Archive for the ‘Florence SC Visual Arts’ Category

The Exhibit of Works by Patz and Mike Fowle at Francis Marion University Has Plenty of Funk and is Pretty Awesome

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

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I’ve been wanting to see a big collection of works by Patz and Mike Fowle and the opportunity came on Oct. 6, 2011, at Francis Marion University. The gallery at the Hyman Fine Arts Center at FMU is presenting the exhibit, Funk and Awesome!, featuring individual and collaborative works by Patz and Mike Fowle of Hartsville, SC, through Nov. 10, 2011.

I first discovered Patz Fowle’s unique ceramic creations at one of thePalmetto Hands exhibitions during the North Charleston Arts Festival held at the Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston, SC. The first work I saw was a miniature Noah’s Ark with many sets of crazy looking animals on board. I had never seen anything like it. And, each successive year I would see another or maybe two new works by her and then eventually works by her husband Mike Fowle.

Earlier this year I had an opportunity to see an actual exhibition of works by these two talented artists at the Florence Regional Arts Alliance gallery in Florence, SC, but this was a small show. It just served to whet my appetite. And, I saw a few more pieces at exhibits at the Art Trail Gallery in Florence. So when I heard about the exhibit at FMU – I was ready to go.

Unfortunately for me, it was on a day when so many other interesting exhibits would be opening and I can only be in one place at a time. I’d love to have one of those Harry Potter devices where you can be in several places during the same time frame, but I haven’t been able to work that out yet. It’s one of the many problems with covering such a large region – making hard choices is never easy.

Florence is closer to Bonneau, SC, than most people know, so it helped make my decision a little easier. An extra bonus was that Linda was off from her “other” job and she could go too, but she worked the next day so our trip had to be a quick run in and out.

I think we were some of the first people to arrive, so I started taking photos before it was too late. Translation – before I started talking with folks. And, I did a lot of talking with some of the movers and shakers of the Pee Dee art community that night.

Taking photos was a bit of a challenge as many of the works were presented in glassed cases, but I was pleased with the results – never as good as being there, but still good enough to give you a taste. Without these images there would be no way for me to describe these works.

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Tell Me More

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Jack

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Kisser

After coming back from seeing the exhibit I posted this on my Facebook page, “It was like visiting a dream written by Dr. Seuss combined with Alice and Wonderland and Where the Wild Things Are. A lot of wild, crazy ceramic creatures.” This is a pretty good description of the collaborative creatures made by both of these artists, but this exhibit offered more than the ceramic creatures.

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Magic Carpet Ride

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Catbird in Flight

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Let’s Sit a While and Yackety Yack

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O’Keeffe’s Beautiful Bones

This exhibit also included some ceramic “portraits” with titles like: Frida Without Diego, Picasso’s Palette, Dali’s Dilemma, and O’Keeffe’s Beautiful Bones. One closer to home was A Pearl of A Man, of SC’s Pearl Fryar. There were also some paintings by Patz Fowle. And of course they all carry a touch of that Fowle humor – the couple’s trademark.

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Pearl Fryar’s Fantastic Fro-piary Garden oil painting by Patz Fowle

What was unexpected was a group of works that were re-purposed. You wouldn’t say they were recycled as those are objects that some people toss away, but can be collected and remade into usable products again – like saving aluminium cans to be remade into aluminium cans or other aluminium products.

In this case the Fowle’s, mainly Mike, were re-purposing children’s plastic toys into works of art. He also does that a lot with discarded metal objects. Of course one piece entitled the Plastic Planet used plastic water bottles as a core material. The photos give you a better look at this piece, but it would take you maybe an hour or two to discover all the working “toys” making up the crust of this planet.

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Plastic Planet

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Plastic Planet, detail

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Plastic Planet, detail

I can imagine if we, as a people, keep going the way we are that our planet could look like this one day – a big plastic ball.

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Prestone by Mike Fowle

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I didn’t get this work’s title but it reminded me of man’s beginning on earth (if I can say that in South Carolina) from the primordial ooze of the trash we leave behind, this creature evolved.

These works reminded me of another show that opened that same night in Columbia, SC, at Vista Studios. On view in Gallery 80808 is an exhibit featuring assemblage “portraits” by Kirkland Smith, entitled, Re-Created, on view through Oct. 18, 2011. Smith creates amazing paintings out of re-purposed objects and some that I’ve seen are made up of plastic children’s toys and action figures.

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Image of Audrey Hepburn by Kirkland Smith

I don’t want to detract from the Fowle’s exhibit, but these three artists are saving our landfills from thousands of items which would take 100′s of years to breakdown by making works of art from them – art people want.

Smith’s show will be up for a shorter period of time, so you have to act fast to see it. I’m hoping I do that before it’s down, but time is not a friend of mine. You have a longer time to see Funk and Awesome!, but don’t put it off and miss it.

One advantage of going to an opening is that you can hear stories in the background, like the one of Mike Fowle going into second-hand stores looking for children’s shoes to use with some of their ceramic creatures.

Now you have to understand that Mike is a big guy – he could be described as a mountain man. So imagine this big guy going into a store and asking people if they have any small children’s shoes. It might make some people wonder – what is he doing with all those children’s shoes? It’s just part of being an artist. Sometimes you’re looking for unusual things to do your work – especially when you are re-purposing items. And, I’m sure his search for little children’s shoes have given some folks a creepy story to pass along. I don’t think it’s creepy – the picture it paints in my mind gives me a chuckle.

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Walkin’ the Walk

Before I knew it – it was time to head home. It always seems like it’s time to head home.

You can read about this exhibit and Kirkland Smith’s exhibit in the Oct. 2011 issue of Carolina Arts and see a few more images of the works.

The gallery at the Hyman Fine Arts Center at Francis Marion University is open Mon. through Fri., from 8am-5pm.

For further information you can call the FMU Art Department at 843/661-1385 or visit (http://departments.fmarion.edu/finearts/gallery.htm). To see more works visit (www.patzfowle.com).

A Third Trip to See an Exhibit at the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

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My first trip to the Art Trail Gallery in the heart of Florence, SC’s growing arts district, was earlier this year to see the exhibit, A Celebration of Many Talents: Artisans of the Cotton Trail & the Tobacco Trail, which was an eye opener for me of what this area had to offer, but was being unnoticed for one reason or another. I’ll admit that when we were printing Carolina Artsand distributing copies – we were focused only on those areas where our revenue was coming from, and Florence wasn’t one of those areas. But then we were not the only folks covering the arts in SC ignoring the Pee Dee.

With the online version of Carolina Arts – it is a whole new ball game. Our cost in including areas where we don’t receive support is much lower, but I’m still concentrating on areas which support us. That just makes practical sense. Everyone should always remember we are not a non-profit which gets funding from some government or corporate source to produce this paper. We just look like a non-profit on paper. We’re trying to make a profit. And the Art Trail Gallery soon became a supporter of Carolina Arts.

The second exhibit I attended was Pee Dee Regional Photography Exhibit 2011 – Photofabulous!, a mega show of Pee Dee photographers. If you put the names of these two exhibits in the search window to the right, you’ll find what I wrote about these exhibits.

Last Friday, June 17, 2011, I found myself sort of caught up with work on our July 2011 issue, Linda, my better half, was working at her real job (regular pay and insurance – need I say more) as a 911 dispatcher, so I decided to jump in the car and head to the opening reception to see the exhibit, Visualicious, a survey of 2-D works created by professionals and amateurs alike from the Pee Dee area of SC with over 100 artists participating.

In the back of my mind I was wondering what I would see at this exhibit? Would it be works by the same artists from the first show (no photography for Visualicious) or a new crop of artists. I mean after all – how many different artists could they have in the Pee Dee?

Amazingly, there were a few repeat participants, and at least one who had been an award winner in all three exhibits, (but Patz Fowle is that versatile). But, this was mostly a show of different artists. At least it seemed that way.

Jane Madden, the Queen of the Art Trail Gallery even had work in this show. Wait, a Queen delegates too much work – she’s more like the matriarch of the gallery or better yet, the catalyst behind the gallery. Well, I’m not sure there is a good word for someone who is the Queen bee and worker bee too.

Anyway I got to Florence a little early and stopped in the Target store there and found a great deal on some T-shirts. Anyone who knows me can tell you that my standard uniform is a T-shirt and shorts – almost nine months of the year – even though I was wearing a shirt and long pants for this opening and the two before it. I wanted to give a good impression, before they learn my true nature.

So why mention this? That will become more apparent later on.

I got to the gallery right at 5:30pm, found a good parking space – always an important factor, and when I entered, there was already a good crowd on hand, but with over 100 participating artists – that was expected. You have to figure they’ll come see their own exhibit – right. Anyway, during the last show I saw here I came early and got a good look ahead of the crowd – this time I was fighting for space and the crowd kept getting bigger and the noise level higher. In fact, I got lost in the crowd so much so that I was there an hour before I ran into someone I knew and a few people were looking for me.

I also decided not to bother taking any photos this night. The gallery is not an easy place to get good shots with my camera, one crowd shot is the same as the next one, and works I might have wanted to get would either be too high up, in bad lighting, or be behind reflective glass. I’d rather have no images than bad images of artworks. Besides, you need to go see the exhibit yourself.

I usually like to get a first look before I really start looking, but about a third of the way through I realized I better start taking notes while I could. I have found that I always learn something at these Art Trail Gallery exhibits. There is always so much work in different mediums and styles that I’m bound to run into something I don’t have much experience with. That happened when I came across some acrylic paintings by Heath Starnes that looked just like the marbled fabric I had just looked at and read about the technique used by Ellen Tisdale and Jane Madden who recently attended a workshop on marbling with fabric. This couldn’t be the same technique – could it? Later in the evening, once I had a chance to talk with Madden and Starnes, I learned that the two processes had little in common – other than the resulting look. The marbling on fabric is done with chemicals and some random acts and Starnes’ was painting that same look in fine painstaking detail. In both types of work – the designs looked fluid. Go look for yourself to see it they both don’t have the same look. Man imitating chemicals – go figure.

I next came across a small exhibit, within an exhibit by Chelsea Kean, a nine year old. She had won a First Place ribbon in the Children’s division. The display was impressive for a nine year old. Her drawing skills still need improvement, but there were some mixed media works that stood out, before I turned the corner and found what was obviously her mother’s works in the same style, but even then, she had to go through the same steps to get the results and by the time I finished looking at all the other children’s works – Chelsea Kean’s display still deserved the blue ribbon. She’s learning from mom and who knows where she will go on her own with such a good head start. Of course when boys enter the picture – art could go out the window. Her mother, Michele Caporaso’s work was pretty outstanding too, but I didn’t notice a ribbon, Mom. But I’m sure a mother’s pride will get her over that situation.

Then I came upon one of my favorites from this exhibit, Late Lite on Porches III, an abstract oil painting by Jackie Wukela – which only had a 2nd Place ribbon on it. Was this judge blind or what? Just joking. In full disclosure, Wukela belongs to a gallery that had a full page ad in our May issue, but my price for praise is much higher – if you want to try and buy it, but I think Wukela put her money on a trip to Europe this Spring – a much better investment.

I like my abstracts – you know that, but this brings me to the judging of this exhibit. It’s not that I disagreed with any of it, it was just hard to see where the judge was going – what they were thinking. The judging for awards was done by Dr. Lorne Mason. Mason gave multiple First Place awards in the same categories. If the judge liked your work – you got a blue ribbon. And there was one category called, Now For Something Different, that really made no sense in that most works put in this category were pretty normal abstract works or mixed media works.

A First Place winner in this category was a work by Tiffany Thomas, which was a nice portrait done over different strips of wood – connected as a canvas. The work was a little 3-D, but just a normal mixed media work with a little more texture than normal, but Mike Fowle had works that were just as mixed media and 3-D. Another abstracted mixed media works by Stephen McCrea was also in this category of “Something Different”, but his works are not really different – they’re pretty normal works. They might be different from most paintings, but they are not really that different from a lot of work being done these days.

Now, during the previous exhibit, Pee Dee Regional Photography Exhibit 2011 – Photofabulous!, I’ll agree I felt Nathan Hasenjaeger’s photos were different – mostly because of the violence implied, but they really were not that different. They may have stood out in Florence, but they would be mild in some photography exhibits. And, here again, I don’t think the works having that tag placed on them were that different. Maybe they need to come up with a category called, Now For Something Different From the Pee Dee, but are artists that different in the Pee Dee? I’m sure more of them could let their darker or wild side out – if they wanted to or had a need to. Hasenjaeger had some fairly normal works in this exhibit – maybe still not normal for Florence, but pretty tame for the art world in general. But, he gets your attention and that’s what all artists want.

Judging this many works is always a challenge – and I sure wouldn’t want to do it. Even when I say what my favorites were here, if I were the judge it may have turned out differently – I might have felt I couldn’t pick what I liked – just because I liked it – I might have to justify my selections based on other reasons. And, as an artist, if you get too hung up on the results of the judging – before you know it you’ll be too afraid to enter situations where you might be judged – you just can’t take the chance. I know very good artists who will never put themselves in that situation because of their fear of not winning the top award. They can’t ever be seen to not be one of the best. Don’t let yourself get too hung up on a judge’s opinion – good, bad or indifferent.

An interesting thing about this exhibit is that it had a fair bit of “comic book” art in it. You can also think of it as illustration or sequential art. My favorite of these works, and the judge’s, were works by Chris McJunkin – a First Place ribbon winner. He had a nice poster image entitled, Honor, Valor, Justice – with three comic book super heros done in the style of Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster of Hope. Fairey sampled the photographer who took candidate Barack Obama’s photo to make his poster, so I guess it’s only fair that McJunkin sample Fairey’s poster style. What goes around comes around. Hey, Fairey’s all for fair use appropriation in creating art.

Some other works that caught my attention included a piece calledSnacktime, a fabric piece by Martha Herbert. There was also a small mixed media piece by Patz Fowle, that got a First Place ribbon, and three very different works by Molly Symons – one was a batik piece, another a very simple drawing and the third a collage titled, 2 Worlds Apart – Japan & Canada, which had a color photo of some mountains in Canada (I think) and shredded strips of paper with Japanese printing on it. That was my second favorite of the show.

Another difference about this exhibit was that for the first time the Art Trail Gallery had an awards sponsor, which meant that many ribbon holders would also be taking home some money. The owners of the Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet, who have two locations in Florence, stepped forward to provide the ribbons and cash prizes for this show.

These people didn’t represent a big corporation or a government agency using taxpayer dollars – they’re a small business – like millions across America which many people in the arts don’t think of as someone who could contribute to the arts. They’re contribution might not have been big bucks, but they were important bucks and those bucks meant a lot to the people who received them that evening.

The art community can use the help of a lot more small businesses these days. And I hope everyone – artists, friends & family of artists, and those who just like looking at art remember this contribution. I know I will.

I spent my last 20 minutes talking with some folks, getting some more background info and nibbling on a few of the quickly disappearing munchies provided – then it was head for home time.

On my drive out of Florence heading south on Hwy. 52 back to Bonneau, I stopped to fill up on gas. The price was 12 cents cheaper than what it was in our area and I passed one of the Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet locations – which was packed. I noticed that their price for lunch buffet was a dollar less than the place in Moncks Corner. Including the T-shirts I purchased earlier I was beginning to realize – things are cheaper in Florence.

The next time I come back to Florence, probably to see another exhibit at the Art Trail Gallery, I’m going to bring an empty tank of gas and have lunch at the Hibachi Grill. Now that’s what builds tourism – interesting things to see and cheap prices while visiting. That’s a win win situation in my book. I hope city leaders are paying attention.

While at the Art Trail Gallery I picked up a flyer called Artastic (Summer 2011), offering info on festivals, exhibitions and performances celebrated in northeastern South Carolina, produced by the Florence CVB, in conjunction with the Arts Councils of the Pee Dee Regional Arts Summit. I don’t know what or who this Regional Arts Summit was, but the info provided about exhibits came up short of what was really going on in this area. And, not one exhibit was listed taking place in Sumter, SC, an area offering a lot of arts. In fact, only four of the twelve counties included in the area were represented, so I figure the others didn’t put up money to be included. That’s not very inclusive or informative – if taxpayer money was used. And, I’m sure some money came from SC’s PRT, but that’s the way things go most of the time – you pay or you don’t play. And, when it comes to printed materials – that’s the reality – to include everything you know can be expensive. Printing cost are high. But, still it’s hard to think that the other eight counties had nothing to offer. I know Sumter did, but maybe they didn’t make the deadline? Who knows?

Unfortunately the web and Facebook links didn’t offer much more info. I guess if you want to know more about exhibits, you’ll have to rely on Carolina Arts, but we don’t know what people don’t tell us either. We do seem to know more than these people are offering – even in the areas included. And, it helps to know what’s going on before you go someplace.

Go see this exhibit and have lunch or dinner at the Hibachi Grill in Florence.

Visualicious, an Exhibit of 2-D Art from the Pee Dee Area of SC Opens at Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, – June 17, 2011

Friday, June 17th, 2011

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The show will be an exciting survey of 2-D works created by professionals and amateurs alike with over 100 artists expected to be participating. With categories for children, novices, and professionals, the gallery is reaching out to those who create those intriguing marks on surfaces that engage the mind. Some do it through paintings on canvas, designs on the surface of wood, metal, paper, and fiber. The show includes traditional watercolors, oils, acrylics, ink, pencil, and mixed media, among others.

Thanks to the Hibachi Grill, with two locations in Florence, there are cash prizes for children and adults. Dr. Lorne Mason will be the judge for the show.

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Work by Mary Williams

Visualicious, will be on view from June 17 through July 29, 2011. The opening reception will be held Friday, June 17, from 5:30-8pm, and everyone is welcome.

Currently confirmed exhibitors include: Marion Berry, Kendall Berry, Andrea Boyce, Debbie Broadway, Peggy Brown, Julia Culbertson, Adam Dial, John Eisler, David Elvis, Reginald Epps, Ines Gillier, Bruce Graves, Gaye Ham, Rachell Hyman, Jeffrey Joslin, Hannah Joslin, Laura Ketcham, Angela Ketcham, Sophia Ketcham, Jane Madden, Neil McClendon, Barbara Moore, Justin Morris, Bridget Nance, Annabeth Negron, Ann Page, Ashley Poston, Jim Reed, Manning Smith, Michelle Springs, Tim Walters, Mary Williams, Denny Stevenson, Gloria Morris, Patz Fowle, Mike Fowle, Nathan Hasenjaeger, Cynthia Pollett, Antoinette Ganim, Nicole Palumbo, Tari Federer, Josh Tuttle, Jacob Marsac, Dale Worsham, Peggy Campbell, Janis Hobbs, Ryleigh Schurlknight, Sophia Hines, Blake Wright, Jordan English, Sabrina Judge, Daeshawn Judge, Dazia Judge, Ryan Davis, Victoria Winter, April Artis, Ryan Hilbourn, Chris Floyd, Saunta Muldrow, Jeri Bolling, Ray Davenport, Gloria Morris, Jamie Stuckey, Jordan Leigh Stuckey, Carson Price, Lois Coleman, Dana Mickens, Rodreanna Linnen, Elizabeth Marsac, Andrew Bradley, Suzanne Muldrow, Shawn Hudson, Alexis Dale, Mackenzie Bramlett, Tony Bryant, Tiffany Thomas, Gaye Ham, Elizabeth Spruill, Roy Malac, Rachel Jones, Stephen McCrea, Betsy Padgett, Heath Starnes, Z Tap, Jackie Wukela, Amber Hekman, Lynda English, Angela Jackson, Ellen Tisdale, Minnemie Murphy, Coleman Wells, Rebecca Polony, Ann Dowling, David Ackerman, Colby Wedgeworth and more.

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Work by Stephen McCrea

The Art Trail Gallery is located in the old Kimbrell’s building at 135 South Dargan Street, in the emerging Arts and Cultural District in Downtown Florence.

For further information visit (www.art-trail-gallery.com) or check out their Facebook page: Art Trail Gallery.

A March Through SC’s Pee Dee Area – Viewing Exhibits Here, There, and Everywhere – Part Two

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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Well, after the rush of the day, Linda and I arrive in Florence, SC, fairly early – long before the 5:30pm reception for the Pee Dee Regional Photography Exhibit 2011 – Photofabulous! at the Art Trail Gallery. So, we end up taking a driving tour of Florence, exploring areas where I have never been before. Florence is a pretty big city and it has spread out in all directions.

After we find the Sonic we head to the Art Trail Gallery to see if we could get in early to start viewing the massive photography exhibit. Linda is hooked on the ice Sonic puts in their drinks. And it happened to be the right time for 1/2 price happy hour on drinks (2-4pm daily). Linda’s also an ice chewer. One day she’s going to chip a tooth. And, I’ll be there to say – Aah Ha!

I figured that going early also might secure us a good parking space as I knew this reception was going to be big. We got a spot right out in front of the gallery. When we went to the door we could see a beehive of activity going on inside. A man came to the door, who looked like he could have been the head of security and said, “Jane doesn’t let anyone in early!” I believed him, but said I’m Tom Starland from Carolina Arts and I was wondering if I could get in early to start looking before it got too crowded to see anything. He said, “Carolina Arts, I don’t have to ask Jane – I’m letting you in.”

Man, I’m going to have to try that the next time we get an opportunity to go to Outback Steak House. Jane Madden, the head of the Art Trail Gallery soon came up as she noticed protocol was being broken, but soon gave us the A-OK. Which was a good thing, as I doubt I would have been able to see it all – at least three times and get some inside info on what was going on with some of the images. Once 5pm came (a half-hour early) – the crowd just kept growing, as did the volume inside the building.

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I think this was the crowd before 5:30.

The guy at the door was Benjamin Watford of F & F Photography in Florence – one of the photographers in the show. His partner is TJ McKay, also with works in the show. Watford is a disabled veteran from Iraq who is using photography as a tool to look at the brighter and better things in life. A veteran from Iraq – that explained the take charge attitude.

For the next couple of hours, Watford became the go to guy whenever I had a question about what I was looking at. He didn’t stop working – nobody stopped working in Madden’s work crew – from the minute we arrived to the minute we finally left. From time to time I sought him out. I thanked him for his assistance, but unfortunately it will prevent me from mentioning his works. But, from what I heard, F & F Photography will do just fine in the photography world.

At this point I’m going to state our background in photography. Both Linda and I have worked in camera stores, owned and operated a custom black & white photo processing lab; taught photography; owned and operated a photography gallery (with a few friends); organized the SC Photographer’s Guild; and were both active photographers – before we got in the publishing business.

We have known some of the most talented photographers in SC – both commercial and fine art photographers. Some of our best friends are photographers – if you can believe that.

We’re old school photography, yet I appreciate all of the technological advances that have taken place since we got out of it. So, I’m not an old school snob.

I also will include that I personally made the decision to stop trying to be a fine art photographer soon after arriving in Charleston – over 30 years ago due to the abundance of really great photographers I found there. And, I think I was pretty good. I decided to serve the photography community as best I could – in short I became a photography pimp.

The coming future of digital photography and frustrations about photography’s acceptance into the art world led us into publishing an arts newspaper. This latter factor is still a problem, but not as bad as it was 15 – 20 years ago.

With that said, I also want to add that I have seen a lot of fantastic photography – in years past and in doing Carolina Arts – so it takes a lot to get me excited when looking at photography and it doesn’t happen that often. It’s not a matter of being good – really good photography – it’s more a matter of seeing something really different – that hasn’t been done before and is done really well. At this point in my life I see all art through that frame.

I also thank my lucky stars I was not asked to be a judge for this show and hope I never will, and I tip my hat to those who did that job – Beth Anderson, Geoff Hughes, and Brian Nolan, who had an immense and difficult task in awarding the prizes in this show. Better them than me, as there was so much good work in this exhibit to choose from. I heard someone say there were 1,000 images on display. I didn’t take a count.

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Good thing I had already finished looking by now.

So here’s some things that captured my attention.

First, I found the coolest name for a photographer – Missy Davis Jones. She took a Second Place ribbon in the Portrait category. I liked Jones’ camera perspective and how she framed her subjects – sometimes from unexpected angles. Jones is not making cookie-cutter portraits. She also presented her works very well.

It should be noted that the photographers hung their own works in this show.

As I mentioned in Part One, I was taken by the “photographs” of Suzanne Muldrow – which don’t look like photographs in any way I was familiar with. I know about Photoshop and what it can do, but this seemed to be a step beyond, but probably not that uncommon these days. My favorite of her works was Liquid Silk, an image of a vase of colorful flowers which I bet would have looked good as a straight image, but this blurring (liquid) technique gave the image a nice effect. The technique, whatever she calls it doesn’t always work in my opinion, but it did for Liquid Silk.

I could write volumes on how the public loves photographs that don’t look like photographs, but I’ll spare you all that tirade.

Over the years my tastes in art has moved towards abstract art. I don’t know why, but it happened and macro photography lends itself to the abstract. The short depth of field (depth of the focus) causes things in the background of whatever the photographer is trying to capture – up close – in exacting detail, to be blurred – creating abstract backgrounds.

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Flower Candelabra by Linda Borek

This effect captured my attention in several images, one being Linda Borek’s Flower Candelabra, and Sandra Anderson’s Blue Dragonfly. In Borek’s image it was the purple anthers of a flower against a fuzzy yellow background – the petal walls. And, in Anderson’s, it was the sharp image of a blue dragonfly against another fuzzy yellow background. There were several other images of dragonflies in the exhibit, but it was the background that made this image stand out. Selective, controlled focus is the key in macro photography.

Ann Klein had an image of a pink flower against a black background which used some of these same techniques of a sharp image against a solid background, but in her image it was the perspective that made the difference – she gave us a look at the back of the flower and the rest of the image was dark space. It made the image. I liked the image when we used it in the paper, but I really liked it up close in person.

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Image by Ann Klein. I didn’t get the name as she came up just as I was writing notes.

When it came to black and white images, Linda and I agreed on this – something that doesn’t happen that often, but in this case it was easy. Jimmy Gordy’s infrared image titled, Galivant’s Ferry was our favorite. I was glad to see that some people are still doing black and white photography. I’m grateful that there are still people in this world who see the beauty in a black and white world. I know to some folks using infrared film is thought of as a trick, but again Gordy’s image would have been good as a straight image. The effects of the infrared just added the right touch.

In the artsy category, one of my own making, I liked the image calledHands Relaxed, by Renee Fitch Smith – dark hands in motion against a dark blue background. It’s a simple image, but it rivaled Flower Candelabraas my favorite in the show. Boy, that’s got to tell you something about my taste in photography – for those who saw this exhibit. But, not really. Each viewing of a collection of images is different – a moment in time – never to be repeated – much like the official judging of this competition. We could all return a month later and pick totally different images as our favorites or category winners in the judges’ case.

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Hands Relaxed by Renee Fitch Smith

Look, this show wasn’t juried. There was no making the cut, but it was judged after the fact and anyone who has the guts to put their images on public display – open to public comments and a judge (three in this case) – is a winner. But, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve or learn from others. I would advise the photographers in this show to not get too concerned about whether you received a ribbon or not – for all you know, your unrecognized image was someone’s favorite. And, it might not even have been your mother. There’s always another competition just around the corner and the results can be totally different – even if the works were the same. I’ve seen it happen.

So which image was my favorite? You noticed how I strayed away from that subject. In this country our vote is a private thing. I cast my ballot for the People’s Choice award and like all elections – I’m willing to accept the results. I might bitch about it later, but that’s the American way.

There were a lot of interesting portraits in this exhibit. You could tell a lot of these folks were in business – professionals. I’d have to say David Childers was my favorite, but not by much. I also was drawn to Nathan Hasenjaeger’s portraits, which was a little disturbing. I guess he was in a category called “That’s Different”. You got that right! After the third viewing I heard my inner voice saying, “Luke – come back to the Force. Pay no attention to the Dark Side. You don’t need to look at Mr. Hasenjaeger’s photos anymore.”

But, like I said in Part One – as an artist, he should be happy. He captured my attention and got me thinking. And, his images are locked in my brain with all the others that did the same.

There were images in the exhibit that were made by children. Now I don’t know what the age cutoff was to be considered a “youth” image. They were marked with blue tape, but some would have passed without it. I always like the perspective young people have. They see things totally different than we adults do.

Photographer Jeff Smith showed how to tell a story with photography with his “Tobacco Tales,” presentation celebrating the life of the tobacco farmer. The images were strong enough to stand alone, but as a group were even stronger. I didn’t like the fact that his tags were directly on his photos, but it’s a lesson all photographers can pay heed in any opportunity to show several of your works. Unless you’re trying to make sales or gain customers – it’s not always best to show your “greatest hits”. Images presented with a similar theme are stronger. It gets people thinking about exhibits.

Which brings me to Brian Dawson’s works. I think he had top honors in my book for the most consistent presentation of his works. It was like a museum exhibit – with mats and frames all alike – it only left the images to look at.

Presentation is always important – in all aspects of exhibiting your work. No detail shouldn’t be considered.

OK – I’m out on this little tree limb far enough. I enjoyed the show, and I enjoyed the reception. What a joy to see so many people interested in photography. My only wish and it’s easy for me to make it is – I hope that one day – not too far off, the powers that be behind the Art Trail Gallery invest in some better lighting.

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People were still streaming in as I took this parting shot.

Jane Madden and her crew are doing a heck of a job in presenting art to the Florence community and beyond – with the new Florence Museum coming next door – it might be time to make an investment in the future. Lighting is everything when it comes to art.

Oh yeah, the food was great and Jane Madden was still re-loading food on tables when we left. They had a ton of food and apparently from what I heard – Florence ate it all.

A big finale for Photofabulous! FDDC’s first Florence After 5 event will be held Friday, Apr. 29, 2011, from 5:30 – 8pm – the last day of the exhibit. There will be food vendors, live music with Midway Blue and lots of friendly, happy people.

The Art Trail Gallery is located at 135 S. Dargan Street in downtown Florence, SC.  Hours are: Tue.-Thur., 11:30am-2:30pm & Fri., 5:30-8pm.

For further info contact Jane Madden at 843/673-0729 or visit (www.art-trail-gallery.com).

A March Through SC’s Pee Dee Area – Viewing Exhibits Here, There, and Everywhere – Part One

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Linda, my better half, and I planned a grand trek to see numerous exhibits on Friday, March 18, 2011, with the end stop being the reception for thePhotofabulous exhibit, the largest collection of photography on display in SC, at the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, which started at 5:30pm.

The master plan was to leave Bonneau, SC, the headquarters of Carolina Arts, and head toward Sumter, SC, to see the exhibits at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, which opened at 11am. So we left at 9am to make sure we were there on time.

From Sumter it would be a mad dash to Hartsville, SC, to squeeze in the door of the Black Creek Arts Center which closed at 1pm. That meant we had to leave Sumter before noon and hope we didn’t get stuck behind a farmer on his tractor on a winding two-lane road. While in Hartsville we would also take in the exhibit at Coker College.

From Hartsville, we would move on to Darlington, SC, to check out a couple of commercial galleries and then move on to Florence for the BIG show.

That was the plan.

To Linda’s credit, who worked a 12 hour shift on Thursday, we were driving away from our headquarters by 8:58am – a good sign. And as it turned out we arrived in Sumter a lot earlier than I expected. It’s been a few years since Sumter was on our delivery route and I expect to travel slower during the day than at night. So we had bonus time in Sumter.

No problem – we headed over to USC-Sumter to the University Gallery, located in the Anderson Library, to see Doni Jordan’s exhibit, doni jordan: tomes, on view through April 12, 2011.

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When you see one image that is sent to you to represent an exhibit, it can really taint your expectations of what you will see. The written words in a press release can fill in some of the blanks, but not much. I had the impression that the exhibit would be different combinations of old printer type in window boxes – not so. There was plenty of that but much more.

I took a few photos, but the gallery space has museum lighting – which is good for getting up close to works but not good for photography and when works are behind glass or Plexiglas – flash photography is just another problem.

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Part of the exhibit was a display of old typewriters – which could be considered museum pieces now, since most people under 25 probably haven’t seen many around. It won’t be long before computer keyboards are in the same boat.

 

In fact, many things in this exhibit will age the person who recognizes the items included. A lot of the items assembled are no longer used – replaced by new technology or soon will be – including the books which may have been made using these old tools of typography. But, Jordan makes creative use of them in making statements in her assembled works – including wood and metal type, tin type photos, binding thread, spools, and small books – with an occasional message spelled out in the mix.

You can read more in our March 2011 issue of Caroli311usc-sum-doni-jordan3na Arts. Tick-Tock – time to move on.

We’re standing at the door of the Sumter County Gallery of Art at the Sumter County Cultural Center, at 11am, but the door is locked. Five minutes later the door is still locked. We can see through the door and people are working down a long hallway in the Patriot Hall part of the building. When we arrived I saw people unloading something at a side door so I go around, go in and find someone in the Gallery shop and ask if they are open. They are and I tell them the gallery door is still locked. I wish I had a nickel  for every time that has happened over the years.

The Sumter County Gallery of Art may still have a name connected to the past, but their gallery space rivals any at art museums in the Carolinas. It’s why they can attract top tier artists to exhibit in Sumter. That’s not a slap at Sumter – more at top tier artists. You’ll be able to see that in the photos I was able to take.

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I came to see the exhibits: Joe Walters: A Mid-career Retrospective, featuring a major exhibition of sculpture and works on paper by Charleston, SC-based artist Joe Walters and Anne Lemanski: Touch and Go, featuring a selection of her highly crafted sculptural works that utilize familiar forms to explore the inconsistencies and contradictions she sees in the world, from our culture’s treatment of women to its exploitation of both domesticated and wild animals. Both exhibits are on view through April 22, 2011.

If you can’t get to Sumter and you’re closer to Charleston, the Corrigan Gallery in Charleston is showing, A Riff on Nests, featuring sculptures and works on paper by Joe Walters, his first show in Charleston in many years – showing works in the same style as those being shown in Sumter. This exhibit is up through March 31, 2011.

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This is a detail shot of a larger work.

I’ve always liked Walters’ animal installations and this is a little different – more flora than fauna, but in the same style where the sculptural works have the look of years of built up rust – in brown or gray.

The works on paper have the same rusty brown color and a rough surface – also implying age.

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The works cry out to be touched, but please don’t. Like all things in nature – they are better off viewed from a distance than having humans touch them in our often rough and destructive ways.

Anne Lemanski: Touch and Go, is a good match for Walters’ exhibit as her works also show man’s “destructive” effects on animals.

Her work 21st Century Super Species: Jack-dor, dominates the display of animals who, in the form Lemanski presents, show how they might have adapted under man’s reign on this planet. This rabbit creature stands 8 feet tall,  has a 10 foot wingspan and is composed of many parts from other animals. The creature brings up the thought – Is this what man will have to deal with in the future if he doesn’t clean up his act and clean up the environment of this planet? According to Darwin – the animals will adapt. Of course we will too as we are just another animal.

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All of these creatures, that may seem like familiar animals, have adapted bright colors or a sort of camouflage and all give off the message – man beware – even the look on a giant golden frog’s head is menacing.

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Lemanski also offers a display of hairstyles of women from different decades – a commentary on how women were perceived.

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One hairstyle was titled, 1960 Occupation: Housewife, was pink and resembled the logo for the movie Hairspray. You might see women wearing these dos on the popular TV show Madmen. Another, titled 1940 For The Boys, may have represented the style women wore in the war factories while their men were off fighting WWII. There were two badges or buttons on the piece which showed 40′s style pinup gals.

 

We have more about these exhibits in our March 2011 issue of Carolina Arts.

Before we left the Sumter County Gallery 311scga-anne-lemanski4of Art we walked down the hallway where we could see people working through the door when we couldn’t get in, and they were hanging a quilt show that was going to be at the Patriot Hall Galleries – just for that weekend.

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Quilt #143 – “Hanging Gardens of Bobbi Ann” by Barbara Fitzsimmons

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Detail of Quilt #178 – “Fish of Another Color” by Thomasyne Martin

This was going to be the 3rd Swan Lake Quilt Guild Quilt Extravaganza. The guild has 85 members and is growing. I took a few quick photos, but the lighting was not as good there, and we were on the run. Carolina Artsis making a lot of contacts with quilt guilds it seems, but most seem to be a little shy in dealing with us – as if they are not sure we would be interested. One of our favorite works of art in our collection is an art quilt from a friend who unfortunately lives in Virginia or you’d be seeing lots of her works in our paper. Tick-Tock!

The race is on to Hartsville – a town I haven’t been to in a least a decade if not longer. Fortunately, we run into no tractors on the road – a few old geezers in pickup trucks, but no big delays and we get there in time. As we are walking through the doors of the Black Creek Arts Center I see that they are now open until 2pm on Fridays. Of course that may have been their hours for some time now, but we had 1pm in our records. It’s corrected now.

No harm, no foul, except there were a couple of interesting places we would have stopped at as we passed through Bishopville on the way. I guess that will have to wait for another trek.

The Black Creek Arts Center is showing The Pate Family Art Exhibit, featuring works by 14 members of this family spanning four generations. It began with Wilhelmina Stucky Pate, and the exhibit is on view in the Jean & James Fort Gallery through April 29, 2011.

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Pate Family Tree

That’s a big family of artists and they do everything, paintings – big and small, photography, stained glass, jewelry, and architectural models. And, it seems they all work in various mediums. Makes you wonder if there is something like an art gene.

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“On the Way to St. Simons” by Charles Pate Jr.

Most of the Pate family works are pretty straight forward – there’s not many hidden meanings or messages here. That was a good thing as viewing this exhibit was sandwiched in between two exhibits where you had to put your thinking cap on.

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“Quiet Power” by Martin Pate

It has to be nice to come from an art family, having access to all that experience and knowledge. I guess it could be a problem if you didn’t really want to be an artist, but who doesn’t – right. Well, I might want to a little, but I’ve seen enough to know it’s no cake walk.

We have more info about this exhibit in our March 2011 issue of Carolina Arts.

We went upstairs at the Arts Center and found a lot more art on display and I guess a photography exhibit, but there wasn’t any formal info – these works may always be on display. I can hear people say – “Why didn’t you ask?” And, I don’t ask, as I expect things to be clearly marked or explained – I know lots of people won’t bother to ask so I want to see how each exhibit space handles such things.

It’s like unpriced art. If I have to ask, I’m not interested – even if I can afford it. I don’t have to worry about that these days – I’m in the selling mode more than buying.

It was upstairs where I saw a new form of photography. Our background is in photography, but photography is one of the few art mediums that seems to be ever changing. There were a couple of “photographs” by Suzanne Muldrow on the wall that when I looked at them my first question is – “How is this a photograph?” But, I was to learn about that later at the BIG photography exhibit. These images looked like drawings and I didn’t see anything that would have looked like photography. I couldn’t take a photo as the lighting was bad and the work was behind glass. It was the first of many new things I was going to learn about photography this day.

The Black Creek Arts Centers seems to be set up to do all things in the arts – exhibits, performances, and education – with lots of classroom spaces. It’s probably quite a beehive of activity for the Hartsville area.

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When we left the building I snapped a photo of the outside and later learned that the artwork out front was a sculpture display of old saw blades by Mike Fowle, who we had featured when I was last in Florence to see exhibits. Of course Hartsville is his and Patz Fowle’s hometown.

We drove over to Coker College, just a few blocks away from the Arts Center, parked and ate the lunch we brought with us – what a nice day – spring was in bloom and the weather was great.

The exhibit, Heather Freeman: Digital and Traditional Media, is on view through March 25, 2011, at the Cecelia Coker Bell Gallery in the Gladys Coker Fort Art Building.

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In the literature offered in the gallery it says that Freeman has been interested in science since she was a child. She is particularly interested in the language and symbolic forms of science and where these intersect with mythic, religious and popular iconography.

This was an exhibit where you were going to have to read a lot of offered materials to get the message the artist was hoping to get across to the viewer or not. Freeman might be just as happy with whatever you came up with – which I’m sure is different with every viewer.

The written materials also stated that Freeman was an assistant professor of digital media at the University of North Carolina, but finding the digital media was a trick in many of the images offered.

The tags on the works listed the media as digital print on watercolor paper, with added ink, graphite and watercolor. To me, digital print would mean some sort of photographed image was involved – whether it be a straight photograph or a copied or captured image from another photograph. But in Freeman’s images I would say the digital image represented at best 20 – 30% of the image and the rest was drawn in with the other media. In some it was maybe 50-50.

Freeman says, “I believe science has merged with popular culture to become a covertly ‘universal’ religion.”

The titles of some of the works helped somewhat, but to me these kinds of images are not as strong without the written materials. That’s just me.

One image was titled, Grandma teach me to sleep. From that I assumed that these are images of dreams and nightmares – products of restless sleep. I’m glad my life is a lot simpler.

Later that night at the BIG photography show when someone heard that we had just seen this exhibit they asked if the gallery director gave us the “tour” – explaining what each image meant. I hope that’s not where we are headed, where everyone has to be spoon-fed the meaning of art.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked a lot of the imagery, received some strong vibes from some and was disturbed by others – which should make any artist happy. She made me think and I’ll forever blame her for that.

We have more info about this exhibit in our March 2011 issue of Carolina Arts.

Before we left Coker College I snapped a few photos of the Pearl Fryar topiary garden on the Coker campus.

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Next up was Darlington, SC, to check out a couple of commercial galleries – The Chameleon Art Gallery and the Birds of a Feather Arts Gallery.

I’ve been to The Chameleon Art Gallery back when they first opened, but not since – again, during the old model for Carolina Arts, we could only afford to distribute the paper in areas we received income from – so we were not going to the Pee Dee much at all – even though I rode through the area each month on my way home from delivering in NC.

Since that time the gallery space had changed – with the times, or should I say economy? What was once a fully exhibition space was now part display, part service with a framing station and the rest was set up for teaching art classes. It was the first thing promoted to us when we entered.

A long, long time ago when we first started, I would walk into a gallery and if they had some new artsy knickknack items up for sale the gallery owner would apologize, and I would tell them, “don’t”. You have to do whatever it takes to bring in money to keep the doors open. After all, art galleries are not meant to be museums – where you just show art. If the doors are closed no artworks are on the walls, no artworks are seen and no artworks are ever purchased.

We had two art galleries that didn’t make the rent on their own in our past lives. We know how hard it is to keep the doors open and we started this paper to help galleries. Darlington is lucky to have art galleries.

We located the Birds of a Feather Gallery on our way out of the downtown area – with the help of Linda’s iPhone, but the gallery was closed at 2:25pm on Friday, even though the sign on the door said it should have been open. But, we don’t know what was going on so it was just another missed opportunity on both our parts. I could see that this gallery was also into art classes.

Hey, most of the press releases we get from the non-profit art centers and arts councils are about the classes they are offering. It’s what brings in the money.

There’s a lot of visual arts going on out there of all levels and you don’t have to go to the big city to have your brain challenged. Everything we saw could have just as well been on view in any of those big cities. So getting off the beaten path sometimes can bring rewards and discovery.

Next stop Florence – in Part Two.

Observations on the Figurative Ceramic Symposium at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC, Held on Mar. 5, 2011

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I made it to the Figure It Out, Figurative Ceramic Symposium at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC, held on Mar. 5, 2011.  The symposium started at 6:30pm and was scheduled to run to 8:30pm, which was already a challenge for me, being two hours away and rain in the forecast. I knew I’d be lucky to get back home by 11pm and as it turned out technical difficulties caused the presentation to run late, but it was worth it. I wish I could have hung around after, but the clock is always ticking with me and I had too many questions to ask that would have run far into the night. And after all, this symposium seemed to be mostly for the students at FMU. There were about 200 people in attendance.

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Work by Cristina Cordova

The guest speakers for the symposium were Cristina Cordova, from Penland, NC (born in Puerto Rico); Sergei Isupov, from Cummington, MA (born in Russia); and Janis Mars Wunderlich, from Columbus, OH. They had given demos and worked with students during the day. Like most events at colleges and universities – the main focus is on students, as it should be, and usually the public is invited to participate as an extra for the local community. I went as an observer – not a participant. I’m not a ceramic artist, nor do I ever hope to be, I’m a communicator.

I arrived at FMU early enough to get a few photos of the Francis Marion sculpture on campus and hopefully a look at the ceramic exhibit on view at the Hyman Fine Arts Center. I was surprised that the space was open. I guess they kept it open because of the symposium. While there, I ran intoPatz Fowle, a local figurative ceramic sculptor who was also there for the symposium. It was Fowle who turned me on to the symposium to begin with. We didn’t get to talk, as the symposium was going to start soon.

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Work by Sergei Isupov

The three speakers selected for the symposium made for a diverse view of artists working in the figurative ceramics field. Each gave a presentation, showing their work, and talking about creative challenges and their working lives. They all had interesting backgrounds, created fantastic works, and described colorful ascensions to their current positions (well regarded) in their chosen field.

After their presentations a panel discussion began with the three artists, co-moderated by Dr. Howard Frye, Assistant Professor of Art Education and Coordinator of the Art Education Program and Doug Gray, Professor of Visual Arts – Ceramics and Sculpture, both at FMU. The topic of the discussion was: The Development of Personal Imagery.

There was a brief question and answer period after the discussion period and the event was over. I didn’t ask any questions as I was playing the part of the observer and as I said before – I had too many questions to even get started, but I do have one observation.

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Work by Janis Mars Wunderlich

Over all, the symposium did a good job of giving students and others attending a look at three individuals who have gained a level of success in their careers. They covered their backgrounds, their influences, creative process, and struggles to stay focused and motivated, but there were only hints at the other side of the artful life – the business side.

Cordova talked a little about the pressures of success and cultural heritage; Isupov hinted at troubles dealing with the public and dealers; and Wunderlich talked about the challenge to find time to work in a house full of children (five, from 1st grade to college) and being an artist/mother. But there was never a full on discussion of the business side of the art world – the side that will be the biggest challenge to any of these students if they choose the life of an artist.

Cordova, who still works with students at the Penland School of Crafts admitted that she was never prepared in school for the business side of the arts. And, it wasn’t until she had a three year residency at Penland that she learned many of the components to becoming a successful artist – in business.

As I’ve said many times – money is the mother’s milk of the arts – without it not much happens. The parents of these students are not looking forward to their children returning from university to turn the family garage into a studio and to cover room and board forever. Time may seem free, but supplies and equipment are not. So, money makes the arts go round and there was little discussion about it at this symposium – which maybe would have been off topic, but when will students in the arts be given that wakeup call?

I would have liked to know: what price these artists’ works sold for? Do they do more exhibiting than selling? How often do they sell? Are they selling enough to be making a living at it? All had spouses, Cordova’s husband was a glass artist – so maybe two artists are better than one, and perhaps the others rely on the incomes of their spouses for living expenses? I don’t know, but I know the students at that symposium don’t have a clue of what’s waiting for them. Little hints were all they got and my bet is most of them were over their heads.

What about dealing with the public that only sees artists in one light – as people who are different from the rest of us and with success comes fame and its demands. What about dealing with galleries and dealers – it can’t be all smooth sailing. And, how about taxes, marketing, marriage, children, mortgages, etc. – the other stuff that will make or break an artist. These folks must of had a wealth of answers on these subjects.

Of course the challenges are different for each artist, but the goal is the same. How do I get to create what I want and have a life – make a living – at the same time? Not all at first, but eventually.

That’s some of the reality I’d like to see discussed more at art schools – in every opportunity possible.

This is not the failing of Francis Marion University, it’s a basic problem with all art education programs – at least most I’ve had contact with directly or with their by-products, as the owner of a gallery dealing with artists who wanted to have exhibits as if I was a publicly funded museum and as a publisher of an arts newspaper where artists want publicity – of any kind – many just because they created something.

That’s the kind of symposium I’d like to see, and I’m not talking about the kind where they want artists to pay a $100 to listen to professional talkers telling them what they should do. I’m talking about real artists who have been through the gauntlet of life, who are not afraid to tell their secrets, their nightmares, their tricks, while creating more competition for themselves. And, all for free – for their future peers.

Art can be a career, but it “ain’t” easy. Let’s have more discussions about the business side of the arts.

Florence, SC, Sculptor Alex Palkovich Keeps Legend of The Swamp Fox Alive

Friday, January 21st, 2011

One of my encounters last Friday, Jan. 14, 2011, during the opening reception of the exhibit, A Celebration of Many Talents: Artisans of the Cotton Trail & the Tobacco Trail, on view  through Mar. 4, 2011, at the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, was with Alex Palkovich. He is a sculptor who has a studio which shares space with the Art Trail Gallery in the old Kimbrell’s building at 135 South Dargan Street.

We talked about his friend Jack Dowis’ wonderful paintings that fill the walls of his studio, various projects he is involved in and the upcoming installation of a very large statue of Francis Marion and his horse “Ball” soon to be found at Venters Landing, just north of Johnsonville, SC, which is the historical site where Marion received his commission to lead the Williamsburgh Militia during the Revolutionary War at what was then called Witherspoon’s Ferry on the Lynches River.

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The statue will be 10.5 ft. wide and 7 ft. tall, just less than 3 times life size, placed on an 11ft. tall pedestal. We don’t have the exact date for the installation, but we’ll let you know when we know.

Apparently Palkovich is a big fan of The Swamp Fox and so am I.

My first knowledge of Francis Marion came in my youth through watching TV back in Michigan – the Walt Disney TV Series The Swamp Fox, played by none other than Leslie Nielsen. Set during the American Revolution, the show relates the exploits of Francis Marion (Disney style), an American general nicknamed “The Swamp Fox,” as he attempts to thwart British advances in the South with his loyal band of rebel soldiers. In this series his men called him Fran. And, one of his sidekicks was Sergeant Jasper. Leave it to Disney to run fast and loose with history.

Days after one of the episodes would air the kids around my neighborhood would be singing, “Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox, Tail on his hat, nobody knows where the Swamp Fox is at…” that’s about all we could remember of the song, but we’d sing it for hours trampling through a patch of woods near our neighborhood – acting like it was a dangerous swamp – full of “gaders”, snakes and red coats.

Now, I live in Berkeley County where the real Francis Marion is buried.

I’ve never been to Johnsonville. My travels have never taken me in that direction. It’s in another one of those parts of South Carolina – not many people know about – because it’s not located near one of the major highways. But, I’m going to go there when this statue is installed. Palkovich says you’ll be able to see it from two miles away as you approach the landing where it will be placed.

Now, I know a lot of folks will be wondering, “Why place such an important statue way out in the middle of nowhere?” But that’s the beauty of it all. Way out in the middle of nowhere is where The Swamp Fox took the British troops chasing him – so he could pick them off – one by one. Before long, there was a big part of South Carolina’s back country where the British didn’t dare go. The Swamp Fox and his men broke down the British supply lines and communications.

Of course the folks in Johnsonville, who raised the $100,000 for this project are hoping a lot of folks will be coming to their community to see The Swamp Fox to learn more about one of the pivotal characters of the Americans winning the Revolutionary War. Marion and his band of militia tied up the British in South Carolina for so long it gave General Washington time to reorganize the American army. And, any town that can raise $100,000 for a statue of Francis Marion is not “nowhere” in my book.

In real life Francis Marion was no Disney character – no way close. Leslie Nielsen, cut a handsome figure of a man – 6ft. plus. Marion was 5ft. tall and I’ve never heard the word handsome used to describe him, but he did the job. Of course now years later it’s hard for me to get a picture of Leslie Nielsen in my head without it being one from one of his later – less heroic movies. And, I just have to laugh.

There are no pictures of Francis Marion, but Palkovich has given him a face we can believe in – a face of a hero riding a fierce looking steed – a horse Marion stole from a Tory rival.

You can see more of Alex Palkovich’s works at his website (http://www.alexpalkovich.com/) and installed around the Florence, SC, area.

Hey, maybe one of Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s relatives can come and finally find The Swamp Fox when he’s stuck up on a pedestal.

A Trip to Florence, SC, to See Several Exhibits on Jan. 14, 2011

Monday, January 17th, 2011

As I hope you have been reading, I have been involved in a flurry of information flowing to us from the visual art community in and around Florence, SC, including a couple of blog entries which you can visit later – click here for the entry about the exhibit, A Celebration of Many Talents: Artisans of the Cotton Trail & the Tobacco Trail, on view  through Mar. 4, 2011, at The Art Trail Gallery in Florence, and here to see the entry about the exhibit, The Whimiscal World According to Fowle, featuring works by Patz and Mike Fowle, on view through Jan. 27, 2011, in Gallery 412 at the Florence Regional Arts Alliance in Florence.

Florence is just two hours north on Hwy. 52 from the headquarters of PSMG, Inc. in Bonneau, SC, so at some point I decided to go see some of the works we were presenting to readers in person by attending the opening reception for the exhibit at the Art Trail Gallery and while I was there – why not visit the Florence Museum and the show at the Florence Regional Arts Alliance.

Normally I would travel from here to Manning, SC, to pick up I-95 and zip on up to Florence at 70mph, but I decided to go Hwy. 52 to see if anything has changed along that route, but I can report – not much has changed in 20 years except for a little more development on the Florence side of Lake City, SC, and the south end of Florence. It’s still a trip of 60mph, 45mph, 35mph, 45mph, 60mph, 45mph, 35mph, 45mph, 60mph – you get it.

When I got to Florence I was surprised to see they still had a lot of frozen looking snow and ice in the shade left over from the big southern snow storm. And, you still had to watch out for black ice – masquerading as melting water on sidewalks and in the street.

First stop, the Florence Museum. I’ve been to the Museum several times in my art history, but this was the first time I caught it in-between shows. They’re getting ready to launch the exhibit, Florence Photo Album, an exhibit of historical images of Florence, SC, during the growth years of the early 20th century, accompanied by period maps and memorabilia from the museum’s collection, which will be on view from Jan. 18 through Mar. 13, 2011. But I did get to see some interesting items in the Museum’s collection. The Museum is housed in a converted residence, so it has a lot of rooms on multi levels to roam through. I also got to meet Stephen Motte, museum curator, who I had spoken with on the phone about upcoming exhibits a week or so ago. I’m not going to mention anything – you need to go see it yourself.

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“Pearl Fryar’s Fantastic Fro-piary Garden” oil painting by Patz Fowle

My next stop was the Florence Regional Arts Alliance at 412 South Dargan Street, which will soon be known as the arts district in Florence – more about that later. This facility was last used as some kind of office as the entrance faces the back parking lot – maybe a doctor’s office. One plus right off the bat – plenty of free parking. It should be noted that you have to press a buzzer to let folks inside know you want entrance, which I think is more the nature of the building than a security issue.

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“Out on a Limb” mixed media by Mike Fowle

The exhibit, The Whimiscal World According to Fowle, which features works by Patz and Mike Fowle was small, but not so small that I later learned as I looked over the gallery handout that I missed seeing a couple of paintings. There must be more display area there that is used for bigger shows or I just missed it. I’ve seen images of shows in that space which show a larger area, so it must be expandable or other rooms were not being used for this exhibit. I’m still not sure how I missed them.

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“Picasso’s Palette” coil built ceramic jug head by Patz Fowle

One thing not so good about the gallery space is its fluorescent lighting – not so good for showing art and not so good for photographing it either. I had to use flash – which is not good either. But we all do what we can in the arts these days. And, I prefer them showing art to not showing art.

Good light, bad light, it’s still easy to enjoy Patz Fowle’s works, which I’ve seen in conditions more challenging than this. I won’t name names to protect others who are doing the best they can. Such is life in the visual arts – often the stepchild of most art communities. So my photos will be so, so.

The works by Patz Fowle were not for sale, which I thought was strange, but I later learned that many of these works just came out of the kiln and she likes to wait until she finishes a series before she offers the works for sale. She also keeps a collection of works on hand for competitions and exhibitions.

Like they say – you have to wait for the good things in life.

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“Critter” mixed media by Mike Fowle

This was the first time I’ve gotten to see Mike Fowle’s metal works, which was a real surprise, as the work we showed in the blog looked as if it was a large piece and it turned out to be a small piece – much smaller than I would have expected. It just shows that images without a reference can be deceiving. He uses a lot of recycled materials in the creation of his art which I always admire how some people can see normal everyday objects that most of us can just see as one thing – as something totally different.

I first saw one of his mixed media clay pieces at last year’s Palmetto Handsexhibit during the North Charleston Arts Festival. In the exhibit handout it states that Mike has been working with Patz for 30 years, but just started making his own works three years ago. I’d say he was paying close attention and that Patz may have a rival on her hands someday, but I’m sure a friendly one.

In keeping with the show’s title, I think the Fowle’s find lots of things in life “whimsical” or at least choose to take that view. It always puts a smile on my face.

This show will be up until Jan. 27 – there’s still lots of time to go see it. I’m glad I did.

The Alliance has a new blog, which can be found at (http://florenceregionalartsalliance.blogspot.com/). Following it through its less than a year of postings – you can see they host quality exhibits – a few I really wish I knew about ahead of time – hint, hint.

Next stop, the Art Trail Gallery, at 135 South Dargan Street, soon to really be in a prime location. At the south corner of the intersection of South Dargan and Cheves Street you’ll find construction going on at the new Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, which I understand may open this year. Across Cheves Street is the site of the planned new Florence Museum and next to that is the Arts Trail Gallery complex in the old, massive Kimbrell’s building – an old furniture store, now owned by the Florence Downtown Development Corporation.

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Florence is a city poised for change. It will be interesting to see how the opening of this new performing arts center and a new museum will effect the overall level of the arts being offered. Will it be a spark like the Spoleto Festival USA was in Charleston, SC – where through continued exposure to higher art forms – the community demands more, better, and more diverse forms of art. Perhaps the facilities will just finally be catching up to the level of the local talent of the area.

I know one thing for sure as mentioned in my earlier posting about Florence. There is no doubt in my mind that being thought of as a second tier city in the minds of most in SC, especially those in the centralized government in Columbia, Florence has never gotten the support and funding needed to do better. The main three cities in SC don’t leave much of the pie left for others to prosper. This is a city that is pulling itself up by its own bootstraps.

Dargan Street reminds me a lot of King Street in downtown Charleston where either end and the middle have little in common than being on the same street, but that will probably change in a few years if these new projects are successful. And I worry if the Art Trail Gallery will be able to hold on to the space it is in down the road as things do get better.

The arts always seem to be pioneers in revitalizing rundown urban areas and as soon as things get better – the first to go. As some developer will soon see that the space would make a great restaurant or inn or combination of both. Of course by then, I would hope that the city leaders would feel the Art Trail Gallery deserved a better home as it is also not an ideal location for showing art, but now needed and very much appreciated.

And all credit for that goes to Jane Madden, who is an unpaid volunteer, who has a full time job at Francis Marion University, and more than a full time job keeping the Art Trail Gallery going. We don’t have enough space to go into all the praise she deserves for what she’s done for this space. Perhaps at another time when she wins a Verner award or the city has the grand opening for the Jane Madden Center for Visual Arts. She and the building’s other tenant, Alex Palkovich, won the 2009 Main Street South Carolina Inspiration Award from the Municipal Association of South Carolina in conjunction with the  National Trust for Historic Preservation. So, some people have recognized what she has accomplished.

The Kimbrell building is large – 44,000 sq. ft. so it’s a real challenge to just do the basics – keep it clean, keep it warm, light all areas. Madden said something to me about the floors and for the life of me – I couldn’t describe them.

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I once told someone who remarked about a critic’s review about a show at an old museum facility where they mentioned the shabby shape the floors, walls and ceiling were in – “that if you walk into a gallery space and you find yourself looking at the floor or ceiling – there was something wrong with the art hanging on the walls”. But I didn’t trip over anything and my shoes were clean when I got home so I guess they were clean. And, now that I see the photos I took – the place was spotless – inside and out.

There are not many art facilities in this state that couldn’t use some good old TLC and funding to make them look better – unless it’s relatively new. I’ve seen some great art placed in crappy frames. Did it make the art any less great? Not to me. And, I’ve seen it the other way around.

But, impressions mean a lot – especially first impression and I hope Madden and the artists in this show excuse me for just a few minutes as I explain that my attention was highjacked before I entered the building. Let me explain.

The reception started at 5:30 and I got there just after that and it was already getting dark. From the outside looking in at the lighted building my eye couldn’t help but go to the works I could see of Alex Palkovich, a sculptor who shares space with the Art Trail Gallery. He’s got some lifesized works in the studio and a few bigger than lifesize and you can’t help but notice them. So, before I’m in the door I’m thinking – “that’s right, there is a sculptor in the building. And, I’ve heard of him before.”

Within minutes of being inside I came to a spot where I looked in the direction of that studio and on the wall I can see paintings – abstract paintings and they are saying to me – “Tom, over here – you know you’re going to love us”. I’m a weak person, I admit it, so I stroll in that direction. I at least didn’t make it a straight bee-line, but I’m there within a few feet in no time. I didn’t know this sculptor painted too was my thought, but I soon saw the name Dowis and a lightbulb when off and for some reason I knew it was “Jack” Dowis. By the time I circled the room I found info confirming it was Jack Dowis a local painter, whom I had heard of also, but I had not seen his work before. There were so many wonderful abstract paintings and I was thinking of William Halsey and Corrie McCallum.

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The connection with William Halsey is a little funny as once again I was asking someone if Dowis was still alive – like I did once of Halsey. The logic is that the artist must be dead for our state’s art community to ignore a living artist of such talents, but I’ve learned that the folks in charge can overlook a lot in this state.

I might have come to Florence sooner – like in November if I had known that Dowis was being featured in a show at Gallery 412, but we never got a press release with images – that’s all it would have taken.

During the evening I met Palkovich and had a good talk with him. I’ll have more about Palkovich and a project he’s invloved with in another posting dealing with a statue of Francis Marion.

OK – back to the show at hand. I looked at everything on display at least twice – some works a little longer than others. If this was just a cross-section of the talents of the artists of the greater Pee Dee area we’ve all been missing something through a lack of communications.

There was such a wide variety of media offered, of course I had my favorites, as I’m sure others’ favorites would differ from mine. It doesn’t make any work better than the other, just more appealing to one person over another. There was a lot of work on display worthy of being purchased and taken home and treasured for generations. And, that’s the whole point of this show folks – to not just look at art but to buy some art.

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Work by Patz Fowle provided for another posting

I ‘ll name a few but there was a lot of good work there. Of course I loved Patz Fowle’s Van Goat character. I’m not sure that’s the right name, I didn’t write down any titles. I think I might have gotten in real trouble if I got out my pen and pad and started taking notes. And, after all this was a reception. I also liked a painting by Vicky McLain of someone striking a match in the dark. There was also a nice pastorial painting, hanging down low near the floor, by Ruth Cox who was painting during the reception. I also took a liking to the pine straw works by Susan Allen. It’s amazing to see what someone can do with just pine needles.

I also met some people there who I’ve known by their work and other connections, but actually met for the first time like Patz Fowle (and her husband Mike) and Jane Madden, as well as others like Alex Palkovich, Lawrence Anderson, Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Francis Marion University, and a few of the artists. I left before the event was over as I had a two hour ride back home on a night that was already below freezing.

The trip was quick – almost a blink of an eye, but connections were made and I hope it was just the beginning of a new and lasting relationship. At least let’s hope so.

If you live in the area – go by and see these exhibits, if you live outside the area keep an eye on Florence and plan a trip to see what’s happening somewhere else in South Carolina. You might be surprised.

Finally, I want to thank and acknowledge the support the Florence Downtown Development Corporation has given to the Art Trail Gallery. It really helps when the business community knows the power of the arts to attract folks to a downtown area. Just make sure that after they have attracted a crowd – they get to stay and reap the benefits too.

Steppin’ on a Sleeping Dog’s Tail in the Pee Dee Area of SC and an Exhibit at the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 37 years of living in South Carolina it is that when it comes to the media, there are only three cities in this state – Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville. The other cities are just mentioned when something bad happens there.

Because of this bad habit by the media, most people in the other areas of SC don’t even bother with sending press release to a state-wide list of the media – why should they? Whatever they send most likely won’t get printed or used. Now that can be down right frustrating to anyone trying to cover the state – on a state-wide basis like we’re doing at Carolina Arts(check out our new online paper).

So, when I received a press release from a gallery in Florence, SC, (an event that doesn’t happen that often) and asked if they had any photos of artwork that would be in the exhibit – it was like dropping a boulder in a small pond. The ripple effect was like a tsunami. Within the hour my e-mail was filled with images from artists participating in this exhibit. Some sent 2 or 3, one sent 12 and others sent pleas for more time as they were stuck at work and didn’t have access to their images. It was like yelling “free iPhones” in a mall full of teenagers.

What’s an editor to do? I only wanted one or two images. It’s always the same problem with a group show – so many artists – so little space. It’s one of the many hard decisions an editor has to make on a regular basis. But, somehow this time I felt guilty. I had stepped on that sleeping dog’s tail and now it was up and ready – for a walk, to get fed, to do something.

So, I hope our readers will bear with me in presenting this press release with a multitude of supporting images. Think of this as if it was an exhibition catalogue. (It should be noted that we could not use some of the images sent us and not all artists sent images.)

Here it goes:

Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, Features Works by Artists Associated with Cotton and Tobacco Trails

The Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, will present the exhibit, A Celebration of Many Talents: Artisans of the Cotton Trail & the Tobacco Trail, on view from Jan. 14 through Mar. 4, 2011. An opening reception will be held Friday, Jan. 14, from 5:30-8pm.

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Work by Anne Baldwin

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Works in glass by Barbara & Ed Streeter

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Work by Beth Wicker

The exhibition features works by artists who are working in the areas of two of South Carolina’s heritage and cultural trails, whose mission is to bring together artists, artisans and the retailers of their work for the benefits of marketing, tourism, education and shared resources.

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Work by Gloria Turner

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Work by Greg Benner

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Work by John Johnson

Artists included in the exhibition are: Ann Dowling, Pollie Bristow, Jack Clayton, Denny Stevenson, Barbara Mellen, Gloria Turner, Linda Humphries, Suzanne Muldrow, Heidi Bond, Anne Baldwin, Carolyn McCoy Govan, Lori Kaim, Tony Morano, Beth Wicker, Susan A. Allen, Vicky McLain, Bob Feury, Ed & Barbara Streeter, Brenda Hardwick, Patz Fowle, Patrick Showalter, Holly Young Beaumier, Greg Benner, Ina Ingram, MJ Martin, Beth Wicker, John Johnson, Ruth Cox, MJ Martin, Jo Furman, James Fernandes, and Emily Estes.

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Work by Lori Kaim

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Hand-made soap by Patrick Showalter

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Work by Patz Fowle

The majority of these unique artistic creations will be available for purchase.

One special feature of the exhibit will be a reproduction of the hand-blown glass ornament produced by Ed and Barbara Streeter of Conway, SC, that decorated the White House Christmas tree this year.

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Work by Robert Feury

The South Carolina Cotton Trail, stretching from I-95 to I-20, traces the influence of cotton on the lives and towns of rural South Carolina. Comprised of the towns of Bennettsville, Bishopville, Chesterfield, Cheraw, Clio, Darlington, Hartsville, and Society Hill, the South Carolina Cotton Trail visits museums, gardens, market towns, cotton fields and homesteads.

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Work by Denny Stevenson

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Work by Suzanne Muldrow

The South Carolina Tobacco Trail, was organized to create a regional heritage marketing initiative which will provide a vehicle for neighboring communities to jointly market the historical, cultural and nature-based assets of their respective areas in a combined effort with the end result of preserving, conserving and celebrating the cultural heritage of agriculture and tobacco and its impact on the regional economy. The trail is comprised of the towns of Conway, Darlington, Lake City, Latta, Mullins, and other areas in Florence County.

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Work by Tony Morano

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Work by Vicky McLain

The Art Trail Gallery is an all-volunteer gallery space located at 135 South Dargan Street in downtown Florence. The Gallery features the work of local artists throughout the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina. Works are available for sale unless noted otherwise. The Art Trail Gallery is also home to the studio of well-known sculptor, Alex Palkovich. The Art Trail Gallery would not be possible without the interest and support of its many daily visitors and the Florence Downtown Development Corporation, the sponsors of the Gallery and the owners of the building. Gallery hours are Tue.,-Thur., 11:30am-2:30pm and Fri., 5:30-8pm.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call Jane Madden at 843/673-0729 or visit (http://www.art-trail-gallery.com).