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

Eye Spy Art!

Eye Spy Art

Eye Spy Art at North Charleston Arts Elementary

The Eye Spy program with the Gibbes Museum is one of the best experiences I’ve had so far as an art teacher. Rebecca Sailor, Curator of Education, contacted me about this great opportunity for my students. As a Charlestonian, I know the Gibbes Museum has a lot to offer for the community, and my students at North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary (NCCAE).
As a first year Art Teacher, I also took advantage of this program to gain insights on how to implement other core curriculum into my lessons such as Language Arts and Social Studies. The most exciting part was collaborating with the museum educator and taking my students to the Gibbes Museum for a field trip.

As an Art Educator, part of the mission that I stand by is to engage students in an art centered curriculum, which helps develop confidence in student’s work. I meet with museum educator Ellise Detterbeck to create an interactive lesson plan that is tied to the S.C. Learning Standards to meet my student’s goals for the school year. The Eye Spy program at the Gibbes Museum is great for the students for a variety of reasons. Ms. Elise is a wonderful museum educator who visits my third grade students and Hearing Impaired students once a month at North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary. My students enjoy talking about art and want to know more. Ms. Elise encourages my students to express their opinions, feelings, and to make presumption as they participate in these exercises.
Elise agrees and says,

“The Hearing Impaired students were such a surprise. They are all quite engaging, and so eager to explore art. They are strong and silent! They notice things regular students don’t, and respond to any art, but especially to abstract art. I wear a microphone for 2 of the students who use hearing aids. There is an interpreter who signs what I say. It’s amusing to talk and to have the students looking at her, instead of me. They all sign and speak their responses. I was told by the interpreter and Janell not to change my presentations for them in any way, including the songs. They can FEEL the beat in music, and make an effort to keep time to it.
I love new experiences, and this one was very special. For these students, self-expression is key to their development, and responding to art helps them express their feelings. The crazier the art may seem, the more they like it. It’s so rewarding to see them wave their hands around and bounce up and down to a new piece of art. Next year, Janell and I intend to customize what we do for them, so we can maximize the impact of Eye-Spy! with them.”

The field trip to the museum gave students a chance to learn more about the wonderful artwork. Students who had never been to an art museum were excited and surprised by the size of the paintings that we discussed in class. It was a joy to see them raising their hands and wanting to know more about the artwork.

Designs, Wrightsville Beach, by Minnie Evans

Designs, Wrightsville Beach, by Minnie Evans, a favorite work of Elise’s to teach for organic shapes, color and composition)

“Our big idea for this program is that after a year in Eye-Spy!, a student will be able to look at a piece of art, tell us what he/she sees, and explain why he likes it or doesn’t like it, and provide support other than “it’s pretty” or “it’s ugly.” The visits to the museum is HUGE! Students get continuity and reinforcement. All the Museum Educators have said that kids coming from the Eye-Spy! program have so much to say about the art at the Gibbes. Each Eye-Spy! Museum Educator does it differently, but we all seem to get similar results,” adds Elise.

I’m grateful to have the Eye Spy program to help elementary students look at and talk about art. This program has given students a better understanding of the elements of art, such as: line, shapes, color, texture, and pattern. Through this program, I am able to learn with the students about utilizing many disciplines from language arts to music. My favorite song that we learned was about the artist Romare Bearden. What a great way to focus on the common core!
The biggest rewards of the Eye Spy program have been watching my students enjoy learning about art history and exploring the Gibbes Museum. I am looking forward for the next school year, and my students are looking forward to their next visit to the Gibbes Museum.

Janell Walker, Art Teacher, North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary
and Guest Blogger

Mickey Bakst, 2014 James S. Gibbes Philanthropy Award Winner

Mickey Bakst

Angela Mack presenting Mickey Bakst with the 2014 James Shoolbred Gibbes Philanthropy Award at the Annual Meeting.

On Monday, May 19, the Gibbes Museum of Art presented Mickey Bakst with the 2014 James Shoolbred Gibbes Philanthropy Award at the museum’s Annual Meeting Celebration. Mickey has long been a supporter of the Gibbes, and has contributed his time, talents, connections, and energy into making the Street Party one of Charleston’s most sought-after events. Mickey is known for his graciousness, generosity, and ability to connect people, and these traits directly translate to the complex job of coordinating Charleston’s top restaurants and beverage providers for this fundraising event. “We are so grateful to have Mickey Bakst on our side. We have just wrapped up another successful Street Party, and couldn’t have done it without his support,” says Executive Director Angela Mack.

James Shoolbred Gibbes

A portrait of James Shoolbred Gibbes

James S. Gibbes Philanthropy Award – Each year the Board and staff of the CAA bestows on an individual or group the James S. Gibbes Philanthropy Award. Gibbes was deeply devoted to the betterment of Charleston’s young creative minds in the aftermath of Reconstruction. Through his 1885 bequest of $100K, which in today’s dollars is valued at $2.5M, Gibbes launched what we know today as the Gibbes Museum of Art.  His generosity and vision set the state for the visual arts in Charleston by providing the funds to build the oldest art museum in the South.

Mickey Bakst has been a staunch proponent of Charleston charities since moving to the Holy City in October 2004. A 40-year food and beverage veteran, Bakst is currently General Manager of Charleston Grill at Charleston Place Hotel. In his spare time, Bakst can be found devoting his energy to a variety of Lowcountry initiatives. His philanthropic efforts include Chefs Across America in 2002, Benefit for Katrina in 2005, and Dine for Nine in 2007. Chefs Across America followed the tragedy of 9/11 and in this event, Mickey hosted dinners in nine cities across the country with 40 of the nation’s top culinary stars. The Dine for Nine in 2007 raised more than 500,000 for the fallen firefighters’ families of the Sofa Super Store fire. When Crisis Ministries had to close down their food service one day a week, Bakst stepped in, forming a coalition to provide the meals that the shelter needed. One day a week, every year, a different area restaurant takes over the meal service and feeds more than 400 people. Three years later, Feed the Need has gone national, launching in Detroit, MI and Savannah, GA. Mickey has been married to the love of his life, Ellen, since 2007.

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

The Beauty of the Gibbes vs. Google

From bacon art to intricate batiks, the varied collection of art at the Gibbes Museum is truly a Charleston treasure. On April 17, seventh grade students at Ashley Hall got an exceptional chance to train at the Gibbes to become Junior Docents for a day. We explored the exhibition known as The Charleston Story, selected from over 10,000 artworks in the Gibbes collection, of which only 2% are actually on display at any given time. These cultural masterpieces provide a thought-provoking insight into Charleston’s rich history.

Sarah Remembered by Leo Twiggs

Sarah Remembered by Leo Twiggs

The most interesting part to me is the fact that every single art piece has a story behind it. As Junior Docents, we had the opportunity to learn about various artworks from museum docents, and to choose artworks we thought were the most interesting. I found Sarah Remembered, by Leo Twiggs to be particularly eye-catching. This is a batik that Twiggs created in memory of his great-grandmother Sarah. Batik is the art of using black ink on silk and pouring wax on the places you don’t want the ink. Twiggs’ great-grandma, Sarah was born into slavery and released at the age of seven. Unfortunately, Twiggs never had the chance to meet her, but he recalls always being interested in her life and in his own background in slavery. Because of this, he decided to capture the essence of Sarah in a batik. I love this art work because of all of the symbolism and personal meaning within it. It showcases a huge part of Charleston’s history, the struggle to eliminate slavery.

As a class, we saw many other riveting works and listened intently to the presentation styles of the museum docents. We learned a lot about different art mediums and various artists’ motivation, as well as how to engage, educate, and entertain a crowd. On April 24, we presented our artwork of choice to a group of parents, teachers, and first grade Ashley Hall students. We encouraged the younger children to use their senses to detect art mediums and understand what colors popped out, as well as the different painting techniques of the artists. Everyone involved marveled at the one-of-a-kind artworks housed at the Gibbes Museum.

Ashley Hall Junior Docent presentations

Ashley Hall Junior Docents presenting to their classmates

In this day in age, it’s easy to skip the trip to the museum and simply look at pictures of art on the internet, but nothing compares to viewing them in real life. Art on Google is purely one-dimensional, and you can’t examine the texture and minimal details of the work that you can in person. Plus, if I’m being honest, wandering around an art museum looking at all the different collections is much more fun than sifting through Google images. So next time you’re looking for a cultural Charlestonian experience, try the Gibbes instead of Google!

Ashley Hall blog2

Katherine Mundy, Ashley Hall Junior Docent and Guest Blogger (pictured at the far left)

Black and White Film: Photography of the Future

Douglas Carr Cunningham

Photographer and teacher, Douglas Carr Cunningham

Like most artists, Douglas Carr Cunningham has held a variety of jobs including photojournalist, camera salesman, and adjunct professor. As a former U. S. Navy photojournalist, Cunningham has an extensive archive of images, “enough to last me a lifetime,” he laughs.

In 1999 Cunningham was one of the first local photographers to embrace the then-new digital photo technology, but he believes black and white film photography stands the test of time as an archival photo medium and even calls it “the photography of the future.”

Cunningham’s teaching career began years ago when local photographer Jack Alterman invited him to teach at the Center for Photography. Today, he enjoys watching the lightbulb go off in his students eyes. In preparation for the upcoming workshop Old Time Photography on May 17 that will include a tour of the exhibition Beyond the Darkroom, Photography in the 21st Century and a demonstration at Redux Studios, I spoke with Cunningham about his work. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

“Photography is always evolving and digital has blurred the lines between the general public and professionals,” he explained. “The problem with digital is storing information. Digital is virtual and technology is always changing so the question is, will you have to re-save your archives to a new medium every few years?”

Captain Percival Drayton

From 1855, this image is an example of one of the earliest photographs from our permanent collection, Captain Percival Drayton, by Jeremiah Gurney

Photography was introduced in 1839, when Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre shared the first successful photographic process, dubbed the daguerreotype. A daguerreotype is a direct-positive process, meaning there is no intervening negative used to print the image. To create a daguerreotype a plate of copper is coated in silver, polished, sensitized with iodine vapors, and exposed in a camera. The image is then developed in mercury fumes and stabilized (or fixed) with a salt water solution. The plate is then put under glass and housed in a case.

Photography has continued to evolve and according to Cunningham, the invention of digital has resulted in a loss of ‘pre-visualization,’ a technique used by film photographers for ages. “Today I still shoot film right along with my digital precisely to enlighten my students and because if it’s done correctly, it’ll still be around for years to come.” Cunningham explains that a really good photographer will learn to use both because a photographer needs to have the foundation and the tradition to go forward.

“With pre-visualization you imagine what the shoot is going to look like and then you use technology to make it happen. It’s about the creative process of thinking it through.”

Cunningham’s favorite exercise is to ask his students to pretend their camera shoots only 24 images. “Look at the subject through the viewfinder and don’t look at your screen until you get home. Photographers call the act of looking at your LCD screen the second after you take a shot ‘Chimping’ or as Cunningham says: ‘monkey do, monkey see.’ Not the other way around. We take the photo, then we must look at the result. This is something we all do, and the downside of this habit is that it can interrupt your creative process and ‘chimping’ doesn’t allow for pre-visualization. This exercise breaks students of the chimping habit and Cunningham says they enjoy contemplative time in the darkroom and are inspired by this ‘old fashioned’ creative process. He insists that contrary to what we might assume, “Black and white film is the photography of the future because it’s permanent.”

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad by Stephen Marc

On Saturday, May 17th, Cunningham will lead a private tour of Beyond the Darkroom: Photography in the 21st Century, a collection of images from the Gibbes’ permanent collection. This exhibition examines the evolution of photography through a variety of works acquired over the past ten years for the museum’s permanent collection. Ranging from the text and photo-based works of Carrie Mae Weems to the digital montages of Stephen Marc, this exhibition showcases the great innovation in photography today.

Amy Mercer, Gibbes Museum Marketing and Communications Manager

Join Cunningham for a tour of Beyond the Darkroom, and a demonstration of the time honored art of black and white film at Redux Contemporary Art Center.

$40 for Museum, CCforP, and Redux Members, $45 Non-Members (box lunch included, transportation not included).

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

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF LIVING AT HOME: Turning Your House into a Work of Art

Photo of the Deans

Suzanne Pollak and Lee Manigault, aka The Domestic Deans!

Suzanne Pollak and Lee Manigault are bossy in the best sense of the word. After bonding at a cocktail party at Darla Moore’s house 4 years ago, they dubbed themselves the ‘Domestic Deans.’

“Why? Because we hold the only two PhD’s in ‘Food and It’s Many Uses’ and ‘Managing a Household’ ever awarded. We each spent decades of time, logged thousands of miles spanning all the continents, and raised six children between us to become the two most knowledgeable authorities in our respective fields,” write Pollak and Manigault in the intro to their book The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits.

The book was released on April 15, 2014 and the Deans are gearing up for a busy spring and summer touring the southeast to promote their book. As part of our Art With a Twist series, the Gibbes is pleased to host the Deans on Monday, May 12 at noon for a lunchtime lecture and book signing. The Deans will speak to guests about using a museum to develop your eye. “We’ll walk you through the rooms of your home and teach you how to develop your taste over a lifetime,” says Suzanne. The book is laced with witty humor, practical tips, and charming illustrations that celebrate the time honored art of entertaining.

“We are two experts who are not afraid to tell you what to do. We have been living in, and proudly running, our houses for 25 years. People ask our advice all the time because they can see that we enjoy living in our houses and we make it look easy. This is because we have given so much thought and energy into how we do our jobs around the house. We celebrate everything. One of us gave an Emancipation Proclamation dinner dance on a moonlit barrier island when she got divorced, while the other hosted a Go Green dinner when her son mowed the lawn without being asked,” write Pollak and Manigault.

Suzanne was kind enough to stop by and talk with me about the book and her upcoming lecture at the Gibbes. As someone who did not grow up in the south and missed out on etiquette training, I was nervous about our meeting. With a house full of loud, messy boys, I wasn’t sure that their world of entertaining would apply to me. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Suzanne’s warm demeanor and drawn to her energy and passion. All jokes aside, Suzanne spoke about the importance of bringing the community back into our homes. She explained that our busy lives have taken us away from the home as a gathering place for family, friends, and neighbors. The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits teaches readers that entertaining at home doesn’t have to be a big production and is filled with practical tips such as:

  • How to involve all available hands to make light work.
  • How to impress with a meal in mere minutes.
  • The Deans even suggest readers make-do with crates and cushions, should they not have enough chairs for a dinner party.

These women will share their joie de vivre as well as their knowledge and varied life experiences with guests. Join us for an entertaining and informative event on May 12th!

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

Charleston Academy of DP

The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits by Suzanne Pollak and Lee Manigault

Suzanne Pollak, author of Entertaining for Dummies and The Pat Conroy Cookbook is one of the USA’s foremost experts on entertaining, parties and food. She is a wife and the mother of four adult children. After living in Africa for her first 18 years and then answering her own family’s questions for the next 25, she became the spokesperson for a division of Federated Department Stores (covering seventy-seven stores spread out over ten states), giving forty seminars a year on subjects ranging from home decorating to entertaining, including cooking demonstrations and bridal fairs. She became the “face of the home store”.

Lee Manigault is an internationally educated cook, who can set a table with over 100 utensils and butcher a side of beef. She is also a mother of two school-age daughters. She married into one of Charleston’s most prominent families 20 years ago. She lives in a meticulously restored 18th-century house that has been in the family since it was built. Her house is one of the few private houses in town to boast a ballroom and in it she has hosted a huge array of activities from lectures and formal dinners to intimate family holidays. Manigault’s children are the first to have lived in the house since the Civil War, so she has spent a considerable amount of her time re-acquainting the house to young children.

Art With A Twist
Monday, May 12, Noon
THE ART AND SCIENCE OF LIVING AT HOME: Turning Your House into a Work of Art
With Suzanne Pollak and Lee Manigault

For more information or to purchase tickets please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

Photo of the Deans by Vicki Stone.

Reflections on Arts Education

Before starting my internship at the Gibbes Museum of Art, I didn’t have a true understanding of what arts education meant or how powerful it can be. I had read about arts education and heard how effective it is from countless Arts Management classes at the College of Charleston, but it never clicked until I experienced it firsthand this semester while interning in the Education department with Rebecca sailor, Curator of Education. Being able to interact with kids – whether it was handing out maps at the museum on Second Sunday, or doing crafts with them at an arts fair in Mount Pleasant – has given me a newfound appreciation for arts as a creative outlet for children. Even though I am an art history major, double minoring in arts management and studio art, concepts like seeking funding for arts education are relegated to paper topics and online quizzes for my classes and can feel far removed at times. Connecting with children through my internship has made these concepts come alive.

One of the programs that resonated with me is Art to Go. Through this program, teaching artists from the Gibbes are able to go to Title I schools in the Charleston County School District. This year those schools included Goodwin, Mitchell, Pinehurst, Murray LaSaine, and Angel Oak Elementary. Each year Art to Go culminates with the Charleston Marathon in January and the student’s artwork is on display at the marathon expo. I helped one of the teaching artists, Tara White, move one of the projects from Mitchell Elementary to the expo at Burke Middle High School, and saw the tangible results of this amazing program. The finished projects from each school were on display in the gymnasium, and I enjoyed hearing the teaching artists describe their experiences with the kids.

Goodwin Elementary School at Expo

Goodwin Elementary School’s art project on display at the Charleston Marathon Expo

Teaching Artist Tara White said,

“Art to Go provides an incredible experience, not just for the students participating, but also for the educator. As a teaching artist for two years at Goodwin Elementary, I’ve built relationships with approximately 300 students! The most memorable experience happened this year with two fifth grade girls who had not previously enjoyed art class and were getting into trouble at school. However, they chose to give up time on the playground to stay inside and paint with me, choosing art over negative situations. The girls’ willingness to try something out of their comfort zone continues to leave a lasting impression with me, and I’m so glad that Art to Go provided a positive intervention for them”.

Arts education doesn’t stop with children. Throughout my internship, I have been able to follow tours and hear lectures as part of the programming for adults from influential people like Peter Rathbone, who has worked at Sotheby’s New York since 1972 and orchestrated some of their highest American painting sales. I also sat in on studio art classes including pastel, and drawing the human form, that were filled with students from all walks of life. Whether it’s attending lectures by incredible people, or tackling a studio art class in an unfamiliar medium, it’s amazing to see adults continue their own arts education.

This internship has been one the most rewarding experiences that I have had in college and has helped me narrow down my passions and interests within the overwhelming art world (which is very helpful considering my graduation coming up in two short weeks!). Growing up, I was lucky enough to have taken art classes and attended arts camps that instilled in me a great passion for the arts! I am happy to say that I got to be a part of the Education department at the Gibbes, which is offering other children and adults in Charleston and surrounding areas similar opportunities.

Taylor Drury, Education intern

Education intern Taylor Drury posing in front of her favorite John Westmark painting “Exaltation.”

Taylor Drury, Outreach and Education intern, Gibbes Museum of Art

Prize Winners

As submissions pour in for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art (formerly named the Factor Prize), I’ve been thinking about the individual artists from across the southeast who are submitting their work for review. Before I came on board as the marketing manager of the Gibbes Museum, I worked from home as a freelance writer and in that role I frequently submitted my work to various writing prizes. It was hard at first, getting my hopes up and being let down, but eventually the submission process became easier and I won a small prize from a publication in my home-state of Vermont. Winning was thrilling, and even though I had been writing since childhood, the prize made me feel like a “real writer.” Winning gave me the confidence to go to graduate school to earn my MFA, and I can even credit that small prize with the publication of my first book. The experience gave me the recognition and confidence to continue to pursue my writing.

Now that I am working on the other side of a prize, I’ve been curious to know whether my experience was unique or universal. I wanted to know if winning the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art affected the five artists in a similar manner. Did the prize give these artists the confidence to dig deeper in their careers? Did wining the prize help them define themselves as “real artists”? Seeking answers to these questions, I reached out to past winners to ask them to share how winning the prize has affected their career. Below you will read the answers.

Jeff Whetstone is the 2008 winner and says,

“Winning the Factor Prize in 2008 opened several new possibilities in my career. I was able to expand my approach to portraying and describing the Southern landscape and its people by moving into new mediums. I produced two short films with support of the Factor Prize that were shown at the Moving Image Art Fair and at a solo exhibition in New York. Without the funding and the broader support of the Gibbes Museum this work would have never been a reality.”

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad, by Stephen Marc.

The 2009 winner, Stephen Marc, shared,

“Two of the most significant and memorable events in my life happened in the South. The first was in 1976, while running track for Pomona College when the NAIA (National Athletic Intercollegiate Association) national championship meet was held at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR. I became an NAIA All American, placing 2nd in the 110 meter High Hurdles. The second event was receiving this prize.”

Tobacco Blues by Radcliffe Bailey

Tobacco Blues by Radcliffe Bailey, 2010 Winner.

Radcliffe Bailey is the 2010 winner and a frequent traveler who is difficult to pin down! Bailey’s work has gained recognition in the last two years and he is best known for his mixed media works and site-specific installations that explore his personal background and the history of African Americans. Bailey’s work is included in the collections of many prestigious organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Patrick Dougherty won the Prize in 2011. He replied,

“After 30 years of working day-in and day-out as a sculptor, I was delighted to receive the call with the news that I had been selected for the 2011 Factor Prize. I was working on a new sapling sculpture in Dayton, Ohio, when the call came and I nearly fell off the scaffolding in surprise. (…) This journey has allowed me access to a variety of organizations, an ever-changing public, and a portal to the world of ideas. Thank you for the Factor Prize and all the opportunities that it will bring.”

For John Westmark, winning the Prize was a real boost on many levels. Receiving critical acclaim has helped validate his work and has served as great personal motivation to continue pursuing his art with passion. Westmark explains, “Without opportunities and acknowledgements such as the Factor Prize, an artist runs the risk of toiling away in relative obscurity.”

John Westmark and family

2012 Prize winner John Westmark with his family at the opening reception of his solo exhibition, Narratives, at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Westmark’s success has come full circle and on April 4, 2014, we opened a solo exhibition of his latest work titled John Westmark: Narratives. This is the first time his work is being exhibited in a museum setting and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. In Southern Glossary, Brad Rhines writes “Some of the most evocative paintings from this series show women on the attack, often organized in battle formations and carrying rifles or flags. The scenes are reminiscent of images from the Civil War or the American Revolution, iconic depictions of revolt. The painting Exaltation riffs on the theme of women at war, but the moment captured is more stylized.” In an article entitled “Painting feminism: Before Gibbes Museum starts renovations, a dynamic exhibit of works by John Westmark” the Post & Courier Arts Writer Adam Parker writes, “The judges were especially impressed with Westmark’s emphasis on narrative, which is in line with Southern storytelling, according to museum director Angela Mack.”

Winning the Prize has brought attention to these five artists’ work, which is exactly the point. The $10,000 cash award helps support an artist’s career, but the recognition is likely more important. I was not surprised to discover in my research that winning a prize is equally significant for writers and artists alike!

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

Submissions for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art are being accepted through May 28, 2014. To submit a portfolio for consideration, please visit 1858Prize.org.

14th Annual Kiawah Island Art & House Tour

I am fortunate to be involved with a wonderful group of women who belong to Gibbes, etc., an organization comprised of women who live on Kiawah Island. Each year, Gibbes, etc. sponsors a house and art tour and proceeds from the event support education, exhibition and outreach programs at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Since its origin, Gibbes, etc. has raised over 1.2 million dollars to fund traveling programs and art exhibitions in our community. For the past eight years, I have coordinated ticket sales and served as publicity chair. The friendships you make within this terrific group are unparalled. It is not just the golf group or the tennis ladies (although there are quite a few of us) but women who like to make a difference in their community.

 

Ocean Course Drive

Overlooking the 13th hole on the famed Ocean Course and the marsh to the ocean beyond is 14 Ocean Course Drive. This beautiful home is designed in the Dutch Gambrel style and is decorated in soft hues that bring outdoor elements inside.

Blue Heron

This home is beautifully nestled in the Preserve section of the island and overlooks Blue Heron Pond, offering a unique sense of privacy. The neutral palettes throughout emphasize the natural beauty of the outdoors. The artwork throughout the home includes a spectacular collection of original paintings and lithographs by artists such as Picasso and Joan Miro.

 

One of the joys of being publicity chair is that I have the opportunity to visit the five stunning homes on the tour well in advance so that I can write a description of each, including their beautiful art work and antiques and the architectural details. It is also an opportunity to meet the generous homeowners who offer to open their houses for the event. It takes approximately 130 volunteers to make the tour a success and each volunteer works diligently in their position. We also rely heavily on our husbands who assist with parking and security details.

 

Surfsong

This beautiful and spacious home is filled with treasures and furnishings the owners have collected over the years. The stunning house is filled with furnishings from Virginia, Delaware, and South Carolina.

 

In the past two years, we have partnered with merchants at Freshfields Village (at the intersection of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands) to promote discounts for ticket holders who come out to the island for the tour. This year, the Kiawah Island Golf Resort has also partnered with us to offer dining discounts. I am hoping that ticket holders will take advantage of this opportunity. They can come out early, shop, dine and enjoy the tour. It is a wonderful opportunity to see the beautiful homes and views in this privately gated community. I hope you all will come this Friday, April 11th from 1-5 pm. You can get your tickets at any of the real estate offices on the island or at the kiosk located just in front of the grocery market. Tickets are also available at the museum.

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

 

SUMMER ISLAND

This traditional shingle style home overlooks Cinder Creek and the ocean beyond. Both the first and second floors have terraces, and there is a deck and pool that provide wonderful views of the creek.

 

Fish Hawk Lane

This transitional style home on a quiet cul-de-sac is entered through a tranquil courtyard filled with majestic oaks, camellias, and confederate jasmine reminiscent of downtown Charleston gardens.

Carroll Dunn, 2014 Kiawah Art & House Tour Publicity Chair and Guest Blogger

Carroll Dunn, Gibbes, etc.

House photos by Tina Schell.

Curatorial Perspective: Celebrating Contemporary Art

Since the Gibbes Museum of Art first opened its doors in 1905, contemporary art has been a core component of the museum’s mission. Much of the institution’s beloved historical art collection was, in fact, contemporary when it joined the museum collection. This spring, the Gibbes celebrates our continued commitment to the art of our time with two special exhibitions, John Westmark: Narratives and Beyond the Darkroom: Photography in the 21st Century. Both exhibitions will be on view April 4 through July 13, 2014.

The Narratives exhibition showcases new work by John Westmark, a contemporary artist who weaves imaginative story lines into his large-scale paintings. Westmark explores the human figure in dynamic ways through his innovative use of text and paper sewing patterns collaged on canvas. His paintings depict strong courageous women, some portrayed as stoic martyrs and others as warriors engaged in conflicts of rebellion.

Trained as a painter, Westmark created Abstract Expressionist work in graduate school but was searching for a new direction. One day, he noticed a pattern his wife was using for a sewing project. Westmark was intrigued with the pattern design and the cultural meaning of the pattern itself. He began reading feminist theory and also creating collage studies with the sewing patterns. Over time, Westmark found his artistic direction, combining painting and collage to explore the traditional roles of women, and how those roles have shifted over time. It is no coincidence that his change in approach occurred shortly after the birth of his second daughter. Westmark wanted to create art that had meaning for those around him, particularly his wife and two daughters.

In Westmark’s current body of work, many of the paintings depict women preparing for an impending crisis or conflict. Some women are stoic, some are playful, and others steel themselves for battle. Paintings such as Wave upon Wave and The Tinderbox portray women actively engaged in conflict, fighting to enact social change. Other works, such as Exaltation, show moments of transcendence after the conflict has ended.

Exaltation by John Westmark

“Exaltation,” by John Westmark (American, b. 1963)

Of this work he writes,

“My intention with “Exaltation’” is to present a scene suggesting a violent event, in this case an explosion. This event functions as the first layer to be peeled away to expose a deeper meaning of transcendence. The figures are not so much victims of a destructive event as they are propelled by the intense energy of white light. They are the beneficiaries of something powerful and unexplained. The sewing patterns are released from the role of containing flesh to fly away,” says Westmark.

With each painting, the narrative is open to interpretation; however, the embedded text offers clues to the implied storyline.

A resident of Gainesville, Florida, Westmark holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the University of Florida. In 2012, he received the Factor Prize for Southern Art, (renamed the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art) awarded by the Gibbes to an artist whose work contributes to a new understanding of art in the south.

The Gibbes explores another aspect of contemporary art through the exhibition Beyond the Darkroom: Photography in the 21st Century. Since the invention of photography in 1839, the medium has constantly evolved with the development of new technologies. In the twenty-first century, photographic processes have shifted from the darkroom to the digital world, bringing new possibilities to the medium. Beyond the Darkroom examines a variety of photography-based works acquired over the past ten years for the Gibbes Museum’s collection. Ranging from the text and photo-based works of Carrie Mae Weems to the digital montages of Stephen Marc, this exhibition showcases the great innovation in photography today.

A great example is Botany Bay Plantation Boardwalk by Atlanta-based artist John Folsom. Trained as a photographer, Folsom begins his mixed-media landscapes with a photographic image. Using digital software, the image is then divided into a grid and printed on separate panels. The panels are then attached to a large wooden panel to create a unified image. However, the grid remains visible as a reminder that the image is a construction of the artist’s making, not an objective representation of nature. Folsom pushes this idea further by working the surface of the image with oil paint and sealing it with a wax medium. The technique gives the surface of Folsom’s work a rich patina that suggests the layers of history accumulated in the Lowcountry landscape.

Botany Bay Plantation Boardwalk by John Folsom

“Botany Bay Plantation Boardwalk,” by John Folsom (American, b. 1967)

The connection between past and present is an underlying theme of Beyond the Darkroom. The introduction of the exhibition offers a history of photographic processes, including early works from the Gibbes collection. An antebellum daguerreotype, late nineteenth-century albumen prints, and early twentieth-century stereographs give context to the remarkable contemporary works on view. By combining the old and new, Beyond the Darkroom highlights a great strength of the museum’s collection—to engage people with the past while building an appreciation for the present.

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

John Westmark: Narratives and Beyond the Darkroom: Photography in the 21st Century, are on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art from April 4–July 13, 2014. Visit our online calendar to find programs and events related to these exhibitions.

« Previous PageNext Page »