Posts Tagged ‘Gibbes Museum of Art’

Gibbes Museum of Art Hosts Charleston, SC’s First Ever Art on Paper Fair in Partnership with Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association

Thursday, October 11th, 2012


The Gibbes Museum of Art is pleased to announce the first ever Art on Paper Fair, from Nov. 2 – 4, 2012. The museum has partnered with Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association (CFADA) for the Fine Art Annual, an annual event that celebrates the visual arts in Charleston, SC, the first weekend in November. The Art on Paper Fair will be held at the Gibbes Museum and will feature dealers representing CFADA galleries as well as other premier galleries of the southeast. Works for sale will include prints, pastels, watercolors, photographs, and drawing. Admission to the Art on Paper Fair will be free during museum hours, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, Nov. 3 and 1pm to 5pm on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.

“Blue Heron”, by Mark Catesby, from THE NATURAL HISTORY OF CAROLINA, FLORIDA, AND THE BAHAMA ISLANDS. London, 1731.  (original hand colored copper plate etching). Courtesy of The Cheryl Newby Gallery.

“The Garden Gate”, 14 Legare Street, by Alfred Hutty. Etching on paper; 8 3/8  x 5 1/2in. Edition: unknown. Signed l/r and snail symbol. Courtesy of Hampton III Gallery.

“I am incredibly excited to join forces with CFADA by presenting Charleston’s first ever Art on Paper Fair as part of the annual Fine Arts Weekend,” noted Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack. “Purchasing works of art from the finest dealers in South Carolina and beyond is the best way to celebrating the visual arts of our great city and support our creative economy.”

Participating galleries include Jerald Melberg Gallery, Cheryl Newby Gallery, Corrigan Gallery, Dog & Horse Fine Art and Portraiture, Hampton III Gallery, Horton Hayes Fine Art, Helena Fox Fine Art, Morris & Whiteside Galleries, Smith Killian Fine Art, The Sylvan Gallery, David Allen Fine Arts, and The Wells Gallery. New inventory will be featured by all of the dealers and objects will be available in a wide price range, offering purchasing opportunities for both new and seasoned art collectors.

“In the Garden”, 1979, by Romare Bearden (1911-1988). Lithograph; 22 x 16 in. Courtesy of Jerald Melberg Gallery.

“Boykin Spaniel”, 2012, by Beth Carlson. charcoal on paper, 8×10 in. Courtesy of Dog and Horse Fine Art and Portraiture.

On Friday, Nov. 2, the museum’s young patron auxiliary group, Society 1858, will host an opening night preview reception for the Art on Paper Fair at the museum. The party, titled “Rock, Scissors, Paper”, will be held at the Gibbes from 8 to 10:30pm, following the Fine Art Annual Art Stroll. Tickets to the event are $30 in advance, $40 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at (, or by calling 843/722-2706 ext 21.

“Black Birds”, by Betty Anglin Smith.  Oil on paper. Courtesy of Smith-Killian Fine Art.

Art on Paper Fair Schedule (Museum admission and events are free unless otherwise noted):

Nov. 2
Charleston Fine Art Annual Stroll, 5–8pm

“Rock, Scissors, Paper” preview party and reception at the Gibbes hosted by Society 1858,
8–10:30pm, $30 advance purchase, $40 at the door

Nov. 3
Art on Paper Fair at the Gibbes, 10am –5pm
Painting in the Park at Washington Square, 9am–12noon
Curator-led Tour of Art on Paper Fair at the Gibbes, 2pm
Buy Art Party and Auction at the Gibbes hosted by CFADA, 6:30–8:30pm, $55 advance purchase, $65 day of event

Nov. 4
Art on Paper Fair at the Gibbes, 1–5pm
Curator-led Tour of Art on Paper Fair at the Gibbes, 2:30pm

“Broken Man”, by Mary Walker. Monotype; 14 ¼  x 14 ¼ in. Courtesy of Corrigan Gallery.

“Philip Simmons 3″, by John Michiels. Silver gelatin photograph, edition of 50; 14 x 14in. Courtesy of Wells Gallery.

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905.  Located in Charleston’s historic district, the Gibbes houses a premier collection of over 10,000 works, principally American with a Charleston or Southern connection, and presents special exhibitions throughout the year. In addition, the museum offers an extensive complement of public programming and educational outreach initiatives that serve the community by stimulating creative expression and improving the region’s superb quality of life. Visit highlights of the Gibbes collection on Google Art Project at (

A Trip to the Gibbes, Nina Liu and Friends, and Cone 10 Studios in Charleston, SC

Sunday, December 19th, 2010


On another bone chilling, rainy Saturday, I headed south toward Charleston, SC, this time bypassing North Charleston to head to one of the Gibbes Museum of Art’s free Community Days. Thank you, Junior League of Charleston.

You ask – don’t I have a membership at the Gibbes, or for that matter a membership at every art museum in the Carolinas? You might also ask – as a member of the press, can’t I get into every art museum in the Carolinas? – don’t they want you there? – don’t they want all the members of the media to come to their museums? Well, the answers are yes and no. You figure it out.

No, first off, getting something for free is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Most art museums in the Carolinas offer some free admission days. I like to see who comes on those days besides me. Secondly, yes, I probably could get into any art museum free, but that takes scheduling, which is hard to work out at times and I didn’t know I could make this trip until Friday evening. Thirdly, I think in our 23 years of covering the visual arts in the Carolinas I’ve earned the cost of any level of membership there is and some. And, finally, I just don’t get to go that much.

Although many people still think as an editor/publisher of an arts newspaper I get to see everything – I don’t, there is not enough time in the world. I see more than most people, but a lot less than many. But, I think lots of other folks should have an art museum membership card on them at all times. In fact they should never leave home without it.


I arrived at the Gibbes Museum of Art, located at 135 Meeting Street in downtown Charleston, just as the Blessed Sacrament School Children’s Choir was finishing and little girls were “running” everywhere keeping the security people on their toes – no running! Beside parents trying to gather their children together there seemed to be lots of couples of all ages in the galleries. There must be something about a rainy day that attracts couples to art museums. Before long the children were doing art activities and that left the art galleries to the parents, the couples and me.


In the Main Gallery was the exhibit, Art of Our Time: Selections from the Ulrich Museum of Art, which was a collection of familiar names and not-so-familiar names. On one wall was a group of what I would call the who’s who of the modern art world – Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Joan Miró, and Jacob Lawrence. Looking at the works I wondered what some of these parents might be thinking. A lot of the works looked like the kind of stuff you might see in a children’s art class with the exception of the Warhol. They may have works at home – on the refrigerator – that look a lot like these works. But, then I remembered something William Halsey once said in his later years (80′s) – that he was just getting back to painting child-like with no inhibitions.

Speaking of William Halsey, the Gibbes had a nice display of his works in an area which has been used as a sort of hands-on or education area. It’s now being used as an Artist Spotlight area. A lot of folks in Charleston need to be educated about who William Halsey was and the work he left us. One of the works in this display was once featured on a color cover of Carolina Arts.


On the other side of the main room were works that looked more like art you see being made today. My favorite work of the day was a set of nine large photographs hung 3 x 3 entitled, Family Tree, by Zhang Huan, a Chinese artist who did a self portrait where he had three traditional Chinese calligraphers make kanji characters on his face – all in one day. They told traditional stories – until his face was totally covered in ink – totally.

After the children’s choir cleared out of the area where they sang, I was able to view the exhibit, J. Henry Fair: Industrial Scars. This exhibit was depressing. It’s a photographic exhibit with bird’s eye views of industrial waste areas around the country and views of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They are of areas we would never see driving by these industrial sites. They keep this stuff hidden. Although the images themselves are interesting and often beautiful due to the unusual colors and patterns, they are disturbing and shocking when you discover that one you are looking at is in your own backyard. I mean it – one was about 20 miles from our house.

There is a coal burning power plant right across the lake from us and one of the images was of its ash spillway. It was ugly and frightening to think that this stuff was so close to the lake, but at the same time, I sure was glad that power plant had enough power to keep our home warm during the below-freezing temps of just a week ago. It’s like no one would eat meat if they visited a slaughter house every week. There are trade-offs for everything we do, but you would hope that one day we’d learn to do things better. That’s why this country needs to develop more wind and solar power – and fast.

On that note – I was out of there.

Next, I went over to Nina Liu and Friends gallery at 24 State Street. Nina Liu is celebrating her 25th anniversary in Charleston with an exhibit of her own work. They sent a press release about her exhibit which will be in our Jan. 2011 issue of Carolina Arts, but they didn’t have any images, so I wanted to see if I could get some to use.

Usually a rainy day is not the best day to do any photography, but I knew if she had a spot outside that wasn’t being rained on, the light would be nice and even – at least that was the theory. After the shooting, we talked about what’s going on in Charleston and how fast 25 years seemed to go by. She came to Charleston two years before Linda and I started our first arts newspaper. In fact, her gallery and Lowcountry Artists Ltd. in Charleston are our oldest continuous running advertisers – both since May 1988.


While I was at Nina Liu’s a man came in looking for a special kind of pottery cup, which Liu didn’t have. We both suggested he check out Charleston Crafts, just around the corner and Cone 10 Studios at 1080B Morrison Drive. But, while he was there he found a small sculpture by Aggie Zed that he liked and purchased it. Not bad for a cold rainy day in Charleston – in this economy.

On my way out of Charleston I thought I might stop by Cone 10 Studios myself. They moved during the summer from Meeting Street to this new location – twice the size of their old gallery/studio. I had not been to the new location since they opened – except very early in the morning – long before they would be open – dropping off papers, so while I was going that way – in the middle of the day – I stopped.



Their new gallery space is very airy. Good thing too – I got my best photos of the day there. I talked with Betsey Carter and got the 10 cent tour around all the artist’s stations and some of the common areas. I’m always amazed how much space and equipment it takes beyond a spinning wheel, which is all most people think it takes to make pottery. Like most forms of art, if people knew how much equipment and process is involved in making art – they would appreciate it more.


The other nice thing about their new location is that they have lots of parking spaces. When they were on Meeting Street, you might get lucky if you could find an open space within blocks from their door. Carter says they’re calling this part of Charleston NoMo – North Morrison. A few other art related busineses are also located in the area.

If you haven’t been there yet – go by and see them. Besides being a working studio for over 20 artists, it’s a gallery and a learning center. They hold pottery classes. While I was there a few excited students came by to see works that had just come out of the kiln. What a wonderful feeling to see something you made for the first time – and it looked like work you could have found in the gallery. I’m sure they all don’t turn out that way, but what I saw looked very respectable.

Well, as with all my adventures – I needed to get back home. We have a Jan. 2011 issue to get ready.

Works by Mary Whyte and Jill Hooper are Being Auctioned to Benefit the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

While Linda and I were ending our visit of the exhibit, Brian Rutenberg: Tidesong, (on view in the Gibbes’ Main Gallery through Jan. 10, 2010) last Saturday, just before we left the building I noticed a couple of paintings hanging on the wall across from the recently remodeled Gibbes Museum Store. One painting was by Mary Whyte and the other by Jill Hooper. Both artists have distinctive styles so I didn’t have to look at the tags, but when I did it said that I could make a sealed bid on either of the two works – details were available in the Museum Store.

Since we had other places to go – exhibits to see I decided to find out about this later and after an e-mail to Marla Loftus, Director of Communications, at the Gibbes Museum of Art – I have the details.

Loftus told me that Gibbes, etc. a member auxiliary group (of the Gibbes Museum of Art) based on Kiawah Island, has launched this sealed bid art auction in conjunction with their 10th Annual Kiawah Island Art and House Tour slated for April 9, 2010, from 2-6pm.


Gibbes, etc. has placed on view at the Gibbes, two works of art that will be sold through a closed bid auction to benefit the museum. Charleston artists Mary Whyte and Jill Hooper, both represented in the Gibbes permanent collection, have donated works of art to the auction. Lower Church Street, Morning Light, a watercolor painting by Mary Whyte, has a retail value of $4,500 and a minimum bid of $2,700. Still Life with Bread, an oil painting by Jill Hooper, has a retail value of $4,000 and a minimum bid of $2,400.

Lower Church Street, Morning Light by Mary Whyte

Mary Whyte is represented in Charleston by Coleman Fine Art and Jill Hooper is represented by Ann Long Fine Art.

I also noticed that the Gibbes Museum Store and Coleman Fine Art are exclusively offering holiday cards featuring the watercolor, Paper Angel, by Mary Whyte. The holiday cards sell for $10 for ten cards with all proceeds benefiting art education programs at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Visitors to the Gibbes can view the paintings through Apr. 8, 2010 and place their sealed bids in a container at the museum.  On Apr. 9, 2010, the paintings will be moved to Kiawah Island where they can be viewed and bid on during the Kiawah Island Art and House Tour. The highest bidders for each painting will be recognized at the conclusion of the tour at 6pm. In the event that more than one person has the same high bid, the painting will go to the earliest high bidder.

Gibbes, etc. is a group of Kiawah Island women dedicated to supporting the Gibbes Museum of Art. Members gather monthly to enjoy a variety of programs and speakers that range from medical research to current artists. The organization hosts an Annual Art and House Tour held in the spring for the benefit of the museum.

Gibbes, etc. was founded in Jan. 2001 by Ellen Walkley, Ruth Baker, Ann Trees and Cathy Marino, all experienced volunteers in the Charleston community. They saw a need for a cohesive volunteer organization to involve the women of Kiawah Island. Ellen Walkley was a board member of the Gibbes Museum of Art and felt that Kiawah women could greatly enhance the museum by forming their own auxiliary and enjoy volunteer work and programs without leaving the island.

You can visit the Gibbes Museum Store Tue. – Sat., 10am – 5pm and Sun., 1-5pm, free. The two works are right outside the store on the opposite wall. The good thing about a sealed bid auction is that you can make a bid (above the minimum) that you want to pay and that’s it. You don’t have to compete with other bidders on a sign-in sheet or in public – you just make the bid that you are willing to pay and you just might be the highest bidder at the end. It’s simple and you don’t have to get caught up in the excitement of the moment. And, it’s all for a good cause – the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Finally, I added a new category to this blog – Commercial Art Community Helping Out. It will help readers see how commercial artists, commercial galleries, and other commercial art related businesses – like Carolina Arts are always helping out the non-profit sector of the arts and the community in general. It’s not always about the bottom line, but we have to be profitable in order to be able to help. A factor some folks in the general art community never seem to understand. The commercial art community just doesn’t get the credit they deserve for their contributions to the over all art community and the general community. We want the public to be more aware of that fact.

A Day of Visual Arts in Charleston, SC, to See Works by Brian Rutenberg, Aldwyth, and More

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Well, the wintery weather continued on Saturday Dec. 12, 2009, so Linda and I traveled to downtown Charleston, SC, to see some exhibits that she and I did not have a chance to see when they first started. Our son decided to skip this trip – two days away from the XBox 360 and his computer was just too much.

Dec. 12 – that’s deadline day at Carolina Arts. How could we be away from our computers on that day? Well, unlike some of the people who wait until the last minute to send us their info – we had already processed all the info we had received and the 12th for us is usually a day of waiting for the 5pm deadline to come – checking e-mail every other hour. We decided our day would be better spent going to see some exhibits before it was too late. And, unfortunately, our Jan. 2010 issue was going to be smaller than issues in 2009. It woudn’t take that long to put together.

Our first stop was the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston – after a few trips around the neighborhood looking for a parking space. We both were dying to see the exhibit, Brian Rutenberg: Tidesong, on view in the Gibbes’ Main Gallery through Jan. 10, 2010. There was no better day to go than one of the free admission Community Days, sponsored by the Junior League of Charleston. (Read an article about this exhibit at Carolina Arts at this link.)

Fading #3

The place was packed with lots of children and parents as there were many school groups performing there that day and many art activities were being offered by the Gibbes – so I guess parents could view the exhibits, but I don’t think the children were letting their parents get too far away from viewing them – either performing or making art. Look mom – look dad – I’m making art! And, who knows, maybe one day that child will become an artist who has their work shown on the walls at the Gibbes. Look at Brian Rutenberg – I’m sure his parents made trips to the Gibbes from Myrtle Beach, SC. And, I’m sure he came to the Gibbes when he was a student at the College of Charleston. He may have wondered if his works would ever be shown there and here they are and man, the walls of the Gibbes come alive with his works – a few were thirteen feet wide. Not many artists can do justice to those walls in the Gibbes’ Main Gallery.

This exhibition was organized by the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, NC, where they represent Rutenberg in the Carolinas, if not the Southeast. So, if you’re a fan of Rutenberg’s – that’s where you can see more of his work – that’s where you can buy his work. But, I’m sure if you see something in this exhibit you can’t live without and you’ve been a very good person this year and Santa has you on his A-list – the Gibbes can put you in touch with the gallery or you can just contact them. Here’s a link.

A lot of folks don’t know that works on display by most contemporary artists (meaning a living artist) in Museums can be purchased. As long as they are not already on loan by some owner or in a traveling exhibit, and even then, you can probably buy it – you just may have to wait a year or so before you can take it home.

While we were there gazing at one of the thirteen footers, Pavillion, 2008-09, one of the Gibbes staff members or volunteers came up to us and asked if we liked abstract art. A valid question, but in my mind I’m thinking – do I like abstract art – doesn’t she know who I am? Then when my bubble popped and I came back down to earth – I said yes – we like it a lot. And, of course the next logical question offered is do we know Brian Rutenberg’s work or are we familiar with his work? Again, my mind was spinning like crazy with witty replys, but just answered – yes we are. After a few more questions I introduced ourselves – avoided saying something funny.

A lot of folks don’t like or just don’t get abstract art, so these were questions worth asking to visitors – it gives the staff/volunteer an opportunity to educate the viewer or open them up to looking at the work with a new perspective. She was preachin’ to the choir when it came to us and she soon moved on. But these free Community Days attract a lot of folks who may have never paid to come to the Gibbes or don’t come that often – so it is a teaching opportunity. And, most folks wouldn’t expect that regular members of the Museum or the owners of an arts newspaper would come on a free day, but then they might not realize the poor state of newspaper publishing these days.

By now you might be thinking – when is he going to talk about the art? But again, like with the Ansel Adams’ photographs I talked about in my previous blog entry – I just don’t have the words to describe Rutenberg’s works. All I can say is, if you  have not seen his work before and you like abstract work – go see this exhibit. Even if you’re not a big fan of abstract work – here is an exhibit that could change your mind.

One interesting factor about going to see this exhibit on this particular day was getting to overhear some other people’s comments. One was about the dates on a few of the larger paintings which read (2008-09). They were wondering how long it took Rutenberg to do these works. For one thing Rutenberg works in oils – a slow drying medium. Some of these works had several inches of paint stacked up off the face of the canvas. So I’m sure with works that large and with that much paint on them, they had to be done over a period of time (maybe a year) – giving the layers of colors time to dry. He probably works on several of these large canvases at a time – going back and forth from one to the other. Usually at an exhibit’s reception or opening most of what you hear is about the food and drink and people wondering how much a painting cost and how someone who is listed as having a work on loan could afford it. You can hear conversation about just about anything else but art at a reception. I liked the conversations I was hearing bits and pieces of that day better. It was about the artwork and the artist.

Go see this exhibit, ask questions and listen to what other people are saying – there are no stupid questions in art. Well, sure there are, but we all have to be stupid at some point to learn something. I’m stupid all the time, but I’m getting less stupid all the time too.

If you want to learn more about Brian Rutenberg the Gibbes’ Museum Shop will sell you a copy of, Brian Rutenberg: The Sensation of Place, the first ever major monograph on the artist’s paintings and drawings. A copy was also sitting on a bench in the middle of the Main Gallery for visitors to look through.

The book

OK, our next stop was at Nina Liu and Friends gallery in Charleston’s French Quarter, an area totally made up for marketing an art walk in Charleston. Nina Liu has an exhibit up called, Creatures Large and Small, on view through Jan. 31, 2010. This exhibit features paintings and ceramics by artists from around the country including works by Pat Benard, John Davis, Diane Gilbert, Jeff Kopish, Susie Miller Simon, Cynthia Tollefsrud, and  Aggie Zed.

A work by Aggie Zed which may not be in the exhibit

We did more talking here than looking to write about, but if you’re into creatures, you couldn’t do better than the pieces by Aggie Zed. And, for fans of Cynthia Tollefsrud, there were a couple of small paintings there that won’t be available for long – that is if you’re looking to buy – her works sells fast. Plus there are lots of other interesting works in the exhibit, besides all the usual items carried there.

A work by Cynthis Tollefsrud which may not be in the exhibit

Nina Liu was supposed to be long gone from Charleston by now, she was planning to sell her gallery/home and move down to her new home in Merida, Mexico – of course that was before the real estate market fell apart. She was slowly closing down the gallery operation and then had to start it back up again. If someone wanted to open a gallery in Charleston’s gallery district with a home to live in too – this is a great opportunity. For details by interested parties call 843/722-2724.

A work by Aggie Zed which may not be in the exhibit

So for all the folks who may have heard last year that Nina Liu and Friends was closing – she’s still open and the gallery is full of all the same interesting work you have always come to expect. But, she won’t mind selling tomorrow if a buyer should come forth, but until then – it’s business as usual.

Last stop on our art tour was the new Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, at The Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts, at the College of Charleston. The first exhibit presented is, Aldwyth: work v. / work n. Collage and Assemblage, 1991-2009, on view through Jan. 9, 2010. This is the first of many events celebrating the School of the Arts’ 20th Anniversary, and it’s the inaugural event in the new building. (You can read an article about this exhibit at this link.

The exhibit curated by Mark Sloan is exactly what we have come to expect from him – an exceptional display of unbelievable art created by someone who is driven to an extreme in their creativity – and on the funky side. And, that is exactly how I would describe the work made by the artist Aldwyth, a woman in her 70′s who lives on St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, SC.

Casablanca (classic version), 2003—6, collage on Okarawa paper with silk tissue, 78.5″ x 71″*

Carolina Arts first reported on this exhibit when it was at the Ackland Art Museum at UNC – Chapel Hill, in Chapel Hill, NC.

Again, my words would fail to adequately describe this work, but the title says it all – Aldwyth: work v. / work n. Collage and Assemblage. Aldwyth’s creations are – whether large or small – elaborate collages of items assembled – lots of items – eyes, faces, tiny hands, numbers, you name it. The collages tell stories – some are plain to see and others are very deep – too deep for me to figure out.

It is hard to imagine how much time this artist spends searching through books, magazines, manuals – any printed materials looking for images of faces, eyes, objects, phrases – to cut out and assemble into one of her collages. The word work is definitely a verb to this artist.

The large wall collages are massive – filled with information for the eye and brain – almost information overload.

There were a series of cigar boxes which except for the shape of the box, Aldwyth had transformed into little worlds about a certain subject. Every inch of the box is covered with items from other purposes or functions to create another receptacle for a number of related or unrelated objects – it was hard to tell at times. You could spend hours trying to figure out each box.

Cigar Box Encyclopedia-Letter G, 2000, collage, found objects, various sizes*

One room in the gallery was presented as an installation – a gathering of objects made of numerous other parts and pieces of other objects – all collages and assemblages of more found, cut out, or collected objects. You get the idea that this artist is not satisfied with anything – the way it is.

My overall impression was to just be overwhelmed as to how much time and thought this artist must spend on each of her creations. It’s not hard to believe that this exhibit was being produced over the last 18 years.

A Walk in the Woods, 1990, things picked up while a visiting artist on Spring Island, SC, 8″ x 7″ x 7″*

I’m not usually a fan of assembly art. I tend to think of it as objects or piles of objects – new or found – as something put together by a person with no other real artistic talents, but in this case you just have to appreciate the artist’s efforts to get her message across – whether you get that message or not. I would consider her a master at her craft. I haven’t seen anything like it in my 20 plus years covering the visual art community in the Carolinas. That’s not saying much on a world scale, over the history of art, but I found it impressive and I’m not easily impressed. In bigger cities and other countries – artists like Aldwyth could be a dime a dozen, but I doubt it – or she wouldn’t have impressed Mark Sloan, who I’m sure has seen much more than I have.

View of gallery*

No matter what your tastes in art are I would say this is a must see exhibit. In fact, I would say it’s probably a must see – several times exhibit. I hardly feel the time I spent looking at the works shows enough respect to the artist. It’s not as if I feel a responsibility to see all art artists create, but I hope to see this exhibit again. Like a complex movie – the second and third time you see it you pick up so much more information that you missed in the first viewing.

The new gallery space is larger than the old Halsey Gallery, with many new additions, including a reference library, a video viewing room, and all on one level. The reception hall is expansive and I’m sure it will be filled with each new exhibit. But, even on a dreary Saturday afternoon we had to drive around looking for a parking space and ended up a ways from the gallery, but that’s expected in Charleston. There are parking garages not too far down the street from the gallery in several directions.

View of gallery space*

You can see more images of the gallery space and this exhibit at this link.

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art will be closed during the College of Charleston holiday break Dec. 26 – Jan. 2, 2010. If you miss it in Charleston, the exhibit will move on to Jepson Center @ The Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, GA, on view from Feb. 10 – May 17, 2010.

On Jan. 9, 2010, from 1-4pm, the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts will celebrate the grand opening of its new building the Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts, 161 Calhoun Street (Calhoun at St. Philip Street). The community is invited to explore all five floors of the $27.2 million building while enjoying sweets and mini-presentations of music, theatre, dance and other events. Guests will also enjoy the final day of an exhibition of works by Aldwyth, in the Halsey Institute. This esteemed artist will give a lecture at 2pm in the Recital Hall of the Simons Center for the Arts, adjacent to the new building.

*All photos of Aldwyth’s works were taken by Rick Rhodes and are courtesy of the artist and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art.

There was another exhibit up in the reception hall entitled, Illuminating Pages, part of a class project I guess, but it’s one of the problems at the College – they have a habit of not putting too much effort into publicizing internal exhibits – like student work. Just being at the Simons Center every month delivering papers I’ve seen many a student show which I’m sure most of the community was never aware of – offering some good work at times. They should put as much effort into letting people know about these shows as they do the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art exhibits. Like I said earlier, a former C of C art student, Brian Rutenberg, is now being featured at the Gibbes Museum of Art and all over this country. So, you never know who the next super stars of the art world will be.

Well, it was quite a couple of days of viewing art – quite a variety too, but it’s always enjoyable when that happens, as it doesn’t happen that often. When you do an arts newspaper it’s kind of like being a shoemaker – you don’t get to walk around so much.

Shepard Fairey – Hopes – His Cover-up Attempt Doesn’t Cost Him Millions

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Here’s a trick or treat for you.

It seems that Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, says he was mistaken about which Associated Press photograph he used to create the image in a statement submitted in his “fair use” court case.

Fairey submitted this new statement to the court: “In an attempt to conceal my mistake, I submitted false images and deleted other images,” he said. “I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions, which were mine alone.”

Fairey is being seen in a different light as to how much work he really did to transform the AP photo into his Obama poster.

I just hope we don’t see Fairey glorified in an exhibit anytime soon at the Gibbes Museum of Art or the Halsey Institute at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. Wishful thinking on some people’s part, but Fairey’s artwork is headed to much larger venues – as the art world’s current bad boy. But, before that ever happens, if it ever does, I’d like to see the artist clean up Charleston’s graffiti mess – which he is directly and indirectly responsible for.

Fairey placed graphic stickers all over the Charleston area and then he and his followers proceeded to place them everywhere making him a cult figure as a creative artist making a name for himself. He was finally arrested for doing the same thing in Boston, MA, earlier this year.

But the genie is out of the bottle. Young artists unfortunately now see Fairey as a role model – a road map to quick fame and success. Fairey’s past and present is catching up with him and in the future he might not be remembered – the way he had hoped. I’ll always think of him as a vandal first – artist second.

It is said that, “Bad men do what good men dream.” Maybe so, but the good men keep it in their dreams and the bad men take it to the streets. I’m not saying Fairey is a bad man, but in these, “I’m sorry I got caught doing what I knew was wrong” times – I don’t see him as someone Charleston should feel proud of – at least not at this time.

Hey, I’m sure that’s the same thought that Fairey’s fans think about me, as well as many others, but such is life – I’m not waiting for any accolades – those bridges were burned the day I decided to express my opinions in public.

So, do – bad men say what good men think? – maybe so.

Don’t Miss Brian Rutenberg’s Lecture & Book Signing at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC – Oct. 21, 2009

Friday, October 9th, 2009

It should be no secret to any follower of Carolina Arts that I’m a big fan of Brian Rutenberg – we have featured his work on our cover twice – in full color and I have tried to make sure people always know when he has an exhibit in the Carolinas. I’m also a big fan of abstract art and Rutenberg’s work sings to my soul.

Blue Point

A few months ago on one of my daily trips to the post office to get the mail a large package was there and I wasn’t expecting a thing that large in the mail. When I opened it – it was an amazing book of Rutenberg’s work – I was blown away by it, but the big news came a few days later when I attended a gathering of folks involved in the visual arts at the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston. Someone from the Gibbes was handing out a little flyer of upcoming exhibits planned for the Gibbes – interesting news as they don’t seem to release much info about upcoming exhibits – at least to me. As I scanned down the list I saw that Rutenberg was having an exhibit there in Oct. 09. It was hard to concentrate on the meeting after that.

Fading #6

So why all the excitement for Rutenberg? Well, first I think he is very good and second, he is a SC native who has made it big and it’s my opinion that he will get even bigger as time goes by. I said in my editorial commentary in the Oct. 09 issue of Carolina Arts – he could be SC’s next Jasper Johns. The other thing I like about Rutenberg is that although he has made it big in bigger places – he still brings his work home to SC and the Carolinas.

Fading #2

So I hope – if you can – you’ll go hear the lecture, buy the book and later visit the exhibition. See if I have good taste.


Here’s a press release about the event:

The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, will offer an artist talk and book signing by Brian Rutenberg on Oct. 21, 2009, at 6pm. Abstract artist Brian Rutenberg will host a discussion about his upcoming solo exhibitionBrian Rutenberg: Tidesong on view from Oct. 23, 2009 through Jan. 10, 2010. Rutenberg will talk about his process and inspiration and will welcome questions from the audience.

A book signing of Brian Rutenberg, the first ever major monograph on the artist’s paintings and drawings, will be held immediately following the lecture. The artist talk and book signing is free for museum members and $10 for non-members. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at (

The exhibition was organized by the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, NC. Inspired by the landscape and waterways of his home state, Rutenberg’s work combines brilliant color with expressive brushwork to create visually stunning abstract paintings. Tidesong includes recent paintings on canvas and works on paper that explore the artist’s fascination with the landscape and quality of light along the South Carolina coast.

Fading #3

Reflecting on his work, Rutenberg has said, “My imagination was in large part formed by my childhood experience growing up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina from Myrtle Beach down to Charleston and to this day I still use that sense of light and that geography as kind of a springboard, as a starting point for the work even though the work does not end up being about the Lowcountry or anything down there. There’s a certain kind of light down there when you’re around a lot of water. It’s like a silvery, blue light that permeates everything. It can be melancholic. It can be joyful. It can be many, many different facets, and I try to get that feeling of light.”

A South Carolina native, Rutenberg received a BFA from the College of Charleston and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Since 1985, Rutenberg has been honored with over 100 gallery and museum exhibitions across the United States, including a retrospective in 2006 at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC. The artist lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905. Located in Charleston’s historic district, the Gibbes houses a premier collection of over 10,000 works, principally American with a Charleston or Southern connection, and presents special exhibitions throughout the year. In addition, the museum offers an extensive complement of public programming and educational outreach initiatives that serve the community by stimulating creative expression and improving the region’s superb quality of life.

For further info call the Museum at 843/722-2706 or visit (

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 (

Doing the Charleston with Judith McGrath

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

For any regular reader of Carolina Arts over the last eight years, commentary from Judith McGrath – all the way from Western Australia – has been a sort of sounding board as to what’s going on in the visual art community – around the world – or at least the other end of the world. Although Australia is 24 hours of flight travel away from us in the Carolinas, it seemed at times that McGrath was writing about the art community right here. I know there were times when I wondered if she had installed some kind of spyware in my computer to monitor my commentary. When her e-mail would arrive – out of the blue – it often mirrored what was on my mind. Believe me, it was spooky at times.

It all started when Scottie Hodge, owner of Tempo Gallery in Greenville, SC (now closed for some years) sent me an e-mail about an article she read that McGrath wrote for an online publication called, Art Thought Journal. After reading the piece I contacted the editor of that publication to see if I could run the article in our publication. He said I’d have to take that up with McGrath. I contacted McGrath and in our Nov. 2000 issue we offered a guest commentary entitled Visual Art vs Entertainment.

The reaction to that guest commentary was very favorable – mostly because of the article’s content and insight, and some as relief from my views. So, from that day on we have offered the occasional – View From Down Under. You can see that first article and all others she offered archived on our website at (

Who was this voice from down under? We have posted this description after each installment: 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 and reviewer for various art magazines in Australia. She also co-ordinates the web site Art Seen in Western Australia found at (

Well, as I mentioned in commentary in Carolina Arts a few months ago, McGrath was planning a trip to the east coast of these United States and was planning a trip to South Carolina. She was actually planning to visit Bonneau. When they asked about hotel info in Bonneau – when Linda (my better half) and I stopped laughing, we explained that we might have to direct them to another city close by.

Oh – how interesting that could be – Judith McGrath in SC – in Charleston! I didn’t get my hopes up as I know all the things that can happen to derail the best laid plans. Just look at John McCain. His “straight talk express” ran aground in Alaska – much like the Exxon Valdez did. They’re still cleaning up that mess.

But on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008, I was driving Judith and her husband Owen from Summerville, SC, to downtown Charleston for a look at what the visual art community had to offer.

I had made some plans as to what and where we would go, but like I said before – the best laid plans sometimes have to be adapted. We had to deal with what would be open on Sunday and Monday, and unfortunately, that took some galleries off my list. And, we found that some galleries are not going by the hours posted in Carolina Arts‘s gallery listings. And, on the other hand, fortunately some galleries that should have been closed were open.

McGrath’s tour of South Carolina began in Spartanburg, SC, where her visit was front page news, but in Charleston we would be traveling under the radar – much like I do. If you have followed my commentary about the good Mayor of Charleston, I have to look twice – both ways – before I cross the streets in Charleston.


First off, the weather was great the two days they were in Charleston. It’s like we were actually having Fall weather in South Carolina. Our weather is the complete opposite of what they have at the same time in Australia – our summer is their winter.

After a short driving tour of Charleston, our first official stop was at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Although the couple was somewhat fatigued in visiting Art Museums up and down the east coast, McGrath did fall in love with Alice Huger Ravenel Smith’s watercolor landscapes – not her works with people, but the landscapes. But, what she really wanted to see was the commercial galleries. So we headed out to see who was open.

The great thing about Charleston’s commercial art community is that it is concentrated in a few areas of the city. You can park in one stop and visit dozens of galleries in just a few blocks of each other.

After leaving the Gibbes we first ran into the sidewalk display by a few members of the Charleston Artist Guild – a Charleston Fall tradition. We next headed “by request” to Charleston’s Market area. McGrath had spotted the area on our driving tour around the city. At first I couldn’t think of what area she was describing – the Market is not usually on my tour itinerary for visitors, but I soon realized the McGraths were also interested in the full view of Charleston – including the Market and antique shops on King Street. I’m a flexible tour guide so we adapted some more.

The Market helped add to the McGraths’ worldwide collection of snowglobes.

From the Market we headed into the heart of the French Quarter Gallery Association’s district, but found few open galleries there. It’s a good thing we still had Monday for our tour. We then headed to Broad Street where we found more open doors. The couple’s favorite gallery of our first day of touring was the Mary Martin Gallery. They were really taken by some sculpture there of wooden violins made by Philippe Guillerm.

After walking and driving around one end of Charleston to the other in search of open galleries, we left Charleston heading to the promise lands of Berkeley County for some barbecued ribs and corn-on-the -cob at the headquarters of Carolina Arts in Bonneau, SC, on the shores of Lake Moultrie. The McGraths live at the edge of Australia’s OutBack and I explained that Linda and I lived in what most Charlestonians think of as Charleston’s OutBack – Berkeley County.

As it always happens – when it rains it pours. We didn’t know exactly what day the McGraths would arrive, but at the same time Linda’s sister arrived for a visit as well as some good friends from North Carolina who have a house at the lake, so Linda didn’t get to do the Charleston with us.

On our second day of touring Charleston art galleries we found more open doors, but there were still a few galleries that were supposed to be open but were not when we arrived at their door. And, we missed a few that don’t open until Tuesdays, but we visited 80 percent of the galleries in downtown Charleston in our two-day adventure. And, my feet were feeling it too. I’m used to trekking the streets of Charleston and many other cities in the Carolinas, but I usually don’t take in the antique shops too. But I learned some things in our travels that was well worth the effort.

Some galleries don’t seem to be displaying the copies of Carolina Arts we drop off every month. I made a list and will be checking this out and when we find that someone is not displaying the paper, we will stop leaving them there and take out the free gallery listing we have been giving them. Most galleries had them well displayed, a few had them hidden, but we made a game out of seeing who could spot the Carolina Arts first.

Highlights this day included a visit to Rhett Thurman’s studio where we were lucky to catch the artist at work, a visit to Nina Lui and Friends (all three floors), Plum Elements for a peek at some Japanese prints and what was hailed by McGrath as her favorite gallery in Charleston – the Eva Carter Gallery. It was a special moment of pride when I got to brag that we owned a work by each of the artists represented by the gallery. It was there that the couple almost purchased a work by Karin Olah – not having seen any work like it before. Now, that’s saying something from this world traveling couple.

Work by Karin Olah

But the joke of the two day tour was, “Owen, you’re gonna need another suitcase!” The McGraths were already going to have to purchase a very large suitcase to fit all their purchases made in the US while visiting. An extra suitcase on their 24 hour return flight home was going to be an expensive item. The thought of another one was an instant headache – for Owen.

The McGraths took lots of contact info from galleries we visited and they will let UPS do some deliveries for them once they get back home. After all, it is a small world these days.

After our second day of trekking we headed back to Summerville talking about some of the places we didn’t get to see, but I think Judith and Owen had an enjoyable tour and saw a lot of interesting art and got a small glimpse of Charleston. On the subject of the bad rap Charleston’s art scene often gets from some other areas of the Carolinas – the so called love Charleston artists have for painting the city and the surrounding environment – the two world travelers said that you see that everywhere you go around the world.

I don’t know if Judith McGrath will write anything about her visit to Charleston or what she will say. But, for me it was a great opportunity to have a give and take dialogue about what we were seeing, art in general, and various subjects covered in both our commentaries. It was also a great pleasure to meet the person who has contributed to Carolina Arts from afar for the last eight years and her husband. I hope the exchange will continue for many years.

Judith – Owen, thanks for coming to see us.

Lest We Forget Our Humble Beginnings

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The Greenville News in Greenville, SC, offered an article by Ann Hicks on June 22, 2008, entitled, “Phil Garrett’s King Snake Press Marks 10 Years”. The article gives a brief overview of Garrett’s past ten years running the press and mentions a collaboration between the press, SC artists, and the Greenville County Museum of Art. In fact the Museum is currently showing an exhibit of works coming out of the print studio over the past ten years by 15 artists through July 27, 2008.

What the article doesn’t mention is that Garrett lifted the idea of setting up a print studio in Greenville after parking himself at the Art Thomas Gallery in Charleston, SC, in the mid-’90s. Thomas first offered a print studio for artists to make monotypes in Charleston and gave Garrett the idea to work with artists and the local art museum through his collaboration with the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. I know, I have one of those prints.

It’s not surprising that Garrett left out the fact that the spark for his idea of opening a print studio and working with a museum came from Charleston – his past conduct in Charleston is forgettable – except some of us remember. But, then again, maybe that part was cut from the article for space limitations.

A Trip To The Gibbes

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I finally made it to the exhibit, Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art, on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston, SC. The exhibition examines plantation-related works of art from the eighteenth century to the present. Organized by the Gibbes, this exhibit was on view at the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville, VA, from Jan. 18 through Apr. 20, 2008. And, after its viewing at the Gibbes will travel to the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA, to be on view from Aug. 23 through Oct. 19, 2008.

The Gibbes exhibition started on May 9 and will be on view through Aug. 3, 2008. So this was the exhibit Spoleto Festival USA visitors would see – if they fit a visit to a visual art museum into their busy performance schedule – they may have for this exhibition. I think it’s exactly the kind of exhibit which the Gibbes should be offering visitors during the Spoleto Festival. Why try and compete with the contemporary art they can see in their own home cities – New York, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, or any other northern city or from Europe for that matter.

These folks don’t want to see art that was probably in their cities years ago. They want to see art from Charleston and the South. The success of the exhibitions Spoleto offered when they were offering visual art exhibitions was due to the fact that they were site-specific to Charleston and the South.

I went to the Gibbes on a day when they had free admission. The normal admission is $9 – almost twice the cost of visiting other museums in South Carolina and the region. I had to drive around the area of the Gibbes three times to find a parking space that wouldn’t cost another fortune for a short visit. That free parking at the SC State Museum in Columbia, SC, is great.

This was the first time I have set foot in the Gibbes Museum of Art since 2002 when a few members of the board of the Carolina Art Association figured it was a good idea to boot out long time director Paul Figueroa on the trumped up charge that the Gibbes was in the red for the first time in many a year. Does anybody remember what happened to our economy after the Fall of 2001?

Now here they are, two directors later and a lot more red ink, the board has recently named Angela Mack the new director (and curator of this exhibition) – a hire from inside the Museum – also someone who worked as curator under the administration of Figueroa. I hope those board members are long gone too.

On my walk to the Gibbes I passed the house at 76 Queen Street that was once used as the Gibbes Studio School where they offered art lessons to students and adults – under a Figueroa administration. I understand the building is for sale for $3 million. Why, I don’t know. Even if they found someone to pay this price, it is hardly worth the value of the Gibbes future expansion as this property is adjacent to the Gibbes. The space would allow for a healthy expansion – unless they plan on one day leaving the peninsula for a totally new museum space. But I doubt that – I can’t imagine where that money would come from in Charleston – a performing arts town – when it comes to support from the City of Charleston and its Mayor.

So into the Gibbes I go and at the front desk I learn that there is no exhibition handout for the Landscape of Slavery exhibit, other than a family activity booklet for parents and children to play a game while visiting the exhibit. Of course there is the exhibition catalogue or book, but if I went on a free day and had to look for cheap parking – I don’t think I was going to be investing in the book. Look we didn’t name our publishing company Shoestring Publishing Company just because it might sound cute – it’s a reflection of reality. That’s OK – I brought a pad and pen to take notes.

They did have a map of the museum which was an interesting legacy of Todd Smith, who was director for the last two years. Except for the Main Gallery and the Rotunda – all the galleries at the Gibbes are now identified by a letter of the alphabet – A – L. Now that’s classy. At one time people gave good money for the names of those gallery spaces or were honored for one reason or another by having a gallery space named after them, but in Smith’s new contemporary view of the Gibbes a letter of the alphabet was cool – I guess.

I’m sure this all sounds like I’m leading up to a not so good review of this exhibition but it couldn’t be anything further from that notion. This exhibit was a winner – a real education and I hope an eye-opener for some. The juxtaposition of the old view of slavery in artworks by white artists of the colonial days, revolution, civil war and even Charleston’s renaissance period against the works of African American artists working in the present time – was quite an exhibit.

The slaves in the works of Winslow Homer, William Aiken Walker, Anna Heyward Taylor and Alice Ravenel Huger Smith portrayed slave life on the plantations of the South – as not so bad, while the contemporary works created by African American artists gave an entirely different view on how they viewed life on the plantation. Especially in works like Joyce Scott’s, No Mommy Me I, a leather and bead creation of a nanny and her golden charge and Juan Logan’s Foundation, a wall of metal blocks on one side but each block on the other side was shown to be the back of a slave on all fours – holding up the next block of another slave holding up another block and on and on. Two views of this wall – both very different.

When family and friends come to visit and I take them on the traditional tour of downtown Charleston someone always brings up the wonderful homes Charleston is full of and so lucky to have. They remark about the skill and craftsmanship it took to produce such masterpieces of architecture. I always reply, “Yes, it’s the best city slavery could build – I just want you to remember that.” It’s something everyone should remember in Charleston.

Slavery is a part of Charleston’s history and past, it’s not one of the better parts of that history, but it is part of the history. That said, that history, if told properly, can be a major part of Charleston’s cultural tourism. All we can do is apologize for that past, learn from it, and embrace it as part of the history of the city and the people who lived here – free citizens black and white and the slaves and the indentured. They all made Charleston what it is.

The artworks in the exhibition come mostly from collections of regional art museums and from regional contemporary artists. So this is pretty much a homegrown exhibition with a few exceptions. The works are placed in various sections including: Introduction, Protest, Politics, Nostalgia, and Identity – each interesting for their own reasons.

I think it was in the Politics section or maybe Protest – I can’t remember now – that I found two very interesting artifacts. One was a first edition copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly, from 1852. What historical events did this small book set off?

The other item was one of the Dave jars, now famous in South Carolina’s history. Dave “The Potter” Drake was a slave and pottery maker, who could read and write, in Edgefield County, SC, who wrote info on some of his creations. This one had the following written on it: “Dave belongs to Mr. Miles where the oven bakes-the pots biles/31st July, 1840″. Slave Dave probably would never imagine where those writings would take him in history. Just think about how many pots, jars, jugs, plates, etc. were made by slaves on plantations throughout the South, but if found today are just old examples of pottery. A 15 gallon jar by Dave sold at public auction in 2000 for $83,600. It is said that the jars have been sold for higher amounts at private auctions or in sales among private collectors and dealers. Most slaves were not allowed to learn to read or write – good thing Dave did or we may never of had a glimpse into his life.

Well, go see this exhibit before it moves on to another museum and the works are returned to their owners. And, if you have the time – go see one of Charleston’s plantations – Middleton Place or Drayton Hall – to get a close up look at a plantation.

Before I left the Gibbes I walked through the exhibit, The Charleston Story, an ongoing exhibit featuring artworks that tell the story of Charleston or show off some works by artists from the area. The first sections includes what some young people might refer to as the old paintings of old people. Except for a few recent additions these are works that anyone who has visited the Gibbes over the last two or three decades has seen many times before. When I got to the section identified as Charleston Today, I was a little taken aback. Yes, there were works by William Halsey, Corrie McCallum, Jill Hooper, Brian Rutenberg, West Fraser, and even Jonathan Green and Jasper Johns, but there was much more work on display by artists who at best have a very loose connection to Charleston. As a poster stated, these are artists who may have visited Charleston, taught here at one time or – reflect the complex story of the region.

I’m not sure viewers were making that subtle distinction and didn’t end up thinking that these artists had something to do with Charleston Today – artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Diane Arbus, Forrest Moses, or even Jeremiah Miller and Herb Jackson – both from North Carolina.

The Gibbes has works by artists with real connections to Charleston in its collection who would offer good examples of the works – styles – subjects – displayed by these artists. They may not have the same name recognition value in some people’s minds, but at least they are from Charleston.

This exhibit may be an example of former director, Todd Smith’s transformation of the Gibbes into a more contemporary art museum, but the Gibbes needs to do some repair within the Charleston visual art community. They may need to dust off some of those works by local artists to bring some back into the fold. Plus it would be a more honest representation of art being created in Charleston Today.

My final thought about my return to the Gibbes. It has been at least six years since I was last inside, but it seemed much smaller to me now. This may be from visiting much newer and bigger art museum spaces in North and South Carolina. With over 10,000 works in the Museum’s collection, you wonder where they are keeping them all and how long will it take to get many of the works into some kind of display so people can see them? But I’m sure that’s a problem for all art museums – too many works and too little space.

After leaving the Gibbes I popped into the new digs of the Wells Gallery at 125 Meeting Street, which used to be the old Virginia Fouché Bolton Studio & Gallery – almost a decade ago. Of course the space had gone though a major make-over – no one would recognize this as the old Bolton space. The new gallery space has two glass windows in the floor so visitors can see the building’s old cistern below.

This was the fourth location in the history of the Wells Gallery in Charleston. The gallery started out on Market Street, but eventually moved to Broad Street – then State Street and now – as owner Hume Killian said ( I caught him dropping something off at the gallery on a Saturday morning) – to it’s final location on Meeting Street, almost next to the Gibbes Museum of Art. This is an example of how Charleston’s commercial gallery owners have constantly been forced to move from one location to the next – due to raising rents in the City. These galleries help make Charleston a destination and then turn around and have to pay – more and more for their own success. It would be nice if the City or the landlords would give them a break for attracting visitors to Charleston.

The gallery had on view an exhibit by Karen Larson Turner entitled, Way of Life. Turner has been a staple of the Wells Gallery for a number of years – since Broad Street I think. She is one of the area’s excellent landscape painters and this show was a good example of that fact. Works ranged in size from 11″ x 14″ to 3′ x 4′ and larger. I spotted a number of red dots on tags so I think the public was in agreement. This show may be over by the time anyone gets to read this but works by Turner can be found at the gallery on a regular basis.

The Wells Gallery has a good group of artists which it represents including local, regional, and as Killian told me – more artists with a national reputation.

You can see their lineup of artists in our paper or on our website. This blog may be new, but it’s just part of the Carolina Arts offerings of info on the visual arts of the Carolinas.