Return to Discussion List

May 2008 - Queen/City

Crown on Guilded Frame

Re-interpreting the 18th cent. portrait of Queen Charlotte for modern day Charlotte with Ken Aptekar

“I am at loss whether to congratulate or to condole with you in your victory; since the same success that has covered you with laurels has overspread the country of Mecklenburg with desolation… The whole country, my dear country, lies one dreadful waste, presenting only objects to excite terror, pity and despair.”

– from the letter to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, by Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, circa 1761.

Meet the Queen!

Crown on Table

You have seen her statues before – she greets you as you arrive at the airport , looking rather unstable, about to fall backwards. Then you see her, complacently overseeing the traffic jam at a downtown intersection.
Our city gets its name from her – the 17th century Duchess of Mecklenburg who became the Queen of England at age 17. Queen Charlotte apparently caught the attention of her future spouse, King George III, through an impassioned letter about a war (excerpt above). But what she is the most famous for is her (often contested) African heritage – as distinguished by her true mulatto face.

See the portrait

Frame and Fur

You might also have seen her regal portrait at the Mint Museum, done by Sir Alan Ramsay in 1762 – a Scottish abolitionist who is supposed to have accentuated the queen’s features to express his political stance. Yet the image is far from what one would associate these days with that of a person for whom contemporary labels like “mixed race”, “anti-war” etc. could have applied.

In conjunction to their anticipated move to the new downtown location, the Mint Museum has commissioned artist Ken Aptekar to create a contemporary reinterpretation of the portrait.

Meet the Artist

Arm with Fur

Ken Aptekar is internationally known for his work that appropriates/adapts historical images in order to bridge the past and the present. He incorporates words within his pieces, and he begins by recording the reactions of people from diverse groups of museum visitors to classic works of art.

Join us on Friday, May 16th @ 6:00 at the Mint to take another look at the original portrait, and then talk to the artist, and curator Carla Hanzal about it, and its possible new reincarnation/avatar.

and Talk!

  • What do you see in the queen?
  • What do you see in the portrait?
  • What is its relevance (or the lack of it) to contemporary Charlotte as a symbol/relic/mascot?

During an election year where issues of gender, race, and one’s attitudes towards war are in the forefront of the national dialogue, a discussion about the queen inevitably brings up issues like the city’s heritage of colonialism, of inequality. It could also focus on the many aspects of symbolism in art.

Symbols are, after all, the projections of one’s highest ideals on to an object/image. And analyzing a symbol could lead to a better understanding of the history and aspirations of a place.

So, join us to talk: as 21st century dwellers of the “Queen City”, what we see – what we would like to see – in the new portrait of our city’s namesake.

What: Discussion on creating a contemporary reinterpretation of Queen Charlotte’s portrait, with artist Ken Aptekar, moderated by Carla Hanzal.
When: Friday, 16th 6:00-7:30 pm
Where: Mint Museum of Art , 2730 Randolph Rd.
RSVP: Carla Hanzal – carla.hanzal (at) mintmuseum (dot) org by 5/15/08
(Light refreshments will be served)

This is the first one in what would hopefully be a series this year, where point8 collaborates with other groups/institutions to further the dialogue about art, creativity and everything related. Like all point8 events, this one too is free and open to everyone. Please note that this time the Mint requests an RSVP.

See Ken Aptekar’s other work: