Archive for June, 2009

Thinking of Judith McGrath Down in Western Australia

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Yesterday, after another sweltering trip to Charleston, SC, I returned home to check my e-mail. While sorting through the days’ list of junk, outlandish offers, jokes about our Governor (no name offered) and even a few directed for Carolina Arts – I found myself gazing at a few e-mails I leave on my incoming list as a reminder of things – things to do, people to get back with, e-mails that I shouldn’t forget about, and e-mails kept for legal reasons. That’s right, I have to occasionally deal with some people who are down right nuts, so I keep their e-mails.

Among those e-mails was the last one I received from Judith McGrath down in Kalamunda, Western Australia, near Perth. This one is saved as a good reminder and as I looked at it I wondered about what it would be like to be there right now. You see, while we’ve been going through 90+ temps for several weeks, thunder storms, and near 90 percent humidity, Australia is going through its winter season. I know – the grass is always greener…

McGrath was a contributor to Carolina Arts for almost ten years, until the economy hit the fan and we had to cut back on expenses (even small ones) and space in the paper, but I miss her words about the visual art community in her corner of the world and most of the time about the visual art community in general. Through her writing we learned that it is a small world and things are not that different – no matter where you are.

So, I sent her an e-mail and woke up this morning and found the following response about what has been going on with her. She’s been teaching an Art Appreciation class at the local Learning Centre in her area.

Here’s part of her e-mail:

Talk about great minds thinking alike! I was just on your site the other day and enjoyed reading your blog about the National Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition in North Charleston. Also appreciated viewing the excellent pictures and deciding which ones I’d like to have in my own garden – when I’m rich and famous! I particularly liked the gentle flow of Pattie Firestone’s Thoughts Running Like a River, the contemplative aspect of Corrina Sephora Mensoff’s, Where I have come from, what will I leave behind?, and James Burnes’ Rich Sis which had me thinking of a retired race horse, worn out but still majestic. However, all were excellent presentations.

We have two similar sculptural exhibitions Down Under, both presented on the white sands of the beach, albeit each with a different ocean as a backdrop. One is on Bondi Beach along the Pacific Ocean near Sydney on the Eastern side of the continent, the other is held on Cottesloe Beach by the Indian Ocean near Perth in Western Australia. I always enjoy attending the latter and seeing families lounging on the sand, under the sun and in the company of monumental works of art in all manner of material. It reminds me that art should always be for the general public, not just the literati.

You may have noticed that I’ve been slack about posting reviews on my own site. My only excuse is that I’m finding precious little to write about when meandering through commercial galleries and local public venues. What I have found is how the rhetorical “there’s nothing new in art” has become the reality of “seen it all before”? As such I fear for the future of the visual arts due to the lack of inspirational and/or practical artistic education.

In my capacity as an art reviewer I have no problem with giving polite “corrective” criticism to aspiring artists who are happy to take it on board as they may benefit from it. However, I am not in the habit of writing “negative” reviews because, as an ex-art history lecturer, I am aware that anything written, be it positive or negative, is archived and available to future generations. My logic runs along the lines that if I name a practitioner in an article, whether I condemn or praise their work, it is proof that at one time, he or she existed as an “artist” therefore according them a place in future art history. With that in mind, I have banned myself from writing “bad” reviews, as there is already sufficient “equine manure” in print validating the artistic underachiever.

The ban became a real hurdle for me when viewing the latest exhibition of works by newly graduated art students. While walking through the exhibition the thought that if this is the “best” the schools have to offer had me fighting an urge to sit down and cry. The craft work was excellent while only a few sculptors considered their 3D constructions from all points of view. But it was the painting that brought tears to my eyes as they lacked an understanding of color usage and underlying compositional structure. It was so depressing I was sorely tempted to break my long held “ban on the bad” as I felt something had to be said publicly. And I would have overcome the temptation and ignore the show until I spotted one exhibit that was very familiar. I had seen something very much like it twenty-odd years ago in a different gallery. I knew who the artist was then, and I knew he was now a lecturer in the art school being represented by this student. As I stood in front of the work, I asked the gallery manager if teachers were exhibiting too. He knew what I saw, smiled enigmatically and shook his head.

There’s a saying in the art world in my town that goes; “Them that can, do. Them that can’t, teach.” It’s no wonder there is nothing new for me to say about art in my town. I do hope in your town, each year brings new and exciting aspects in the wonderful world of the visual arts.

Cheers

I’m hoping as the economy recovers and we get through this long summer, I’ll be able to offer McGrath’s writings again in Carolina Arts. You can still find the articles McGrath sent us archived on our website here, dating back to 2000.

Judith McGrath lives in Kalamunda, Western Australia, 25 minutes east of Perth. She received a BA in Fine Art and History from the University of Western Australia. McGrath lectured in Art History and Visual Literacy at various colleges around the Perth area, and was an art reviewer for The Sunday Times and The Western Review both published in the Perth area. McGrath is currently a freelance writer, reviewer for various art magazines in Australia and teaching. She also co-ordinates the web site Art Seen in Western Australia.

New Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, NC, Launches Website

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Over the next two years, Center City Charlotte will be transformed by the development of the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus (formerly the Wachovia Cultural Campus), which will include an expanded Mint Museum of Art, an expanded Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture (formerly the Afro-American Cultural Center) and the new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. What a boon for the visual arts in the Charlotte area and the Carolinas.

The Gantt Center will open later this year, the Bechtler Museum will open in Jan. 2010, and the Mint in the fall of 2010. I can hardly wait. But I guess I’ll have to.

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To introduce the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and its collection to the public, an interim website has been launched at (www.bechtler.org). Created by MODE, a Charlotte-based branding and interactive agency, the site highlights artists in the collection, provides architectural information, describes museum offerings and gives visitors the opportunity to sign up for e-mail updates regarding programs, exhibitions, membership, facilities rental, volunteering and educational opportunities. The website will continue to expand in the months ahead.

While on the website look for the “Firebird” – a while back I came across a story about its restoration – this is really something.

But here’s some other info to get you interested.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the only museum dedicated to the exhibition of mid 20th-century European modern art in the southeast, will open to the public on Jan. 2, 2010.

Construction of the museum’s distinct four-story, 36,500 square foot building in downtown Charlotte is nearing completion. Museum staff is slated to move into the facility this summer and the collection is scheduled to arrive in the fall. The building, designed by world renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta, is destined to become an iconic structure with its boldly cantilevered fourth floor exhibition gallery, soaring glass and steel atrium and terra cotta exterior.

The museum is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland who assembled and inherited a collection of more than 1,400 artworks created by major figures of 20th-century modernism and donated it to the public trust. The Bechtler collection reflects most of the important art movements and schools from the 20th century with a deep holding of the School of Paris after World War II.

The collection is comprised of artworks by seminal figures such as Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, Jean Tinguely, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Le Corbusier, Sol Lewitt, Edgar Degas, Nicolas de Stael, Barbara Hepworth and Picasso. In many instances the holdings by a particular artist are across various media (painting, sculpture, drawing, prints and decorative arts). Some works in the collection are also accompanied by books, photographs and letters illustrating personal connections to the Bechtler family.

Only a handful of the artworks in the Bechtler collection have been on public view in the United States. Until now, the collection was privately held by the Bechtler family and has since been committed to the city of Charlotte.

From time to time as we get news we’ll keep you posted about this exciting project.

Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, Invites You to Walk Off with Exhibition Components

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, is inviting the public to the “Prop Master Deconstruction Party,” on Saturday, July 18, 2009, from 2-5pm. The event is free with museum admission.

Take home a piece of exhibition history from the Prop Master: An Installation by Juan Logan and Susan Harbage Page. Museum goers can grab a box (or boxes) from the 10,000 that are the centerpiece of this critically acclaimed exhibition. Artists Juan Logan and Susan Harbage Page will be on hand to autograph boxes and encourage visitors to take home a symbol of Charleston’s past. Enjoy complimentary samples from Paolo’s Gelato (while supplies last).

The Gibbes Museum of Art is located at 135 Meeting Street in Charleston, for further information call 843/722-2706 or visit (www.gibbesmuseum.org).

Photos of Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit in North Charleston, SC – Hot off the Press

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

As I mentioned before on June 20, 2009, the weathermen were calling for 100+ degree temps in the Charleston, SC, area so I headed out to take digital images of this year’s crop of sculptures at the Riverfront Park, located at The Navy Yard at Noisette (former Charleston Naval Base) in North Charleston, on the Cooper River. The 4th Annual National Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition will be on view through Mar. 25 – 2010, but no better time than the present to check it out. Really?

I guess by the way some of us talk every year we tend to forget that it gets hot here in South Carolina during the summer and projections of 100+ degrees the day before summer starts is no big deal – life goes on – you just wear less clothes. Besides I was at least smart enough to go in the morning when the temp was just 85 degrees.

Here’s a commercial announcement from the City of North Charleston: Organized and presented by the City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department, this unique exhibition offers established and emerging artists the opportunity to display their thought provoking, extraordinary sculptures throughout the stunning, picturesque Riverfront Park. Set on the banks of the gorgeous Cooper River, visitors enjoy ten acres of walking paths, a fishing pier, an oversized sandbox and children’s play fountain and the new Naval Base Memorial. A magnificent contemporary Performance Pavilion and expansive lawn provide a wonderful outdoor setting for small and large-scale events. Future park additions include a pedestrian bridge across Noisette Creek to the Hunley Submarine Museum. The historic site is centered in the Noisette District, the largest urban redevelopment project ever undertaken in the United States.

The 2009 National Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition juror was David Furchgott, President and Founder of International Arts and Artists, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally through exhibitions, programs and services to artists, arts institutions, and the public. For over 16 years, he was the Executive Director of the International Sculpture Center, which he developed to become the largest organization for sculpture with 15,000 members in over 70 countries. It was there that he began and published Sculpture magazine. Previously, he was with the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Gibbes Museum of Art and a consultant to the Spoleto Festival USA.

So here are the sculptures in this year’s exhibition:

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Big Water Bottle Basket, steel, enamel by Jonathan Brilliant of Charleston, SC

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Rich Sis, steel, wood by James Burnes of Santa Fe, NM

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Boxes in a Box, aluminum by Samuel Burns of Chattanooga, TN

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Orion’s Pyramid, steel by Stephen Chilingirian or Zirconia, NC

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Cathedral Arch, steel by Bob Doster of Lancaster, SC

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Thoughts Running Like a River, aluminum by Pattie Firestone of Chevy Chase, MD

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Suffering Passes, Having Suffered Never Passes; In Living, Loss and Rebirth Enfold One Another, oak by James Fuhrman of Glenmoore, PA

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Wave Form #5, reclaimed dock boards by Gary Gresko of Oriental, NC

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Ollie’s Buoy, steel and concrete by Roger Halligan of Chattanooga, TN

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Personal Space, steel by Hanna Jubran of Grimesland, NC

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Where I have come from, what will I leave behind?, steel and cast iron by Corrina Sephora Mensoff of Atlanta, GA

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Triangle Tango, steel by Bob Turan of Earlton, NY

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Ker-Plunk, steel by Adam Walls of Red Springs, NC

The results of the competition for the 2009 National Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition are as follows:
Best in Show went to James Fuhrman for Suffering Passes, Having Suffered Never Passes; In Living, Loss and Rebirth Enfold One Another;2nd Place was given to Roger Halligan for Ollie’s Buoy; 3 Honorable Mentions went to Jonathan Brilliant for Water Bottle Basket, Corrina Sephora Mensoff for Where I have come from, What will I leave behind?, and Bob Turan for Triangle Tango.

See images from the 2008 exhibit and 2007 exhibit. There are also a few sculptures still in the park from previous exhibits.

We don’t have many contemporary public sculptures on display in the greater Charleston area, in fact there are next to none on display in the City of Charleston, which is amazing for such an arts city. So, besides this exhibit in North Charleston and the 19 works on display in Azalea Park in Summerville, SC, part of the permanent outdoor collection donated by the Sculpture in the South organization, you won’t find many sculptures here.

This display in Riverfront Park seems a little thin in that it is a large park and most of the sculptures in this year’s exhibit are small or it might be better to say – they are not monumental. I’m not complaining, in fact I’m amazed that the City of North Charleston has mounted their fourth sculpture exhibit. It’s a major effort for the artists, the City, and the Cultural Arts Department. After all, this park is to be used by people – it’s not a museum. And, there were a good number of people using the park the morning I went there – some also taking photos of the sculptures. But, always wanting more of a good thing – I’d like to see bigger sculptures, more of them, and more sculptures by different artists (there is a group of artists who seemed to have had works in all four exhibits).

But here’s the catch – I don’t have any money to give North Charleston to expand their efforts, and arts money is in short supply these days. So, it’s hard to expect more – even when you want it.

In conclusion – the City of North Charleston is doing a great job with this program – better than their so-called artsy cousin Charleston. Hopefully more sculpture lovers from Charleston and elsewhere will go visit this exhibit and park. And, hopefully these  summer temps won’t last forever. But you can take it if I can – I’m a transplanted Yankee.

For further info or details about the next sculpture competition contact the City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department at 843/745-1087 or at (www.northcharleston.org).

The Big Piccolo Spoleto Exhibition at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

What do you do when the weathermen are calling for 100+ degree temps in the Charleston, SC, area? Why you jump in your car and travel to North Charleston, SC, to photograph an outdoor sculpture exhibit and then head to downtown Charleston to check out the big Piccolo Spoleto exhibit,Contemporary Charleston 2009: Revelation of Process, featuring works by Dorothy Netherland, Jonathan Brilliant, Ben Timpson, Karin Olah and Ishmael, on view at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Surely, you didn’t think I was going to cut grass or rake leaves.

More about the outdoor sculpture exhibit in another blog.

I purposely put off seeing the exhibition as City Gallery at Waterfront Park as I knew it would get a lot of chatter during the festivals by local and regional media, but after the Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals were over – coverage would drop off a cliff. But, the show is still on view through July 26, 2009. People still have a month to go see it, but most of the media will have moved on to today’s news. They have all been there and done that.

I’ve read a lot of those pre-event articles and reviews, but didn’t absorb much. I was waiting to see it for myself. I do agree that this is one of the best exhibits that I have seen at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Was it the best Piccolo Spoleto exhibit ever? I wouldn’t go that far, but it would be in the top five – maybe number two or three.

Would I crown Erin Glaze – King of Curators? She did a good job, but I’d have to see a few more shows under her hand before I could come close to saying that. But, it was a heck of a first time. This space has gone through a lot of gallery directors, gallery coordinators – whatever the title is from day to day. There’s no telling who will be in charge next year. Well, I know – Ellen Dressler Moryl is in charge and next year she may decide to feature one of her friends. You just never know. So, I’m not letting this show change my mind about the direction of this gallery space and what the future will bring. I always have hope, but I’m also a realist.

But, I, like others, would like to see Glaze do a few more exhibits – on her own. She added some touches to this exhibit which really helped the viewers get a grip on the process of creating art – in the artist’s own words and actions. Austin Nelson, who created the video clips – shown in a loop at the gallery near each artist’s works  really gave those who took the time to view them an insight into these artists’ world  – the process of creation. Also, there were small stations which also showed more details of how these artists work or where they come from – their influences and backgrounds, or in some cases – the world they were focused on. Beyond an exhibit catalog, these two elements added much to this exhibition.

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So, on to the works.

When I entered the gallery I turned directly to the left – avoiding the  70,000 pound gorilla in the room. These were works by Ben Timpson. The first works were small boxes, mounted on the wall, with a framed round magnifying glass – which you were to look through. What you saw was a small image backlit by white light – like a peep show. These unusual images were made up of parts of other objects – some from plants, bugs – whatever. I found these interesting works of art. But once these same type of images were blown up to a much larger scale – presented like a painting – they lost some appeal. But that’s just me. Others enjoyed these works as much as I did the smaller boxes.

This was the first time I’ve seen any work by this artist, so it would be hard to make much of a judgement on whether I liked it or not overall. I liked the small boxes and the fact that some were placed really low – maybe for better viewing by children or to make adults think the effort of bending down would reveal something naughty. Anytime you make the audience work for their supper it’s a good thing.

I next moved upstairs where I knew I would find Karin Olah’s works. I must declare up front that I’m a big fan of Olah’s work, Linda and I own one of her works, and I even put one of her images on the cover ofCarolina Art’s May 2009 issue – one of our last color covers for awhile. I hope it’s not too long before we get back to color covers. So, I’m already sold on Olah’s work. But, she never fails to amaze me and show me she has places to go that I have not seen.  I  look forward to a long journey following her work.

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And, it was apparent many others wanted to take that journey too. Olah had an entire wall of smaller – very nicely priced works – mostly sold. She by far has sold the most works during this exhibit. Now, that is not the purpose of these lofty exhibitions at non-profit gallery spaces, but most of the time – even at major museums – the works on display by living (contemporary) artists can be purchased, if they are not on loan by a previous buyer. So, although no one is keeping score – I like the fact that many others enjoy my taste in art and Olah’s work. She also sold some of her larger works too and I must say this is another good sign that the economy is getting better – even if at a snail’s pace.

As an added touch for this exhibit, Olah also used some of her same graphic techniques on the walls of the gallery to link some of her works together. I liked the effect, having known the work and knowing this is not usual. Others may not have seen it the same way, but I must say that when this same technique was used to blend Olah’s work together with the other artist sharing the upstairs space (Ishmael), the linkage seemed to be a train wreck to me – especially when that linkage went into one of Olah’s works. Again, just my personal feeling, but they could be feelings over another subject altogether.

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The artist Ishmael’s roots are in street graffiti. I am not a fan of street graffiti at all – especially when it is done on other people’s private property. Olah and I have had discussions about this subject – on opposite ends of the subject, but I hope we respect each other’s points of view. She’s a fan and I’m not, so it’s hard to say if my feelings about the mingling of her art with his doesn’t stem from my views on graffiti. I hope I’m being objective.

Now all that aside, I liked Ishmael’s works in this exhibition. I have no problem with the technique of graffiti or style – as long as it ends up on materials owned by the artists. Hey, I don’t care for billboards either. But, I always have to wonder how this artist would feel if some of his street friends came into the gallery space and did their thing on his works – would he feel honored or violated? My guess is – publicly honored – no big deal – part of the process, but privately a little violated – especially during his big moment – especially if it had happened to one of the works that had sold and the buyers no longer like the “tagged” work.

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So, I’d like to see more of Ishmael’s work – on canvas, board, even gallery walls, but not out on the streets. He’s got too much talent to see it white washed away by citizen groups cleaning up the streets.

Next, I walked downstairs – again avoiding the gorilla, and checked out Dorothy Netherland’s works. I’ve seen her work before in many places and I like what she is doing. Although Netherland was born in the 60′s, I wouldn’t think of her as living in the same time period as I did, born a decade earlier, but her work focuses on that time period when I was growing up. By the time she was 10 years old it was the 70′s and America had changed a lot. So, when I look at her imagery I see my past as a child – I’m one of the little boys with the cowboy hat and silver six-shooters.

These were the golden years, the last days of innocence for America. When I went trick-or-treating, “without” my parents, I didn’t have to worry about people putting razor blades in the apples they gave me or riding my bike several neighborhoods over and staying out late after dark. I wasn’t going to be killed in a drive-by shooting. These were Good Times or Happy Days or were those just TV shows? Of course there was duck and cover drills in school; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy; and eventually Vietnam. But we could watch reruns of I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaverand think it was all innocent.

This is not a world or time period you see many artists today focused on which in itself can be shocking. Some of the imagery if looked at under today’s standards of “you better be careful” might suggest another world. Are images of an older man hugging or carrying a young girl innocent or something else? It makes you think of how did we get from there to where we are now in just a short span of time? Does the picture really tell the story?

Damm you artists – stop making us think and question. You’re going to ruin my childhood memories. But then there is always TVLand . A few episodes of I Love Lucy can take you away.

Before I move on to that gorilla, I heard someone say my name and I looked up and saw Mary Gilkerson, who was also viewing this exhibit with her daughter. Gilkerson used to write art reviews for us – way back when – and now writes art reviews for freetimes in Columbia, SC. And, I learned that she will probably be doing a review of this show on her blog,SCARTblog. So, you can look for a much more insightful review of this show on her blog.

So, finally we have the installation piece by Jonathan Brilliant, made of 70,000 wooden coffee stirrers, the same kind used at Starbucks, which takes up the entire middle space of the gallery from downstairs to the upstairs’ railings. None of the sticks are glued together – they are all woven and held in place by tension. One child could get lose from a parent and the whole thing could come crashing down. Now, that’s art on the edge.

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I never did see a title for this work, and other installation works he has done are named after the space they were made in, so I guess this will be known as the City Gallery at Waterfront Park 2009 piece.

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People should come to this exhibition just to see this work alone and the rest of the art will be the gravy. It’s an amazing act of art, patience, and faith. What if he couldn’t finish it in time? What if it fell apart before the show opened? What if some child did run into it at the opening? Then what do you have but a pile of sticks? I’ve seen site-specific works that were just a pile of sticks and it was not so impressive – not hardly.

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I’ve always had a hard time dealing with site-specific art in that it is all just temporary, but a work like this – beyond photographs, the artists walks away with nothing but a pile of sticks. On the bright side – those 70,000 coffee stirrers can maybe live on in the creation of another installation. A painter can’t recover the paint on their canvas to use in another painting. At least I don’t think they can.

I’ve seen a lot of wonderful site-specific art throughout the years, but I always saw them as a loss – as we couldn’t keep them around for others to see – generation after generation – just pictures or written words. It’s not the same as seeing them in place, but then I guess that’s the point of it all.

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I’ve seen other works by Brilliant before in fringe exhibits during Piccolo Spoleto, but this is by far the largest. According to the exhibit catalog it may be his largest work to date. And, I don’t care how many photographs are taken of the work – they will never do justice to seeing the work up close – in 3D (no special glasses needed). So go see this exhibit.

I had another 60′s flashback looking at Brilliant’s piece. My older brother and I used to make exploding projectiles out of popcycle sticks – woven together. We could throw them around the house and not break anything as the minute they touched anything solid they would explode. For a moment, just a moment – an image of a little boy (let’s say a boy in a red cowboy hat and silver six-shooters blazing away) running head first into Brilliant’s work gave me this super special effects movie in my head of the City Gallery at Waterfront Park exploding and coffee stirrers flying hundreds of feet in the air in all directions. I wonder if Brilliant has nightmares about that or secretly thinks of being that child. After all, he made it.

Well, if for some unimaginable reason you should miss seeing this exhibition, the Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, SC, will be presenting the exhibit, Past Presence, featuring works by  Karin Olah, Jonathan Brilliant, Kevin Hoth, Dorothy Netherland, Seth Curcio, Jarod Charzewski and Tim Hussey, from July 24 through Aug. 16, 2009. It seems strange that another institution in Charleston would program such a show featuring three of the five artists in this show so soon, but it may have been a replacement show for some exhibit that had to be cancelled. Or perhaps it’s to remind folks that these artists started out first at Redux. Either way – there’s more good art to see this summer.

The City Gallery at Waterfront Park is also offering a series of lectures in conjunction with the exhibit including: On June 27, 2009, from 2-5pm – Karin Olah Lecture & Demonstration – Using fabric, Olah works in a manner that mimics the flow of paint from a brush. Intricately cut, placed, and pasted textiles are combined with gouache, acrylic, and graphite to create collage paintings that are deep in color and texture. Part 1: Informal Talk & Short Demo. Part 2: Community Collaboration. Olah will provide materials and instructions for a fabric collage painting. Everyone is invited to contribute and paint on this piece. Attendees may bring in their own fabric scraps for the collage painting! Part 3: Donate to Olah’s fabric collection by bringing in solid or striped clean, natural fiber scraps (no patterns, please). Your scrap may be part of a future collage painting! One-of-a-kind “Art-Scrap Cards” will also be sold at this event only! Take home a Karin Olah original for only $12! On July 11, 2009, Time TBA – Lecture by Dorothy Netherland. On July 18, 2009, Time TBA – Lecture by Jonathan Brilliant. These programs are free and open to the public. For further info call the City Gallery at Waterfront Park at 843/958-6484.

And, remember if you are coming from out of town to see either of these exhibits, check out some of the commercial art galleries in Charleston. There’s a lot to see in a wide variety of styles. You can find days and times gallery spaces are open at Carolina Arts Online under our Gallery Listings pages.

Piccolo Spoleto Festival Exhibitions Slip Away Again

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Even with the best of intentions on my part, once again many of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival visual art offerings have slipped away before I could get by to see them. Even some of the exhibits I did get to see are over before I could post a blog about them. I have always said that the Spoleto and Piccolo Festivals were not designed to fit my schedule. I have to have my June issue turned into the printer before the festivals even start and then once they have started I’m delivering papers and then preparing for the July issue. It’s just not a good time for me to get out and see all that is being offered. This blog helps some, but not enough. But, I did get to see some and a few will still be on display for some time to come.

This year I did not get to visit the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibit 2009but once and that was not a long visit at that. I got reports about what was going on from various sources, but that’s not the same as being there and getting a first hand impression from artists and visitors. Sixteen days sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not. I have always said that this show is the marathon of all visual art events and that the artists who go through it in South Carolina’s “what next?” weather challenges are the toughest folks around. Not to mention putting up with the viewing public’s repetitive questions. It can also be a roller-coaster ride of emotions – watching your neighboring artist make sales while you don’t; making sales while others don’t and not being able to feel good about it or at least brag about it; wondering what else you could have done with these 16 days; and promising yourself this is the last year you’ll do this. But, in the end it all turns out all right and most return – year after year. And, they end up meeting some wonderful new customers and a lot of old customers who are now friends – that return year after year.

If you want a little taste of what it’s like being one of the 100 + artists down in Marion Square Park in Charleston, SC, during this exhibition visit Amelia “Mimi” Whaley’s blog. You can review her 16-day journal of being there.

While delivering the June issue I did get by to see the exhibit, From Quilts in the Attic to Quilts on the Wall: Exploring Textile Art by African Americans, on view at 10 Storehouse Row at The Navy Yard at Noisette (on the former Charleston Naval Base) in North Charleston, SC. This exhibit ended on June 7, 2009, like many of the Piccolo Spoleto exhibits. This exhibit was also part of North Charleston Arts Festival which took place early in May. The artists in this exhibit explore and depict their African heritage through quilting – some traditional, some non-traditional. Here’s a few images of some of the quilts.

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Sophia Rising by Torreah Washington

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Sacred Letters by Dorothy Montgomery

Here’s a little commentary for the folks developing The Navy Yard at Noisette. If they don’t do something about the main roads there – people will never come there and I’m going to stop coming and tell people not to go there. Paving over those roads is long overdue.

I also got to see the exhibit, BREAKING OUT, a Piccolo Spoleto art exhibition for adults with intellectual disabilities, sponsored by the Hulsey Law Group and presented at Charleston City Hall at 80 Broad Street in downtown Charleston. At the four corners of the law to be exact. This show also ended June 7, 2009.

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The exhibit was coordinated by: Special Olympics of South Carolina, City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, VSA Arts of South Carolina and SC Arts Commission. It provided an opportunity for artists with intellectual disabilities to speak using the vocabulary of art. The artists communicate through their paintings and pottery and in so doing break down the walls raised by their disabilities. But the location of this exhibit wasn’t going to break down the walls of competition for viewing exhibits during these busy Festivals. The lobby at City Hall is not made for exhibitions and people don’t expect to find exhibits there and other than the Spoleto Festival’s opening ceremony – nothing else happens in that part of the city – as far as Festival events go. This show could have been placed at the Charleston Visitor Center.

Without knowing the particulars of this exhibition most viewers might not know these people were not your average artist guild novice, folk artists or visionary artists, but considering their disabilities, the works can take on an exceptional quality.

Although there were people (I don’t want to use the word artist) here from Beaufort, SC, and Spartanburg, SC, it would be nice if this was an exhibit which was the result of a statewide competition among adults creating works with intellectual disabilities. That would add an extra level of accomplishment for the participants.

Some might ask why is this work being presented at these major art festivals? Well, creating something is a powerful action. The arts are used by many, other than artists, for expression, therapy (physical and mental), and for relaxation. Why shouldn’t that side of the arts be seen at an arts festival?

It also should be noted that beyond the exhibit’s main sponsor many contributions were made by some of Charleston’s commercial art businesses and commercial art galleries. These people contribute to a lot of non-profit efforts, but when it comes time to think about who should receive public funding or public help in tough times, these same folks are left out of the picture. It’s not all about making money for these folks – it’s about being part of the greater art community and community in general. It’s time they should get some credit for that.

And, Mayor Joseph Riley (Charleston’s Mayor), you better do something about your streets too. Stop saying it’s the SC Highway Department’s duty to keep your city’s streets decent.

Well, although I couldn’t draw any visitors to these exhibits, by reviewing them before they were over, beyond our pre-coverage of these events in Carolina Arts and on our website Carolina Arts Online, we have given them a little recognition and life in cyber space. That’s the best we could do this year.

NC Pottery Center Offers Summer Fundraiser – June 20 2009

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The doors of the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, were kept open due to the efforts of many last year, but – and I hate to be the one to tell you this – the Center is not yet saved, and the cavalry in the form of the NC Arts Council, a.k.a. the State of North Carolina – is nowhere in sight.

The State of North Carolina is not in the same shape it was a few years back when the plan to take over operations of the Pottery Center was first hatched. And, it may be several years before the State gets back to where it was before the bottom dropped out. So, Plan B is in effect – fundraising to keep the doors open.

There are still a few who would like to see the doors of the Pottery Center closed. For what reason – I can’t understand. From the perspective of someone who lives in South Carolina, we would love to have such a facility for any part of the arts here.

So here’s a press release about the fundraiser.

The North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, has planned an exciting, educational and free day for the public on Saturday, June 20, 2009, from 10am-4pm. Visitors from near and far, young and old are invited to spend the day at the Center to be entertained and educated about the history, heritage and ongoing tradition of pottery making in North Carolina, one of the state’s most well-loved and treasured art forms.

The “Pots from the Attic” Fundraiser runs all day and features a collection of over 200 highly unique pieces. Shapes and sizes vary from crocks to candle holders to sugar bowls and Rebecca pitchers as well as marked souvenir pots from the past tourist trade. A majority of pots were donated from the collection of Dr. Everette James. NCPC board member, Pam Owens from Jugtown commented, “I know I speak for the whole NCPC Board in expressing our gratitude to Everette James for the donation of his historic, and well known pottery collection from the Saint James Place Museum in Roberson, NC. There are many wonderful study pieces in the “Pots from the Attic” Fundraiser. We look forward to a full and interesting day of events on June 20.”

Mark Hewitt, accomplished Pittsboro, NC, potter and VP of the NCPC describes the collection like this. “In many ways pots are like people, we give them human associations by describing their feet, bellies, necks, and lips. Pots, like people, are also fragile. Over the course of a lifetime, we all get chipped and banged about, but carry on, somehow tougher for our experiences. Likewise the pots in this sale have been slightly damaged, but they still retain their core beauty, somehow made more real by their flaws. The pots in the sale have been well-loved. There are examples of all types of North Carolina pottery, from utilitarian to art ware, small pieces and large. The sale includes many hidden treasures, rare stamps, and familiar gems.”  The range of pots includes those from Cole Pottery in Sanford, Jugtown, Ben Owen-Master Potter and North State among many others. This is a great opportunity to begin or add to an existing collection in a very affordable way.  All pots are priced to sell.

There will also be live Celtic Music inside the main building from 1:30 – 3:30pm with Michael Mahan and Will McCanless.

In tandem, a reception and book signing of The Living Tradition: North Carolina Potters Speak takes place from 2-4pm. The recently released book includes intimate interviews with 23 of North Carolina’s most distinguished potters. With illuminating interviews conducted by Michelle Francis and Charles “Terry” Zug III, resplendent photography by Rob Amberg, editing by Denny Hubbard Mecham, and publishing by Goosepen Studio & Press, this is the culmination of a documentary project by the North Carolina Pottery Center to promote and preserve North Carolina’s unique pottery making history. The funding for this distinctive project was made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Sciences, a national organization. Featured artists from the book attending the reception include; Ben Owen III, Pam and Vernon Owens, Hal and Eleanor Pugh, Caroleen Sanders, Mark Hewitt and interviewer Terry Zug. Refreshments will be served. All proceeds from The Living Tradition and the “Pots from the Attic” Fundraiser directly benefit the North Carolina Pottery Center. Sample pages can be viewed at (www.NCPotteryCenter.com).

A full day can easily be spent at the Center with individuals and families free this Saturday to take in the significance of the permanent historical section, beginning with the Native American pottery exhibit and artifacts, through the tools and functional pots of the agricultural era, to the movement toward art pottery and to the more contemporary pots of today. Two large display cases hold samples of approximately 85% of the local Seagrove community potters. The Center rotates exhibits every 3 to 4 months and the current exhibit is Dan Finch and the Dan Finch Studio Potters on view through Aug. 1, 2009. Visitors are welcome to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the outdoor tables underneath the grove of 100-year-old oak trees, and wander the charming rural grounds. Here one can explore the outside groundhog kiln and double chambered wood-firing kiln designed and built by potters Ruggles and Rankin (also featured in The Living Traditions book) during a teaching event.

Day-long demonstrations are held on Saturdays in the Center’s Educational Building by local potter Chad Brown. He is a 5th generation potter; his great-great grandfather was William Henry Chriscoe, a portion of whose original log cabin pottery studio now resides in the Smithsonian Museum. Brown is an up-and-coming potter to watch on the Seagrove scene, having worked as a journeyman potter for numerous studios and assisting many local potters with their wood firings. His decision to pursue his own pottery full-time this year was rewarded last month when he received the “The Award of Excellence” at The Arts in the Park show in Blowing Rock, NC. Sid Luck of Luck’s Ware, coordinator of the 2008-09 TAPS (Traditional Arts Program for Students) said, “I was most fortunate to have Chad as an assistant in the TAPS program this year. He is an excellent potter, has a great rapport with students and is very dependable.” TAPS is an afterschool collaboration between the NC Arts Council, the NC Pottery Center, and Seagrove Elementary School. Its purpose is to provide public school students with the knowledge and practices of the Seagrove traditional pottery culture. Mark Hewitt remarked, “Chad Brown has quietly established his presence as one of the most talented younger potters in Seagrove. We all enjoy Chad’s humor and good nature, and know how much he contributes to the NCPC with his patient, insightful demonstrations and his warm, generous personality. His beautiful pots reflect who he is.”

Opened in 1998 in Seagrove, the NCPC mission is to promote public awareness of North Carolina’s remarkable pottery heritage. The Center welcomes and informs visitors to the Seagrove area, enriching their experience through exhibitions and educational programs, and promoting potters working today across the state. The NCPC is a private nonprofit entity, funded primarily through memberships, grants, admissions, and appropriations. The Center’s hours are Tue.-Sat., 10am to 4pm, Admission (excluding free special events) is $2 – adults, $1 – students 9th through 12th grades, Free – children through 8th grade, free – NCPC members. Handicap accessible. Groups and tours welcomed. For further information and details call 336/873-8430, e-mail (to ncpc@atomic.net) or visit (www.NCPotteryCenter.com).

Artistic Encounters in Waynesville, NC – June 19 2009

Monday, June 15th, 2009

I received this press release from the Waynesville Gallery Association in Waynesville, NC, about a new event they are presenting called Artistic Encounters.

The press release stated:

There’s a new event in town, Artistic Encounters, a kaleidoscope of imaginative expression to be enjoyed in gift shops, galleries, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts in and around Waynesville, NC. It begins Friday evening, June 19, 2009, from 6-9pm with Artist’s Appetizers and continues through Saturday, June 20, 2009, until 5pm. The event features painting, drawing, weaving, and jewelry in the making. Stroll through bookstores and coffee shops for sweet surprises. Tour the new dinner club. Stay in the local bed and breakfasts and savor local flavors. From chocolate to fiber, there will surely be something created just for you. For the children, there will be face painting and games in the local toy store. From Main Street to Historic Frog Level artwork of all mediums will spill out into the sidewalk. Look for sunflower posters at participating businesses.

For more information about Artistic Encounters call 828-452-9284.

Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Closes Blockbuster Exhibit With Record Attendance

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

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Berthe Morisot

Well, we just received a press release from the Columbia Museum of Artabout their impressive attendance numbers posted during their presentation of the exhibit, Turner to Cézanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales, which was on view from March 6 through June 7 – 3 months. The release stated that the exhibition ended the first stop of its nationwide tour by attracting over 46,000 people to the Columbia Museum of Art for gallery tours, programs and events. That’s a blockbuster in this state.

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Paul Cézanne

This very same exhibit was pretty much panned by the former art critic ofThe State newspaper in Columbia – Jeffrey Day, but I guess the public didn’t listen. And, it’s not like people were not hearing good things from the people who visited the exhibit, the Museum broke a single-day attendance record with 1,590 visitors on the last Friday of the exhibition, June 5, 2009. If anything the buzz about this exhibit was building.

Day may have had some valid problems with the exhibition, but what a critic sees as a problem is not necessarily a problem for the average art museum visitor. I think the numbers speak for themselves.

The press release states that during the exhibition, which opened March 6, the Museum had record visitation from all 50 states, Washington, DC, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and 22 countries. Of all tickets sold: 20 percent were from outside of South Carolina; 64 percent were from outside of Richland County, SC; nearly 9,000 were youth visitors; 10 percent were from North Carolina; nearly 3,000 visitors were from Charlotte, NC; 422 were visitors from Atlanta, GA; 34 percent were from Columbia; 10 percent were from Lexington County, SC; and 6 percent were from Charleston, SC.

At first glance, the 6 percent from Charleston, the art mecca of the region might seem like a low number, but if they got 2,760 people to come from Charleston to Columbia and they weren’t going to a Gamecocks football game – that’s an accomplishment. Getting people to leave their beloved Charleston is not an easy task.

And, think about the shape the economy has been in the last three months – if people were spending time and money to go see an art exhibit – 20 percent from outside of SC – that’s amazing.

Columbia Museum of Art executive director Karen Brosius had the following to say about the exhibit. “We are thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response from visitors. This exhibition brought unprecedented attention and stature to South Carolina, and had a strong economic impact on Columbia, which is particularly important at this time. We are grateful to the exhibition sponsors, the Blanchard Family for enabling us to bring thousands of people to Columbia for the first time.”

The exhibition was organized by the American Federation of Arts and National Museum Wales, with support by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. But the Columbia presentation was sponsored by the Blanchard Family. I don’t know who they are, but Bravo, Blanchard Family!

Of course I hope the beautiful color cover we posted in our Mar. 09 issue helped promote the exhibition in some small way. But, sadly I did not get to see this exhibit myself. Such is the glamorous life of an arts newspaper editor and publisher who also has to process info, layout articles and then deliver the paper – month after month by deadline. There is never enough time for everything. Besides our mission is to get other folks to go see exhibitions and buy art.

It looks like I really missed one this time – congrats to the Columbia Museum of Art.

Another Funky Exhibit by Mark Sloan at The College of Charleston for Piccolo Spoleto

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Last year it was the exhibit, Richard McMahan’s Mini Museum, on view in the Sanders Rotunda at the Addlestone Library at the College of Charleston. McMahan has been creating his own personal museum collection featuring miniature replicas of the world’s greatest works of art. This was an unbelievable display of one person’s effort to recreate all the art treasures of the world which fit into a 20 foot square space. It was really unusual.

This year, it’s the exhibit, Hair on Fire, featuring works by Caryl Burtner, Sonya Clark, Talia Greene, Ruth Marten, Althea Murphy-Price, and Loren Schwerd, on view at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts. This exhibit will still be up through June 15, 2009 – so hurry and go see it if you haven’t.

I was lucky the gallery was open when I was delivering our June issue of Carolina Arts at the Simons Center for the Arts at the College of Charleston. As I walked in the door Mark Sloan was there and he quickly pointed out the exhibit by Caryl Burtner, of Richmond, VA, which consisted of a hair cutting station with many small baggies of people’s hair in them. He asked if I would make a contribution. My first reaction was – hey, my hair is in short supply. I’ve been losing it since I was a senior in high school, but Sloan told me it doesn’t have to be hair off the side of my head and he pointed to his contribution of beard hair. That was a different matter all together – that hair grows like my lawn – so I made a deposit to Burtner’s collection. Her entire contribution to this exhibit was the hair cutting station and the bags of hair contributed by people coming to this exhibit. Pretty funky – right. It’s just the beginning.

But, if it wasn’t for Sloan, the first thing that would have grabbed my attention was a fairly large miniature house – made of hair in the middle of the downstairs part of the gallery made by Loren Schwerd, a former professor at the College of Charleston who now lives and works in Baton Rouge, LA. This house, the largest of her works in the exhibit was made of synthetic hair extensions rescued from the debris of a flooded hair salon from Hurricane Katrina. The rest of Schwerd’s works (upstairs) make up a series of portraits of dilapidated post-Katrina houses in New Orleans. Except for the large house, she included small photos of the original houses the works are modeled after. Some also used real human hair.

Downstairs were also works by Sonya Clark, also of Richmond, VA. Her works were various sculptures made from using her own hair and that of friends and family. Some looked like they could be jewelry pieces. The strangest work was a very small hair hand with a small hair ball in it. That was a little creepy. It reminded me of the story of the Monkey’s Paw.

Also, downstairs was a display of items from the collection of the Charleston Museum showing items made using hair – like watches with wristbands made of hair. This showed that making items out of hair was nothing new.

In the gallery’s upstairs space I found prints and drawings, with hair as a featured item, by Ruth Marten of New York City. These works were the most normal items in the exhibit – sort of. They were normal in so far as the medium goes, but the subjects were a little weird.

Althea Murphy-Price of Bloomington, IN, demonstrated the formal possibilities inherent in synthetic hair as wall reliefs, sculpture, and throw rugs. Just another medium for construction of art like handmade paper or plaster.

The final artist contributing to the exhibit was Talia Greene of Philadelphia, PA. She digitally modifies 19th century photographic cabinet cards featuring portraits of individuals with unusual hair styles – hair made of flies. Greene would show four identical portraits of a person, each showing various hairdos – starting from flies in controlled formation to flies out of control. You can just about imagine the portrait setting. The subject gathering the flies in the proper formation, the photographer snapping the first image, the flash scaring the flies – they scatter into different formations around the head and face and then the following photos are taken in rapid succession.

I don’t have any photos of this exhibit to offer, which is best, as you should really make an effort to see this exhibit. But, if you’re in a position where you just won’t be able to make it – check the gallery’s website. The exhibit is on view Mon.-Sat., from 11am-4pm.

It’s exciting to wonder what Sloan will be doing with the much larger exhibition space which will be opening later this year in the new expansion of the art department facilities at the College of Charleston.

While there at the Simons Center I always check out their men’s restroom, which always brings me to the section where student exhibits are always posted. I have never received notice of these exhibitions – you have to accept that they are offered by chance, but it would be nice if they had regular beginning and ending dates and we were notified so we could tell our readers about them. Someone – probably students, go to a lot of time and trouble mounting these exhibits, it would be great if they were treated like real exhibitions. There is always something interesting offered in these exhibit.

I’ll give a shout-out to a few of the students whose works captured my interest. Excuse me if I get any of the names wrong – sometimes I can’t read my own notes.

Jesse Wallace had an interesting work called, Wet Beast, made of various fabric materials and I suspect wire. Wingsin Yuki Tong had a photographic sculpture entitled, Memory. This was a series of photos (memories) attached to strings receding away from the viewer up to the ceiling. It was rather clever. The guys at Kodak would have been proud. This work reminded me how memories can fade away, but with photos you can keep them alive.

There were two etchings I liked. One was by Samantha Theall, which was “untitled” and the other was by Jessica Vande Werken entitled, Man on Wire. Both were nicely done and made me want to see more.

Oh, by the way – the men’s restroom at the Simons Center was as usual, in tip top condition. Which brings up the point that in all my travels throughout all these years I have never seen a messy restroom at a college or university in the Carolinas which makes me think students don’t use them. That’s OK with me.

Go see this exhibit and the student work.