Who’s Who of Winston-Salem: Artist Anne Kesler Shields

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A Winston-Salem icon, artist, and trailblazer for women artists in the South, Anne Kesler Shields, lost her battle with cancer on October 6, 2012. She was born January 27, 1932, in Winston-Salem and was a lifelong resident. She received a classical art education at Hollins College. She pursued advanced art studies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, ME, and the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Art in Provincetown, MA (1957). She received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She maintained an active art career from her early twenties until her death, resulting in her having been touted as Winston-Salem’s “most accomplished, living native-born artist.”

Anne Kesler Shields headshot and pop art Silkscreen titled Wheel I, Red
Artist’s photo and Wheel I, Red. 1967 silkscreen by Anne Kesler Shields
Photos courtesy of Carolyn M. Shields

Building The Arts In Winston-Salem

Anne Kesler Shields worked in various mediums and genres, including portraiture, abstract painting, landscape, and collages. In her recent work, she used appropriated images from current events and pop culture juxtaposed with classical artworks. An active member in developing the Winston-Salem arts community, she helped to found the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem and the Winston-Salem Gallery of Fine Arts, which became the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), where she also served on the board.

Anne Kesler Shields Collage Ad Infinitum.
Ad Infinitum. 2001 oil on canvas by Anne Kesler Shields
Photo courtesy of Carolyn M. Shields

Honored By Winston-Salem

In 2022, Shields was inducted into Winston-Salem’s Memorial Walk of Fame. This walkway, outside the Benton Convention Center on Cherry Street, is dotted with bronze stars commemorating those who have made a significant contribution to the arts in our city.

Anne Kesler Shields’ Local Permanent Exhibits

  •  Hanesbrand Theatre, Milton Rhodes Center For The Arts, Winston-Salem
    • 251 N Spruce Street, Winston Salem, NC
  •  Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem
    • Reynolda Hall, 2130 Eure Drive, Winston-Salem, NC
  •  Dillard Collection And Library, University Of North Carolina At Greensboro
    • UNC Greensboro, 500 Tate Street, Greensboro, NC

Shields’ art can also be viewed on her website.

Meeting The Artist

Mywinston-salem.com writer Kristi Marion was fortunate to meet Anne Kesler Shields in June 2011 at a reception for her exhibit, “DIPTYCHS: Appropriated Image Installation Inspired by the Reynolda House Collection.” She describes some of Shield’s works.

“Proud” depicts a confident Sharon Stone beside an equally sanguine painting of “John Spooner,” a work by painter John Singleton Copley in 1763. Demonstrating irony, “Peaceable Kingdom of the Branch,” by Edward Hicks, depicts a vision of man in the 1800s in harmony with nature, which is offset by a photograph of the polar bear, a species now endangered by global warming.

Although separated by decades and color, Shields’ gutsy pairings demonstrate the relationship between the two images. The show contained many erotic images. We are reminded that the themes are not new, but Shield’s juxtapositions nudge us to see the old in a new light. This ability to expose human nature through her collages has earned Shields exhibits in places like Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and Hollins University in Virginia, among others.

Anne Kesler Shields art of prayer towers
Prayer Towers. 2001 collage by Anne Kesler Shields
Photo courtesy of Carolyn M. Shields

“Human Passions Change Little Through The Ages”

“You and I probably see more pictures in one day than a person living in the nineteenth century saw in a lifetime!…I attempt to put some order into the visual clutter. By comparing contemporary advertising and news photographs with images from art history, we see that human passions change little through the ages and from one culture to another.” – Anne Kesler Shields

Where Are Winston-Salem’s Best Art Galleries?

Anne Kesler Shields is one of the many fine artists found in Winston-Salem. Visit some of our city’s art galleries to see others’ work.

What galleries do you enjoy visiting? Tell us in the comments.

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