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

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.

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