For Immediate Release

Media Contacts: Melanie Mathos / Hannah Nuccio
Lou Hammond & Associates /
(843) 371-1363 / (843) 410-5306


Two Special Exhibitions Open at the Gibbes on May 4

Mary Whyte: Working South and Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens of the South

(Charleston, South Carolina) –The Gibbes Museum of Art will have two special exhibitions on view from May 4 through September 9, 2012, Mary Whyte: Working South and Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens of the South. In the Main Gallery, renowned watercolorist Mary Whyte captures the essence of vanishing blue-collar professions from across ten southern states in Working South. The Rotunda Gallery will feature the work of fine art photographer Vaughn Sills and her stunning collection of photographs documenting African American folk gardens and their creators in the exhibition Places for the Spirit.

“The pairing of these exhibitions underscores our mission to promote American art from a southern perspective. This is a splendid opportunity to discover the uniqueness of the South through the eyes of two stellar artists,” stated Angela D. Mack, Executive Director.

Mary Whyte: Working South
Mary Whyte: Working South features 50 watercolor portraits, sketches, and drawings that focus on vanishing rural and industrial workforces that were once ubiquitous throughout the region but are now declining due to changes in our economy, environment, technology, and fashion. From the textile mill worker and tobacco farmer to the sponge diver and elevator operator, Whyte documents the range of southerners whose everyday labors have gone unheralded while keeping the South in business. By rendering these workers amid scenes of their rough-hewn lives, Whyte shares stories of the grace, strength, and dignity exemplified in these images of fading southern ways of life and livelihood. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color publication that includes an introduction by the artist.

Mary Whyte is a teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. A resident of Johns Island, South Carolina, Whyte garners much of her inspiration from members of the Gullah community of coastal South Carolina, who number among her most prominent subjects. She has published several books, and her portraits are included in numerous corporate, private, and public collections, including the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Mary Whyte: Working South is sponsored by the member auxiliary group Gibbes, etc., BlueCross BlueShield of SC, TD Bank, and Charleston magazine.

Related Programming (unless otherwise noted, all programs are at the Gibbes):
Society 1858 Art Walk Gathering at Coleman Fine Art - Welcome by Mary Whyte
Coleman Fine Art is located at 79 Church Street
Friday, May 4, 5:30pm

Gallery Talk for Art Educators
Tuesday, May 15, 4:30-5:30pm
Free but educators must register in advance by contacting,
843-722-2706 x41

Watercolor Portrait Painting Workshop with Mary Whyte
Saturday, May 19, 9am - 4 pm
Class held at Lance Hall, Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting Street
$180 Museum Members, $200 Non-Members (includes lunch)
Space is limited, register by contacting, 843-722-2706 x41

Exhibition Tour Led by Mary Whyte
Friday, June 1, 2:30pm
Free with museum admission

Illuminating the Spirit: A Conversation with Artists Mary Whyte and Jonathan Green
Presented by the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Moderated by Angela Mack
Book Signing to Follow
Monday, June 4 at 11am
$12 in advance, $14 at the door (if available)
Limited seating, tickets will be sold exclusively through Piccolo Spoleto. The Piccolo Spoleto Festival is a project of the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs.

Exhibition Tour Led by Mary Whyte
Friday, June 8, 2:30pm
Free with museum admission

Working South Sunday with Complimentary Admission
Museum visitors can enjoy the exhibition free of charge
Sunday, July 8, 1 – 5pm

Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens of the South
Vaughn Sills began photographing folk gardens in 1987 after visiting Mrs. Bea Robinson’s garden in Athens, Georgia. Sills recalls that she “became entranced by Bea’s garden” and felt a magic or spirit surrounding her. Over the next twenty years, Sills traveled throughout the Southeast and photographed over 150 yards and gardens—and often their creators. These gardens found in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina represent an important element of the American landscape that is quickly disappearing.

The landscapes that Sills documents have a unique historical significance due to the design elements and spiritual meanings that have been traced to the yards and gardens of American slaves and further back to their African heritage. The gardens are places to socialize and be creative, but they also have mystical purposes: bottles and plant pots are put on the tree branches or intentionally placed in the garden to capture evil spirits; pipes are placed vertically in the ground to allow the spirits of ancestors to communicate with the living. These seemingly whimsical arrangements are actually subtle and symbolic reminders of the divine in everyday life and the cycles of the natural world. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog titled Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens.

A fine art and documentary photographer, Vaughn Sills’ work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries. She has recently been awarded grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and the Polaroid Foundation. She is a professor of photography at Simmons College in Boston, MA.

Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens of the South is sponsored by AT&T Real Yellow Pages.

Related Programming:
Charleston Chamber Opera presents
Songs for the Spirit—Opera and the African American Experience

Sunday, May 6, at 3pm
$15 Members, $25 Non-Members
Tickets available at or 843-722-2706 x22

Exhibition Tour Led by Vaughn Sills
Friday, May 25, 2:30pm
Free with museum admission

Curator-Led Tour
Conducted by Sara Arnold, Gibbes Curator of Collections
Thursdays, June 14 and August 16 at 2:30pm
Free with museum admission

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905 in historic Charleston, S.C. The Gibbes houses one of the foremost collections of American Art from the 18th century to the present. The Gibbes is currently undergoing major renovations and will reopen in the spring of 2016. The renovated museum will properly showcase its extensive collections and will feature an admission-free ground floor, providing a place to watch artists at work in studios and stroll through a world-class garden.

135 Meeting Street | Charleston, SC | 29401