DALLAS, N.C. – The Gaston County Museum of Art & History announces a ground-breaking gift of 250 works by Gastonia native John T. Biggers from the Hazel Biggers Trust -- one of the largest single collections of works on paper from the significant 20th century artist.
The transformative gift consists of works of art on paper, mural sketches, paintings, and a selection of works from the personal collection of John T. Biggers, one of the most significant 20th century American artists. These are the first pieces by John T. Biggers to be added to the museum’s permanent collection. The selected works are a significant glimpse into the artist’s creative process and span nearly the entirety of his career.
“The Gaston County Museum of Art & History in Dallas, North Carolina is now equipped to make and keep history alive for our hometown native, artist, family member and friend, the late Dr. John Thomas Biggers, better known to all of us, as Uncle John,” said Ina O. Biggers, widow of the late James Converse Biggers, Jr.
Ali Pizza, Director of the Gaston County Museum of Art & History says, “The significance of this gift from the Biggers’ family cannot be overstated. The Gaston County Museum of Art & History is only a few miles away from the birthplace, the community, the landscape; the very heart of John T. Biggers’ inspiration as a young artist. Our museum now has the opportunity, and responsibility, to provide visitors with an insight into the monumental impact that John T. Biggers’ artwork had on the world.
“I am honored that Ms. Ina Biggers, David Hales, and the larger Biggers family has trusted us with the stewardship of this important collection.”
John T. Biggers was born April 13, 1924, on West Davidson Avenue, in Gastonia’s Highland Community in a home built by his father, Paul Biggers. The youngest of seven children, Biggers’ earliest creative memories were formed in Gastonia. Prominent photographer Earlie Hudnall Jr. says, “Biggers’ journey began in Gastonia where he received his moral base and values from his family. Wherever he went on his journey he always carried Gastonia in his heart…his journey has found a final spot, and it’s Gastonia.”
Many of John T. Biggers’ paintings and murals feature familiar images from his early childhood in Gastonia. Pizza says, “We see these early memories reflected in Biggers’ artwork throughout his lifetime… they appear in the rich quilted patterns that adorn women’s clothing, the repetitive pattern of shotgun houses forming the landscape, and in themes of work, family, and community.”
The Gaston County Museum of Art & History acquired the John T. Biggers collection gift on September 18, 2023, and is in the process of inventorying the artwork, conducting condition reports, and planning for conservation before the artwork can go on display. In the meantime, the Board of Trustees are working with museum staff to plan for exhibition of selected works so that Gaston County and the region can share in experiencing this transformative collection.
John T. Biggers’ artistic influence was on a national scale. In 1994, Biggers illustrated Maya Angelou’s poem, “Our Grandmothers.” Angelou called Biggers “one of America’s most important artists, (who) leads us through his expressions into the discovery of ourselves at our most intimate level. Biggers sees our differences and celebrates them, and in doing so he allows the clans of the world to come together with deliberate respect and respectful appreciation.”
The Gaston County Museum of Art & History is honored to accept this monumental gift into its permanent collection.
To learn more about John T. Biggers and the recent gift, please visit the Gaston County Museum of Art & History website or email Director, Ali Pizza.