Posts Tagged ‘Aggie Zed’

Finally a Trip to See Aggie Zed’s Exhibit at The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, SC

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

One of the cruelest things in life is that we don’t get to do everything we want and sometimes even when we do get to do something – it’s too late.

In this instance, I’m lucky I got a chance to see this exhibit at all, but it was too late to do so and encourage others to do so, as the exhibit ends on Saturday, Mar. 10, 2012. Of course we did feature this exhibit on our Jan. 2012 cover of Carolina Arts. I guess that’s something.

But, if you can, I’d advise anyone who likes what they see here in this posting, to try and go to The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts in Charleston, SC, to see Aggie Zed: Keeper’s Keep, featuring new works by Virginia-based artist Aggie Zed. I’m sorry about the short notice, but I think this exhibit may be coming to a facility in North Carolina, but I have no details at this time.

Aggie Zed was born in Charleston and raised on Sullivan’s Island, SC. So, like Jasper Johns who was once from Edisto Beach, SC, we can claim her as one of ours. But, for anyone who has been a regular visitor to Nina Liu & Friends Gallery in Charleston, Zed’s paintings and sculptures are old familiar friends. Some of her human/animal creatures have been featured in one of the gallery’s windows for 20 years or more. Of course not the same figures – they never lasted that long before someone was taking them home and they would be replaced by others – stranger than the last.

Once a Little Church, 2006

Who Will Keep the Keepers Themselves?, 2009

I hate to admit it but I have never been a real fan of Zed’s paintings. That’s just me, but it’s why I’ve concentrated on the sculptures and installations of the sculptural figures I could photograph – some were under Plexiglas. I know there are tons of folks who love her paintings as much as her figures/creatures. Some probably love them even more than the sculptures. People have different likes. I fell for the creatures – the weirder the better. Again, that’s just me.

Elephants Observer, (installation), 2009

Elephants Observer, (detail)

Elephants Observer, (detail)

I haven’t seen anything like Zed’s installations since the Sticks and Stones exhibit offered at the Old Slave Mart building during a Piccolo Spoleto Festival – way back when, put on by LOCUS Contemporary Arts Center. If anyone remembers that exhibit, they’ll know what I’m talking about.

Study for Debris Field, 2011

Brainchild, 2009

Feathers or ‘The Early Clone Gets the Contract’, 2005

Red in Fashion, 2009

There’s no time to go on about Zed’s works at this point, so I’ll let the images do the talking. You can see more images and a video about Zed at this link (

The exhibit will be on view Friday, Mar, 9 and Saturday, Mar. 10, from 11am-4pm. There’s plenty of parking by the gallery as the College of Charleston is on Spring break.

For further info call 843/953-4422 or visit (

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

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that note – I was out of there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

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

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

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

Fading #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View of gallery*

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

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

View of gallery space*

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

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

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

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

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

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


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My Magical Mystery Tour of Visual Arts

Monday, June 9th, 2008

On Saturday, June 7, 2008, I headed to Charleston, SC, on one of the last days of the Spoleto/Piccolo Festivals to see as much of the visual art exhibits as I2 could before some closed. This was my one window of opportunity. After this day it was on to the July 08 issue. That’s the way it always is with us – Carolina Arts. By the time we have finished our May ’08 issue the Festivals haven’t even started. By the time the Festivals do start we’ve finished the June ’08 issue and are delivering it throughout the Carolinas. When I’m finished with my 2,000 mile trek – at best, there are a few days left to see exhibitions which end with the Festivals. So it’s a mad dash.

Let me correct that statement. There’s no use mentioning the Spoleto Festival USA – they don’t offer any visual art exhibits – anymore. They did a long, long time ago, but not lately. So we’re talking about Piccolo Spoleto Festival shows and exhibits taking place during that time.

First stop, Charleston Artist Guild Gallery at 6 North Atlantic Wharf, which is near the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, another destination of the day. While I was still delivering papers in Charleston on June 4, one of the Guild’s former Presidents told me to check out their Painted Palettes at Piccolo show. I understood it was on view till Saturday, but I must have been mistaken. That show ended Thursday. If I had only checked my car copy of Carolina Arts, like others do before starting an art trek – I would have known that ahead of time. Don’t leave home without it!

I was shown a few works that had not been picked up by the artists or by people who had purchased some of the creations during the exhibit. It was nice to see that this wasn’t one of those shows where artists were given all the same shaped items to decorate. Just in the few I saw, you could see that some artists were thinking outside the box in putting their own creative touch on the theme of the exhibit. So I was on to the City Gallery at Waterfront Park which is at 34 Prioleau Street – less than fifty steps from the Guild’s Gallery.

The Vanishing Landscapes exhibition was the Piccolo Spoleto Festival’s 24th Annual Juried Art Exhibition, on view through Aug. 8, 2008. This is not the ending date given to us by the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs – who operates the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. That’s why in Carolina Arts our May and June issues say the ending date is June 7, 2008. This is pretty typical of the info we receive from – whomever the new intern is each year – way back in April – before our deadline to print the May issue. Our July issue will have the correction, but as I’ve always said in the past – change is what Piccolo Spoleto is all about when it comes to the visual art offerings. Some years we had to promote exhibits where the location was still TBA at printing time. Other times new exhibits show up in the final copy of the official program – exhibits we never received notice of for our publication.

I picked up one of the exhibit catalogs upon entering the building and started looking at the works. Within ten minutes I was beginning to wonder if this was supposed to be a photography exhibition – there was a lot there and I also was wondering about how environmentally connected many of the works in the exhibit were – beyond being photographs taken of nature and an artist working the word “recycled” into the medium offered on the exhibit tag.

It ended up that photography in some form or another represented just under a third of the entire exhibit and that not many of the works in the exhibit would be sending viewers rushing out to change their habits – as far as wasting our environment away.

A photograph of a heron in the marsh is not an image of our vanishing landscape – at least not yet. It could be soon. Look – all our landscapes as we know them are going to vanish eventually – no matter how much conservation we do. I expected more images of what is responsible for the loss of landscapes now. Like an image of a heron floundering in an oil slick with an oil rig off the coast in the distance. I don’t think the Coastal Conservation League, co-sponsors of this exhibit, exactly got the exhibit they might have hoped for.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. There was nothing wrong with the artworks in the exhibit – there was some exceptional work there. And, I have nothing against photography. My background is in photography. I had a photography-only gallery in Charleston in the mid-’80s, but I was also the president of the local Sierra Club and an officer in the SC State chapter of the Sierra Club. Linda (my fair wife) and I did their newspaper before starting up our first arts newspaper. I’m very concerned about our environment and our landscape, but I just didn’t see a lot of imagery which should have made the cut into this exhibit.

It says in the exhibit catalog that 146 artists submitted work for the exhibition. Each artist could have submitted up to three works. There could have been 438 works submitted. I don’t know how many were submitted – it doesn’t say in the catalog, but only 65 were included in the exhibit. Many have little to do with a vanishing landscape other than words in a title. And, that’s too bad.

It’s still a good exhibit, worth seeing, that has a lot of good work and some great examples of the exhibition’s theme. So go see it and see what you think.

So what was the problem?

Well for one thing, contrary to what the written words in the exhibit catalog would lead you to believe, this was not the original exhibit planned for the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Ellen Dressler Moryl, Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs had planned some sort of exhibit of Cuban works which fell through and the Vanishing Landscapes exhibit was plan B. The only problem was, she still wanted her friend, Dr. Mokhless Al-Hariri to curate this exhibit. It is my opinion that a better, more environmentally oriented curator could have attracted better entries and selected better works to be in the exhibit. Or at least made the exhibit smaller if good works fitting the theme were not submitted. As is, many works in the exhibit dilute the exhibit’s intent.

The exhibit’s Best of Show winner, an oil painting by Carol McGill entitled Scorched Earth, is a good example of this dilution and I’m sure it made the co-organizers cringe. This same work entered in another juried show might have been titled, Colorful Sunset.

Titles don’t make works an environmental work or an example of vanishing landscapes.

Another example is the work, Under the Oaks, an oil on canvas painting by Sally Hughes Smith. I like the image as a stand alone work, but as an example of vanishing landscapes – no. How many large oaks are we losing that are not victims of natural aging? We have laws about cutting trees this size in the Lowcountry. Of course it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. But is it a current threat? Are our oak trees on the verge of vanishing? Maybe underwater if we don’t change our habits fast.

A few good examples are: Monique Morales-Kroll’s digital photograph, Really, Lilies Have No Need For a Couch, which shows a sofa floating in a pond; Katy Perrin’s digital photograph, Recycle, which shows a mountain of compressed plastic bottles; or Karen A. Silvestro’s oil on canvas, Loss and Bloom, which shows a young woman with her head leaning on a large tree’s stump. In her hand is a new seedling. In the background is a forest of tree stumps.

One last thing about this exhibit. I found it strange that in the catalog there is no mention of where these artists are from. I know many are from the Lowcountry, but there was also a rumor going around that some artists were having their works placed in the exhibit by invitation. Rumors are rumors but this same rumor surfaced in another “juried” Piccolo Spoleto show Dr. Al-Hariri handled for the Office of Cultural Affairs. Could this be a reason for not mentioning where the artists are from or was it just an oversight? Who knows. But, it’s not a true juried show if some are being placed automatically.

But again, this is not a reason to not go see the exhibit and enjoy the works as they are. It’s just another opportunity lost in Charleston’s visual art soap opera.

While I was in the neighborhood – I was parked in front of the gallery – I poked my head into the Eva Carter Gallery, at 132 East Bay Street, as I can never get enough of the late, but great, William Halsey’s work and that of Eva Carter’s. After all I am an abstract kind of guy.

Next, I drove over to Nina Liu and Friends gallery at 24 State Street, to get a look at what was left of Aggie Zed’s exhibit, Bestiary. I can’t say this artist’s drawings speak to me but I can never get enough of Zed’s small human/animal sculptures and contraptions.

I then walked down (going South) Queen Street to the Corrigan Gallery at 62 Queen Street to see the exhibit, Celebration, featuring works by Richard Hagerty. This was one of several Piccolo Spoleto Invitational Exhibitions.

I know, I know, I know! In my travels from East Bay Street to Queen Street I was passing lots of other art galleries within an arms reach at times. My mission for the day was to see the Piccolo Spoleto Festival’s visual art offerings and a few things that would be gone by the time I would get back to Charleston next month. Damn me if you will, but there are just so many hours and too little me to get around. And, it’s been a tradition for me to talk about the Festival visual art offerings. At least those I get to see.

Anyway, Hagerty’s work is well known to Charleston’s visual art audience – he has been featured at Piccolo Spoleto several times, but this show was highly promoted so I didn’t want to miss seeing it. I had also promised an artist I would drop off a few exhibit catalogs there from the SC State Museum’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition, taking place in Columbia, SC. (See several blog entries here about this exhibit.) With gas near $4 a gallon, I’m going to make the best of all my travels these days.

Hagerty definitely has more vivid dreams and imagination than most people. His work is colorful and fanciful. His style is noticeable on first sight in any grouping of artworks – if you’re familiar with his work, but I saw – at least new to me – geometric works which I found interesting. By all the red dots (symbols of sold works) it looked as if a lot of other people found Hagerty’s work interesting too. This was an advantage for him – having his show in a commercial gallery. If this show had been in one of Charleston’s institutional exhibit spaces some people would have never considered that the works would be for sale. Yet, many times they can be purchased. Good thing for him and the gallery the City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre was closed for renovations.

It would be nice if more commercial gallery shows were sanctioned as official Piccolo exhibitions. But then how do you choose and be fair to all?

Next I was off to the Charleston County Public Library at 68 Calhoun Street to return some books on CD – from my nightly travels delivering the paper and to see the exhibit, Intuitive Responses, by members of the Women’s Caucus for Art at the Saul Alexander Gallery – on view through June 30, 2008. This was their second exhibit (during Piccolo?). I don’t remember the first, but this was a really nice exhibit for the small gallery space.

I think many artists in the Charleston area overlook the library’s exhibit space, which is a shame. I think it gets a lot of exposure from library visitors – more than some bigger, more established exhibit spaces.

I want to list the names of the women participating in the exhibit. We didn’t have their names when we were sent info about the exhibit for the paper. They are: L. Jaye Bell, Sandra Brett, Betsey Carter, Leigh Ann Davis, Stephanie Drawdy, Rachel Herbsman, Tina Hirsig, Kate Landishaw, Laura Liberatore Szweda, and Sandy Tedesco. This might have been one of the better surprise exhibits of Piccolo. It didn’t get any press, but then not much of any of the visual art exhibits got much press, other than one or two – which seemed to get it all.

From the library I moved down Calhoun Street to the Addlestone Library (205 Calhoun Street) at the College of Charleston to see the exhibit, Richard McMahan’s MINI Museum, another Piccolo Spoleto Invitational exhibition, presented in the Sanders Rotunda. The exhibit was organized by Mark Sloan, Director of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the college. This exhibit is also on view through June 30, 2008. Make sure you see it.

For 18 years, Richard McMahan, a savant living in Florida, has been creating his own personal museum collection featuring miniature replicas of the world’s greatest works of art from the collections of the world’s top art museums. It’s an amazing sight to see and wonder how someone could spend so much time working on this project featuring over 1,100 works – from modern installation works to Egyptian artifacts. Students with the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston added much to the success of this exhibit by designing and constructing a structure to house and present these mini reproductions of art. Magnifying glasses are provided.

It kind of reminded me of a flea circus of the arts. “Step right up – for just five cents you can watch fleas reproduce the greatest artworks known to man.”

From this library I ventured over to the Redux Contemporary Art Center at 136 St. Philip Street to see, The Constructed Image, featuring works by five American photographers who challenge the concept of truth – as documented by the medium of photography. Photos don’t lie – right?

I ran into a snag here. There was a note on the door announcing – “out to lunch – be right back.” I was beginning to run out of time and this was the last day of this exhibit.

I went back to the College of Charleston to see the exhibit, Calin Dan, at the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art, but this space was already closed for the day. The exhibit is up through June 20, 2008, but I doubt I’ll get to see it. Deadlines!

I went over to Marion Square, at the intersection of Calhoun, Meetings and King Streets to visit the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibit 2008, for the third time. I took some pictures and talked to a few artists. Considering how bad things could have been this year for this show – it seems things went all right. Not great, but all right. There were a lot of artists there with works that caught my attention. New artists from the Lowcountry and new artists from around South Carolina. Even artists all the way from the Upstate – Greenville and Seneca. Slowly this show has gotten more diverse – offering anyone something that fits their taste in art. This show is also a great place for me to get a sounding of how the visual art community is doing and what the artists are up to – from year to year. It’s interesting watching the growth of some artists, seeing how some can still surprise you, and catching up on gossip. There’s lots of gossip to be had.

This show is the “Iron-man/woman” event of the visual arts. Imagine spending the span of three weekends – outside in Charleston’s weather – sometime good – sometimes brutal. There are good crowds on the weekends but the middle of the week can be like being stuck on a ship with Ulysses during the doldrums. An artist can begin to wonder if they will ever make another sale, and then they see that familiar face walking their way – a return customer. And, life is good again. They have the wind in their face once more.

For me, a visit to this show can be torture. Linda and I have a great collection of art, but my eye – it feels I’m shortchanging it. It sees things it wants – things it covets. My eye has seen works made by some of these artists and it remembers – I have to walk away in shame. I spend a lot of time convincing my eye – someday – someday things will be different. Someday, you will not just look. But this is a burden I carry everywhere I go. It’s a curse – it’s the eyes are too big for your wallet syndrome.

Back at Redux, the door was open this time for The Constructed Image, featuring works by Luis Gispert, Daniel Gordon, Lori Nix, Chris Scarborough, and Nathan Baker. Talk about being the last hour of the last day – this was the last 15 minutes, but they kept the doors open a little longer. I’m glad they did.

That old saying – photos don’t lie – well, maybe to most people who don’t know anything about photography, but to the people who know – photographs have been lying since the beginning of the camera’s invention. Just like many painters take liberties with their subjects – so have some photographers. Imagine Matthew Brady dragging dead bodies of soldiers from a Civil War battle to make the scene look better for the photograph. It happened.

In this case, some of the photographers constructed the entire image to be photographed – controlling every small detail of the image, where others used modern technology to manipulate the image – after the fact. If you’re good at it – the average viewer will never know – left to wonder how the photographer was so lucky to catch such an image. Isn’t that what cameras do – capture images in a moment of time?

I hope a lot of people managed to see this exhibit – I was glad I did – just in the nick of time. I understand the exhibit got some national attention in Wired magazine which drew some people to Charleston to see this exhibit. How nice that they had the bonus of the Spoleto and Piccolo Festivals too.

That was it – that’s all I could see in my short window of opportunity.

One final thought. It’s a shame that with Charleston being the destination of the most art savvy audience to visit South Carolina each year that more people in the visual arts community around the state don’t take advantage of this audience. It’s a challenge with limited formal exhibition space, but it would be the best time and location for a sampler exhibition of the state’s best artists. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have transported the SC State Museum’s juried exhibition to Charleston during the festivals. Now that would have been a wonderful opportunity for the artists and festival visitors alike.

I’ve always thought that Charleston would be the perfect location for a state art museum. Just thinking out loud.


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