch, Joyce Rudinsky and Francesca Talenti (821-2787, www.artspacenc.org).
Photographer Jim McGuire's book NASHVILLE PORTRAITS: LEGENDS OF COUNTRY MUSIC spans 30 years and countless honky tonks. There's Bill Monroe, pressing his mandolin to his lips, and Johnny Cash, standing next to Billy Graham. A rare glimpse behind the genre's rhinestoned Nudie suit façade, these black and white photos put real, raw faces to the men and women at its outlaw roots. McGuire will be on hand at Raleigh's Quail Ridge Books at 7 p.m., Oct. 8 for a signing and discussion (828-7912, www.quailridgebooks.com).
Asheville photographer Michael Traister has photographed three North Carolina governors, the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan and Richard Petty, but his favorite subject exists on a much smaller scale. The Sock Monkey, of craft show and county fair fame, is the star of SOCK MONKEY MADNESS! at N.C. State University's Gregg Museum of Art & Design, running Oct. 25-Dec. 20. Photographs and dioramas depict a world in which the stuffed animal reigns supreme, including a black and white Elvis concert, hip thrusting and all (515-3503, www.ncsu.edu/gad).
Bigger isn't always better in the art world (unless, of course, you're talking about budgets), as proved by 12 X 12 BY FIFTEEN show at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. Fifteen of the gallery's member artists—including Melissa York, Jude Lobe and Amy Sindermann—use an array of media to create art no larger than an album cover. The exhibition begins Oct. 26 with an opening reception at 6 p.m. and runs through Nov. 17 (732-5001, hillsboroughgallery.com).
Forget the static run-through of the usual museum/gallery experience: Look at art. Ponder art. Move two steps to the right. Repeat. On Nov. 2 at Raleigh's DesignBox Gallery, curator Jon Williams will create SUM OF THE PARTS, a digital exhibition that will depend more on the audience than the artist. Music and images submitted via e-mail prior to the installation will change and react in real time to the movements and music visitors bring to the 7 p.m. show (834-3552, www.designbox.us).
The silt-lined Mississippi Delta is a fitting symbol of the fertile feeding grounds of blues hit makers and gospel groups. But even beyond the musicality of the region lies a louder "We shall overcome" rebel yell. These faces, fields and fantasies are captured in Indy photographer Derek Anderson's DELTA DREAM EXPRESS exhibition at Durham's Through This Lens gallery, Oct. 19-Nov. 13 (687-0250, www.throughthislens.com).
Somerhill Gallery's 30th ANNUAL HOLiDAY ART EXHIBITION kicks off Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. with more than 9,000 square feet filled with new paintings, photography, jewelry and sculpture created for the season. Pretend you're Clara in The Nutcracker under the exhibit's two 12-foot ornament trees, covered in miniature works of art. The show runs through Jan. 5 in Chapel Hill (968-8868, www.somerhill.com).December
In the NANCY BAKER INSTALLATION at the Flanders Art Gallery in Raleigh, you'll find classic settings and style with a pop-art kick in the ass. Baker's latest exhibition includes a large tower made from cardboard blocks with her medieval-twisted oil paintings tucked right in. Meet the artist at the opening at 6 p.m., Dec. 7 (834-5044, www.flandersartgallery.com).
Say ho-ho-no to the commercial excess of the holiday season and check out Durham craft store/exhibition space The Scrap Exchange's CRAFTLAND 2007. Go (ever)green with reusable, recycled and repurposed holiday goodies made by artists across the Triangle on sale Oct. 19 through Jan. 10 (688-6960, www.scrapexchange.org).
Karlie Justus worked as an intern at the N.C. Museum of Art this summer.