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Mr. Ellis Widner of Little Rock, Arkansas, recently donated an untitled piece of Charles Banks Wilson artwork to the NEO Development Foundation for display in the Charles Banks Wilson Gallery in Kah-Ne Hall. The piece, originally created as a composition study for NEO students, is a pastel drawing of several seemingly random objects that Wilson placed to show students that everyday items can become subjects for art. “When I first saw this piece in Charles’ home, I was taken with it,” said Widner. “As an artist, Charles often gets typecast for his wonderful and important Native American artwork, but when I see pieces like this one or ‘White Hats,’ which is one of his masterpieces, I’m again reminded that he was an artist whose talent transcended labels; he put all of his passion into every piece.”

Widner, a Features editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, first met Wilson while working for the Tulsa Tribune. After arriving at the Democrat-Gazette from Philadelphia, Widner wrote a number of stories on the Arkansas-born Wilson for the newspaper. Over the years, they also developed a personal friendship. “When I told Charles how much I liked the pastel his eyes just lit up,” he recalled. “Some time later a package showed up at my door and I was very surprised. I tried to return it to him, but he insisted I have it. From then on, I considered myself as a custodian of the piece and planned to donate it one day.” Included in the package was a note that read ‘Because you’re the only person besides me – who thinks this an interesting drawing! CB-’

Widner noted that since the untitled work was created at NEO while Wilson was on the faculty, it was the best place for the drawing. “This still life, like his best work, shatters expectations and stereotypes and I think that’s very important for art and even the way we look at other people. The observance of his 100th birthday seemed like the perfect time to donate this.”

“We are grateful to Mr. Widner for his donation of such a unique piece of artwork to add to our collection in the Charles Banks Wilson Gallery,” said Jennifer Walker, executive director of the NEO Development Foundation. “The fact that the piece was created by Mr. Wilson to teach former NEO Art Students makes it very special for us.” The piece is now on display in the Charles Banks Wilson Gallery in Kah-Ne Hall. The gallery is free and open to the public. For more information about Charles Banks Wilson or the gallery, contact Jennifer Walker at Jennifer.hessee@neo.edu.

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