The High Museum of Art acquired Atlanta-based artist Lonnie Holley’s mixed-media work “Shadows of the People” (2021) and a 1913 painting, “Brown the Wheats,” by American artist Samuel Johnson Woolf.

The High Museum of Art welcomed more than 100 guests for Collectors Evening on May 19 to support the acquisition of two new works for the Museum’s collection.

“After a three-year hiatus, we were delighted to come together with our generous donors to celebrate Collectors Evening,” director of the High Rand Suffolk said. “The event was a resounding success for our curatorial departments and a wonderful chance to bring our patrons into the acquisition process. The attendees voted to bring some incredible works into the collection, which we are very excited to share with Atlanta.”

Collectors Evening, established in 2010 to help the Museum acquire artworks, invites guests to take an active role in choosing the next works to join the collection. At the event, guests enjoy a seated dinner, curatorial presentations for the proposed works and voting for their favorite choices. Since the inception of Collectors Evening, attendees have supported the acquisition of 71 artworks for the Museum’s collection.

“These works align with our commitment to acquiring exceptional works of art that represent diverse perspectives and provide meaningful opportunities for us to foster a multitude of dialogues across our collections,” said Kevin W. Tucker, the High’s chief curator. “We look forward to featuring them prominently in future installations and exhibitions.”

“Shadows of the People” (2021), which features acrylic and spray paint on a found quilt, is from a new body of work that Holley began while he was in a residency at the Elaine de Kooning House in the Hamptons in 2020 and that earned him a major New York Times profile last May. The title of this work refers to Holley’s ongoing dedication to uplifting the legacies of marginalized people, embodying them through the liminal form of the silhouette, a motif that is ubiquitous across his two- and three-dimensional works.

Holley has long used textiles in his assemblages and installations, drawing upon their power as a symbol of women’s labor, but this is the first time he has used them on a large scale as surfaces for his paintings.

With his 1913 oil on canvas “Brown the Wheats,” Samuel Johnson Woolf situates himself as an artist of social conscience. In the wake of the Gilded Age, economic disparities had become increasingly visible, nowhere more prominently than in New York, where Woolf had grown up in a family of modest means.

The appeal of this work, which won an award when exhibited in 1913, may have been not only its sympathetic message but also its real-life setting that would have been familiar to many.{div}Woolf depicts an inviting scene, a restaurant packed with customers and busy servers while a chef prepares buckwheat pancakes in the foreground. Lights gleam across the shiny white tiles, and a display of fruits — oranges and grapefruits topped with a then-exotic pineapple — suggests the wholesome and quality food on offer.

By contrast, the hungry boy peering from the outside is emblematic of an age of haves and have nots.