Posted on 2/2/14

obo art 300OWENSBORO, Ky. (6/18/13) – KENTUCKY GOLD: The Legacy of Coal, a documentary designed to celebrate the contributions made by Kentucky’s coal mining families and industries to the cultural history of the Commonwealth, will open at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art this month.

The exhibition showcases more than 200 objects on loan from Kentucky museums, history centers, coal camps, and corporate and private collections and features art and artifacts dating from the late 1800’s to the present.

The exhibition, which debuts on June 22, is presented in recognition of a gift to the museum from Joseph W. Craft, III, President of Alliance Resource Partners, Tulsa, Ok. The gift is being acknowledged by the naming of a gallery in honor of Alliance Coal, LLC.

Featured are works of art in a wide variety of media, including documentary paintings and photographs of the industry; paintings and sculpture made from coal; art by coal miners and their families and special collections of coal mining memorabilia.

A highlight of the exhibition is the painting, “Baker of the Bread of Abundance,” by the major American painter and illustrator Rockwell Kent (1872-1971), on loan from the collection of the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky.

Some of Kentucky’s best-known artists from the second half of the 20th century include Russell May (1921-1990), a Floyd County native, who is represented in the exhibition by landscape paintings documenting coal mining operations across the Commonwealth. On loan from the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, Frankfort, are works by famed woodturner Rude Osolnik, whose father was an eastern Kentucky coal miner. Osolnik is internationally recognized for his hand-turned functional works of art.

Contemporary Kentucky paintings include the innovative works of Darrell Ishmael, a Lexington artist who incorporates coal chips and coal dust into his abstract canvases. Jim Cantrell, known for his large body of works documenting the personalities and geographic regions of Kentucky, is represented by watercolors of mine tipples and a self-portrait portrayed as a coal miner.

“A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner,” a collection of paintings by eastern Kentucky coal miner and well-known folk artist, David Lucas, features 26 oils on canvas presenting an intimate window on his life, family, friends and co-workers. The collection is also on loan from the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky. Lucas currently has a one-person exhibition at the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead.

Other well-known Kentucky folk artists with family connections to the coal industry include the widely recognized Isonville, Kentucky stonecarver, Tim Lewis, and the husband and wife team, Twyla and Lonnie Money, known for their brightly painted animals and birds.

A large collection of photographs presents an overview of mining in Kentucky from the early 20th century to the present. These graphic documentations of the western Kentucky coalfields depict area mines of River View Mine in Waverly, Dotiki Mine in Webster County, and Elk Creek Mine in Madisonville.

Mural-sized enlargements of a collection of photographs taken in the early 20th century by Willard Rouse Jillson for the National Geological Survey are on loan from the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. These photographs provide some of the earliest images of mining sites in Kentucky. Jillson was a historian and educator and served as Kentucky State Geologist.

Contemporary and historical artifacts of the mining industry represented in the exhibition include miner’s hats, lanterns, picks, shovels, augers, lunch pails and technical devices.

The exhibition will be interpreted by a series of events, including Saturday tours for children in July and August with museum personality “Coal Miner Colin,” a Brescia University art major who will lead tours that conclude with art workshops for the participants. The tours are offered free to the public.

Also featured in July and August will be special art projects in the museum’s interactive art studio, ARTLAND, where children will be offered an opportunity to create special art projects inspired by the exhibition.

The museum is located at 9th and Frederica streets in Owensboro. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free but donations of $2 for adults and $1 for children are encouraged. Access for physically-challenged individuals is provided at the Atrium entrance in the 9th Street parking lot. For more information, visit the museum’s website,, Facebook or Twitter.

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