Posts Tagged ‘Visiting Charleston SC’

I Took a Trip to West Ashley to See Some Art – It’s an Area of Charleston, SC, but It’s Like a Step-Child

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Summers are not supposed to be this busy. Yet, I seem to be as busy as I ever have been. There’s this publication that expects to be finished by deadline every month. Then there is my new hobby of protesting the current Government, so scratch Tuesdays off the calendar, And, then there is the Grandboys who want – no, make that demand their Grandpa’s time (they don’t care about the arts or the government – yet). Not to mention a wife, who I see in passing, a yard that is out of control, and the dog – which I swore I wasn’t going to be taking care of but gives me that look of – you’re the only responsible person in the house that will give me snacks and take me out. And above all, I promised myself I was going to see the movie “Dunkirk” when it came out, but here I am writing this blog about an art exhibit I went to see last week.

Now, as busy as I have been, it should tell you something that I took time to drive to Charleston on a Saturday afternoon, when the heat index was 105 degrees to go see art on a wall. I’ve seen lots of art on a wall many times before and I’m sure to see more art on a wall in the future. But here I was headed to the reception for “The Quench Project and the mire of desire,” an exhibition of works by Robert Maniscalco, on view at Fabulon, a Center for Art and Education, located at 1017 Wappoo Road in the West Ashley area of Charleston, SC. The exhibit will be on view through Aug. 10, 2017.

I went for several reasons. First, I suggested to Maniscalco that Fabulon was perhaps a good match for the type of work he was doing to line up an exhibit of his works when we were working on his profile and it turned out they were a good match. And, second, because I wanted to support the artist and the gallery for producing and showing respectively, art with a message. Or art that supports a cause.

Don’t get me wrong, I like art that is just beautiful, art that is abstract, and art that makes me feel good when I look at it. I have plenty of it in my personal collection. But, as of late, I’ve been drawn to art that has a message for some reason. I wonder why that is? And, I’m not saying that all art doesn’t have a message of some sort. After all you can project a message into any art you look at.

When I look at one of John Moore’s abstract photographs of rust, I can see beauty in the colors of the rust, but I can also see man’s neglect of the things he has put on this earth. When I see a landscape by Betty Anglin Smith, I don’t see any marsh scene I have every seen, but I see the Lowcountry through rose colored glasses the way visitors do when they first come to the Lowcountry and fall in love with it. It’s not reality, but it’s the way we see it in our mind, and we want to live there in all those colors. It’s like pluff mud – it smells better than it is to be in it with the noseems biting away at you. Art can help you escape from reality but it can also bring you back to reality.

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“The Next Big Thing” by Robert Maniscalco

While some artists make their pilgrimages to Provence, France or Santa Fe, New Mexico, Maniscalco chose to go to Haiti (after the earthquake) and Flint, Michigan, when it was dangerous to drink the water.

Why do that? Well, the best way I can explain that is to say that Maniscalco is a Christian in the mold of a Jimmy Carter Christian, where deeds are more important than words. I’m not an overly religious guy, but I admire those who show their faith in deeds – not words. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

We offered a sort of profile on Robert Maniscalco in our May 2017 issue on pages 12 and 14 (http://www.carolinaarts.com/517/517carolinaarts-pg12.pdf) or (http://www.carolinaarts.com/517/517carolinaarts-pg14.pdf). Check that out for more info on him and what he’s been up to in the last couple of years.

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This portrait is of Louise Noel, mother of Pastor Medit, Maniscalco’s host at the Bread of Life Orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti.

So, getting back to the exhibit, it was nice to finally see some of the works, up close and personal that we promoted in our May 2017 issue of “Carolina Arts”. I always tell people if you like the images you see in our publication, you’ll love them in person, as they are always much more alive when you’re standing in front of them. Maniscalco agreed with that concept in thinking there is a spark in the originals that no copy could show. And, I also feel that every artists puts a little of their soul in many of their works. Although, some works seem lifeless, but not in this exhibit.

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Children at the Bread of Life Orphanage learning to read and teaching each other to read.

Most of Maniscalco’s works are portraits of individuals or groups of people. What I liked about most of them is that he captures the joy and hope in people who should be feeling pretty hopeless after what’s happened to them. And I’m sure there was plenty of hopelessness to go around, but he chose to capture something else – the spirit of people doing the best they can with the situation that was handed to them. Along side each painting is a fairly long description of what you’re looking at to give you plenty of background. Maniscalco has a story to tell and a message to deliver to the viewer – you might say a call to action.

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“Overcome” a portrait of Quinn Tyler of Flint Michigan

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Maniscaloc offered a choice of water – didn’t see anyone taking the water from Flint.

I have some images of Maniscalco’s works on view, a few I had on file and a few from his website (www.maniscalcogallery.com), not from the exhibit, as they were too hard to get a decent photo of with reflections, but I do have images from the reception.

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Maniscalo is explaining a work to one of the folks at the reception. That’s one of the benefits of going to receptions – you get to talk with the artist.

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Here, Maniscalco is talking with some folks about the courtroom sketches he did for the recent Dylan Roof Trial.

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There was a nice spread of food offered.

Now, as always, I don’t want you to just read this and think – well I have a good idea of what’s there and skip it. I want you to go see this exhibit and to check out Fabulon if you have never been there. It’s easy to get to and there is plenty of free parking – something that is in short supply in Charleston.

Now, like any time I’m at an exhibit reception or visiting a gallery – I look at everything and talk to people. And, not to take away from Maniscalco’s exhibit, but there were other works on view at the gallery and I just happen to take a few images of what caught my eye. Guess what? – they were abstract works. One by Michael C. Hayes that reminded me of work I’d seen before and I verified with gallery owner Susan Irish, that Hayes had work in the recent “Piccolo Spoleto Juried Show” at Charleston’s City Gallery at Waterfront Park. I mentioned his work in a blog I did about that show. Hey, if anything I’m consistent. And there were a couple of works by Vicki Hickman that I liked and I found out she was the Visual Arts Coordinator for the Berkeley County School System – from my own backyard. When are we going to have a gallery in Berkeley County to show the talents of Berkeley County artists?

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Work by Michael C. Hayes

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Work by Vicki Hickman

And, of course I did a bit of talking with Irish and Maniscalco, but like all conversations between me and folks in the arts – it stays between us. That way people can tell me how they really feel about things.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to stay too long at the reception as I had an errand I had to do before heading home. I always have to make the best use of gas and time on these trips. But, I’m sure I’ll be back to Fabulon sometime. They’re not your typical Charleston art gallery and they don’t present typical Charleston exhibits. So if you’re looking for something different – check them out.

Fabulon is open, Tue.-Sat., 10am-6pm. For further info about the exhibit call 843/566-3383 or visit (www.fabulonart.com).

A Visit to the Ever Changing Charleston, SC, 3/11/17

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

I needed some postcards to send to someone in Washington, DC, that I hoped would be soon taking an extended vacation from politics, and what better place to get postcards but the tourist city of Charleston, SC. The city that seems to add a new construction crane every time I visit. So I figured to also make that trip a short business trip and visit a few galleries.

I’ve been wanting to visit Fabulon, A Center for Art and Education, located at 1017 Wappoo Road, in the West Ashley area of Charleston – between Hwy. 61 and Hwy. 17. They had just opened a new exhibit, “We The People”, an exhibit of artwork that makes you think, something not seen that often in Charleston. They had the opening a day before, but I don’t like seeing art in a crowd, so the day after was good for me.

This was a great show with art from local artists and many from outside the area. As usual I took a few images with my iPhone (I guess that’s less health insurance for me), but these works are best seen up close and personal. And as always works I include are not always the best or ones I want to talk about – they are the works I can get a decent image of. But I also like the ones I’m including.

First up is a photograph by Winston-Salem, NC, artist, Owens Daniels, who offered some images poking fun at the NC House Bill (HB2). This image titled “Citizen” was created in the style of American Gothic.

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Next is “Life is A OK” by local artist, Caroline Self, who was/is Artist-in-Residence for The City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department. Loved this work for it’s color and texture. I just can’t pass by a well executed abstract work.

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Kelly Burke, from the Baltimore, MD, area offered a couple of works from her ‘Reimagined American Flags” series. This work is titled “Don’t Lives Matter?” highlighting lives lost due to gun violence.

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Susan Irish, owner and manager of Fabulon, also had an interesting work in the exhibit that made a statement about Charleston, that only an outsider would understand – which I got right away, but I couldn’t get a good shot of it without my shadow all over it.

There are lots of interesting works in this exhibit, which will give you lots of reasons to think, but don’t miss the artistic skill in thinking of the message offered.

This last work wasn’t part of the “We The People” exhibit, but it caught my attention and of course it’s an abstract. It’s a work by Laura McRae-Hitchcock , who has recently moved from Charlotte, NC, to our community. So, besides the works in the show, there are also good works to see – and buy, on view by resident artists.

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Fabulon may not be one of those high-end Charleston galleries, but it’s an example of all things good don’t always come in shiny packages, it’s also a working studio, classroom, and gathering center – there was a group of fiber artists on hand working away while I viewed the exhibit.

Well it was time to get my postcards which I found at Brittlebank Park on the Ashley River – not your usual place to get postcards, but I’m hoping you’ll be reading about and hearing about these special postcards on about March 16 or 17.

Next I stopped by Surface Craft Gallery, located at 49 John Street in downtown Charleston, my old stomping grounds when Linda (my better half) and I operated a custom photo processing lab on John Street and a short lived photography gallery – many years ago. I wanted to talk with Liv Antonecchia, owner, and get caught up on how the new group, Lowcountry Ceramic Artists, was coming along and see what new things they had in the shop.

Here are some works by Margaret K. Weinberg, who is part of the Cone 10 Studios in Charleston, which may be closing soon.

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Next are works by Batton Clayworks in Asheville, NC. They are the works with the carved texture. I love these unusual shapes.

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Here are a couple of fused glass works by Tanya Craig. These are incense holders, but I don’t remember seeing any that were so colorful – back in my days of burning incense. The last time I bought incense was about ten years ago just outside of Disney World in Florida, but when we got home – I couldn’t find them and to this day never have.

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This last shot is of a jar by Fred Prudhomme, another Cone 10 Studios artist. I shared a Facebook post that Surface Craft had made earlier in the week which attracted a lot of remarks about how beautiful the jar was but it would be much better if it was full of cookies and then milk got involved and than more comments about food were added, but when I saw this piece in person, it was much smaller than we all thought. It was about half the size of a cookie jar. I still like the jar, but man I was really disappointed that you wouldn’t be able to fit many cookies in it. Again – here was a case where art had effected my life once more – beauty and disappointment offered in the same object. Darn you artists.

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Surface Craft Gallery had become one of my favorite spots to see fine art crafts in Charleston. If you haven’t been there check it out.

Surface Craft Gallery will be opening a new exhibit, “Spring!”, a ceramics renewal show featuring local and national clay artisans in both functional and sculptural work, with an opening reception on Mar. 23, from 5-8pm. The show continues through Apr. 13, 2017. Work by Kelly Thiel will be featured in the show. She left us to live in Bend, OR, but now her work is returning to Charleston.

Well, it was time to head back home to Bonneau and as I drove out of Charleston down Meeting Street I just couldn’t believe how they are changing the skyline of Charleston – pretty soon you won’t be able to see the sky. So sad. I still love you Charleston, but now I know how the old timers felt and talked of their “lost” Charleston when I first got here in the mid 70s.

A Trip to Charleston, SC, When the Temps Were Over 100 Degrees to Pay Respect to a Gutsy Artist – Dr. Leo Twiggs

Friday, July 15th, 2016

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Last Friday, on July 8, 2016, I traveled down to Charleston, SC, from the headquarters of Shoestring Publishing Company in Bonneau, SC, to go to a reception for the exhibit, Requiem for Mother Emanuel, featuring nine works by Dr. Leo Twiggs, on view at the City Gallery at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Waterfront Park, through July 31, 2016. It was already 100 degrees when I left the house. Going to Charleston was the last thing I wanted to do that afternoon, but I had to. It was a matter of paying respect to an artist who well deserved it. Later on, the heat index would reach 110 and it felt like every bit of that and more.

I first met Dr. Twiggs at a special lunch set up by the Gibbes Museum of Art, back in the 90’s when they were showing an exhibit of photographs by W. Eugene Smith on his landmark photo essay, ‘Nurse Midwife’ Maude Callen, published in LIFE magazine in Dec. 1951. Back then I was still known as “somebody” in the Charleston photography community and I lived in Berkeley County where Maude Callen did her work. Dr. Twiggs was from St. Stephens, SC, in Berkeley County where Callan operated out of a small clinic.

I’ve never really talked with Dr. Twiggs since, but we have covered many an exhibit of his works throughout the years at institutional art spaces and commercial galleries in our publications South Carolina Arts and now Carolina Arts. In fact I loved every opportunity we got to show one of his works with the Confederate battle flag in it. I truly enjoy publishing works by a black man using that flag as a recurring symbol in his art.

And just like any day I go anywhere outside the area I live in, on Friday as I left to go to Charleston I had to drive past four Confederate flags flying in people’s front yards in my neighborhood.

I have no personal connection to the Civil War so it shouldn’t matter to me whether that flag flies anywhere, but I’ve grown to hate what it stands for today. Don’t give me that line about heritage – I’m not buying it. When I first arrived in SC I would often get asked which side my family was on – North or South. Being from Michigan, many assumed I was one of those carpetbaggin’ Yankees, but my relatives weren’t even in the US when the Civil War took place. They where trying to get out from under the boots of Russian Czars and British rulers and they didn’t make it out until after the turn of the century.

I’ve lived in South Carolina for 42 years and I never thought that the Confederate flag would come down off the SC State House grounds, much less the State House, but a stupid kid who thought he was a Johnny Reb who killed nine people while they were at a bible study class brought it down. Who would have thought that? Not me.

I’m not going to go into what’s behind Dr. Twiggs work or the work in this exhibit, the gallery has a film you can watch about that and a nice exhibit catalog which you can read his words on his work. You don’t need to hear my interpretation. But you should go see this exhibit.

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Here’s some information the gallery provided about this exhibition: Requiem for Mother Emanuel brings together nine new works by Leo Twiggs, created in commemoration of the nine victims who lost their lives on June 17, 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. A video produced exclusively for this exhibition will feature the personal commentary of Twiggs, who shares his artistic vision and gives tribute to the extreme grace displayed by the Mother Emanuel family.

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“This series has been the most difficult I have ever done,” says Leo Twiggs. “Some of the members of Mother Emanuel are close to my family. No series has been more painful or personal. I want people to look at my works and know that something tragic happened in a Church . . .  that a horrible thing happened in a Church that changed lives. My paintings are testimonies to the nine who were slain. But I also record another moment: our state’s greatest moment . . . a response that moved us from tragedy to redemption. For one shining moment we looked at each other not as different races but as human beings. From the City Gallery I can see the docks where the ships came in carrying my ancestors. Through the decades many of them worshiped at Mother Emanuel. Hopefully, we will not forget but will remember that moment that brought us all together.”

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Dr. Leo Twiggs (center)

One of the symbols that Twiggs has used in his paintings since the 1970’s is the Confederate Flag. The flag becomes a reoccurring symbol in the Requiem series as it is splashed across the surface of the Church. The flag morphs from a recognizable symbol to a disintegrating form that becomes a cross on a blood stained background and then changes to a cross with the red drained from it. The target and the symbol nine also appear in this series. There is a definite visual transition in the sixth painting as Twiggs recalls the afternoon he entered the Church and stood in front of the stained glass window.

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People watching the film about Dr. Twiggs and the making of this exhibit.

I also want to mention that this exhibit was made possible with the help of the Hampton III Gallery in Taylors, SC, (Greenville area) that is one of the galleries in SC which represents Dr. Twiggs’ work. Also, if you don’t live in the Charleston area or can’t get there in time to see this exhibit, that I understand it will be traveling to other parts of SC. Stay tuned into to Carolina Arts for more info on that.

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Dr. Twiggs giving a short talk at the reception.

As I mentioned in a Facebook post after attending the reception, the crowd there was a Who’s Who of the SC visual art community. The director of the SC Arts Commission and staff members where there, City of Charleston officials and staff members, institutional and commercial gallery owners and directors, artists, and other folks involved in the visual arts, as well as members of the Mother Emanuel family. They were all there to pay respect to one of SC’s most talented artist and one who was not afraid to use symbols of SC’s racial history in his works.

Now you can go and pay your respects to the artist and see the works he made in commemoration of the nine victims.

The City Gallery at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Waterfront Park is located at 34 Prioleau Street in downtown Charleston, SC, and gallery hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday, 10am until 6pm, Saturday and Sunday, noon until 5pm.

For more information and holiday closures, visit (http://citygalleryatwaterfrontpark.com) or call 843/958-6484.

A Trip to Charleston, SC, to See an Exhibit by an Old Photography Friend – Mar. 4, 2016

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Back in our photography days, back when Linda and I ran a custom black & white photo processing business, a photography gallery, and a photography guild – we were in touch with the Charleston art photography community. It was a very talented and vibrant community. It was old school. Then came the digital age. Now we hardly know anyone calling themselves an art photographer today. We’re way out of the loop, except to what comes across our radar in doing Carolina Arts.

Like a lot of our old photography friends, we thought this would be the end of good photography, and soon we gave up the photo processing business for the desk top publishing business. Many of those photographers fought tooth and nail to hold on to the old ways of doing photography. Years later we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the digital age wondering why we resisted so long and trying to keep up with the constant changes and innovation.

Change is always hard, but change is good and in this case – change has been great.

So, when I got the notice that John Moore, one of those old photography friends was having an exhibit at Corrigan Gallery, located at 62 Queen Street in downtown Charleston, SC, I marked the date for the reception, Mar. 4, down on my calendar. That was also the day of the new Charleston Gallery Association’s Art Walk. My hopes were that I would be able to attend.

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Work by John Moore

As things turned out something always happens which becomes a conflict with my plans, Linda had to work and that afternoon we had to have contact with our health insurance folks – never a good thing. The timing was not good as it would put me in Charleston after 5pm when the reception starts and because it was also Art Walk night – finding parking was going to be a challenge, which is an everyday challenge in Charleston. But I’m an old pro at finding space in Charleston to park and I had my lucky spots.

As I’m heading to Charleston I notice I’m almost out of gas and I determined that I would need to stop for gas before I got to Charleston or I would risk being able to get out of Charleston – another delay. So picture pulling into a gas station on Friday afternoon when most people got paid and would fill up their tanks for the weekend. The picture is of more delays.

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Work by John Moore

When I finally got onto I-26, the traffic coming out of Charleston was a solid mass, from Charleston to Goose Creek and probably all the way to Summerville. I was glad I was heading into Charleston not out and it should be all cleared away by the time I was returning home. Traffic in downtown Charleston was busy with the Art Walk already going on and the search for parking was in full mode, but my first choice on an old reliable spot was empty.

When I die, I’m leaving a guide on how to find parking in Charleston to the highest bidder. The proceeds will go to the Carolina Arts Foundation, which will mean one of the grandsons had taken over the publication or it will go to the owner of any art photography gallery in Charleston.

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Work by John Moore

I had come to Charleston to just see John Moore’s show, but anywhere you park in downtown Charleston you are going to pass several galleries getting to another – they’re everywhere. So I would stick my head in any I passed. The first I came across was Anglin-Smith Fine Art. It was packed – I mean wall to wall, so I moved toward Corrigan Gallery thinking things will clear out later on my way back to the car. I passed a new pottery gallery that was also packed. The streets were packed with people going and coming from galleries. I know this as that’s what they were talking about. That’s one of the interesting things about the Art Walks is listening to what people are talking about as you’re walking about from one gallery to the next.

When I got to Corrigan Gallery, which is not a big space, it was really packed and it took about 15 minutes once I got in to actually talk with John Moore. It was a little hard to see the work up close on the walls, but like hockey, you just have to be patient in muscling your way into position – eventually you get to the net. It was a little hard to take photos though.

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That John Moore in the blue shirt.

It was a good thing that Moore’s show was my main objective for the evening as I could hardly turn around without bumping into an old friend from the old photography community, old and new art community friends, or the old Sierra Club group. It was good catching up with these folks as to what we’re all doing these days and how many grandchildren we all have. And, there’s nothing more I like than looking at art, but talking about art.

As far a photographers go, I just missed TR Richardson, but did talk with John Moore, Tom Blagden, Luke Platt, and Alan Jackson, who is doing more drawing these days than photography. In the non-photographer art group (oh yeah, these photographers are artists too) there was Linda Fantuzzo, Jenny Summerall (who is moving back to Charleston), Keller Lee, and Kris Westerson. Representing the old Sierra Club was Virginia Beach and Hayes Patterson.

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The exhibit, John Moore: 24 photographs, will be on view through Mar. 31, 2016. This display of abstract images is presented both individually and as a portfolio set in book form.

Some folks were saying that this exhibit was the best Moore has had and I guess I would agree with that, except for the fact that it’s been so long since his last one and way long after early exhibits, that it would be hard to judge, but the fact was – this was a great exhibit of new works and good to see his work being exhibited again in Charleston. I’ve always liked Moore’s art making.

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Moore is known as a nature photographer. I think of him as Mr. Tree and Mr. Rust. He seems to focus on trees in his landscapes, and the photographs of rust are also nature images – showing what nature does to metal. This show could be taken for a group of abstract paintings, which in the overall art world is the best thing that could happen for a photographer. The public and some in the art community have a bias against photography thinking it’s too easy and something that can be reproduced again and again. The cameras in phones didn’t help this thinking as everyone is a photographer now (as I’m taking my photos with my phone). So any photograph that doesn’t look like a photograph is good – unfortunately.

The funny thing is that some of the images of rusting metal are actually presented on metal, which is a not so new thing in the photography world. And, for Moore this exhibit gets away from one of an artist’s biggest hurdles in exhibiting their works – framing. The works on metal look great and are lighter than being in wooden frames. Having works offered in book form also avoids framing. Sorry framers – you are an added cost for artists presenting their works and most people buying art would prefer to have more control over how the artworks they buy will be framed.

Go see this show and see how photography and nature can compete with the best abstract painters. By all the red dots that were showing up on Moore’s works – others were in agreement with me.

Several times while I was at Corrigan Gallery I went outside to get a breath of fresh air and watch the crowd coming and going. I noticed across the street over at Atrium Art Gallery that an abstract painting was hanging in the window, so when I finally left Corrigan Gallery I strolled across the street to check out the painting in the window which lead me inside. They were featuring the paintings of Jim Pittman that could have gone along side Moore’s photographs.

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Work by Jim Pittman

A card I picked up stated that Pittman was a landscape painter based out of Colorado and coastal Virginia. I really liked his works. Not all abstracts cut the muster with me, but I could tell these were being made by a seasoned painter. As they say in The Fiddler – “if I was a rich man” – I would have loved to take a few of his paintings home with me. They wouldn’t fit into my collection of Carolina artists, but they would have fit in great with my abstract works.

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While you’re going to see John Moore’s exhibit, don’t forget to go see Pittman’s works just across the street. I don’t know how long his works will be featured so don’t wait too long.

On the way back to the car as I got close to Anglin-Smith Fine Arts again it was still packed, but I squeezed in this time. The Smith clan of painters always presents an excellent display of works by Betty Anglin Smith and her triplets, Jennifer, Shannon, and Trip. I fully expect to see a third generation of painters from this clan.

I have many times admitted that I’m most often drawn to works by Shannon Smith Hughes, but this night it was Jennifer Smith Rogers who won the prize for gaining my attention. Her painting, Birds Eye View showed signs of a little loosening of her painting style toward abstraction. It was a slight change but enough to catch my eye. It’s not a competition and I don’t mean to cause any friction, but that painting was my favorite of this night.

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“Birds Eye View” by Jennifer Smith Rogers, oil on linen, 30″ x 60″

I talked with Betty a bit and she confirmed that they had been packed all night and with 10 minutes of official time left on the Art Walk there was no sign of the crowd letting up. She thought it was one of the best in the last few years.

I wouldn’t know about that as my best Art Walk days are long behind me. Over the years I’ve been on so many, but now it’s not my main interest. Back in the day when we had a printed publication that I had to deliver, I would deliver a stack of papers to every gallery during the day and then go to the Art Walk that evening and hit as least a dozen galleries. I was a much younger man back then.

I don’t know how the crowd was at all ends of the greater Charleston Gallery Association community, as it is a much larger area to cover from South of Broad to North of Calhoun Street, but in the old French Quarter core – it was packed.

But just remember folks, these galleries are open all week long and you’ll probably get a better look at the art when you’re not having to elbow your way into position. After all, hockey is a sport – not an art.

A Trip to Charleston, SC, to See Some Rare Art by Bill Buggel at Corrigan Gallery, on View Through Nov. 30, 2015

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Last Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, I decided to go see an exhibit at Corrigan Gallery in Charleston, SC, featuring works by Bill Buggel, on view through Nov. 30, 2015. This was his first solo exhibit in 16 years and before that not many more during his 50 year career in the visual arts in South Carolina. That’s how rare this exhibition is. It had to be something good to get me to drive into Charleston on Friday the 13th.

In full disclosure, Buggel was one of the first artists whom I met in Charleston. And, he gave me a job working in a photography business he started with two other partners on John Street in Charleston in the late 1970’s. That job eventually led to Linda (my better half) and I having our own photo processing business for 16 years. Buggel also had a T-shirt business next to the photo shop. And above the photography shop he shared a studio space with Manning Williams and Linda Fantuzzo.

That photo business dealt with a lot of people in the arts in Charleston, due to Buggel’s connections. At some point I came across a copy of a book published during SC’s 1970 Tricentennial celebration – a survey of contemporary artists in SC at the time. Inside, it featured William Lee Buggel as one of the most up and coming artists in SC. Was this the same guy I was working for and now made T-shirts? It was.

One day in the T-shirt shop I asked Buggel what happened? He told me he made more money making T-shirts in a year than he had ever made creating art – it was a matter of money and making a living. I thought – what a shame. But there was a time when I thought I wanted to be a fine art photographer, but I learned there was more money to be made processing film and making prints for other photographers and that business eventually would get us into the art world, not by making art, but by reporting on it. And, that’s the sad case for many artists – many just can’t make a living at it – no matter how talented they are.

So here we both are, many years later, I’m the editor and publisher of an arts publication and Buggel is having an art exhibit of his latest works. Both are about as strange a thing that I can think of.

I remember the show Buggel had at the old Charleston City Gallery in the Dock Street Theatre. It was actually the first time I had seen any of his art, other than his photography. It was apparently the same type of work he did back in the day when he was still trying to make it as a full time artist. I liked it – it was abstract. And I like the work he is still doing today. It’s very tactile, without having to touch, and I didn’t touch. It’s colorful and full of patterns. And, he doesn’t offer a lot of art speak explaining what it means.

What’s really amazing about it is that I haven’t seen anything like it in all of my years covering the visual arts. There are a few other artists using sand to give texture to their work, but I haven’t run into anything else like what Buggel is doing and that’s saying something in a world of look alike art.

It’s really hard to understand why he didn’t get very far in SC with this art, except that the Bill Buggel I know is not one who plays by the rules and makes nice with people you might have to in order to the climb the art ladder in SC. I always heard that in SC, it’s not how good the art you create is, it’s who you know in SC that can get you to the top. I don’t believe that crappy art can stay on top too long, but I know it does help to have friends in high places in SC. Buggel is too much of a straight talker to stay out of trouble with those kind of folks.

It was hard getting good images of individual works and still be able to show off the vivid colors, so I decided to shoot only a couple of full images, then some very up close detail shots. I also took a few wide view shots of the gallery, but like all exhibits, you have to see the works up close, in person to really enjoy the works.

1115corrigan-buggle-passing-gravePassing a Small Country Grave Yard, by Bill Buggel, 17″ x 14″. Just a small country graveyard with a plowed field and wild flowers. Sometimes experiences come together in small ways.

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Gray and Brick Red-Large, by Bill Buggel, 42″ x 60″. This painting is larger because of the scope of the construction at the building site.

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Gray and Brick Red-Large (detail), by Bill Buggel.

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A set of images I tagged as the Three Bears – Baby Bear on top, Mama Bear in the middle and Papa Bear on the bottom including: Summer Wild Flowers (top), by Bill Buggel, 18″ x 12 1/2″; Passing Verticals (middle), by Bill Buggel, 27″ x 17″; and Passing Yellow (bottom), by Bill Buggel, 36″ x 28″.

1115corrigan-buggle-passing-yellow-detailPassing Yellow (detail bottom of the Three Bears), by Bill Buggel, 36″ x 28″. Another experience of seeing static objects while moving. Along the roadside wild flowers mass into many different colors and shapes. I try not to know or identify the flowers. Knowing too much tends to take the mystery of the experience away from me.

1115corrigan-buggle-gallery-view1Gallery view 1

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Gallery view 2

Go see this exhibit – you might not get a chance to do so again – which is a shame, but Buggel is out of the art loop in SC. And, these days the “inner circle” in South Carolina’s visual art community is full and unable to feed its own – in fact I think they are feeding on each other.

Corrigan Gallery is located at 62 Queen Street in historic downtown Charleston. Hours are: Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm or by chance & appt.

For further information call the gallery at 843/722-9868 or visit (www.corrigangallery.com).

Before I left Charleston, I extended my luck on this unlucky day by dropping in on a drop in for Pernille Ægidius Dake at Nina Liu and Friends.  Dake was one of my favorite Charleston artists who left us to become a real Yankee living in Upstate New York. Yes, you heard that right – Nina Liu is still in Charleston and her gallery space and home is still for sale and full of wonderful art objects for sale. Not as full as it has been, but there is plenty there for all you who have been missing their Nina Liu and Friends fix. It’s hard to keep up with her these days, but I think you’ll find her there at 24 State Street though the holidays, but then back again in the Spring. Call ahead to see if she is open at 843/722-2724.

It was good to see Pernille after all these years. We get postcards from her from time to time – for no reason at all or from no special destination, but they are always welcomed. Her painting that hangs in our home always draws attention. It’s sort of a self-portrait – more like a body print. The grandboys seem to like it.

I finally made it home without incident.

A Drive Into Charleston, SC, On a Cold Day to See a New Craft Gallery and the Exhibition by Our Cover Artist for Our Feb. 2015 Issue of “Carolina Arts”, Tyrone Geter

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

I was long overdue for a visit to downtown Charleston, SC, to see the new Surface Craft Gallery, located at 49 John Street, on the same street where Linda and I once operated IF Labs, at 39-A John Street and opened the Photogallery next door (with the help of a few friends), an exclusive fine art photography gallery. But this was in the mid 1980’s, long before the Charleston Visitor Center was built. Once construction started we were moved out fast.

This winter has brought me a new ailment that I have been adjusting to since before Thanksgiving until very recently. One that made it difficult to go out in public without somebody asking – do you need me to call 911. A bad cough that was keeping me from steady sleep – something I was very used to. Linda will tell you that I could set records in how fast I could be asleep by the time my head hit the pillow. Finally a combination of meds and adjusted habits has been found.

I also wanted to see the exhibition at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park before it was over. They are presenting an exhibition of works by Tyrone Geter of Columbia, SC, who we featured on the cover of our Feb. 2015 issue of Carolina Arts. From the few images I saw that were on the cover I really wanted to see this exhibit before it left Charleston.

I had planned to go sometime on the weekend of Feb. 13-15, but then I realized that was SEWE weekend and no one in their right mind would try to go to Charleston that weekend unless you were going to the Southeastern Wildlife Expo. So I finally set my sights on Wed., Feb. 18, 2015. Everything and everyone connected with SEWE would be gone by then or at least not taking up every parking space in the city.

It turned out to be a typical cold day in the Lowcounty. When I left the house I was bundled up for frozen tundra, once in the car the sun coming through the front windshield was baking me to death. It turned out not to be as cold as expected and I think by the afternoon the temps were in the 50’s making it pretty nice in downtown Charleston – as long as you stayed in the sun.

First stop was John Street next to the Visitor Center Complex. I was lucky, very lucky, to find a metered parking space on John Street at the intersection of Meeting Street, a short walk from the gallery.

When I opened the door and walked in I could see that look on Liv Antonecchia’s face that meant I finally made it. She is the artist/gallery owner of Surface Craft Gallery. Not that she expected me, but she knew I had been trying to get there. I’ve been supporting the gallery as much as I can on social media, but this was my first look inside the gallery. And, it looks much better when you’re seeing it as a whole and not just in the background of Facebook photos of specific items she carries in her shop. The one room gallery is laid out very nicely – nicer than some craft shops that have been open a few years. Eventually gallery owners seem to find a way to use every inch of a space to display one more work of art.

I first met Antonecchia during an arts festival art walk in North Charleston, SC, and at other crafts sales in the area. I remember us talking at one of the art sales taking place in the Earth Fare parking lot in the South Windermere Shopping Center in Charleston. We talked some about organizing potters in SC, a pet goal of mine and her desire to open a craft gallery in Charleston. And, last year she opened Surface Craft Gallery.

Just like you might have a hard time finding a gallery in Asheville, NC, that features paintings, a gallery featuring fine crafts in Charleston is a rare item. Charleston is a painter’s town.

Antonecchia was currently offering her first exhibition featuring sculptural works by Christine Kosiba, from Brevard, NC. This exhibit was an extra incentive to get to the gallery. Kosiba builds organically from coils of clay to create ravens, owls and horses to name a few. Some are free standing while others are perched as totems, wall hangings or on her clay built spheres. The exhibit will be on view through Mar. 1, 2015. You can read all about the exhibit on Page 20 of our Feb. 2015 issue of Carolina Arts found at (www.carolinaarts.com).

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Totem by Christine Kosiba

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Another work by Christine Kosiba

I took a few photos to kind of show the space, but you really have to be there a while to discover all that is on display. Items in ceramics, handblown & fused glass, book arts, paper, printmaking, jewelry and wood are offered. There’s more there than you would think at first glance. And, as usual I asked a lot of questions about how things are going, what kind of street traffic she got, what kind of items people were buying – all that shop talk stuff. It’s kind of boring if you’ve never run a gallery, but it’s the stuff gallery owners want to talk about. If you go there she’ll be more interested in telling you about her gifted artists.

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On this cold day after the big SEWE weekend there were not a lot of shoppers on the street coming in while I was there – except for a group of ladies who came in and wondered if the gallery owner might be willing to offers some items for an art auction fundraiser. They had a list of galleries they were going to hit up. Too bad they didn’t spend any time looking to see what the shop offered. This is a subject that would take many blog posts to cover and the right people who would need to read it would never see it. They are deaf, dumb, and blind to the needs of the visual art community.

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Here’s one close up of a couple of works by Luba Sharapan of Darn Pottery in Tennessee

If you are suffering due to the closure of Nina Liu & Friends, you might want to check out this relatively new craft gallery on John Street. The gallery offers some items that haven’t been seen in Charleston before – and that’s always a good thing.

My next goal was finding a parking space not too far from the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, located at 34 Prioleau Street, across from the Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park overlooking Charleston Harbor. My luck came in the small parking lot next to the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon at the corner of East Bay and Broad Streets – which also was right next to another building which was the last location we had in downtown Charleston – 132 East Bay Street. The newspaper’s office was there, people could drop off film for processing there and pick it up, and we ran a gallery there too – years ago.

I’ll tell you this, I know Charleston pretty well, but it’s changing fast and parts of it are shocking to me on how it has been over-developed. I first stepped foot in downtown Charleston in 1974 and you wouldn’t believe how the “most preserved city in America” has changed. Back then, locals cried about how much the city had changed and now I kind of feel that way too. Those old locals must be rolling over in their graves turning their backs on the city it is becoming. I wouldn’t be surprised if some have had their graves moved for further development.

It was less than a half a block from my parking space to the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. I walked in and used the facilities right away. You’ll find one of the nicest, cleanest restrooms in the city there. That’s important info to know when visiting Charleston – where the public restrooms are.

Drawing from the Lifeline, featuring mixed media work by Tyrone Geter, is on exhibit here through Mar. 1, 2015. That’s not very long from now so hurry and make plans to see this exhibition. The exhibit assembles a selection of new and recent work by Tyrone Geter curated by Frank McCauley, Chief Curator at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, in Sumter, SC. So, I guess now the City of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs is letting out of town curators organize exhibits for them. Well, that can’t be right – I don’t think anyone really knows how they select exhibits for this gallery space. I know I’ve never seen a public notice calling for proposals.

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I guess this might be the first work of the exhibit. You can read about Geter and the exhibit on the text panels

Geter has forged a unique artistic practice spanning multiple media platforms including drawing, painting, and sculpture. His ongoing series entitled “Purgatory Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues” is most often executed with the most basic and humble of mediums, charcoal on paper. You can read all about the exhibit and Geter on Page 16 of our Feb. 2015 issue of Carolina Arts found at (www.carolinaarts.com).

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Two larger than life works.

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Many of the works are very large and they fill up a large wall very fast.

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I added this image to show that on either side of the cube wall the lights were not on and I mentioned it to one of the people running the gallery, but nothing was done to turn them on while I was there.

I’ve seen a lot of exhibits at this gallery and I think, in fact I’m sure, this is the best single person exhibition I’ve seen here. There have been some great group shows, but this has to be the best one I’ve seen. Maybe I missed something better – my loss, but I’m glad I got to see this one.

Geter is very skilled at drawing but the title of the exhibit might fool you, a lot of the works have much more to them in making the final piece, but it’s his abilities at drawing that pulls each piece together. Some works are down right 3-Dimentional and a few are almost mini installations. But it’s the strong drawing that will always be the main focus.

And the people who are Geter’s subjects are some of the strongest characters where you know there is a heck of a story behind each one – sometimes suggested by the title – some with stories a lot of us hope we never have to tell, stories of hard work and hardships – stories of going without for the sake of others. And, stories of injustice.

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“So Many Gone” from the series “Living in the Light of Hell’s Shadow”.
Grandmother speak to me of wisdom.
Talk to me of courage and struggle.
Tell me the tales of freedom
and the quest for emancipation.
Tell me the stories of my people.

As a white person, you might begin to feel a little guilty – in fact I hope you do. I know I was and when I came across the only image of a white person or at least not a black person in the exhibit titled, I Saw Nothing, Heard Nothing, and Said Even Less, I was hoping I wasn’t looking at a portrait of me. I didn’t take a photo of it so you could see if it looked like you when you saw it.

In fact, it was nearly impossible to take decent photos of the exhibit as a whole. Most of all the works are behind plexiglass or glass and the way the lights are positioned and the fact and one whole wall of the gallery is all windows and doors – it’s a photographic nightmare. But I did manage a few shots.

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This image shows the terrible glare from the gallery lights and light coming in from the windows.

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Mayor Riley asked for one whole wall of the gallery to be glass so people at receptions could gaze out over Charleston’s Harbor view. Who cares what it does to the art on view in the gallery.

Between the time I saw this exhibit and while I was writing this blog entry, Tyrone Geter posted one of the works in the exhibit on his Facebook page titled, Black Face White Face. It’s a charcoal/pastel on torn paper work he did in 2015 in response to events taking place in Ferguson, MO. It was one of the images that I wondered if he had taken any photos of before the works were put behind glass or plexiglas so I could show them here. There was no way I was going to get a good shot of them in the gallery. And, he did have good photos of the works I requested – as all the images were that he sent us. That’s another reason his works ended up on the cover of our Feb. 2015 issue – because he had good high res images to send – on request. But, I’m getting distracted. I shared the photo he had posted on Facebook and commented that it was nice to see work being done by a SC artist that related to a current topic and made a statement that couldn’t be missed by anyone.

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“Black Face White Face”

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Detail of “Black Face White Face”

Geter makes beautiful, intense images that speak volumes to some people, make others think, and unfortunately leave some at a loss for what it’s all about. I’m not saying I could relate to 10 percent of what some of these images were saying and I’m glad I never had to, but it also makes me wish they didn’t have to either. And, today that gap between the haves and have nots is bigger than ever. And I feel that my family and I are slipping further down that trickle down economic pole. We’re still better off than many who are way down that pole below us.

We’ve shown mostly black and white images, but there was an interesting group of works done in charcoal/pastel (color) on black paper. It was amazing how the color bounced off that black paper – subtle and powerful at the same time.

I did manage to get acceptable photos of two works that seemed like mini installations to me. The drawings were enhanced with torn strips of paper giving a real 3-D effect and the two works were placed in deep enclosures which had drawings on the outside of what I’ll refer to as boxes. At the bottom the boxes where collected items of all sorts and the boxes had what looked like feet to me. One interesting item at the bottom of one of the boxes was an empty plastic bottle with the word “Hungry” on it. I guess there is nothing like being served from a bottle of Hungry, but I wouldn’t know – I’ve never known hunger. How about you – would you know what that tastes like?

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Here are the two boxed works

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A view of the drawings on the sides and some of the items at the bottom.

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Check out the jug or bottle of “Hungry” and the feet holding up the work.

This was a hard exhibit to digest, but I’m oh, so glad I got to see it, and I hope a lot more folks go see it. I hope this exhibition will be shown in other places in South Carolina or North Carolina.

Time is running out on this Charleston exhibition. Unfortunately we didn’t receive details about it until several weeks after it started. Run and don’t stop until you see it.

Oh, before I left Charleston I stopped by the Corrigan Gallery, at 62 Queen Street and chatted a bit with Lese Corrigan about the changing face of Charleston’s visual art community. There was a lot of good works of art to look at there too.

She has an exhibit coming up next month entitled, Female Cuts, on view from Mar. 5 – 30, 2015, featuring a showcase of primarily woodcuts by artists from then and now. A reception will be held on Mar. 6, from 5-8pm. The then will be represented by Charleston Renaissance artists Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Anna Heyward Taylor and now – Mary Walker, Kristi Ryba, Lese Corrigan with Corrie McCallum whose work is the bridge between the two time periods.

That title comes from a remark a SC State Representative recently said about women – “They are a lesser cut of meat”. I’m sure our Governor liked that statement coming from a member of her own party, or, does she just care about serving her party’s need for diversity?

Rhett Thurman of Charleston, SC, Among American Artists To Display Works in Paris – The Sylvan Gallery in Charleston will Offer a Preview at Thurman’s Studio and a Reception at the Gallery on Sept. 5, 2013

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Rhett Thurman is a long time supporter of our arts newspaper going back as far as being a supporter of our first paper, Charleston Arts. The Sylvan Gallery has been a long time supporter of Carolina Arts. That’s why I’m making an exception to the rule of only covering exhibits that take place in the Carolinas.

Thurman is also a mainstay of the Charleston visual art community in being a member of the “gang or four” including Thurman, Eva Carter, Margaret Petterson and Betty Anglin Smith – four great friends who were all leaders in Charleston’s second visual art renaissance.

Here’s a press release about the Paris Exhibition:

Ten artists, mostly from the Southern US, will present their work in the independent art exhibit, “Paris Welcomes American Artists” at the Atelier Z of the Centre Culturel Christiane Peugeot located in Paris, France. The exhibition, which features artists working in both the US and France, will be on view from Sept. 16 through Sept. 21, 2013. A reception is scheduled for Sept. 19 from 6 to 9pm.

“Paris Welcomes American Artists” will include dozens of installations reflecting the artists’ interpretation of Paris and France in an array of artistic styles and in mediums including painting, drawing and sculpture.

Artists displaying their work include Robert Calcagno, Lane Duncan, Kim English, Paige Harvey, Wayland Moore, Suzita George, Serge Ruffato, Jill Steenhuis, James Sutherland and Rhett Thurman. Most of the artists are from the South: Duncan, Harvey, Moore and Sutherland are Atlanta, GA-area residents. George, a world traveller, currently resides in Madison, GA, and Thurman lives in Charleston, SC. The American West is represented as well – English is from Evergreen, CO. The French influence will also be strong: Calcagno divides his time between Jasper, GA, and France; Atlanta native Steenhuis has resided in Provence since 1978 with her French husband and sculptor, Serge Rufatto, near Aix-en-Provence.

The exhibition is a result of collaborative discussion between Druid Hills resident Dr. James Sutherland, Atlanta resident May Spangler, gallery owner Madame Christiane Peugeot and Isabelle Zebourian, director of the Atelier Z.

“Everyone is thrilled to be going to Paris – it is a city of magnificent beauty and history,” said Dr. Sutherland. “France is a  Mecca of the art world and the birthplace of Impressionism, which has influenced so many artists over the years. I felt that if I did not act on this opportunity, I would regret it.”

The exhibition has been developed with Dr. Sutherland’s organizational lead, along with the generosity of the Atelier Z of the Centre Culturel Christine Peugeot. The address of the gallery is 62 Ave. De La Grande Armee, Paris. The artworks will be on display from 2 to 7pm daily.

The Atelier Z was founded in 1991 by Christiane Peugeot, in honor of the painter Zévaco, Peugeot’s friend. Located in Paris, near the Arc de Triomphe, it is open to, and hosts, all forms of art and culture, promoting artists of all ages. Each year Atelier Z offers 20 exhibitions promoting international contemporary art events, allowing artists to participate in a contemporary art contest. For more information please visit (www.atelier-z.org).

Together through the determined inspiration of Dr. James Sutherland and the generous hospitality of the Atelier Z, “Paris Welcomes American Artists” has been developed to provide artists the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present their work in the city that has impacted art and painting throughout the world.

For more information, visit (www.pariswelcomesamericanartists.com).

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Rhett Thurman offered some comments about this exhibit, “I have painted in France many times, and taught a workshop in Amboise. For me, the experience is a combination of the light, and painting on hallowed ground – i.e. where the masters painted.

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“The last time I painted in France we were in the St. Remy area. I was painting in the middle of a lavender field, which was not only incredibly fragrant, but was also HUMMING, it was so full of bees. I turned to Harry and said, “I don’t even CARE if this painting works. I’m painting in the middle of a lavender field in Provence!” I could tell from the look on Mr. Left Brained Business Man’s face that he was not COMPLETELY in sync with that line of reasoning!”

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“Finally, I must say, that although I am after light and what it does to color, the subject matter that intrigues me (and most of us) has become a cliche. (The same things intrigued the masters – lavender fields, sidewalk cafes, etc.)  So the feat becomes taking this tired old subject matter (in this extraordinary light) and putting your own individual, unique spin on it – your own fresh eye. One of the greatest compliments a friend once gave me  is, ‘Rhett’s work has her DNA’, adds Thurman.

On Sept. 5, 2013, The Sylvan Gallery will be hosting a preview and sale of Rhett Thurman’s “American Artists in Paris” collection from 5:30-7:30pm.

The event starts at Thurman’s Studio at 241 King Street in downtown Charleston, from 5-6pm and a reception follows at The Sylvan Gallery, at 171 King Street (just a short walk down King Street) from 6-8pm.

For further info call The Sylvan Gallery at 843/722-2172.

A Trip to the Charleston Center for Photography in Charleston, SC, for Kevin Parent’s Lecture on Pinhole Photography

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

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On Monday, March 11, 2013, Linda and I went down the road to Charleston, SC, to attend a lecture on pinhole photography by Kevin Parent at the Charleston Center for Photography at 654 King Street for their 2nd Monday Lecture Series. It’s free and open to the public and unknown to us they hand out tickets and hold a raffle for photography swag after the lecture, but no one was there for the swag.

Wikipedia describes a pinhole camera as: A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture (a pin hole in the box) – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box (w/film or photo paper inside). The human eye in bright light acts similarly, as do cameras using small apertures.

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They had a pretty big crowd there, bigger than I expected, bigger than most lectures I’ve attended at some bigger institutions. Photography by nature is a loner sport, but photographers are also very social when it comes to talking about photography.

Why were we there? Good question. Did Linda or I have interest in taking up pinhole photography? Was it because of our standing in the Charleston photography community? We came for support of the speaker.

I’ve known Parent since the days when I delivered our printed paper to Carolina Fine Paintings & Prints on King Street, where he had a job as a framer – back in the day. Our connection was that we were old schoolers – as far as photography goes. But at that time Linda and I were well out of photography. Not many people in Charleston today know our photography background – we have no standing. I’ve run into Parent at photography exhibits and shared photography related info on Facebook. He’s active – we’re not. We now have an arts newspaper or it has us.

I’m reminded of how removed we are from photography as I reach down to the bottom drawer of my desk and pull out a roll of Ilford FP4 120 film with an expiration date of June 1990 and I no longer have a camera that uses 120 film – haven’t for almost 30 years. In that drawer is also the last “real” camera I own – a Nikon Nikkormat EL – which has a good layer of dust on it. There is also a roll of Kodachrome 64 with a date of 1999 that I’m holding for singer Paul Simon. I also have a drawer of about a half dozen digital cameras – one that stores the images on a floppy disk.

But, way back in the day – before our lives as publishers of an arts newspaper, Linda and I ran a custom black and white photo processing lab – IF Labs – the best in Charleston at the time, if I say so myself. Linda was a master printer and I was a wiz with film developing. But today, there are no signs of chemical stains on our fingers.

So we went to this lecture to support a fellow old schooler who is still doing it – the real old fashioned way. And, I don’t just give credit to anyone who boast that they are “special” because they are using film and photo paper processed in a darkroom. I’ve got no problem with digital photography, but I still judge all photography by the final product. I really don’t care how the photographer gets there – the image is still the thing. And there are still a lot of bad photographer out there, along with a lot of skilled technicians who are making ho hum images. Parent isn’t one of them. I don’t like all his images, but after last night’s lecture I respect all those – so much more – that speak to me, after learning how much he’s flying by the seat of his pants in capturing his images. Hey, here’s a news flash – this isn’t just a problem for photography. The art world is full of artists who are not yet at the top of their game. Some might get there some day – some never will.

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Kevin Parent with some of his pinhole cameras

Throw in the fact that Parent makes his own cameras and you really wonder why someone still puts themselves through this old school process, but Parent explained all that in his presentation. It’s an emotional thing for him. And, you can’t beat the cost of the camera – which he makes out of just about anything.

He did say one thing that I had to differ with. It’s not that I disagree with what he said, I just see it differently. At one point he said that pinhole photography is the only way to stop nature and capture it in an image. You can’t do it with a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, but I think he was referring to the fact that pinhole photography slows the photographer down, due to the nature that you have only a few shots and without a viewfinder to actually see what you are trying to capture – you really have to slow down and think about what you’re doing or trying to do. Where with today’s digital cameras you can just shoot away hoping you get something from volume – as you’re not burning up expensive film anymore. And, you can just delete what you don’t want – on the spot and shoot again and again or slip another memory disk into the camera. That might work in sports photography.

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I think the technology of stop-action and high speed photography has really stopped nature – giving us a chance to see the unseeable with our human eyes. Think tiny tree frog in the Amazon jumping from one leaf to another and the camera catching it in mid-jump. Now that’s stopping nature. I prefer to think that what he meant was that pinhole photography stops nature – in motion – due to the long exposures (time the pinhole is uncovered). And, it’s a good thing that it slows the photographer down and makes them think about what they are doing. Slowing our lives down gives us a better view of nature or something like that. Let’s all break into small groups and discuss that.

Of course I had the advantage of a hour and a half ride home to come up with that and I wasn’t standing in front of an audience. It’s a point the two of us could talk about for hours and I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time I missed the point – as Linda tells me often enough.

But, that’s the value of going to an artist’s lecture. You get to hear what they are trying to do, what’s in their head and how they feel about the work they produce. It’s a lot better than standing in front of an image and just trying to figure things out or reading a page or two about what the artist meant to do in presenting their image. Or, the artist who says it’s all up to the individual viewer – it’s what it means to the viewer – that’s all they care about. That’s true, but that’s just as bad as the people trying to figure out what the Beatles meant by every word they wrote – even playing songs backwards to find the “true” meaning of their songs. I prefer William Halsey’s (one of Charleston’s best artists) answer when asked by viewers what he meant by his paintings – “What does it mean?” – “it means I finished!” But, it’s not that simple either. A lecture gets you a little closer to your understanding if the artists was successful in their goals – if they had any to begin with. It’s one more step in the process of understanding. Or you could just go with the process of deciding if you just like something or not. Oh my head is beginning to hurt. Art speak will get you every time.

The Charleston Center for Photography will have a small exhibit of Parent’s works up on view through the end of the month. You can also see his work at the Corrigan Gallery on Queen Street in downtown Charleston and on his website at (www.kevinbruceparent.com).

Parent will also conduct a workshop on pinhole photography later this month. For info call the Charleston Center for Photography at 843/720-3105.

The next 2nd Monday Lecture Series will take place at 7pm on April 8, 2013, and be presented by Stephanie Coakley. Check the Center for details.

Timing Is Everything In The Life Of An Art Viewer – A Trip To Charleston, SC

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

A week or so ago, Linda, my better half, asked me at the end of a totally unrelated conversation, “Are we going Friday?”. I asked in return if she wanted to go to some Pearl Harbor memorial, being the smart-aleck that I am – knowing she was talking about Friday Dec. 7th – which would also be the first Friday in December. That would also be the date of the mega art walk in downtown Charleston, SC, with both the First Friday on Broad and the French Quarter Gallery Association’s art walks taking place. The December art walk in Charleston is the best as it is actually dark during the walk and a good bit of the area would be in full Christmas decor. You see, that Friday would be the rare occasion when Linda would not be working and it was a first Friday. The fact that she could just ask, “Are we going Friday” and I knew exactly what she was asking is the sign of a old married couple and that I spend most of my time each month working on our calendar listings and I was fully aware that it was going to be one of those special first Friday opportunities.

In the course of working on those gallery listings I knew there were going to be some interesting shows to see that Friday. Karin Olah, one of our favorite abstract artist was returning to Charleston, from wintery Colorado, for an exhibit at Corrigan Gallery. That was a must see. Karen Vournakis, a mixed media/photographer was having an exhibit at a new gallery in town, the Atrium Art Gallery, across the street from Corrigan Gallery on Queen Street. We have not seen her work in a gallery in some time. Mickey Williams was having an exhibit at Ella Walton Richardson Fine Art Galleryand there was always Nina Liu & Friends (843/722-2724). As things turned out – the day before the art walk we learned that Smith Killian Fine Art would be showing an exhibit of works by Trip Smith – the photographer in the talented Smith Family clan of artists. And, as usual, as the days wound down to that Friday, other tasks popped up making our trip to Charleston a narrow window of opportunity – making another quick in and out visit. And as usual we spent more time in the car coming and going than we did in galleries in Charleston. My apologies go out to those galleries that with more time and energy we would have liked to visit, but didn’t get to. The major victims here were the Mickey Williams’ show and Hamlet Fine Art Gallery – Stephanie we’ll have to talk (perhaps on the phone). Plus, I always end up talking too much at each place as we run into folks we haven’t seen in awhile. But we got to four galleries and one of them twice.

Our first stop as usual is always Nina Liu & Friends gallery as we never know when it will be the last time to go there and I seem to always be able to find a parking space on her street (State Street) if we can get downtown before 5pm. We arrived on State Street and found a spot at 4:59pm.

As I titled this blog entry – timing is everything. We were the first to arrive at Nina Liu & Friends gallery and as it turned out so had a shipment of Aggie Zed’s small animal/human figures – just that afternoon. So we were lucky to get Nina Liu to set one aside for us. I don’t know why it has taken us all these years to add a Zed to our collection, but we were very lucky. Liu said about a half-dozen had already sold between the time they had arrived and we walked in the door to folks who have been waiting for that shipment. They’re still priced right too. I’m not going into the saga of Liu trying to sell her gallery/home, but the prime location is for sale. But I’ve got to say, she had more work in the gallery for sale than I’ve seen in a while.

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Work by Jeri Burdick

The gallery is showing an exhibit of Lowcountry landscapes by Katrina Schmidt-Rinke through December. But, there are lots of other things to see there. I took a few photos of a great wall piece by Jeri Burdick, who is doing something different every time I see her work. She has to be the most creative artist I know in South Carolina – no moss is growing on her talent. I also took a few photos of a multi-media piece by Cynthia Tollefsrud – not a Carolina artist, but one of the few outsiders in our collection. Her work is that good.

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Front of work by Cynthia Tollefsrud

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Inside view.

While at her gallery Liu told me about a fundraiser using art that was a win win situation. She knows I’m no fan of the over used practice of non-profits raising fund by having art auctions. I hope to have more details on this issue soon. It sounded good, but from what I heard it wasn’t 100% good, but closer than most events come to being ideal.

Next we walked across the street to Smith Killian Fine Art to see that photography show by Trip Smith. Some of you know our history in photography in Charleston – running a custom photo processing lab for 16 years and a photography art gallery. We seem a million miles from it now, but photography played a big part in our lives, so as I walked into the gallery and ran into Betty Anglin Smith, I announced I was here to see the real art in this gallery. Which was a little joke everyone enjoyed as they know we are big fans of the talented Smith clan – including Betty and the other two-thirds of the triplets Jennifer Smith Rogers and Shannon Smith, but we never get to see much of Trip’s work. Tonight was his night – finally – another joke.

Of course we started, or should I say I started talking photography with a few photographers there and time was slipping away. Things have changed in Charleston – which still has a long way to go in giving fine art photography its due respect. Photography was being shown in all four galleries we visited that evening (highlighted in two) and it is on view all over Charleston when just a decade or so ago that was not the case. But photography is still a step-child in South Carolina – things are much better in North Carolina, but the buying public still just doesn’t seem to give it the respect it deserves. Go see this show.

Now, stepping down off the soapbox, I want to tell you of another rare observation at Smith Killian Fine Art. If you are a fan of the Smith clan’s work, but feel the works are normally priced out of your pocket-book range – the gallery was full of small works with small prices on them. In fact there was on group of works on paper that were priced at only $800. Here I am talking like my son when he says something he likes and wants is only $100 or $200 – as if all I have to do is go to the backyard and pick a few bills off our money tree, but in respects to these artist’s works which are always in high demand – $800 is an opportunity for someone to get an original Betty, Shannon or Jennifer piece. I’ve included an image of one of Betty’s works. Excuse the reflections from the glass – as always art looks so much better in person.

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Work by Betty Anglin Smith

Linda had to point out to me one of Betty’s abstracts – as if I wasn’t going to notice it – that just happened to be in her favorite colors – purple. In another corner of the gallery we found one that I liked ever better. I told her we’d stop and buy some lottery tickets on the way home. As someone introduced us on this evening as having Carolina Arts, I corrected them and said Carolina Arts has us. But we can still like things and dream – can’t we.

I’ve developed expensive tastes, but with nothing to back it up, but I’m not mad when others who can are able to and do purchase things I would – if I could. It just shows me I’d know what to do with money if I had it – in case anyone is listening. Remember that old TV show the Millionaire? Mr. Buffet if you’re reading this – just saying.

Next stop was down Queen Street to see the show at Corrigan Gallery. Here was another example of good timing. Since Karin Olah has left Charleston for the wilds of Colorado I’ve managed to be in Charleston at the same time and run into her twice. Once was an unexpected meeting during a Colin Quashie exhibit at Redux Contemporary Arts Center and the planets aligned for this show. I’ve always loved her work from the moment I first saw some and I’m never disappointed. Karin and I had many a good discussion about art when she was managing the Eva Carter Gallery. A lot of the works in this show were smaller than I’m used to seeing, but that’s a good thing as they were priced to match the size – another good opportunity for anyone looking to add an Olah to their collection or start a collection. I took a photo of my favorite.

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Work by Karin Olah

I got a chance to tell Olah to stop posting those outrageous photos on Facebook of the deplorable landscape in Colorado. If I hadn’t been there before I’d think most of them were Photoshoped. These people that go west have no right to shove those kind of images in our face on Facebook.  It’s just not the Lowcountry thing to do – showing off your environment. That goes for you too – Susan Mayfield (West).

There are lots of other great things to see and buy at Corrigan Gallery – including photography. Of course you better get there fast in case my ship comes in during the next lottery drawing.

Time was slipping by and we ran across the street to the new Atrium Art Gallery to see Karen Vournakis’ exhibit Working Charleston Plantations, on view through Feb. 28, 2013. Vournakis is another photographer who began old school, so our discussion soon moved to how fast digital photography has taken over. It wasn’t that long ago that she made her prints in a darkroom and hand-colored them and today she’s all digital – except for still making images on film. We old timers used to claim we’d never go to the dark side of the force, but you can’t hold back when the new kid on the block is better – much better and easier than the old ways. Believe me, from spending years in darkrooms – there’s nothing glamorous about it. It’s like working in a toxic landfill and it’s dark.

The gallery was a nice new addition to Charleston’s gallery scene and was full of local artists I did not know – except Vournakis. It was nice to see her work hanging in a gallery in Charleston again. Go check out this show and the gallery.

In the last week I’ve had conversations with a few gallery owners who were asking if I knew of anywhere art was selling. These folks were from different parts of the Carolinas and I had to tell them that I didn’t know for sure, but I had my own barometer on that subject. No big galleries in Charleston have closed and it seems new ones were popping up all over – some I hadn’t even seen yet. After visiting just four galleries during the art walk I think Charleston is selling art – they were that evening. There was a time when they were not and other areas were, but I think that trend has changed, but there are a lot of galleries in Charleston – more than anywhere else in the Carolinas, so four is not a great sample.

On the way back to the car we popped back into Smith Killian Fine Art – just to make sure we weren’t dreaming and they really did have photography featured – just kidding. The crowd seemed to be getting larger and as soon as we pulled out of our parking space someone was right there to take it.

On the drive back home when I tend to run the evening’s events over in my cluttered mind I realized that I didn’t take one photo of any of the photography on exhibit. I guess as an old photographer I just have a deep rooted thing about copying other photographer’s work. And when I think about it I don’t think I’ve ever taken photos of photography on view in a gallery. I’m not doing them any good by not showing their work, but I’m going to have to think about that some. I’m not really doing justice to the other art I take photos of either, so I’m going to work that out, but the main point of any of these blog postings is to get you to go see the art in the galleries. So go do that.

Oh, I almost forgot. Karin, I finally noticed that thing you do with your signature. Boy that took a while.

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

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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

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“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 (www.gibbesmuseum.org/events), or by calling 843/722-2706 ext 21.

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“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

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

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“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 (www.googleartproject.com).