Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Wukela’

Traveling in the Pathways of Francis Marion Checking Out the Visual Arts in the Pee Dee Region of SC – Part I

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

On my most recent trip to the Pee Dee area in South Carolina, my list of exhibits and galleries to visit was larger than usual – so much was happening there in February. After I got back home I posted on Facebook that, “I pulled a Francis Marion today. I was in so many different places in the Pee Dee that if the British were chasing me they wouldn’t know if there was just one of me or hundreds of me roaming in and out of their lines.” And, this time I got all the words right. Making quick posts on Facebook can result in sloppy wording.

My travel list included two commercial galleries, two art spaces, a museum, and a library, but before I was finished I added a visit to an artist’s studio. Unlike other not-so-well planned trips to the Pee Dee, this time I made sure my first stop would be to the Lynda English Gallery-Studio. On two other occasions I had gotten there after they closed and ran out of time before I had to be somewhere else. But not this time.

The Lynda English Gallery-Studio, is located at 403 Second Loop Road in Florence, SC.  The gallery is known as “The Meeting Place for Art in Florence”. They have been there forever – long before Florence started developing an arts district in the downtown area. They feature works by local and regional artists in a variety of media, offer art supplies and teach art classes on a regular basis.

215pee-dee-lynda-English1
A corner shot of the gallery, with painting of big flowers by Jackie Wukela.

When I arrived, Jackie Wukela, partner with Lynda English was talking with a possible future art student, English was not there. So I took a few pictures and looked around a bit. I couldn’t remember the last time I was in this space. It was back when I was delivering the printed paper, but we didn’t always include Florence in our deliveries as it was hard at times to get info out of the Florence area as to what was on exhibit there. It was kind of crazy as I was driving right past Florence to get to other areas that I delivered to every month, but in those days every extra stop added time to my already long trips. My feelings were if an area couldn’t bother to inform us about their exhibits – why take the paper there. So, the last time I was inside the gallery there was more gallery than classroom space, but there is still a lot of art on display.

215pee-dee-lynda-english2-gray
A selection of ceramic works by Douglas E. Gray, a Professor of Art at Francis Marion University.

215pee-dee-lynda-english-jewelry
A selection of jewelry by Lynda English.

Once the prospective student was finished and left, Wukela and I dove into a number of subjects: the growth of the visual art community in Florence, ArtFields© in Lake City, and the new Florence County Museum. She knows a lot about what’s going on – her son is the Mayor of Florence. But, before long another customer arrived and I said I better move on – customers always come first. After 36 years in business I know that creed well.

My next stop was not too far away at The Purple House, home of The Earring Lady (Barbara Mellen), at 2717 Second Loop Road, where they were having a Valentine’s Day Colorific Event that weekend featuring works by The Earring Lady and Silks by Jane – Jane Madden that is.

215pee-dee-earring-lady-jane-madden
A selection of silk scarves by Jane Madden.

Madden was the person who called me, now many years ago, asking me to take another look at what was going on in Florence. Back then she was helping to develop the Art Trail Gallery, and eventually running it. Others have taken over but she is still involved in putting out the word on what is happening there. She is also one of our main helpers in getting the word out about Carolina Arts. Madden was also the first person to tip me off as to what was about to happen in Lake City, SC. She is a resource for a wealth of information.  She claims to have a job at Francis Marion University, but I can’t see how that could be true with all she does – don’t get me wrong, she’s putting in a full time work at FMU in a part time job. If the power grid ever goes down in SC – we just need to hook up to Jane.

Unfortunately, Madden had left The Purple House before I got there. I had seen the work of The Earring Lady and Madden’s scarves at various other shows so I didn’t stick around too long and I still had a long list of stops. Good thing Linda, my better half, wasn’t on this trip or we would still be there. If you like earrings and scarves – check this place out. The two artists seem to have a like mind when it comes to colors.

The Second Loop Road runs right into Palmetto Street that takes you right back into the heart of Florence’s developing arts district. My next stop was the Waters Gallery, which is not located in the main building of the Florence County Museum, but in the former location of the first Art Trail Gallery at 135 South Dargan Street. That’s were the 2015 Pee Dee Regional Art Competition exhibition was being presented. The exhibit is sponsored by Chick-fil-A and will be on view through Mar. 29, 2015. The 38 works on display were selected from a total of 172 submissions by Lese Corrigan, of Corrigan Gallery in Charleston, SC.

The space where the Art Trail Gallery used to be has been remodeled and the Waters Gallery pretty much takes up the space that used to be sculptor Alex Palkovich’s studio/gallery space. (I’ll have more on what Palkovich is up to these days in Part II). Corrigan selected what turned out to be an exhibit pretty much representing the college and university faculty of the Pee Dee including: Coker College in Hartsville, SC, Coastal Carolina Unversity in Conway, SC, and Francis Marion University in Florence. A few weeks earlier, after I received a press release about the artists who were selected for awards I called Corrigan to see if she knew what had happened and she asked me back who were the people I was talking about. She is not familiar with much of the Pee Dee visual art community – which made her a good judge for the exhibit.

215pee-dee-florence-museum-townsend-V-Holt
Here’s a bronze work by Townsend V. Holt of Florence titled “The Kiss”. I took this to also show a little of the gallery. But I wasn’t having too much luck so I’m showing some of the photos the Florence County Museum provided me.

215pee-dee-Florence-Museum-Yvette-Cummings
“December” by Yvette Cummings of Conway, SC, acrylic collage on canvas.

I would love to see all the works that were entered, but regardless, Corrigan selected a heck of an exhibition. The group selected represented a little over 20% of the group that entered the competition. Having seen a number of shows highlighting the works of the visual artists of the Pee Dee and not seeing a lot of names by some very good artists, just goes to show – the Pee Dee has a lot of talent. And, I agree with some of the people I talked with during this trip that it would have been nice to see a bigger show. The Florence County Museum has more space in that building. But like I always say about juried shows – you’re a winner by just making the cut, any awards after that is a bonus.

One thing I want to say about the exhibition is that Corrigan selected a painting, Sirens I, showing nudity by Jim Boden, who is an art professor at Coker College, for the second place award, and it is on view with all the rest of the works. My hat goes off to the folks at the Florence County Museum, Chick-fil-A,  and the overall Florence community for realizing that nudity in the arts in no big deal. Unfortunately it is in many other cities in SC and in some you wouldn’t think it would be so. I know a lot  of stories about what happens when a juror selects a work with nudity in it or an artist tries to enter a work with nudity in it. It’s a point that is essential for the development of any truly creative community – nudity is and always has been a big part of the arts. Another work in the show by Cat Taylor, who teaches art at Coastal Carolina University, titled The Genesis of Jihad, has religious connotations – a hot topic in today’s world.

Look folks, they’re serious about the arts in the Pee Dee – much more than folks who have had an abundance of it for a long time. I say that to let you know it is worth the trip to go see some of these exhibits. You might see some kinds of art you’re not going to see in your own area.

215pee-dee-florence-museum-Jim-Boden
“Sirens I” by Jim Boden of Hartsville, SC, oil on canvas.

215pee-dee-florence-museum-Cat-Taylor
“The Genesis of Jihad” by Cat Taylor of Longs, SC, acrylic on canvas.

215pee-dee-florence-museum-Mike-Patz-fowle
“Obeast/GMO” by Mike & Patz Fowle of Hartsville, SC, mixed media encaustic.

Before I left the Museum complex, I went over to the Main building to check on one particular artwork hanging in the Museum’s lobby. And thankfully I found this sign.

215pee-dee-florence-williams-sign
Sign identifying Manning Williams as the artist of the work hanging in the Florence County Museum lobby.

215pee-dee-Florence-museum-manning-williams
“Bishop and the Egyptian Roach” by Manning Williams of Charleston, SC, acrylic (house paint) on canvas 12’ x 9’

This work of art has been hanging unidentified since the Museum opened back in Oct. 2014. I’ve complained about that twice in my blog and commentary and I’m very happy to report – as you can see – it is now identified. And, I’ve been told the other signs – or lack of signs identifying objects in the Museum and on its grounds are in the process of being made.

So, I’m happy to say that you should make a visit to the new Florence County Museum, located at 111 West Cheves Street, across the street from the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center. They have two wonderful exhibits on view including: William H. Johnson: New Beginnings, on view through Oct. 5, 2015, which features twenty one works from the life of Florence native, William Henry Johnson (1901-1970) selected from the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Florence Museum Board of Trustees, the Johnson Collection, and a private collector in Denmark and Selections-from-the-Wright-Collection-of-Southern-Art, on view through Jan. 1, 2016. This exhibition features thirty works from the Florence County Museum’s recently acquired Wright Collection of Southern Art. At its center is work by noted artists like Thomas Hart Benton, Alfred Hutty, Helen Hyde, Florence native artist, William Henry Johnson, Alice Huger Smith, Anna Heyward Taylor, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, Palmer Schoppe, Mary Whyte, and Stephen Scott Young.

The Florence County Museum is a nice new facility – it still has that new car smell and admission is free. I always find plenty of free parking in the area and you can check out the show at the Waters Gallery, just around the corner.

And if you are there during the lunch or dinner time, there is a strip of restaurants on S. Dargan Street, right across from the Museum which offers a nice variety including: the Thia House, The Clay Pot Coffee Shop, 1031 American Grill, The Library, Dolce Vita, and Wholly Smokin BBQ. And if you want to make it an overnight stay, don’t forget that just around the corner on West Evans Street is Hotel Florence and Victor’s Bistro. I’ve stayed at Hotel Florence, thanks to the good folks at Florence Unlocked. It’s a great place to stay and there is plenty of art to see there. A new pizza shop is about to open across from the hotel. Things are opening up all the time in this new arts district.

OK I think this is a good place to stop. We have three more exhibits to talk about and a studio visit in Part II and I don’t want to wear anyone out.

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

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

arttrail-logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Visit to Downtown Charleston, SC’s Art Walks – May 6, 2011

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Even though I haven’t been to many art walks in Charleston lately, it’s still our backyard as far as art communities go. I don’t know everyone there now and many don’t know me, but for a lot of the folks who have been there more than a few years, it’s hard for Linda and I to just slip into a gallery and not be spotted. Gallery owners and artists seem to gravitate to us – one because we’re friends with a lot of these folks – at least we feel we are, and two, we haven’t seen most of these folks – face to face in a long time. So we’re like a blast for the past.

It would be nice to do an art walk and not be working, but the nature of these events is always social/working. I want to write the trip up for our blog and they hope I’ll write it up – everyone needs publicity. The problem in Charleston is we know and meet so many people we want to talk to that I end up doing more talking than taking photos. So, I have some images to not make this blog all words, but in no way all that I should have. I’m sorry for that. We got some from the galleries or their websites.

I’ll refresh people’s memory of the weather on May 6, 2011, in the Charleston area. A forecast called for scattered showers, but it seem to be raining most of the day up here in Bonneau, the headquarters of Shoestring Publishing Company on the shore of Lake Moultrie. And just as it was about time to leave, the rain came down hard, but the weather wizards said the system would clear out of the area by 6pm. This time I was hoping they were right. It rained pretty hard all the way to Charleston’s borders, but as we crossed that border the rain stopped and the sky opened up.

By the time we found the same parking space I used in visiting the April art walk, the sun was shinning. Thanks to whoever saved it for us. The rain had cleared the air and cooled it down to a very pleasant 75 degrees. We’ve had some great weather as far as temps go lately – although dangerous at times.  At least there weren’t any tornado warnings on May 6.

Our first stop, due to location, was Nina Liu and Friends, at 24 State Street. The gallery is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. The exhibit being presented that evening was Defining Moments, featuring works by Susie Miller Simon of Colorado, on view through June 30, 2011. Simon couldn’t be there for this opening, but will come in a few weeks.

Nina Liu’s gallery is spread throughout three levels in her home – which is still up for sale – if anyone is interested in living in the heart of Charleston’s French Quarter district and wants to also have a gallery – or not. She’ll sell – either way. Liu is hopping to retire one day to the home she has waiting in Mexico – someday. But, we’re not in any hurry to see her go.

We noticed something strange going on. People were coming into the gallery, saying hi as they passed by, heading upstairs. Liu noticed the strange look on our faces and explained that they were regulars to her openings and they know the food and drink is upstairs. I rolled my eyes, thinking to myself that they could have at least glanced at the works in the exhibit before – running upstairs, but it doesn’t seem to bother her as another group zoomed by. Her food is very popular.

511aw-ninaliu-smsimon
Work by Susie Miller Simon

Simon’s works give reference to imagery of the Southwestern United States – a million miles from Lowcountry art, which is refreshing at times and I’m sure a reason why her works are so popular here. I’ve included an image, that I’m sure wasn’t in this exhibit. I got it off the Internet just to give you an idea of what the work is like. But you’ll see some images like this and some very different, but you’ll be able to tell it came from Simon.

It was reassuring to see some of those folks who rushed upstairs eventually filtered down to see the exhibit, one even asking about the price of a work found upstairs. A good time for us to move on.

For the second month in a row, I was focused on going to Smith-Killian Fine Art, at 9 Queen Street, at the corner of Queen & State Streets. Last month it was to see an exhibit by Shannon Smith and this month to see “abstract” works by her mother, Betty Anglin Smith, as well as works by a very strong group of SC’s contemporary artists including: Carl Blair, Eva Carter, Matt Overend, Laura Spong, Leo Twiggs and Scott Upton. The exhibit, Contemporary Carolinas – an Invitational Exhibition, will be on view through June 12, 2011.

511aw-smith-spong-twiggs
Works by Laura Spong (L) and Leo Twiggs (R)

The week before we had talked with Laura Spong at Vista Studios in Columbia, SC, during Artista Vista (read about it at this link) and knew she would be there. And, I was hoping to see and talk with Carl Blair, whom I haven’t seen in a while. Blair, was the one and only member of the Commission of the SC Arts Commission who listened to my complaints and tried to do something about them. The one and only! A true arts leader in SC – a rare exception. Unfortunately he didn’t make the trip from Greenville, SC.

That’s OK – I’ll take the hugs from Betty, Eva, and Laura any day.

511aw-smith-eve-carter
Work by Eva Carter

In my opinion, the day William Halsey passed on, Eva Carter became Charleston’s top “abstract” artist, if not one of the best in SC. After closing up her gallery a few years ago, this was the first of her work in an exhibit in Charleston. Although she has now opened a studio just around the corner from her old gallery, at 16 Gillon Street, we haven’t been able to catch her there when we were in Charleston – so we were also looking forward to seeing and talking with her and seeing what she was painting these days.

But, the real kicker in this show was to see more “abstract” paintings by Betty Anglin Smith. I mentioned in my write up of the April 2011 art walk in Charleston that we saw an unexpected work – an abstract painting by Betty at Shannon Smith’s show. We loved the work and I wanted to see if it was a one hit wonder or if we have a new abstract artists in town. Folks – we weren’t disappointed.

511aw-smith-betty
Work by Betty Anglin Smith

Of course as Betty put it – she’s not quitting her day job of painting landscapes – just yet. We all know there’s a smaller audience for “abstract” art in the Carolinas. But, every day we see more of it all the time – and that means more people are buying it. I tip my hat to Smith Killian Fine Art for taking the risk to present such a show – during the Spoleto Festival season in Charleston. I hope it pays off for them – so they can do it again. I know I could have spent a good bit of my lottery winnings there that evening. Now all I have to do is win one.

This was a great show of works from some of SC’s best artists, not painting what most people expect to see when they go to Charleston to see or buy art. But, I’ve always said there is a lot of this kind of art being made in Charleston – you just have to work a little to find it.

What a good time to transition over to Corrigan Gallery, located at 62 Queen Street – one of those places you won’t find what some people call “Charleston” art. But, you will find plenty of art made by Charleston artists. The exhibit, Egg Meditations, the continuation of a ten year exploration by Yvette Dede, was being presented. The exhibit will be on view through May 31, 2011. I swear it’s been that long – ten years since I’ve seen work by Dede on view in Charleston. At one time she ran Print Studio South, which eventually turned into the Redux Contemporary Arts Center (which hasn’t sent a press release about its May/June exhibit yet). But, that’s what happens when you become an adjunct college professor. You spend more time teaching than exhibiting.

511aw-corrigan-y-dede1
Works by Yvette Dede

For regular readers of my views on art – presentation is a big factor with me and this exhibit was a top notch example of how to present a cohesive group of works – in this case based on the egg shape. Dede made special frames for her small works and in the intimate space at Corrigan Gallery they looked fantastic. I’m talking about the presentation of the art. I really don’t care what the wall looks like or the floor – as long as they don’t distract the viewer from the art, and in that case – that’s a bigger problem for the artist. There’s nothing wrong with the wall or floors at Corrigan Gallery – I’m just saying well presented art can look good in someone’s cluttered basement.

511aw-corrigan-y-dede2
Works by Yvette Dede

After checking out all the variations Dede presented, we checked out some of the other works being displayed at the gallery and I came across a work which really fooled me at first in an alcove between the two main rooms of the gallery.  There was a large abstract work on one wall – blue and red. You know how I like abstracts. When I got close enough to see who the artist was,  I was, well not totally surprised, but embarrassed that it was by a good friend of ours –  John Moore. I’ve seen a lot of Moore’s abstract photographs, but for some reason this image didn’t click, I was seeing it from the side and I had just looked through some of his works in a stack and this just fooled me at first.

511aw-corrigan-john-moore
Work by John Moore

The real joke here is that Moore and I have talked a million times about the fact that it’s too bad he presents his work as photographs – more people would buy them if they were presented as paintings. A sad fact but true. And, the real tragedy is that many people think they are Photoshopped, but these are the real deal. He finds these outrageous colors – in man-made materials touched by nature. And, to top it off – Moore is color blind. Figure that one out and you can help me pick lottery numbers.

Moore is a purest, he doesn’t manipulate his images and he doesn’t want to fool people into thinking these are not photos just for the sake of sales. He just has a good eye, takes his time before he clicks the shutter and knows how to get the best out of his equipment and when the light is right. That’s the real art of photography.

After Linda coaxed me off the soapbox, our next stop was Horton Hayes Fine Art, at 30 State Street. We wanted to see what Mark Horton was painting these days. The gallery also shows works by Nancy Hoerter, Shannon Runquist, Bjorn Runquist and Chris Groves – all skilled painters. Now, I guess these works don’t fit the classic description of “Charleston” art in that although they are landscapes of the Lowcountry and still lifes – I just think of them as master works. You just want to be in these places put on canvas. You can feel them – smell them. We didn’t talk to anyone here – it was too crowded.

511aw-mark-horton
Work by Mark Horton

Seeing the works at Horton Hayes made me want to go check out Mickey Williams Studio-Gallery, the next street over at 132 E. Bay Street, at the corner of East Bay and Broad Street. This was our old hangout, once the office for IF Labs, then for Carolina Arts newspaper and Carolina Arts Gallery. I spent many a day and night in that space. It survived Hurricane Hugo as if it was just a thunder storm. This was also Eva Carter’s old gallery space.

511aw-mickey-williams
Work by Mickey Williams

Williams paints some incredible Lowcountry landscapes. I wanted to go by and see his works and talk to him about facebook. Sometimes I get on facebook by 7am and most days by then Williams has been on for several hours – talking about the birds in his back yard, his garden or the colors in the morning sky. He’s like the good morning guy in the Charleston facebook family – which is funny – as he, like me, is technology challenged. But, he’s got facebook down to a science. I called him and asked him to send me a photo – he had to check with his wife. Sound familiar? We’re two peas in an iPod. We embrace technology – we just don’t know how to make it work.

Our last stop was at Lowcountry Artists Ltd, at 148 E. Bay Street. Their next exhibit is The Power of Glass, featuring blown glass  by Robbie Clair and etched and fused glass by Steve Hazard which will be on view from May 28 through June 11, 2011. This gallery has almost doubled in size since the last time I was in it. As a co-op gallery it has also seen many changes in the group of artists currently showing on the walls.

Another space where we could slip in and get a good look at the art first. Of course we knew some of the artists by name or work and there were a few surprises – like seeing works by Patsy Tidwell on the wall. Her gallery was one of the mainstays of the Charleston art community, but she sold it a few years ago and now it’s closed. I’m sure she is enjoying life now creating artwork vs. trying to sell other artists’ works. It’s not easy running a gallery as an artist – even when you’re doing it as a co-op of artists.

Another surprise was seeing works by Jason Luck, a Seagrove potter who has moved to Charleston. Those Seagrove potters are everywhere. Well they’re not really – but their work seems to be getting everywhere. But, you really have to go to Seagrove, NC, for Seagrove pottery. The chamber of commerce pays me to say that.

511aw-jackie-wukela
Work by Jackie Wukela

Because we didn’t have to answer a million questions as to how the paper is doing we finally got to eat some of the goodies being offered during the art walk. But, our anonymity could only last so long as I had questions I wanted to ask so we went up front and introduced ourselves to – who I felt sure was Jackie Wukela (due to facebook). She is typical of most of the folks we “know” through the paper. We’ve talked on the phone and e-mailed back and forth, but never met – face to face.

The minute we did this, Carolyn Epperly, who I’ve talked to many times at Tidwell’s Art Gallery, but not in a while, said “I thought you looked familiar.” Jackie Wukela and Lynda English, who are members of Lowcountry Artists Ltd. are also part of the visual art community in Florence, SC, where they live and have a gallery. So this was a twofer – we got to talk about Charleston and Florence’s art communities.

Before long the end of the art walk was on us and it was time to head back to Bonneau. On the ride home a few things struck me. We’ve been to two art walks in two months in Charleston and the art walks have changed – as have the galleries and artists who fill them with works since the days when we went to every one of them.

Charleston’s visual art community is moving away from what many people have tagged it as being for years, a city of artists who are in love with the city, a bad rap in my opinion. Sure there is lots of “tourist” art here to be had – it’s what most tourists want and Charleston is a tourist town, but the artists have moved on to creating what they want – hoping that the more discriminating visitors will want to take that art home. And, a good number of the artworks are being made by artists who live elsewhere – all over the US. The so called “Charleston” art is no longer a novelty – it’s now moved into the realm of novelties – souvenirs.

And, the art walks as I knew them have also changed. There was a time when an art walk in the French Quarter was a near festival – one big party event. I used to equate them to going to the Mall during Christmas – you’d run into everyone you haven’t seen since the last one there, but not so these days. There is an art walk every month in Charleston and most galleries stay open whether they’re in the group hosting it or not. So, it’s not such a special occasion any more. Still, lots of people go to them and enjoy them, but if it rains a little it’s easy to say – I’ll just go to the next one.

Of course my memories are from the 1990′s – what I call the golden age of the visual arts in the Carolinas. It might not be fair to make comparisons to current times – an age where many people are attacking the arts to gain political points and the economy has suffered one blow after another.

I for one am glad to be able to go to them again, but it might be some time before I go to the next one. We’re a little exhausted at this point and there’s so much going on all over the Carolinas. If you don’t believe me – just check our paper out at (www.carolinaarts.com). See how long it takes you to get through it all – end to end.