Posts Tagged ‘Mark Sloan’

A Look at a Couple More Spoleto/Piccolo Festival Exhibits

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Both the Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals are over, but as usual with the art community, while most of the performing arts groups have packed up their seasonal offerings – the visual arts are still here and you can still see both of these exhibits I’ll be talking about.

While the festivals were still going on I found a nice parking space very close to the front door of the Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts at the College of Charleston School of the Arts in downtown Charleston. Lucky me! I wanted to see what Mark Sloan, curator at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art was offering festival viewers this year. It’s always something funky and very interesting. I liked what I had already seen of publicity images.


This year it was the exhibit, Call and Response: African to America/The Art of Nick Cave and Phyllis Galembo, on view through July 16, 2010. Sloan’s exhibitions are so popular that both Spoleto and Piccolo were claiming it as one of their offerings, but I think Spoleto would win that tug of war.

(We just received new info this afternoon. Mark Sloan has told me that they changed the ending date of this exhibit to June 26, 2010. That’s unfortunate for us and a lot of folks who won’t get to see this exhibit. Our July issue of Carolina Arts will still carry the July 16 ending date. We’re sorry to bring you this news. We now have an answer why this exhibit is being closed early – Sloan says the College has decided to tear up the concrete floors of the Cato Center and replace them with blue tile during July.  They had no choice.)

I wasn’t disappointed and I doubt anyone else who saw this exhibit was either. Nick Cave’s “sound suits” were spectacular as were the photographs of Phyllis Galembo of African costumes. Right off, walking in the gallery I was blown away by the lineup of several of Cave’s colorful costumes. That’s what you want in an exhibit – a knock out visual as people enter the gallery space.


After a quick look around I sat and watched a video of Cave’s “sound suits” in action. The first part was set to music and the repeated phrase, “This is a journey into sound”. The second part was just the sound the suits made on their own as a dancer moved around. I liked the second part better, but sat there in the cool viewing room imagining what an event it would have been to have live dancers in each of Cave’s suits – coming to life – off and on, as viewers jumped when the dancer began to move. Now that would have been a heck of a performance art event, but I wouldn’t want to be the person inside one of those suits – for very long. But, the video gave us enough idea of what we would see – when the suits are in motion.

You would think that photos hanging on the wall wouldn’t stand a chance next to Cave’s “sound suits”, but Phyllis Galembo served up striking images of real African costumes which hold their own next to an “Americanized” version. In fact, I tended to appreciate these costumes more as they were made by people reflecting their natural surroundings and local customs. Actually, I think I felt that way as Cave’s suits reflected America’s culture – which isn’t always the prettiest picture. And, at that moment I felt a little embarrassed of what Africans would be thinking about us if this exhibit was shown there. Which is what I expect Sloan wanted us to see in this exhibit – the contrast of cultures. Maybe not, but then you have to go see this exhibit and come up with your own ideas.


I ran into Sloan while I was at the exhibit and he said that a few gallery spaces in Japan were interested in this exhibit. That was no surprise to me as the new generations in Japan have developed a pretty funky culture themselves – funkier than ours.

You can read a press release we posted at Carolina Arts about this exhibit at this link.

After viewing this exhibit I looked at the art on display in the Hill Exhibition Gallery just outside the Halsey Institute. I’ve got to find a way to get the folks at the College to inform me of these exhibits – how long they will be up, so I can inform readers about them. Upon viewing what was there, my favorite was a print by Samantha Theall entitled Rachel in nice Lighting.

Next, I went to the City of Charleston’s City Gallery at Waterfront Park to see the exhibit, Contemporary Charleston 2010, on view through July 3, 2010. This show has a shorter life than the Halsey Institute show, so you better go see it – if you’re going.


This exhibit is a production of the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, curated by Erin Glaze, (City Gallery at Waterfront Park) coordinator and artist Max Miller.

The premise of this exhibit was to have 10 local visual artists create works specifically for the exhibit that have been inspired by the work of 10 local poets. So ten artists were matched up with ten poets.

My first impression was that this year’s show was not as strong as last year’s offering. (See my entry on the 2009 exhibit at this link. I guess since I hadn’t the time to attend the poetry readings by the poets matched up with the visual artists – I was missing the connections or inspiration that was supposed to have inspired these works. I tend to like my visual art – straight up – stand alone. That’s me, but I wasn’t seeing a lot of connections, but I also don’t have the inclination to work too hard to find connections. It’s like having to read an artist’s statement (several pages long) telling you what a certain work means. If I’m looking at the work and I don’t get the message – I usually don’t see it after reading the statement either. It’s either there or it isn’t. Anyway – I wasn’t feeling the connections. The closest I came is when painter Sarah Haynes painted a portrait of Dennis Ward Stiles, the poet she was matched with, entitledDenny.

I don’t think that’s what the curators had in mind, but the good thing is – I really enjoyed Haynes’ works – whether it had a connection to Stiles poetry or not. To me, her paintings were one of the high points of the exhibit. Of course I would have liked to see the Waterfront space filled with her work over a group show any day.

There were other works I liked there too. I liked the (sort of bleached out looking photos) by Timothy Pakron. Having spent almost 20 years working in a darkroom, I’m still thinking about his process, but I’m not concerned if I ever figure it out completely – I liked the technique. Why get hung up on the process?

I also liked the pop art style works by Juilo Cotto. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but I’m not a conservative when it comes to art. I like works that make other people cringe too.

Maybe I wasn’t falling in love with a lot that I saw, but it’s worth the visit and you’ll probably think I’m nuts or at least find things that speak to you. Frankly, if I see a show that I really don’t like – you probably won’t see anything written about it from me, and there was enough of that to go around this year, but I didn’t see everything. There is never enough time to see everything. So, don’t just assume that all the shows I haven’t mentioned were unmentionable.

Hopefully the powers that be will step out of the formula they are using to select Piccolo Spoleto exhibits next year. The formula is worn out and the results are showing. At least that’s how I felt when looking at the lineup of offerings, but then again – this whole festival thing is nothing new to me – like others.

You can read a press release we posted at Carolina Arts about this exhibit at this link.

Now, lets see what wonders the dog days of summer bring. I mean as far as the visual arts goes – as most of the performing arts community will be taking the summer off.

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

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go see this exhibit and the student work.