American photographer JoAnn Verburg designs the 2021 Spoleto Festival USA poster

May 11, 2021

Featuring one of the artist’s signature subjects: olive trees near her home in Spoleto, Italy.

Festival General Director Nigel Redden revealed the 2021 season poster, featuring the work of American photographer JoAnn Verburg (b. 1950). Celebrated for her use of color, composition, and varying focus, her work has been shown internationally and she has received solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Gibbes Museum of Art, among other major galleries nationwide.

For the 2021 Festival poster—which is 18.5″ x 32″—Verburg selected her work Between (2021, 48″ x 32″, archival ink on paper, courtesy of Pace Gallery and G. Gibson Projects), featuring one of her signature subjects: olive trees near her home in Spoleto, Italy. The image focuses on one tree within the grove, reflecting bursts of deep orange sun beams highlighting its trunk and surrounding branches. “I’m fascinated by aspects of life that are in process or have an in-between element,” says Verburg. “For instance, this image taken in the late, late afternoon isn’t daytime or nighttime. It has the qualities of both, but it’s neither. It’s that moment when the sun is there, but it’s not there—both liminal and redolent.”

Says Redden: “I was thrilled when JoAnn selected one of her olive tree images for the poster. The olive tree is a wonderful representation of life, growth and constant care—an especially meaningful symbol after the difficulty of last year.” That the image was taken just outside of Spoleto, Italy, the site of the American festival’s origins, is another parallel. Redden, whose association with Spoleto first began 52 years ago as an apprentice with the Festival Due Dei Mondi, is retiring in October. “Olive trees require a great investment in time and cultivation; it takes a long time for a tree to grow to a point where it will produce fruit,” he says. “Yet the beauty is in that longevity. The trees continue through generations of dedicated families tending their branches.”

Redden and Verburg are also longtime friends—the two first met in the early 1980s, when Redden was Walker Art Center’s director of performing arts and Verburg was a visiting artist at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Today, she splits her time between Spoleto and Minneapolis. “I was thrilled and to participate and have one of my artworks used for the poster,” says Verburg. “I have had countless meals looking at engaging Spoleto posters of the past from artists whose work I love, both in Italy and in Charleston. In fact, looking out from those same Spoleto restaurants at olive trees, with a delicious taste of oil or olives in my mouth, inspired me to make pictures that suggest our profound and sensual connection with nature. I’m honored that my work will now be among the collection.”

Spoleto Festival USA’s season posters have featured works by such artists as David Hockney, Charles Gaines, Jonathan Green, Maya Lin, Chuck Close, Elizabeth Murray, Sol Le Witt, Jasper Johns, and Christian Thee, among others. A gallery of past posters for sale can be found at Spoleto Festival USA posters are limited editions and not reprinted. The 2021 poster is available for purchase online at or by calling the Spoleto Festival USA box office at 843.579.3100 (Monday to Friday, 10:00am to 6:00pm, and Saturday, 10:00am to 2:00pm).

JoAnn Verburg

JoAnn Verburg received a BA in sociology from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MFA in Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology. From 1977 to 1979, she served as the research director and photographer for the Rephotographic Survey Project, traveling throughout the American West to replicate the same wilderness views made by 19th-century frontier photographers. She headed Polaroid’s Visiting Artist Program in the late 1970s and early 1980s, promoting technical innovation in the photographic field by inviting artists to experiment with new large format instant cameras.

Distinguished by its extraordinary sensitivity to the energy and sensuality of the natural world, Verburg’s work combines exquisite color, varied focus, and thoughtful composition to convey the beauty of its subject and setting. Often presented as diptychs and triptychs, her images of olive groves near her home in Spoleto, Italy, to which she has returned for over 30 years, envelop the viewer in a serene, dreamlike atmosphere and explore the passage of time both literally and figuratively.

In addition to landscape, still life, and portrait photography, Verburg has also worked on various installations and public art projects in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Her interest in collaboration has led her to work with theater artists Ping Chong and Robert Wilson; choreographers Trisha Brown and Danielle Malusardi; and her husband, poet Jim Moore.

Verburg has exhibited her work extensively in the United States and around the world. Her solo exhibition, Present on the Road to Bazzano was held at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 2001, and in 2007, Verburg was the subject of a mid-career survey at the Museum of Modern Art New York, Present TensePresent Tense was exhibited at The Walker Art Center in 2008The exhibition Interruptions opened in New York before coming to The Gibbes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, and The I.D.E.A. Space in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her work has also been featured in several group exhibitions at the International Center for Photography, New York (1988 and 1993); The Stroganov Palace, St Petersburg, Russia (1998); the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York (2006); the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran, Iran (2007);  La Triennale di Milano (2018); and The American Embassy is Oslo, Norway.

Verburg’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Spoleto Festival USA

Founded in 1977, Spoleto Festival USA is an annual 17-day performing arts festival in Charleston, SC, that presents leading artists in classical and popular music, opera, jazz, dance, and theater. The 2021 season takes place May 28 to June 13. Spoleto Festival USA is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.