Posts Tagged ‘Abstract Art in South Carolina: 1949-2012’

Another Quick Trip to Columbia, SC, for Some Art Viewing During the Crazy Winter of 2013

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

I don’t know why the good folks in Columbia, SC, think that Thursday evenings is the day to have art openings and art walks, but it seems that’s their day. Maybe it has to do something with early preparations for Saturday morning tailgating, but once again I was making a trip up I-26 from the Charleston, SC, area to see art in Columbia – something I don’t think a lot of folks in the Charleston area ever consider doing. Believe me – it’s their loss.

Charleston has an excellent visual art community, but so does Columbia and other parts of South Carolina and the Carolinas as a whole. But I’m not sure many folks in Charleston know that.

So on a day when our crazy Winter was turning from an Eskimo’s Summer to a Carolina Winter, I traveled to Columbia to see several exhibitions. When I first arrived in Columbia it was a wonderful 80 degree day. Within hours the temps had dropped 30-40 degrees and rain was blowing horizontally. It kind of reminded me of Michigan.

My first stop was the Goodall Gallery at Columbia College to see the exhibit,South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities Faculty Exhibition, featuring works by Marty Epp-Carter, Ben Gilliam, Elaine Quave, Joseph Thompson, Carolyn Tucker, and Paul Yanko. The exhibit will be on view through Feb. 16, 2013.

I usually don’t know what’s going on at the Goodall Gallery as we don’t ever seem to receive info about their exhibits, but somehow info reached me this month. So, I was interested in seeing the work created by the folks teaching our lucky high school students in SC who get the opportunity to attend the Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville, SC.

I’ve been told that we will be better informed about exhibits at Columbia College. As Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”

As I drove to Columbia College I was experiencing a feeling of auto-pilot – the Goodall Gallery was my first stop when delivering papers to Columbia (years ago now). The only difference now was that it was the middle of the day instead of being at 1 or 2am at night. And, being daytime I had to take some faculty member’s parking space, but I figured at that time of the day they had probably left for home already – otherwise I created a parking domino effect. Sorry about that.

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A view of one corner of the gallery.

The Goodall Gallery is not a large space, but it isn’t small either. It has two levels, but today’s exhibit only took up the lower level. The only artist whose works I was familiar with were those by Paul Yanko, an abstract artist – go figure. I like his work and if you’ve seen it before you can spot it in a second – as long as he keeps to his current style.

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Bridge Frame Wing by Paul Yanko, 2009-10, acrylic on canvas

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Bridge Frame Wing by Paul Yanko, 2009-10, acrylic on canvas – detail

After a look at everything on display my first impression was that the visual art students at the Governor’s School for the Arts would do well in following what these instructors had to offer. All of the work I saw could actually sell in the Carolinas – which is not often the case when it comes to college or university professors. I liked all the work I saw, but beyond Yanko’s abstracts I focused in on the earthenware clay works by Elaine Quave and a series of photographs by Carlyn Tucker.

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Hercules Beetle, by Elaine Quave, 2012, earthenware clay

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Economic Indicator Series, by Carlyn Tucker, 2005-2011, digital color print

Quave’s works were large platters mounted as wall hangings and Tucker’s photographs told a timelapse story on how well our economy has been doing since 2005. One set of photographs showed one small building in transition from openings to closings of five different businesses in a span of time from 2005 to 2011. It was very interesting – something probably only noticed by people who drive by the building on a daily basis or its landlord. Having been someone who has failed at business in the past, I felt the pain and loss in these images.

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(left) Vespa, by Ben Gilliam, 2010, alabaster, copper (right) Erosion Vessel, by Ben Gilliam, 2010, bronze, copper

We have an article about this exhibit on Page 14 of our February 2013 issue of Carolina Arts (www.carolinaarts.com). Go see this exhibit.

My next stop was Tapp’s Art Center on Main Street. It’s been awhile since I’ve been there – way before they got city funding, but by the time I got from Columbia College to where Tapp’s is on Main Street – the skies had opened up and rain was coming down in buckets – horizontally. After driving around the area a few times and finding only one parking space that would have meant I would spend the rest of my time in Columbia soaked to the bone – I went to plan B, which is mostly plan A every time I’m in Columbia. I drove over to One Eared Cow Glass to see what the cowboys were up to. Besides I had orders from Linda, my better half, to get one of those glass snowflakes from the display of the Four Seasons (in glass) that One Eared Cow Glass did at the recent SC State Fair.

I found a space at OECG right next to the front door, but judging by how wet I got just getting out of the car and through that door – not going to Tapp’s was a good decision. Hopefully I’ll get to visit on my next trip to Columbia.

The cowboys on this day were working on a commission piece for the town of Blythewood, SC. They were making leaves to create a chandelier for the new Doko Manor community center in Blythewood. When I asked what that was going to look like they said picture the Dale Chihuly chandelier over at the Columbia Museum of Art, but made of colorful leaves. That’s some kind of picture. I’m sure we’ll be bringing you more about this project in the future.

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Dale Chihuly chandelier at Columbia Museum of Art

I watched about a dozen leaves get made while looking to see if the rain was letting up, which it wasn’t, and kept checking at my phone for the time. That’s right, I don’t wear a watch anymore. It’s just another thing a smart phone has replaced. I was keeping track of the time as the main reason I had come to Columbia was for the opening of an exhibit at City Art Gallery, Selected Work from the 30 Year Retrospective: Made in America -1983- 2013, featuring works by artist Marge Loudon Moody, an art professor at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, on view through Mar. 2, 2013. (We have an article about this exhibit on Page 16 of our Jan. 2013 issue of Carolina Arts).

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Tom Lockart making the stem for a leaf.

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Mark Woodham rolling out a leaf from a big glob of molten glass.

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Lockart merging the leaf and the stem.

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Lockart shaping the leaf.

So while the rain continued, I took some photos (with my phone) and picked out a snow flake, talked with the cowboys and looked at all the wonderful works in the gallery, until it was time to venture back into the car to head over to City Art. I always want to get there early to get a good parking space – especially on that day, due to the downpour.

I got a fairly good spot considering, but the rain was still relentless. I had come ready to be dressed for a reception, at least dressed up for me (dress pants, shirt and sport jacket), but ended up deciding that at my age, it was better to wear my old reliable rain coat and Carolina Panther’s hat to stay as dry as I could. My normal dress is shorts and T-shirt or in Winter – T-shirt and lounge pants or jeans – 24/7 (Panther hat when going outside).

The 100 yard dash to the door was an event. As I reached the door and got inside I can remember letting out a whew! and realizing I was the first person there. The only folks in the gallery were staff members and they were all staring at me. Once I walked up the stairs to the gallery Wendy Wells , the gallery director, walked over to me and asked, “What are you doing here?”. Taking that as a sort of comment based on the weather and distance from Bonneau to Columbia, I replied. “I came for the opening.” She still looked a little surprised, I usually only show up in Columbia for maximum effect – Artista Vista, Vista Lights or even a First Thursday on Main, but I think she understood why I had come for the opening. She also said the artist was still “swimming” upstream on I-77 coming through the rain from Rock Hill.

You need a little background at this point. You see, we have to go back to an exhibit the SC State Museum presented a year or so ago, Abstract Art in South Carolina 1949-2012, which is where I first saw works by Marge Moody. This was my favorite exhibition in some time in SC and I was familiar with the name Marge Moody, but had never seen any of her work before that exhibit. I was more familiar with her husband’s photography – Phil Moody, who also teaches at Winthrop University. Marge Moody’s works in that show made a big impression with me – as did many of the works in that show. It was a spectacular exhibition. You can read about this exhibit and see some images in a blog I did about another trip to Columbia at thisLink.

Wendy Wells had also liked that exhibit and in a discussion about the exhibit Moody’s works came up and she said she was going to have a solo exhibit of her works at City Art Gallery. My response was – when you do we’ll feature her work on the cover of Carolina Arts, and we did in our Jan. 2013 issue.

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So, you see, I couldn’t wait to see a whole exhibit of Moody’s works and I said so on Facebook, but I guess some people just think comments on Facebook are just superficial comments. Not with me. So, Wells shouldn’t have been too surprised to see me there – slightly wet. But, due to the weather, I think she was surprised anyone would show up that evening. Linda wanted to come too, but just couldn’t get off work to come, so we’ll probably see it again before Mar. 2.

The SC State Museum in Columbia has just received the 2012 Certificate of Excellence for the exhibit, Abstract Art in South Carolina 1949-2012, from the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC). So, I guess I stand in good company in liking that exhibition.

Shortly after the reception started the rain stopped and a little sunlight came through the skies so I was able to dash back to my car and change back into my better looking duds – which meant ditch the hat and rain coat and put on the sport coat.

Moody and her husband soon arrived and I got a chance to talk with her about how she had managed to stay off my “abstract” radar, but the good news is that there are other exhibits in the works coming in the future. Hopefully we’ll have more about that in the future.

First off, this exhibit was not really a retrospective – most of the works were recent. I guess it was my mistake in thinking I was going to be seeing a wide range of works over a period of time – by not reading the exhibit title – literally (“Selected Workfrom the 30 Year Retrospective: Made in America -1983- 2013). These works were on the more recent end of those 30 years. Perhaps one of those future exhibits will offer a wider view of those 30 years.

The only way I can describe Moody’s work is to show some of my favorites with photos provided by City Art Gallery. My phone’s camera doesn’t do such a good job in that space for some reason or it’s the fact that at a reception I do more talking than taking photos.

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Blue Chicago Series: Blue Chicago, by Marge Loudon Moody, 60″ x 70″

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Field Lines Series: Terrain, by Marge Loudon Moody, 60″ x 70″

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Moon, by Marge Loudon Moody, 12″ x 12″

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Studio Series: Sunset and Stilllife, by Marge Loudon Moody, 18″ x 18″

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Thin Places Series: Field I, by Marge Loudon Moody, 54″ x 54″

You have lots of time to go see this show, but don’t put it off and then miss it. And, it will be some time – too long for me – before the SC State Museum mounts another view of abstract art in SC. So for people who love and understand abstract works – you have to get out and see these shows when they happen as they don’t happen that often – especially at commercial galleries.

Why is that? Well, those who like abstract art and would consider buying it are in a minority in SC. Commercial galleries are in business to sell art, so my hat goes off to someone like Wendy Wells and City Art Gallery for presenting a show like this one. In this case the public could prove me wrong. I hope so. Yes, City Art Gallery is a supporter of Carolina Arts, but that doesn’t change the facts and supporter or not, they deserve credit for their efforts.

I do want to mention another exhibit that opened that same evening in Columbia over at 701 Center for Contemporary Art, Stephen Hayes: Cash Crop, on view through Mar. 3, 2013. This is another “must see” exhibit that probably won’t be coming to Charleston any time soon – although it should have originated there.

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A detail of one of Hayes’ pieces in the exhibit.

At the core of the exhibit are 15 life-size sculptures of shackled people placed in boat- or coffin-like structures, with diagrams of captive, warehoused humans in Trans-Atlantic slave ships carved in wood on the back. Hayes says the sculptures represent, “the 15 million human beings kidnapped and transported by sea during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

Most of those slaves probably arrived in Charleston first in coming to America.

This exhibition has been shown several times in North Carolina and I got to see it at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. If I get another chance I’ll see it at 701, but with a two hour drive back home, my visits to Columbia are always limited. One of these days I’m going to stay overnight and enjoy Columbia’s art scene like a local.

Hayes is doing a residency at 701 CCA, so he may be adding new pieces to this exhibit.

So, if you travel to Columbia before Feb. 16, you can see all these exhibits and maybe get a peek at the chandelier that One Eared Cow Glass is creating.

A Trip to Columbia, SC, the Famously Hot City, to See Some Art and Attend a High Noon Event

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

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Last Saturday (June 23, 2012), before I was knee deep in our July 2012 issue of Carolina Arts I headed to Columbia, SC, to catch up on a few things going on there. I wanted to attend one of the Nigh Noon series that City Art was offering – Mary Gilkerson was giving a demo on how to start a painting. I wanted to see the exhibit, Abstract Art in South Carolina: 1949-2012, which offers the first inclusive look at the evolution and influences of abstract painting and sculpture in South Carolina, on view at the SC State Museum through Aug. 26, 2012. And, for me, no trip to Columbia is complete without a stop at One Eared Cow Glass to see what the cowboys, Tom Lockart and Mark Woodham, are up to.

Hitting the road these days is less painful. I filled up the car in Moncks Corner, SC, with $2.91 a gallon gas – thanks to my BiLo Fuel Perks card. Any day under $3 is a good day. I saw on the Weather Channel the other day that Greenville, SC, has the cheapest gas in the nation at $2.69. Our car, a Honda Civic Hybrid, is getting between 42 – 44mpg these days, but we still like lower gas prices.

As usual, I arrived at City Art in Columbia’s Congaree Vista area within two hours of leaving home. A short trip compared to my paper delivery driving days where I would spend 16 -18 hours a day in the car. Thank you Al Gore for inventing the Internet – ha, ha.

I checked out the exhibit of works by Michael Fowler which were still on display, before the big SC Watermedia Society exhibit comes to City Art (beginning July 7). I like abstract works and Fowler offers some good ones. Unfortunately, this day also confirmed that my pocket camera just wasn’t cutting it. I have been disappointed in how it acts in low-light situations. And, on this day I was running a test with my new iPhone’s camera – which after inspection showed it did much better, but it’s going to take some practice getting used to using it – especially keeping my fingers out of the way. In good daylight – the pocket camera is OK.

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Here’s a photo I took with my camera

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Here’s the same painting off the City Art website

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A view of a few more paintings

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a few more

While at City Art I also checked out some of their other art offerings, but I never got upstairs. I also went downstairs and looked over the art supplies. Not being an artist, I’ve never had much need for art supplies. There was a time when Linda and I did some silkscreening of T-shirts and a few Spoleto Posters with some friends. But this was in relationship to the photography we once did. And, back in the day when we had to physically layout the pages of the paper we used some spray adhesive. When I got to tubes of oil paints I instantly started trying to add up how much the paint might cost an artist like Brian Rutenberg who puts gallons of paint on his paintings – sometimes sticking an inch or two off the canvas. That’s got to cost a pretty penny. I’d learn some tricks about stretching out paint at Mary Gilkerson’s demo.

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A view of some of Harriet Goode’s tall women – from a previous exhibit at City Art

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A colorful painting by Jo Dean Bauknight with a lot of texture

So, close to noon I headed back upstairs and people were beginning to flow in for the demo. At first ten, then twenty, and thirty to eventually forty people and about a handful of staff from City Art. Gilkerson, being an art professor at Columbia College in Columbia came well prepared for this demo – no winging it here, and as I’m sure she’s used to after all her years of teaching – the hour moved on a steady path and I was amazed at how much material she covered with her ten point system in such a short period of time. And it wasn’t all lecture – there was plenty of show and tell, opportunity for questions, and at the end – opportunity to try out some of the materials – on the spot. The show and tell is good for people like me who need people to draw a picture for them to understand a concept sometimes. Words alone don’t always bring up the clearest picture for me.

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High Noon with Mary Gilkerson

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A view of the whole group

The bonus of this kind of learning event taking place at City Art is the staff being able to add info about materials, brands, and availability of items mentioned. (Which is no surprise – I’m sure they are offering these events in hope that what people learn will lead to sales of products and early reports were that this was the case.) Just like Carolina Arts, City Art is doing what they are doing because they like the arts, but they are in business too. Gilkerson was handing out info about upcoming workshops. She’s also hoping for some return on her efforts.

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Folks trying out materials from the demo and collecting sample goodies

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Pushing paint with painting knives – easier to clean

Gilkerson, being an active painter has her habits, but she was flexible to offer alternative ways of doing things. But, at the same time she made her pitch to work safe (some toxic materials are involved in painting) and working green. She explained that she knew artists who have gotten sick and a few who died due to their careless handling of some of these materials.

I have no intention of becoming a painter, but I learned a few things while listening. The number one point was – cheap materials usually result in cheap results, but in some cases – cheap is useful. Gilkerson finds suitable brushes at dollar stores for prepping canvases, but when laying paint on the canvas – the best is best. She also advised that sometimes you have to do bad work to learn from it – just don’t show off your learning experiences. That’s a trick of a real pro.

I remember back in my photography days learning that a National Geographic photographer might shoot 1,000 images for every one that is used in the magazine. This makes it look like they only take fantastic images – they just don’t show you all the misses. It’s a good practice for any artist. I see too much work not ready for public viewing.

From what I saw, I liked this High Noon series and it seemed others there did too. I understand that City Art already has programs scheduled for every Saturday at High Noon through the fall. I don’t think they expected the reaction to their offerings to be so good right off the bat. But, the art community always needs to remember that education and involvement is the key to success and development. It can’t always be about begging for funding.

And, here’s where I ask the usual question. Why couldn’t programs like this get funding from public resources? Not that anyone’s asking – I’m just saying… What makes programs that are hosted by non-profits more worthy – when many times they are not and many times they are not free? The business part of the arts community understands our role in the arts and many of the non-profits look to us for help, but it makes no sense to me why it’s an absolute that for-profits can never share in public funding. Isn’t the point of public funding to help people do good things they would not be able to afford otherwise – for the benefit of the public. And what business couldn’t do better things without a little help? It’s funny that the government doesn’t seem to have any problem helping out big farm operations, oil companies, and other big corporations with public funding – why not in the arts?

I feel a headache coming on – so on to the SC State Museum where there is something better to talk about. Regular readers know I like my abstract art and the show at the State Museum was like Christmas in July, although it was still June. To me there is nothing better than wall to wall abstracts and this exhibit offered many treats from artists who are already some of my favorites and some by folks I had not seen much of before this visit.

Thanks to Paul Matheny, the curator of art at the State Museum, I can offer you great shots of the gallery space. I handled the individual works – as best I could between camera and iPhone, but the lighting is always better for viewing than for taking photos at the Museum.

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For anyone who loves abstract works as I do this show is a must see. I mean it – you have until Aug. 26 to see this show and then you’ll probably never see such an assemblage again – in my lifetime. And, for those who say – I don’t get it – when they view abstracts – this is also an opportunity to give abstracts a chance to see if you’ll ever like abstracts. Because after viewing this show – if you still don’t see the beauty in these works – you probably never will and you can cross them off your bucket list. I didn’t get them at first – many a year ago. One day looking at works by Eva Carter and William Halsey – the lightblub in my head went off.

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The exhibit seems to be organized by area of influence or around universities. You have the Charleston/College of Charleston group; Columbia/University of South Carolina group; Rock Hill/Winthrop University group; Upstate/Clemson University group and so on.

You have works by artists who were born as far back as 1897 with Faith Murry being the oldest and Hollis Brown Thornton the youngest born in 1976. In this exhibit – being in your 50′s and 60′s might still make you a young upstart.

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A slightly fuzzy photo of a work by Eva Carter

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A work by William “Bill” Buggel

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A work by Brian Rutenberg

It’s hard enough being an abstract artist today, but I can only imagine how hard it was for some of these folks who were working in the 50′s and 60′s in South Carolina. No problem if you were in New York City, but in SC – folks like to be able to tell what they are looking at – an old house, marsh scene, mountain stream or people. Many of these artists had to make their living by teaching art and trying to convert a few students – over to the dark side when they could. And, the exhibit probably has a number of teacher/student groupings – if not even a third generation of influence. Others had to show and sell their works – out of state.

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A work by Gene Speer

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A work by Marge Moody

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A work by Tom Flowers

Sculpture was represented with some excellent works, but the majority of the works are paintings – large paintings. Not many would fit in my car for a ride home – not that I’m saying I’d try something like that, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a lot of these works on my walls – if I had walls big enough to hold any of these works.

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A work by John Acorn who will have an exhibit at 701 Center for Contemporary Art in July

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A close in detail of that same work by John Acorn

After seeing all this great work, I still felt like I wanted more. This was a pretty big exhibition in one of our state’s largest galleries, but I would have liked to see more works by some of these artists and more works by others not included. In fact I told several folks at the State Museum that I can hardly wait for the follow-up exhibit, Abstract Works in South Carolina: Today, which I don’t think is being planned any time soon – too bad.

The Museum produced a very nice catalogue for this exhibition and SCETV produced an informative video which plays just outside the entrance to the exhibit. Don’t leave without viewing it. I suggest the State Museum place a few chairs out there for us older folks.

Thank you Paul Matheny for organizing this exhibition.

Like I said before – no trip to Columbia is complete without a visit to One Eared Cow Glass and I used my iPhone to show some new works from the cowboys – Tom Lockart and Mark Woodham. They’re working on a special display for this year’s SC State Fair – which is going to be BIG. We’ll have details about that later.

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A group of works at One Eared Cow Glass

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All these images are from the iPhone

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My favorite photo from the day’s trip – love that iPhone

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Not sure what these are – might be for the State Fair exhibit

I didn’t stay there long – probably because they were not working their magic – turning melted sand into art, but while there, Lockart said I was brave to come to Columbia on one of the first hot days of summer. I mean for the city that calls itself Famously Hot! I didn’t think it was that hot. I don’t think I spent more than ten minutes going from my car to a well cooled space, but when I left it was 98 degrees and by the time I got back to Bonneau – two hours later, but still the hot part of the day – it was only 91 degrees – so I guess they are hot there, but not too hot to view art or learn something about the arts.

So you folks in the Upstate with $2.69 gas – you have no excuse not to travel to Columbia and you won’t melt and by the time you get back to the Upstate – it will feel so much nicer. For the folks on the coast – stop in Columbia on your way to the mountains – you’re driving right by anyway. Beside there’s cheap gas in the Upstate – go get yourself some.