The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

A closer look

Ackland experts evaluate public art pieces

Curator Timothy Riggs examines a painting by Bruce Forriest. DTH/Mary-Alice Warren
Curator Timothy Riggs examines a painting by Bruce Forriest. DTH/Mary-Alice Warren

Curator Timothy Riggs has evaluated many interesting works of art in his time — everything from Japanese illustrations to chromolithographs, a form of chemical printing.

“Someone brought in a case containing a three-dimensional floral bouquet produced from different colors of human hair,” Riggs remembered.

On Thursday, he offered his broad expertise at the Ackland Art Museum’s curator clinic. The bimonthly event invites the public to bring their art to be evaluated.

Riggs, the Ackland’s curator of collections, discussed the style and significance of the pieces brought in during the clinic.

He evaluates the condition of the work and describes the artist’s technique and historical context. Curators estimate a piece’s date and origin but do not appraise its value.

Timothy and Leigh Werrell, of Durham, brought in an oil painting.

Purchased at a thrift shop, the piece depicted a fishing boat against a backdrop of cliffs topped with castles.

“We want to find out what its origin is and hopefully a date,” Timothy Werrell said. “It’s about the thrill of uncovering the mystery. … We don’t know anything about it. Everyone has been speculating about it — everybody and their brothers and friends.”

The piece was identified as a 19th century work of French or British origin, painted by someone who Riggs described as “unaffected by impressionism.”

Though he’s rarely stumped by a piece, Riggs isn’t an expert in every type of art. He specializes in print-making but is experienced in other media.

“I don’t always have answers, but I can always tell them something,” Riggs said. “It’s a good way to attract people who are shy about coming in to a museum.”

Cathy Jarman and Martha Hoekstra, both of Greensboro, brought in a pair of 19th century oil paintings.

Riggs described the piece Jarman brought in as an “appealing, picturesque rural landscape” with a composition more familiar to etchings. He identified the piece as probably from the 1870s.

Hoekstra brought in an oval-shaped oil portrait of a falconer. Riggs said it was one of the most interesting pieces of the day.

“I was absolutely pleased with the clinic, although I was sorry he didn’t say it was a Rembrandt,” Hoekstra said.

Contact the Arts Editor at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.