Archive for the 'Events' Category

Distinguished Lecture Presents Tod Williams and Billie Tsien

 

Tod Williams and BillieTsien by JasonSmith

Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien photographed at the building they designed, the University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts, on September 19, 2012. (Photo by Jason Smith)

On Wednesday, November 19 the Distinguished Lecture Series will present New York based and internationally acclaimed architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, whose design of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia is critically acclaimed. Williams and Tsien were recently awarded the National Medal of Arts, which recognized their contributions to architecture and arts education. “Whether public or private, their deliberate and inspired designs have a profound effect on the lives of those who interact with them, and their teaching and spirit of service have inspired young people to pursue their passions,” said President Obama.

Barnes Foundation

Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, designed by Williams and Tsien.

Founded with the generous support of Gibbes Board member and philanthropist Esther Ferguson, The Distinguished Lecture Series brings outstanding, world-renowned artists, architects, art collectors, museum leaders, philanthropists, and art historians to Charleston to stimulate public discussion about the visual arts and creativity. Mrs. Ferguson says, “Tod Williams and Billie Tsien are the rock stars in architecture today.”

Williams and Tsien in the New York Studio

Williams and Tsien in the New York Studio.

Their studio, located in New York City, focuses on work for cultural non-profits, particularly museums and schools; organizations that value issues of aspiration and meaning, timelessness and beauty. Their inspired buildings are carefully made and useful in ways that speak to both efficiency and the spirit. A sense of rootedness, light, texture, detail, and most of all experience are at the heart of what they build.

“We believe in a slow process, we believe in long engagements. We have to have control over our projects all the way from beginning to end. I think they’re built beautifully because we really know how to put them together,” says Williams in an interview with Architectural Digest. Tsien adds, “Every time we work with somebody on a project, it changes our lives. Tod and I have been talking about the idea of service and how serving people really makes every project better. So it’s not just about yourself, it’s about the strengths, the power, and the vision of the client you’re serving.”

This event is incredibly timely for the museum as we prepare to launch a major renovation. Williams and Tsien will join Mrs. Ferguson for a ‘hard hat’ tour of the building on Wednesday morning, followed by an intimate lunch at the Charleston Grill with sponsors of the event.

Join us on Wednesday, November 19 at 6pm at Memminger Auditorium to hear more about Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s body of work and design philosophy.

$50 Members, $60 Non-Members

To purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21
Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

 

Art with a Twist presents, Unexpected Treasures

Reinterpreting the past for today’s home and garden. Architectural salvage, antique decor, iron work, garden elements, and much more than we can describe!

2014 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's Annual Designer Showcase

2014 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League’s Annual Designer Showcase, Master Bedroom

Jeff McKinney and Randy Grussing embrace a ‘fearless use of color’ in their designs. This attribute was on display in the vibrant master bedroom in the 2014 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League’s Annual Designer Showcase. As first time participants in the event, the dynamic duo endeavored to create a spectacular room for guests. The palette of the bedroom was inspired by a lowcountry sunset. “We were driving over the James Island connector one evening and the horizon was saturated with violent streaks of plums and paprika,” Jeff explains. American Gothic Revival Philadelphia gate posts from the 1850’s were transformed into bedside lamps, and a pair of marble topped tables with wrought iron bases were such a hit that they sold the second day of the show. Their design, titled Charleston Indochiene, received the Viewer’s Choice Award. When asked why he thought the room was so successful Jeff explained that the color combinations are unexpected and inviting. It was a room that looked lived in with furniture that was built to last.

These color combinations and customized furniture creations are on display in the showroom Circe on Saint Andrews Boulevard in West Ashley. A visit to the showroom is a sensory delight filled with lush fabrics, one-of-a kind antiques, and 19, 20, and 21 century items for the home. Jeff and Randy also own Architectural Antiques and Design, which is just down the street from Circe and is more of a warehouse where clients can discover hidden treasures.  “People will find ideas at Circe and the raw product at the warehouse,” Jeff explains. Working one on one with clients, they customize pieces that reflect the client’s personal style and offer designer fabrics at affordable prices.

AWAT Unexpected Treasures

Antique lamps ‘repurposed’ by Jeff and Randy

A team of locally sourced, skilled blacksmiths, lamp smiths, and upholsterers repurpose and update the antiques. Randy explains that, “what you live with has to change as you change.” He adds that we just don’t have the quality craftsmanship anymore, which is part of the reason he and Jeff work to educate clients about the value of pieces and the potential for modification. They feel that many people today have a disposable cultural sensibility. This belief in the intrinsic value of products from the past is reflected in the delicate curves of a settee, the smooth texture of a wooden dresser, and the summer blue spot of turquoise on the lamps in the corner. These are unexpected treasures indeed!

Architectural Antiques Vignette

Architectural Antiques Vignette, designed by Jeff and Randy

Join Jeff and Randy at Circe and Architectural Antiques & Design on Thursday, November 13 at 6pm for Unexpected Treasures: Re-designing Artful Artifacts. They will lead guests on a tour through the showroom and warehouse and share their expert tips on reinterpreting the past for today’s home and garden. A reception will follow.

Location: 903-C and 1011-A Saint Andrews Boulevard, next to Hambys. Limited parking is available at both locations so carpooling is suggested.

$20 Members, $30 Non-Members

To purchase tickets please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

Photos by Holger Obenaus
Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Art of Healing through dance, architecture, and flowers

The Gibbes Museum takes pride in the community partnerships that we’ve established over the years. An example of this is our involvement with Roper St. Francis Healthcare through the Art of Healing program. Established in 2012 by Gibbes Board Member and Roper St. Francis surgeon, Dr. Jeb Hallett, the Art of Healing explores the connections between art, personal well-being, and healing through panel discussions, workshops, and an art lending collection for Roper St. Francis Rehabilitation Hospital patients. “Art can help transport a patient’s attention away from their pain or condition to produce more positive emotions” says Dr. Hallett. Now in its third year, the program continues to expand with more workshops, conversations, and artists. To learn more about the Art of Healing lending program, enjoy this youtube video created by Roper St. Francis staff, Shane Ellis.

The next Art of Healing conversation will take place on November 4 at 6pm at the Circular Congregational Church  at 150 Meeting Street. This panel discussion will focus on how architecture and the spaces we build and inhabit can lead to healing and well-being.  Expert panelists include the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Senior Director of Properties, and Hay House Director, Jonathan Poston, and Ray Huff, Director of the Clemson Architecture Center who will join Dr. Hallett for this moderated conversation.

Hard Light in Trumbo Street, 1934

An example of Charleston architecture by artist Prentiss Taylor

 

Dr. Hallett will ask probing questions such as: why have certain elements of architecture remained critically important over time? Why is light important to well-being, and how does certain forms such as Palladian windows and columns persisted over time? (The original term for a Palladian window is a serliana (or a Serlian Motif).  It is an archway or window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the flanking openings (which were rectangular and enclosed at the top by an architrave). The Italian Renaissance architect/master builder, Andrea Palladio, 1508-1580 popularized this architectural motif.) The panelists will discuss Charlestonian architectural styles such as the Single House to examine the ‘health benefits’ of this design. The Art of Healing discussions include interactive discussions with the audience, which are always engaged and intimate.

This is sure to be an interesting and lively discussion, and a cocktail reception will follow the discussion.

Art of Design 2014

Flowers by Gretchen Cuddy for the 2014 Art of Design luncheon

One December 10 at 6pm, the Art of Healing: Flower Power will be held at the Thomas Bennett House on 69 Barre Street. Dr. Hallett will be joined by floral design expert Gretchen Cuddy as well as Clara Varga-Gonzales of Tiger Lily Florist. Cuddy and Varga-Gonzales will discuss why flowers and horticulture appeal to our senses and discuss why implementing natural elements in the home and other buildings can promote well-being.
Amanda Breen, Membership Coordinator

Rice in the Lowcountry: The Art of Jonathan Green and Alice Ravenel Huger Smith

Rice Plantation by Jonathan Green

Rice Plantation by Jonathan Green

Though the building may be closed, the Gibbes Museum of Art remains as open as ever. This fall we have a stellar lineup of programs and events, including the next installment of our Insider Art Series, Rice in the Lowcountry: The Art of Jonathan Green and Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. Scheduled for Thursday, October 30, this one-night event will feature a display of 21 works by two of Charleston’s most beloved artists, both of whom created paintings focused on rice cultivation.

Mending a Break in a Rice-Field Bank, from the series A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties

Mending a Break in a Rice-Field Bank, by Alice R. H. Smith

Alice Smith has long captured the imagination of museum visitors, and her Rice Plantation series is one of the main reasons why. These beautifully-rendered watercolors were created circa 1935 to illustrate the publication A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties. A selection of ten paintings from the series will be on view, paired with eleven paintings from Jonathan Green’s rice series. Together, the works explore the history of rice cultivation and the people and agricultural processes behind the rice industry.

The evening of October 30th will also feature a silent auction of four paintings from Green’s rice series. This is a rare opportunity to view and purchase one of Green’s works for your personal collection. And you can learn more about the paintings directly from the artist himself. Green will be in attendance, which is sure to make the evening a memorable one. So mark your calendar and be sure to join us for this wonderful Insider Art Series event!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.gibbesmuseum.org/events or call (843) 722-2706 x21.

 

Simplicity, Q & A with author and designer Nancy Braithwaite

Nancy Braithwaite

Author and designer Nancy Braithwaite

“After 25 years of exposure to the best work out there, I’ve found that it’s simplicity that’s the hardest thing to do well. It is an art. And Nancy Braithwaite has perfected that art . . . I think she’s one of the great American designers of our day.”

—Dara Caponigro, from the Foreword

Nancy Braithwaite has established herself as one of the most distinctive American designers of our time. Long before spare, sophisticated spaces came into fashion, Braithwaite was renowned for her discerning eye and ability to pare down a room to its ideal essentials while simultaneously building a luxurious sensibility. It is appropriate, then, that her first book is titled SIMPLICITY. As she herself points out in the introduction, “There is nothing simple about simplicity. Simplicity is complexity.” For Braithwaite, simplicity does not mean minimalism. In her hands, less becomes more and minimal becomes powerfully sensuous. Simplicity, for her, is a discipline in design that balances function, comfort, and wonderment.

SIMPLICITY opens with Braithwaite’s conviction that a designer must not merely look—but actually “see”—in a critical way. That degree of discernment, she believes, leads to an understanding of design integrity that only results from an educated, principled, and disciplined eye. It is that way of seeing that she brings to the world of interiors. At the first evaluation of every project, she assesses its fundamental design elements: architecture, composition, proportion and scale, color, pattern, texture, and craftsmanship, and their interrelationships. Full-color photographs on nearly every page gloriously illustrate these essential design attributes as they appear in country, classic, and contemporary settings, her three broad categories for classifying the entire stylistic spectrum.

Throughout SIMPLICITY, Braithwaite invites readers to “see” the simplicity that is her goal in every undertaking. As a designer, she moves seamlessly across stylistic boundaries. SIMPLICITY features homes from around the country and from across the historical continuum, including her family’s own unforgettable country house in Atlanta and her stunning contemporary seaside retreat on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, as well as memorable classic residences in New York City, Chicago, and Atlanta. All these homes will stand the test of time, because in Braithwaite’s hands, and through her eyes, simplicity is, ultimately, timeless.

Nancy is the featured speaker at the upcoming Art With a Twist event on October 22 titled, “The Art of Simplicity.” She will join sweetgrass basket artist and 2008 MacArthur Fellow Mary Jackson, to talk about their craft. Nancy was kind enough to take a few moments to talk with us about her design style, inspiration, and creative process.

When did you realize you had a passion for design?

I’ve had a love of design since I was a little girl. When I was 7 or 8 years old I used to make everything with my hands. If you can believe it, it all started with homemade nail dolls!

Describe your design style.

Simplicity — bringing to a design elements that are essential and meaningful, nothing that’s distracting to the eye.

Tell me about your inspiration for writing the book, Simplicity.

After working around the country for over 30 years and having the chance to do some incredible projects, I was ready to tell my story and show readers how simplicity really works and why it’s so important.

Mary Jackson Cobra with Handle

Mary Jackson’s Cobra with Handle

You have long been a collector of Mary Jackson’s work. Tell me about your friendship.

We met years ago at a crafts show and I was immediately intrigued by her work and then even more intrigued after meeting her in person. It’s been a joy to get to know her and to become friends, sharing our passion for craftsmanship and creativity. Anything of excellence interests me and Mary is truly excellent.

Born and raised in Chicago, renowned interior designer Nancy Braithwaite launched her career as an industrial designer after receiving her design degree from Michigan State University. In the thirty years since she formed Nancy Braithwaite Interiors, her acclaimed Atlanta-based firm, Braithwaite’s work has graced the pages of numerous national shelter magazines, books, and newspapers, including Veranda, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Town & Country, and The New York Times. Veranda named Braithwaite a “Magic Maker” in 2013, and in its Silver Anniversary issue the previous year, featured one of her rooms among the 25 most beguiling interiors it had ever published. Braithwaite is a regular on House Beautiful’s list of America’s Top Interior Designers, and Barbara Barry has said she is “one of the best living interior designers.” Atlanta magazine calls Braithwaite “the Grande Dame of Atlanta Design” and credits her as being “essential to putting Atlanta on the interior design map.” Additionally, when Braithwaite was just starting her career, Town & Country identified her as a newcomer to watch. In addition to directing her design firm, Braithwaite and her daughter Chaffee own and operate Baby Braithwaite, a highly successful, fashion-forward baby boutique in Atlanta. Braithwaite lives with her husband Jim in Atlanta, where their children and grandchildren also reside. The family vacations together in a stunning contemporary dwelling designed by Braithwaite on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Don’t miss this special evening with Nancy and Mary!

Art with a Twist: The Art of Simplicity, An Evening with Designer Nancy Braithwaite and Artist Mary Jackson

Wednesday, October 22, 6pm

 $20 Members, $30 Non Members

Location: Charleston Library Society, 164 King Street

To purchase tickets or for more information please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

 

 

Dancing through Life as Art

At the upcoming Art of Healing series, Nia faculty member and teacher trainer Stephaney Abilon will be offering a 2 hour workshop that effects both the brain and the body. Stephaney explains that Nia (pronounced Nee-Uh) is based on 13 principles, the soul of which is the ‘Joy of Movement'; the thing that makes the body feel ALIVE!

Art of Healing Dance

Stephaney Robinson-Abilon, Nia training faculty member

In the Dancing Through Life as Art workshop, our primary focus will be 3 Parts:

1) Learning that when the body is doing everyday movements, such as walking, and opening doors, etc. we can learn to move our bodies in ways that feel easier, lighter and more free.

2) Discovering the mental benefits that occur when the body is in non-movement to create a living meditation.

3) Begin to perceive everything around us, even ordinary objects as art.

These three components utilize awareness as a key component, without awareness the body simply can’t know anything. This ‘life as art’ perspective creates a body that physically feels better, a brain that has more mental clarity and sense of calm, and provides for everyday inspiration. I like to describe this as living in a body, mind, and spirit that are filled with peach juice as opposed to battery acid! This lifestyle approach can be self-healing on many levels.

Nia dance class

An example of a Nia dance class, from nianow.com

Nia is more than just an exercise containing 13 principles, 52 moves, music and movement forms, it is a lifestyle practice that can change both your body and your life. This workshop will combine philosophy and movement; movement that is simple and available for everyone regardless of fitness level. Nia appeals to professional athletes and dancers as well as arthritics and people with back pain. Nia is available to all.

In this workshop, I will provide participants with tools that allow the body to feel better and more alive, and providing an inspiring way to view the world. Dancing is not separate from life, it exists in our everyday movements. Similarly, art not only exists inside a frame, it exists in everything that surrounds us and can be perceived as such. This will be an opportunity for participants to become inspired as well as embracing their body’s potential to move in such a way that every movement contains beauty, strength, and self-healing.

Stephaney Robinson-Abilon, Faculty Member of Nia Training and Faculty Member of the Sophia Institute

Art of Healing: Dancing Through Life as Art

Tuesday, October 7, 5:30-7:30pm

$35 Museum Members, $45 Non-Members

Location: Hazel Parker Community Center, 70 E. Bay St.

All classes require advanced registration. To register, please visit the website for a registration form or contact Rebecca Sailor at rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org or 843.722.2706 x41.


Miniature Painting by David Gillespie

There can be no doubt that our interest in miniature painting was most certainly influenced, and nurtured by studying, admiring, and conversing over the incredible collection of original miniature paintings housed at the Gibbes Museum of Art. South Carolina seems to have been particularly fond of miniature painting, as evidenced by many resident miniature painters, itinerant miniature painters, and patronage of its citizenry over the centuries.

David and Renee at Middleton Place

David & Renee demonstrated Miniature Painting in our Colonial Clothes at Middleton Place. Notice the Miniature of Renee around my neck!

For Renee and me, the interest we share in the fine arts, along with our interest in 18th century history has, for us, its perfect marriage in miniature painting. We decided to seek out an instructor of this discipline, and truly found a gem. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Joan Cornish Willies, a member of the Royal Miniature Society of England, we have been learning the European mode of miniature painting. Ms. Joan has been painting miniatures since around 1937 and has kindly taken us under her wing. She has brought an almost extinct art form back to life for us.

Nathaniel Russel, 1818, by Charles Fraser

A miniature of Nathaniel Russel, 1818, by Charles Fraser

We consider it an honor and blessing to have her as an instructor, a considerable resource, and now a dear friend. Ms. Joan has taught us how to mix our own paint from gemstone pigments such as Lapis Lazuli, and Jasper. Much in the spirit of Charleston’s own Charles Fraser, we take great satisfaction in mixing our own pigments when possible to not only get a more unique and valuable miniature made of precious materials, but also to use pigments which have shown they will stand the test of time. At present, I am painting a miniature portrait of Renee that is 2 and a half inches high and utilizes Lapis Lazuli blues, Jasper reds, and Amethyst for some purples, with 24 carat gold lettering that will be housed in a 24 carat gold oval frame meant to be worn.

I initially began painting in oils, but am now using watercolors, which is the medium used in many of the miniatures at the Gibbes. Using a series of nearly a half a million cross hatches, strokes, and dots per painting, the portrait begins to take life. Only small amounts of paint are used. The watercolor is built up slowly, all the while allowing the bright color from the ground or material painted on to show through. A letter from 1800 which describes the painting process in great detail, as well as a treatise written by Nicolas Hilliard during the reign of Elizabeth I, are source materials for using period techniques and getting into the process of these works of art that are also worn as jewelry. Having its roots in Medieval Illumination, Hans Holbein the Younger brought miniature painting to England, and was court painter to King Henry VIII. From the 1530’s to the present, it is fascinating to see how the the miniature has evolved and is still a much valued art.

Miniature Painting by David Gillespie

David’s toolbox

Renee is painting subject miniatures in oils while I am focusing mostly on portraits in watercolor. Our presentation at the Gibbes will show the watercolor technique using period appropriate materials, all from a teak wood box that can be neatly tucked under my arm and carried about from place to place, much like those of the 18th and 19th centuries. We will explain some of the tools, techniques, and pigments, and share with the audience our passion for what we consider one of the most fascinating forms of art not only from our past, but also relevant to the present.

Join David, Renee and Gibbes Curator of Collections, Sara Arnold to learn more about the art of miniatures with Tokens of Affection: Miniature Portraits from the Gibbes Collection.

Saturday, September 27, 10am-12noon

Location: The Charleston Museum, 360 Meeting Street,

$35 Gibbes and Charleston Museum Members, $40 Non-Members

To register, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

Renee Gillespie, has a Bachelor Degree in Art from Washington College in Chestertown, MD, and also studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Renee is currently practicing the nearly lost art of miniature painting. Taking instruction from a member of England’s Royal Miniature Society, the oldest miniature society in the world, Renee has been learning the art and discipline in the European Mode. Renee also is gifted in Natural Dyeing, and Batiking. Her Indigo Dyed Cloth has been purchased by the Smithsonian Institution.

David Gillespie, is a full time stone carver, miniature painter, and a 10th generation South Carolinian. He also has authored the recent book, A Brief Treatise on Tomb and Grave Stones of the Eighteenth Century. David is a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, Pickens County SC Historical Society and is a grant recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission for his stone work. He has just been selected by the magazine Early American Life as one of America’s Best Craftsmen and selected for the Directory of Traditional Crafts in the August 2014 issue.

More about David and Renee can be found at their website at pumpkintownprimitives.com

 

The Art of the Sea with Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells is an ‘obsessive compulsive’ fisherman. A photo of Kells on her website shows her proudly displaying a Permit that she caught off Cudjoe Key in 2011. “I take a photograph of every fish I catch before I release it,” she says.

Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells at home on the water

Kells is a full-time, highly trained, freelance scientific illustrator with over 30 years of professional experience. She works closely with educational, design, and curatorial staff to produce accurate and aesthetic scientific and interpretive illustrations. She has created over 2,000 illustrations for a wide variety of clients including publishers, designers, master planners, museums, nature centers, and public aquariums and is the coauthor of A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes – from Maine to Texas. “This comprehensive guidebook to all of the fishes found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts should become an integral part of the library of any naturalist, angler, or fish enthusiast,” says Edward O. Murdy, National Science Foundation.

Val Kells Book Cover

A comprehensive guide book to coastal fishes

She is currently working on the Pacific coast version which will include close to 800 species and will be published in the spring of 2016. These comprehensive books are used in classrooms, labs, and on boats by students, scientists, and nature lovers. “I love when people send me photographs of themselves on a boat with a fish in one hand and my book in another,” she says. Kells says her work is ongoing and she will unlikely run out of subjects to illustrate.

Kells’ research is meticulous and each illustration can take up to a full day to complete. She works from her studio in Virginia with the support of an extensive network of associates and colleagues across the country.  She begins with a preliminary pencil drawing to ‘work out the kinks’ paying close attention to the morphology of the species from the number of scales to the placement of fins. When she is satisfied, she transfers the drawing to watercolor paper and begins to paint. “I go into a Zen mode at this point. I turn on some Bruce Springsteen and paint until it’s done.”

Kells began drawing as a very young girl in Rye, New York, and studied art throughout high school. “I also had a deep love of the natural environment from the time I was young. And when my parents sent me to a summer camp in the Florida Keys, I decided that I wanted to be a marine biologist,” she adds. After studying Marine Biology at Boston University, she transferred to UC Santa Cruz in 1983 and ‘fell upon’ the (then) newly established Science Illustration Program where she was able to combine her two loves: art and science. One of her first clients was the Monterey Bay Aquarium and since then she has worked with over 25 aquariums and museums around the country including the Florida State, Long Beach, and North Carolina aquariums. Kells also worked for our own South Carolina Aquarium when it first opened.

One of the best compliments she received was when a woman mistook her paintings for photographs. Her illustrations are precisely detailed and she says, “The artwork I create cannot be produced by photographic or digital means.” She enjoys working with fishes that are unusual and mimic coral or those that have evolved in fascinating ways. “I also love painting iridescent fishes like Billfishes, Tunas, and Mackerels because they allow the watercolor to do what it does best.” The love of her work and the fishes she carefully constructs on paper is evident in each illustration.

During her upcoming discussion “Art of the Sea” at the South Carolina Aquarium, she will discuss the continuing value of original drawings and paintings in a visual world awash with digital photographs.  Join us for another fabulous Art With a Twist Event to hear Val Kells speak about her creative process on September 24 at 6:30 pm!

For more information about Val Kells visit: www.valkellsillustration.com

Location:  SC Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf

Reception and Book Signing will follow.

$20 Members, $30 Non-Members

Reflections on Art and Healing

On June 2, artist John Westmark participated in a program at the Gibbes called Art of Healing. Over the past two years, the museum has hosted a number of programs that focus on the many ways that art connects with healing and wellness. This particular program entailed in depth discussions of several paintings on view in the exhibition John Westmark: Narratives, including a large-scale canvas titled Sisters.

SISTERS by John Westmark

Sisters, by John Westmark

For me, Sisters is a particularly powerful painting. The work depicts two women standing hand-in-hand, bound together by red string. They appear strong, resolute, and ready to take on the world. I connect with the painting because I am fortunate to have a sister who has been my lifelong best friend. In January 2013, my sister Angie was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia. It was a devastating diagnosis, but I knew she would fight with every ounce of her being. It may sound cliché, but she is a warrior in every sense of the word, and has been since we were kids.

Angie's first day of kinder

Pam Wall and her big sister Angie

Shortly after Angie’s diagnosis, I began working on John’s exhibition. Sisters was one of the first paintings added to the object list. I worried about Angie constantly, but Sisters gave me a measure of reassurance. It reminded me that Angie was every bit as strong as the women in the painting, and I needed to be just as strong to help her through this battle. The red string held particular significance. Blood cancer was the enemy, but family bloodlines were ultimately what saved Angie’s life. In May 2013, she received a lifesaving stem cell transplant from our brother Chip.

I am thrilled that Angie’s story is now one of healing. She recently hit the one-year anniversary of her transplant, and life is slowly returning to normal. Whenever Angie is on my mind, I take a few minutes in the gallery with Sisters. The painting has helped me to cope over the past year and half, and reminds me of all I am thankful for. And as I raise two daughters of my own, I hope they will stand together like the sisters in John’s painting, ready to face the triumphs and challenges life has in store.

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions

The Art Tells the Story

Q & A with Rice & Ducks author Virginia Christian Beach

Virginia Beach with Jonathan Green

Virginia Beach with Jonathan Green whose painting Rice Morning Harvest is featured in Chapter 9 of Rice & Ducks.

Q: What was the inspiration for this book?

Many people don’t know that Lowcountry South Carolina is considered a leader in land conservation in the United States.  We have more land permanently protected in our coastal plain—1.2 million acres—than any other East Coast state.  We are also extremely rich in wetlands and forestlands, two vital habitats for innumerable species of flora and fauna.  The story of how we came to be a national model in land conservation is unique, largely due to the fact that it is predicated on the grand and tragic and complex history of the rice culture, and the convergence and interaction between northerners and southerners after the Civil War.  What evolved here in the Lowcountry, what we today enjoy from a cultural and environmental standpoint, is unlike anywhere else.  We felt this was an important and interesting story, worthy of a beautiful book.

Q. Rice & Ducks includes interviews with experts and scholars in the fields of rice cultivation and plantation history, African-American studies, wetland and waterfowl biology, and wildlife and habitat conservation. Tell us about your experience conducting and sifting through these interviews-the research sounds extensive!

The project took three full years, from inception to publication.  I traveled up and down the rice coast of South Carolina, from the Pee Dee River down to the Savannah, with a digital recorder in one hand, pen and paper in the other, and a pair of binoculars around my neck.  I sought out landowners who had been active in the land conservation movement in their respective river basins, most of whom had already permanently protected their property with conservation easements, and whose families had either been here for many generations, or had arrived with the “second northern invasion” in the 1910s, 20s and 30s.

I also interviewed slave descendants, hunting guides and land managers, as well as field biologists, foresters and ornithologists — the people living and working closest to the land. RICE & DUCKS is as much a land use history, as it is a land conservation history.  One of many highlights included multiple conversations with a landowner, now in his 90s, whose great uncle had been a founding member of one of the earliest northern hunting clubs in the Lowcountry—the Okeetee Club in Jasper County—and who had wonderful memories of hunting here in the 1920s as a boy.  Another highlight was walking the slave street at Friendfield Plantation in Georgetown County, where First Lady Michelle Obama’s great-great grandfather was born and raised.  And lastly, walking the old rice field dikes of the Ashepoo River at dusk and watching thousands of waterfowl settling in for the night.  These are just a few of the many memorable experiences of my field research.

Q. Now to the art and how “The Art Tells a Story.” Tell us how you chose the images to accompany these stories. How and why was the Gibbes’ permanent collection important to this book?

After completing my research and the manuscript, I was tasked with curating the images for RICE & DUCKS, with the help of a Curatorial Committee that included Angela Mack, Executive Director of the Gibbes, who was an invaluable guide as you might imagine. During that first year of researching the text, I also made detailed notes of artwork, maps, and visuals that I was encountering along the way, which I thought would complement and enhance the RICE & DUCKS story visually.  When it came time to convene the Curatorial Committee, I created a master list of all the images I had noted, organized by chapter, and called it “A Working List of Potential Visuals.”  It was over 20 pages long!

Thankfully, Angela and Steve Gavel (another member of our committee) came up with the idea of choosing a work of art for the beginning of each of the 9 chapters — giving it a full page of its own —  that was representative of the overall theme of each chapter and was of the corresponding time period. This helped bring into focus and reinforce the major themes of RICE &DUCKS.

The Reserve in Summer

The Reserve in Summer by Alice R. H. Smith

The images serve both a historical purpose and an artistic and thematic purpose.  The adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly holds true for the images in RICE & DUCKS.  In many instances, we simply did not have room to include sidebars and additional text on many important topics.  One good example of how a painting can convey so much more information than the written word is “The Old Plantation,” lent to us by Colonial Williamsburg.  With that one painting, we were able to convey much more about the history and uniqueness of the Gullah culture.  Similarly, Anna Heyward Taylor’s linoleum block print from the Gibbes collection, entitled “Sowing Rice,” powerfully illustrates the African roots of rice cultivation in the Lowcountry.  At the same time, Charles Fraser’s portrait miniature of Nathaniel Heyward, as well as Benjamin West’s portrait of Thomas Middleton — also from the Gibbes collection — beautifully express the aspirations and authority of the New World landed aristocracy.

Sowing Rice by Anna Heyward Taylor

Sowing Rice by Anna Heyward Taylor

Q. The proceeds from this book go toward protection of the northern breeding grounds and protection of migratory bird habitat in the Carolina Lowcountry. Can you tell us about this effort and why it is important?

You’ve heard the expression “the canary in the coal mine?”  Well, migratory birds — whether they be waterfowl (e.g.ducks and geese), wading birds (e.g. egrets and herons), shorebirds or warblers— are huge barometers of the health of our overall environment, since they rely on a multitude of habitats along their ancient, amazingly long flyways.  They are the great “connectors”—between continents, between nations, between habitats — breaking down political and cultural barriers as they embark on their transcontinental, cross-cultural journeys year after year after year.  For example, take the little sanderlings that you see on South Carolina beaches each spring and fall.  They nest in the high Arctic tundra and migrate through the Lowcountry every year, traveling thousands of miles on their annual migration between North and South America.  Many of these species absolutely depend on the healthy habitat of the South Carolina Lowcountry for their survival along the way.  And much of our wetlands are used by both waterfowl and wading birds and shorebirds.  Saving their habitat is good for them and good for us; nourishing humankind both physically and spiritually.

Virginia C. Beach, Author and Guest Blogger

The Art Tells the Story book signing and discussion with Virginia Christian Beach
Thursday, June 12, 12noon
$15 per person
You may pre-purchase books at the Museum Store
To purchase tickets please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21

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