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.

Presenting the Art of Healing

I recently had the opportunity to attend the South Carolina Federation of Museums (SCFM) annual conference in Camden, SC, both as a participant and a presenter. Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration at the Gibbes (and now the president of SCFM!) suggested that I submit an application to present on our Art of Healing program sponsored by Roper St. Francis Healthcare, and I was thrilled with the idea! I knew this conference would be a great chance to meet other museum and cultural professionals from South Carolina as well as gain feedback on the Art of Healing program from my colleagues.

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, Curator of Education, and Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration, at the South Carolina Federation of Museums (SCFM) conference.

Since the fall of 2012, I have been fortunate enough to help organize the Art of Healing Lending Collection, now up and running at the Roper Rehabilitation Hospital. Inspired by a patient’s request to have artwork displayed in his room while staying at the rehab hospital, the lending collection is comprised of 22 works of art by 16 local artists including Lese Corrigan, Rick Reinert, and Brenda Orcutt, who were generous enough to lend their pieces to the hospital. Upon admittance to the rehab unit, patients are allowed to choose a piece from this collection to have displayed in their room during their recovery. This collection compliments the Art of Healing lecture and workshop series at the Gibbes Museum. I’ve truly enjoyed working on this initiative, and wanted to be able to share this exciting program with attendees. I also hoped to gain ideas from those attending the workshop on their perspective of the program and suggestions for improvements.

A New Day, 2013

“A New Day” by Rick Reinert.

This year’s SCFM conference was held in the charming and friendly town of Camden, SC. The conference began the evening of March 12, and concluded on Friday, March 14. Each day was divided into several time slots, of which registrants were asked to select one of three workshop options to attend. After attending a session at the Camden Archives and Museum on the morning of March 13, I gave my presentation at another historic building that the city of Camden was gracious enough to let us use. After giving some background on the Art of Healing and explaining how the program began, I wanted to open the session up for discussion. I was very impressed with participant’s enthusiasm and the great ideas on how to improve the program. Suggestions such as complementary programming for children or veterans were just some of the interesting ideas that came out of the conversation portion of the presentation.

<i>Art of Healing</i>

Artist Brianna Stello with a patient who chose Stello’s photograph, “Wetlands,” to hang in his hospital room in 2013.

After the presentation concluded, conference participants met at the historic Robert Mills Courthouse for the Awards Recognition and Business Luncheon. The afternoon consisted of several more sessions which opened my eyes to what wonderful work other museums and cultural in the state are doing. I had the opportunity to learn about a program that Historic Columbia has created that pairs high school students with retired alumni from the school. The alumni mentor the students and encourage them to get involved with the community. That evening, attendees were invited to a lovely reception and the National Steeplechase Museum which gave everyone a chance to talk and get to know colleagues from around the state.

In the museum world, it is extremely important to reach out and learn from our sister institutions on how to improve our programs. We can learn so much from other museums that have faced the same challenges we may have, and we in return and teach others what has and has not worked for us. Overall, the SCFM conference was a great experience and I’ll definitely be going back next year!

Amanda Breen, Membership Coordinator, Gibbes Museum of Art

Pastel – Expressive and Brilliant

No Agenda by Tammy Papa

No Agenda by Tammy Papa, the painting that was accepted into the Appalachain National Pastel Society 2012 Show.

“What is Pastel?”

I am asked this question a lot.

People think of soft, light colors when they hear the word pastel.

I like to explain that the origin of the word pastel comes from the French word pastische, via the Italian word pastello, meaning paste.  As pastels are made, powdered pigment is combined with water and binder, which turns into a paste. The paste is then rolled out into sticks and dried. The softer the pastel, the more pigment it has and the less binder. Pastels are made from the same pigment used in other mediums such as oil, watercolor, and acrylic, but the pigment is held together with a light glue or binder called methylcellulose.

Many people confuse soft pastels with oil pastels. Instead of the light glue, oil pastels are made with beeswax, pigment, and other chemicals and have a waxy, crayon-like character.  Soft pastels and oil pastels are not the same and cannot be combined.

Whenever I do a pastel demonstration, I often get the question, “Is that chalk?”  I say, “Well, it may look like chalk, but it isn’t. Chalk is made of limestone and dye. Pastels are almost pure pigment.”

pastels

A colorful array of soft pastel (not chalk) in an artist’s tool box

This is one of the reasons people love pastels . . . the pure, brilliant colors. In fact, under the microscope a particle of pastel pigment has facets like a diamond. They have light-scattering properties and practically shimmer!

Another question people frequently ask is “Do you teach art lessons?” The answer is “Yes!” Teaching art started organically for me. As it turns out, I love to share information. I studied Studio Art at the University of South Carolina and worked as an Art Director for Rawle Murdy for years before dedicating myself to painting full time in 1996. During art shows and gallery openings, I found myself sharing more and more information with anyone and everyone that asked. My friends encouraged me to start an art class. So, I started doing demonstrations and workshops, and my classes grew. I have taught many classes locally and internationally including in Charleston, the Southeast, and in Spain.

Since art is my passion, I am gratified to share my knowledge and help people explore their authentic ‘art spirit’ and voice. I feel each person has their own artistic voice, just like everyone has their own handwriting. And each of us in the arts has an art spirit. I think teachers can squash a student’s art spirit pretty easily if they are overly critical too soon. It takes a lot of bravery to even go to an art class. I don’t want to teach people to paint like me. I want them to paint as themselves, their expression. One of my favorite books is the Art Spirit by Robert Henri—my approach comes from his amazing teachings. So many people say, “Oh, I can’t even draw a stick figure.” I always say, “You are probably more creative than you know. Anyone can learn to draw!” In short, I love to learn and I love to share what I have learned.

As an artist and a teacher, I continue to seek new information and inspiration. One of the most inspiring events for me was the Pastel Society of America’s 2013 National Show – Enduring Brilliance. From over 1,000 pastels entered, the judges chose 175. I was over the moon to be included in this competitive show. The show is held each year at the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park in New York City, and judged by master pastelists. It is a diverse and exciting show featuring a wide range of styles from highly representational to abstract.

Tammy Papa in New York

Tammy Papa at the National Arts Club in New York. The artist’s pastel painting, “Morning Mist on the Edisto” (above) was included in the Pastel Society of America’s 41st Annual Open Juried Exhibition in 2013.

My daughter, sister, and niece accompanied me to New York to see the show. We had a girls’ weekend, attending the reception and basking in the excitement. As I was entering the beautiful and sumptuous Grand Gallery of the National Arts Club, I could barely contain myself. The pieces were inspiring, diverse, and moving. Master pastelist Richard McKinley, PSA, gave a critique during the reception, which was a class in art appreciation itself. I oohed and aahed over the amazing works of art AND all the pastels supplies for sale—an artist can never have too many pastels! I returned to Charleston with renewed energy and perspective to share with my students.

I am very proud to be affiliated with and teach for the Gibbes Museum. Through the classes at the Hazel Parker Community Center, I am able to give back to the community and share my passion for art and the pastel medium. I have been fortunate to have amazing teachers. It is my hope to pass it on.

I am currently represented by Sandpiper Gallery on Sullivan’s Island and Edward Dare Gallery on Broad Street in downtown Charleston, SC. Please visit www.tammypapa.com to see additional examples of my work. And I hope you will sign up for a class at the Gibbes!

Tammy Papa, Artist, Teacher, and Guest Blogger

A Romance with Cuba, by Dr. Jeb Hallett

 

I have had a romance with Cuba all my life.

Havana Cathedral

Havana Cathedral

At the age of ten, I listened to the Revolution on Radio Havana via my small short-wave radio in my bedroom in West Virginia. I dreamed of visiting Havana. Riding in cool old Chevy convertibles. Maybe seeing Hemingway around town. But, the Revolution ended that dream.

Then came the Gibbes “artistic” trip in February. (Twenty-three Gibbes Fellows traveled to Cuba with Executive Director Angela Mack, Curator of Collections Pam Wall, and Membership Coordinator Amanda Breen to learn about Cuba and its art.) So well organized! So well executed! Angela, Amanda, and Pam hit this one out of the ballpark!

Classic Cars in Cuba

Dr. Hallett enjoying the ride!

Who can forget twenty five Charlestonians riding around Havana like a gang of teenagers  in ‘55 Chevy convertibles? Or, dancing to the music of the Buena Vista Social Club? Or, peering into the windows of Ernest Hemingway’s home at Vinca Figia?

Oh, wait! Angela reminds me that the trip was really about art. The amazing creativity of The Merger, Kadir Lopez, Roberto Fabelo, and Yoan Capote was inspirational for starters. And, the worn patina of the architecture that enigmatically felt both sad and beautiful in the moment. All of this culture in the context a truly resilient people who take pride in their independence and joy of life.

Roberto Fabelo's studio

Roberto Fabelo’s studio

None of this magic would have been possible without the company of so many old and new friends. My wife, Linda Austin, and I will always treasure this trip because of these friends.

So, my next dream: get back to see more of Cuba. When the Gibbes is ready for another Cuban “invasion,” count me in. Maybe on a Harley Davidson motorcycle riding toward Santiago with a Cohiba cigar in mouth and Linda in the sidecar!!

Dr. Jeb Hallett, Gibbes Museum Board Member and Guest Blogger

 

Changing of the Art: The Charleston Story

Every six months, the curatorial and collections staff at the Gibbes rotates artwork on view in our permanent exhibition—The Charleston Story. Arranged chronologically, this exhibition features the museum’s core collection of American art and allows our visitors to follow the course of fine art in the South from the eighteenth century to the present. The exhibition highlights artists and images of Charleston through a wide range of media and artistic styles—from Benjamin West’s Colonial era oil painting of Thomas Middleton of the Oaks, to Pietro Rossi’s exquisitely carved marble the Veiled Lady, to Leo Twiggs’ batik rendering Sarah Remembered. This biannual refreshing of the permanent exhibition galleries allows us to highlight a broader range of the nearly 7000 works of art in the Gibbes collection.

Veiled Lady, 1882, by Pietro Rossi

The Veiled Lady as part of Changing of the Art, The Charleston Story

As is true in most museums, only a small percentage of the Gibbes’ treasures can be on view at one time and it is always exciting to see new artwork on the walls. I am often asked “How do you decide what works are exhibited?” Or when a beloved work is missing from our walls, “Why isn’t ‘such and such’ artwork on view now?” There are several key factors that guide our decision making when changes to the permanent galley spaces take place. In addition to thematic factors, curatorial changes are determined by preservation requirements, educational needs, and logistics.

Preservation requirements prioritize many of the changes that take place. For instance, oil paintings on canvas and marble sculptures are less sensitive to light damage than watercolor paintings on paper. Therefore audience favorites such as Thomas Sully’s 1823 portrait of Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. and Barkley Hendricks’ 1972 portrait of Ms. Johnson (Estelle) can remain on view for a longer duration than Alice Smith’s watercolor landscape Reserve at Fairlawn on the Wando. Light exposure over time can cause fading and deterioration. The Gibbes and other museums take measures to reduce light intensity for works on view in galleries. However, some light is obviously a necessity. Light damage is cumulative so it is the total exposure over time that matters. In order to ensure the longevity of our more sensitive objects it is necessary to rotate works on paper, pastels, and watercolors to limit light exposure over time.

Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr., 1823, by Thomas Sully

Audience favorite Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. by Thomas Sully

Curatorial selections are not made in isolation. The Gibbes has a robust art education program led by Curator of Education, Rebecca Sailor, and a group of truly dynamic museum educators. The needs of our museum teachers, docents, and our new Junior Docent program are all taken into account. Thousands of students from pre-school through high school are introduced to the museum’s collection every year. Thematic groupings such as portraits that contribute to the telling of South Carolina’s role in the Revolutionary War like Rembrandt Peale’s painting of General William Moultrie or James Earl’s portrait of General Cotesworth Pinckney enhance social studies curriculums and are frequently used by our museum teachers. These paintings are displayed in close proximity to each other and are rarely placed in storage. Contemporary works are also popular with students and museum teachers, so a painting such as Jonathan Green’s Corene that fits chronologically on the third floor balcony gallery occupies a central location. which allows the students room to gather for discussion.

<i>Corene</i> by Jonathan Green

Corene by Jonathan Green, a favorite of school children

The Charleston Story occupies six different gallery spaces on the first floor of the Gibbes and continues through portions of the second and third floor. Logistical considerations are broad in range—we ask ourselves many questions prior to any artwork installation. Does this work fit in the gallery chronologically and thematically? Does this work fit on the wall based on its size and composition? Does this work have special exhibition requirements such as casework or limited lighting? How will the display of this work affect traffic flow for visitors, school groups, and other programs? Is this work scheduled to go on view at the Gibbes in a different exhibition? Is this work scheduled to go on loan to another institution? What interpretive material is required? Will this work be highlighted on the cell phone tour? Does this work enhance other programs scheduled? In general, how can it best be displayed for our visitors now and in the future?

While each work of art in a museum stands on its own merit, an important part of the museum experience is the opportunity to make comparisons between works, and to understand the context in which the artwork was created. Providing an atmosphere that enhances and enriches our visitor’s interactions with the art is our primary goal. As we move forward with our plans to expand and renovate the Gibbes building, we will be able to showcase more than 600 works of art from the permanent collection in an environment that includes new walls and flooring, high-quality lighting, visitor-friendly display casework, and innovative platforms for interpretation. Not to mention a new café, renovated gift shop, and art-making studios—all the amenities necessary to inspire a creative community!

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

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