Betty Monkman, the former Chief Curator at the White House, took time to visit the Huntsville Museum of Art to enjoy Orientalism: The Allure of North Africa and the Near East. During her stay in Huntsville, Monkman explored the exhibition and was able to attend the Voices of Our Times lecture by PBS correspondent, John Yang.

Monkman said her time in Egypt for an archeological tour and her sister’s involvement in the Peace Corp in Indonesia and North Africa created an interest in some of the architecture and art from the region.

“I saw a lot of classical ruins and sights there and I was always intrigued by the architecture,” Monkman said.

Monkman’s career in curating began due to her love of history and research. She spent over 30 years serving in the Office of the Curator at the White House during which she curated a collection of historical paintings and decorations, some of which were inspired by Napoleon’s visit to Cairo. She said she was excited to be visiting the museum to see the exhibition.

“I think it is a wonderful exhibit. It is very evocative, and at times it can be a romanticized view. The documents, the books, the drawings are all really special. I was not familiar with a lot of the European artists that have done the works in the show and it was a learning experience for me about who these artists were,” Monkman said.

According to the Monkman, the different pieces of the exhibition come together to make an informative collection. She said she was especially impressed with the architecture in the paintings and the information provided in the books in the collection.

“I love the architecture drawings on the mosques and the books on the details on the architecture.  I love the scenes along the Nile and the great sights along the banks. I love the way the artist played with the light, and the genre paintings of the people in the markets. There is a lot to see, it’s a really informative and complete exhibition,” Monkman said.

Orientalism: The Allure of North Africa and the Near East will be on display at the Huntsville Museum of Art until Jan. 19. The exhibition is included in the cost of admission for non-members and is free for members. Contact the museum at 256-535-4350 for additional information on hours and admission.

“Come definitely! You will learn a lot and your eyes will be open to wonderful works of art.  It’s really a learning experience and a real emotional experience to see this exhibit. I would urge people to come to the museum to see the show,” Monkman said.