Friday, November 25, 2011

Just for the heck of it I'm posting this.

I do miss doing this, but it will eat my entire life up if i start.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Viewing art and the city

This is my last posting for Carolina Culture by Jeffrey Day. (Unless 40 people want to donate $1,000 each a year - or some variation of that- for the next three years or so.) I have taken a job at the Arts Institute at the University of South Carolina spreading the good news about the institute and all the arts at USC.
As things shake out with that I hope to be able to continuing writing for various publications. I have also partnered with writer Cindi Boiter and designer Mark Pointer to re-launch Undefined magazine. It will have the same great look, but more in-depth writing about a wider variety of the arts.
This month, the shortest in the year, has had the highest number of visits since I started the site last April so I'm going out on a high note.

Carolina Culture has been a lot of work and fun and I think important as well.
 - Jeffrey

Teri Tynes left Columbia in 2006 for New York where she lives in a mid-1950s apartment building of glazed brick just south of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

During her nine years in Columbia, Tynes did several things. She was City Art Gallery director, art editor and then editor of the alternative weekly newspaper Free Times and taught at USC.
Not long after re-locating, Tynes launched the blog “Walking Off The Big Apple” that she calls “a literary, arts-minded, and sometimes totally fanciful strolling guide to New York.”

A recent posting went through a lineup of art exhibitions opening around the city. Another took a gander at the things that punctuate Columbia Circle - the monument to those killed when the ship The Maine blew up and started the Spanish American War, Trump International Hotel and Tower and the Museum of Arts and Design located in a racially re-designed 1964 building by Edward Durell Stone (who gave Columbia the Thomas Cooper Library and the now-gone “honeycomb” dorms at USC.) She’s written about where to eat in various neighborhoods, subway stations in which to seek refuge during bad weather and the places mentioned in Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” She tracked Milledgeville, Ga., writer Flannery O’Connor’s six months in New York.

Tynes will be back in Columbia this coming weekend to explore the urban landscape and public art for the Columbia Design League. She’ll give a talk Friday night at 6 and lead a walking tour Saturday at noon. The cost is $5. The talk will be at the Fox Theatre at Main and Taylor streets and that’s where the walk starts too.

“I will be talking a lot about public art, but mainly in relationship to pubic space,” Tynes said in an email interview. “I’m interested in what makes a successful public place - where people want to gather together. In New York, there are now a set of guidelines in designing or renovating small and large spaces - things like movable chairs, water features, giving people a variety of things to do. “

She’ll show examples of public spaces in New York such as the recent remaking of Broadway into a pedestrian space, an old railroad line transformed into a linear park and waterfront parks. 
"I want people to think about the fundamentals of designing a space for art, and I'll be advocating the creation of more pedestrian spaces that link neighborhoods and places - like the riverfront – together,” she said. “It's not just a ‘green" solution.’ It's about good design. You just can't commission a work of public art without thinking about how the work will function in a social space.”

A couple of public artworks in Columbia have lodged in Tynes’ memory: Mariah Kirby-Smith's sculpture of Mayor Kirkman Finlay and Blue Sky's mural of parking spaces at Crayton Middle School.

The public art we have, or don’t have, has been on my mind for several years. What we do have is a mixed bag – some good well-known works, several solid, but largely hidden, pieces and a lot that could be called “plop art,” a term the architect James Wines coined 40 years ago.  That’s art that has been “plopped” somewhere without much consideration of what’s around it or how people will relate to it. So much public art is like wallpaper – it’s just there and you don’t really notice it. Often times it’s too there for the public and they feel it insults them or is imposed upon them. But often such artworks initially reviled become beloved such as the “Chicago Picasso,” a 1967 piece by Pablo Picasso.

Certainly the best-known and admired public artwork in Columbia is Blue Sky’s 1975 “Tunnel Vision,” a giant mural on the back of the AgFirst Farm Credit Bank. When he was trying to convince the bank and the S.C. Arts Commission to do it, he kept running into walls – and not just the one at the back of the bank. Eventually Blue Sky got a $3,000 grant for the piece which took about a year to do. The bank, the Arts Commission and the people of Columbia, and elsewhere, came to love the work.

Close to “Tunnel Vision” is another later less successful by Blue Sky as well as a giant water-spurting fountain that looks like a fire hydrant, but actually doesn’t look much like a fire hydrant. No one seems to love them much – partially because they detract from “Tunnel Vision.” Another of the artist’s pieces that almost everyone digs is a giant chain that links two buildings on Main Street.
It’s even better knowing that he installed it in the middle of the night without any official approval.
Across from the chain on the Columbia Museum of Art plaza are a couple of good sculptures from the museum collection which get lost on the barren plaza and a fountain/sculpture that somehow ended up costing $500,000 and looks like it was picked out of a catalog.
You can find a beautiful and striking mural by Eric Lake on the rear of a building at the corner of Park and Gervais streets recording the the history of the area with a Thomas Hart Benton style.

One of my favorite public artworks is on one of my favorite buildings. The Byrnes Building at Sumter and College streets is a modern masterpiece, although it’s a bit run down.  At the entrance is a large abstract mosaic mural by the late Gil Petroff that’s losing bits and obscured by a line of newspaper boxes. (Top and bottom photos)

Just across the street is the gargantuan and impressive, but not only because it is gargantuan, equestrian stature by Anna Hyatt Huntington. (I first saw it after slogging my way through a grim Jasper Johns exhibition at USC’s McKissick Museum when I was interviewing for an arts reporting job at The State. I wrote a test review of the Johns’ show that mentioned the Huntington sculpture. I got the job, but I had a lot to learn. Also it's not usually covered with the white stuff.)

Another mosaic mural, this one by Catherine Rembert, and in much better shape that the Petroff piece, wraps around the SCE and G building on Lady Street.

Not all the public art in Columbia is on walls or made of paint or chips of glass or steel or bronze. In front of the S.C. State Museum you’ll find public art that requires watering – Pearl Fryar’s topiary sculptures. Unlike the rest of the public art in town, they keep getting bigger.

A rather stiff metal woman shows up in a couple of spots. She’s standing in the shrubbery outside the Koger Center with a quilt (it’s an AIDS memorial) and in an oddly prominent spot in front of the USC art department where she is accompanied by a dog. (What she’s doing there – rather than a piece by professors Robert Lyon or Virginia Scotchie or USC alumnus and super-famous artist and theorist Ron Jones is beyond me.)

About a decade ago the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties embarked on a public art program that scattered some good and not so good works around. The program was badly managed and works didn't get final approval from those on the selection committee who had art knowledge.

The council’s public art foray culminated in one really tragic work – the little bronze people jumping through the plastic square in Maxcy Gregg Park.
Although people talk about how the city needs more public art, I think most people would rather do without than have something half-baked which is mostly what we’ve gotten. But of course what looks like a terrible idea for a public artwork in 2011 might in 2022 appear to be a work of genius. (Although I don't see a lot of people coming to the defense of the Cultural Council project a decade on.)

To get good public art, one needs a significant budget, consideration of the site, a strong selection committee that understands the function of public art, a good artist and a vision that is bold – so bold people might hate it for a while.
My dream public artwork for Columbia is a 30-foot-tall plastic, full-color sculpture (like those created by the late Luis Jimenez) of Strom Thurmond standing on his head at the entrance to the Roman bathhouse that is the Strom Thurmond fitness center at USC.
I’m completely serious. 


Friday, February 26, 2010

Southern Exposure concert off due to snow

Looks like I made a bad call about what to feature this weekend. The Southern Exposure concert Saturday night has been canceled. The duo is stuck in the snow in New York.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New music, old music, lots of books, some art and dance

Concert gives an electrifying musical experience

The Southern Exposure new music series can take many guises:  Chinese lute players, contemporary chamber music, solo piano, opera. One concert is always devoted to electronic music and it goes by the catchy and slightly dangerous sounding name Exposed Wiring.

This concert is organized by Reg Bain, a composer who runs the experimental music lab at USC. The concert started as a showcase for student, but since last year has turned things up a bit.
“We wanted to elevate the computer music concert to a professional level and bring in performers with a national and world-wide reputation,” Bain said.
The next concert taking place Saturday features Odd Appetite, a cello and percussion duo, and soprano saxophone player Susan Fancher. Both combine acoustic instruments and electronics.
The New York-based Odd Appetite consists of cellist Ha-Yang Kim and percussionist Nathan Davis, who are trained in classical and contemporary music and also compose. They’ll play “Cant” by Matt Tierney, “Oon” by Ha-Yang Kim and other works in various configurations combining live performance with electronic enhancements and computer-processed sounds.
The group has been together for a decade and met performing Handel’s “Messiah” in New Hampshire.
“Both of us were practicing odd contemporary music during the breaks in rehearsals,” Davis said. “Everyone else was getting coffee.
“We are kind of zealots. We try to live and breathe the music. The repertoire is the identity of the group.”
Because of the unusual cello/percussion combination, most of the works Odd Appretite plays are written specifically for it.
The 14-minute “Cant” is “a real tour de force,” Davis said. “The composer is a long-time friend and he wrote this fantastic piece for a song. We’ve played it dozens of times all over the world.”
And for those with more mainstream tastes the group,  which has performed in Indonesia, Turkey Russia and Cuba, will do its version of Radiohead’s “Like Spinning Plates.”

Fancher (left) is coming to Columbia to play just one piece – Bain’s “Jovian Images.” It is based upon photographic images of planets the composer transformed into audio data.
“It’s a beautiful piece,” said Fancher, who has known Bain since the two were students at Northwestern University. Fancher, who teaches at Duke University, commissioned him to write it for a CD she released last year. In the work, she plays saxophone live with some computer-processed sounds. Because it calls for improvisation the work is different each time.
The concert is at 7:30 at the USC music school. Free, but it fills up fast. Davis will give a talk at the USC music school Friday at 2:30.
Call (803) 777-4280.

And what else
I can hardly believe it, but things have slowed a little. Several events are ongoing – “Always … Patsy Cline” at Town Theatre, “Crowns” at Trustus, “Arabian Nights” at Theatre South Carolina, exhibitions by Anna Redwine and Laura Spong at Gallery 80808 and John Drews at Compass 5.
If you’re anything like me you’ll spend a good chunk of the weekend at the S.C. Book Festival. Along with all the readings and panels, there will be a couple of concerts and films and even an art show.
Also – this is going to be a black and white weekend.

Thursday, Feb. 25
Catching up with art
Several art shows recently opened, one of which I mentioned several weeks ago and one I didn’t find out about until the day before it opened.
“Color Vision” at the Columbia Museum of Art augments the traveling show “The Chemistry of Color.” It’s a small show, consisting of a dozen works on paper by African-American artists in the museum collection including Lorna Simpson, (right) William Henry Johnson and Willie Cole. The show is up through May 30. 

A show at the museum that slipped through the cracks is “Skate and Create” the annual exhibition showcasing the talents of (get ready) skateboarders. The show consists of a lot of customized boards (without wheels) and it is really good. Through March 21.
(803) 799-2810.
"ABC : Acorn, Blair, Callahan” at Columbia College is made up of paintings, drawing, monotype prints, sculptures and a few more things by Pat Callahan of Columbia, John Acorn of Pendleton and Carl Blair of Greenville.
Callahan is a designer for USC Press who does figurative drawings, but most recently has shown shallow boxes filled with little drawings and found object sculptures. Acorn was long-time chairman of the Clemson University art department who creates wood and metal sculptures. (left) Blair taught at Bob Jones University for many years and does landscape-inspired paintings. Through March 20 and at 1301 Columbia College Drive. (803) 786-3088.
Flute and viola  
Violist Constance Gee, flautist Jennifer Parker-Harley and pianist Lynn Kompass join forces for concert. They’ll play “Romance pour flute et piano” by  Phillipe Gaubert; “Faith and Hope” by Carl Nielsen; “Elegie” by Igor Stravinsky; “Duo pour Flute et Alto” by Edison Denisov; and “Prelude, Recitatif et Variations, op. 3 by” Maurice Durufle. The 7:30 concert at the USC School of Music, where the three teach.  (803) 777-4280.

Emerging playwrights
Take a look and listen to the young talent at the USC theater department. The plays “Interruptions” by Steven Kopp and “Ralph and Mary” by William Renken will be performed tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m. You’ll find them at the USC Lab Theatre on Wheat Street between Sumter and Pickens. $5. (803) 777-4266.

Saturday, Feb. 27
Lots of books and writers and even some art
Frankly, it’s a little hard to know where to start writing about the S.C. Book Festival. You can wander around the big hall and see what people are selling; line up to have you books signed by writers; go to panels on women writers, hanging tough as a writer, mysteries, writing for young people, writing about food; see an exhibition by South Carolina artists; hear a gospel group sing and so on and so on. (See last Sunday’s posting for more about the art and music.)
The keynote speaker is John Hart, (left) a North Carolina author of three novels (he replaces Rick Bragg who canceled due to an illness.) Among the other notables are Ron Rash, a native of South Carolina who has moved successfully from poetry to novels; Jon Tuttle (a professor at Francis Marion College) who has had several plays produced at Trustus and elsewhere; food writers and Charleston native Ted and Matt Lee; and big seller Dorothea Benton Frank.

You will be hard pressed to get to everything worth going to, but give it a try.
The festival is at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center at Senate and Lincoln streets (That’s one block about two blocks southwest of the Capitol.) It runs 9 to 5:30 Saturday and 11:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
For details go to

Food and music from Italy
“An Evening in Italy” at 7 p.m. is a fund raiser for The Palmetto Opera and provides those who ante up the $75 ticket price with food, drink and songs – in Italian of course.
For tickets call (803) 776-0526 or 315-8866. 

Sunday, Feb. 28
New dance redux
The S.C. Contemporary Dance Company is back at the Columbia Museum of Art doing what it did last week – a piece inspired by the artist Alvin Loving’s “Midtown” series of jazzy painted cutouts that are part of “The Chemistry of Color” at the Museum. The piece was choreographed by company director Miriam Barbosa, with original music by John Valerio of the USC music school. 3 p.m. Admission is $10 or $8 for museum members. or (803) 799-2810.

Tuesday, March 2
The contemporary sax
French saxophonists Jean-Michel Goury brings his award-winning playing to USC.  Goury performs a great deal of contemporary music and will do so at the 7:30 concert at the USC School of Music. He’s a champion of new works and has recorded pieces, many written for him, by Aperghis, Berio, Boudreau, Lauba, Goto, Gabriele, Seffer, Bedrossian, Sauguet, Levaillant, Rossé, Rolin, Carlosema, Karlins, Gubler, Kuehn, Mintche, Pavlenko, Savouret, Schilling, Jakubroski, Giner, Lemay, Schrude, Isaksson, Buen, Knüssel, Zimmerlin, Wissberg, Sciarrino, Dulat, Fournier, and Minamikawa. You’re gonna have to look up what they are yourself. (803) 777-4280.

Wednesday, March 3
Life is still a cabaret
Cait Doyle got Manhattan's Best Cabaret Performer prize in 2008. You can find out why why when she performs tonight at Trustus. The Columbia Alternacirque opens with belly dancing, fire eating and so on. (803) 254-9732

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

End of an artwork - taking apart Jonathan Brilliant's sculpture at USC

Nude Tuesday! Arts forum report, pianist and composer on Boston radio, taking apart art

"Insouciance" by Pat Gilmartin. 
Gilmartin, of Columbia,will be one of 27 artists in a 
show at the S.C. Book Festival  Saturday and Sunday
at the Columbia Convention Center.

Talking about the arts
Lately we’ve been having a lot of meetings about the arts. A couple have been forums that have revolved around candidates for city of Columbia and Richland County offices, but a meeting Monday night was aimed more at those in and interested in the arts.
It was part of the S.C. Arts Commission getting input for its once-every-decade “Canvass of the People.”

Some good, interesting things got talked about, but first the bad news. About 30 people attended and 10 of those work at the Arts Commission; several people who spoke were only concerned with their own tiny portion of the art world; I spoke up several times.

The first big question tossed out by the moderator was “What’s working in the arts.”

Here are a few of the offerings:
The “healing arts” program in Kershaw County.
The impact of the arts on economic development in York County.
The good attendance at a local choral group’s concerts.
The Columbia City Ballet performing in Chicago (offered by the artistic director of the ballet company).

To the question the biggest challenge:
Providing more funding for programs about Native Americans (offered by someone who does such things)
Letting people know the difference between the restoration and conservation of artworks.
Getting churches to do arts programming. (Although I do like where the guy who talked about this was coming from it certainly doesn’t seem like big issue.)

It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges is getting people to look beyond their self interest.

I said (I told you I talked too much) that some of the things that are working are the Columbia Museum of Art doubling its membership and attendance in the last couple years, the way the 701 Center for Contemporary Art opened just as the economy tanked and hasn’t pulled back from its ambitions and how the S.C. Philharmonic has turned into a really good orchestra. Someone else gave props to the Southern Exposure new music series. Debra Smith, director of the Newberry Opera House which does all kinds of varied and quality programs, said that attendance and individual donations are going strong.

Everyone agree that getting enough money is a challenge.

Dancer and arts organizer Sherry Warren said getting organizations to work together and to coordinate events so they aren’t competing directly is an issue. (At the time the forum was going on there was an event taking place at the Center for Contemporary Art.)

“You have to change the political climate,” said artist Noree Boyd. “Everyone says ‘The arts are great and a tool for everything that cures everything, but we’re not going to fund it.’”.

Several people pointed out how difficult it is to get young people, especially teenagers, interested in the arts. Some of them, noted art conservator Craig Crawford, are discouraged from pursing an arts career because it is seen as impractical. Aaron Pelzek who is behind the fun “Playing After Dark” series, said even his group, which is aimed at younger people, has trouble reaching them. (My response: hormones. Also, I’m amazed at how many younger people do take part.)

I looked around the room and noted all the people who were missing – city council members, city administrators or anyone from the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties co-sponsor of the event. Lack of interest among those who should be interested – even for the wrong reasons – is the biggest challenge. And money. And an educated public that understands and appreciates art or least wants to.

Piano on the radio - at the big Boston station
Marina Lomazov, who teaches at USC, recently performed on a live broadcast from WGBH radio in Boston. She played pieces by Schubert, Chopin, and John Fitz Rogers, who also teaches at USC. She played Rogers' "Blue River Variations" which Rogers wrote for Lomazov. You can listen to the concert for a few more days at the WGBH website. Go to and scroll down a little and you should see it.

Unstacking sticks
Don't forget - you can go to the USC art department gallery today at 5 and help take down Jonathan Brilliant's coffee stirrer sculpture.  And if you haven't seen it yet better hurry on down.

Apology and credit
The very cool stacked television video installation at "What's Love" was made by Betsy Newman. Here it is again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Art at the book festival

What’s coming up next weekend is called the South Carolina Book Festival. But I’m going to write about art. Art and the book festival.
Each year the festival, which is put on by the S.C. Humanities Council, uses an artwork on its promotional materials and posters. Usually this is a pre-existing artwork.
The artist this year, Claire Farrell of Columbia, did a painting specifically for the festival of a woman reading a book.  Actually she appears to be looking at picture in an art book. Still the painting captures the pure pleasure of sitting down and relaxing with a book.
 “They called after the last festival and asked me,” said Farrell, “and I really wanted to do something of someone reading.”
Just a few blocks from the festival at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, Farrell has a solo exhibition. The show at City Art Gallery, at Lincoln and Lady streets, opens with a reception Thursday night from 6 to 8 and remains up through March 27.
Best known for her landscape paintings, Farrell’s show of about 40 paintings and monotypes about equally divided between figurative and landscape. (One work actually consists of about 16 small portraits displayed as a group so the individual count is about 55.) This show will have more figurative works than just about any she has done.
 “To be perfectly honest the galleries find figurative work harder to sell,” she said.
But Wendy Wells, an owner of City Art, decided on the figure-heavy show.
“I’m really excited about it,” Ferrell said.
One doesn’t even have to leave the convention center to see an art show. The festival has put together its first in-house art show. Among the 27 artists are Farrell, David and Ellen Yaghjin, Mike Williams, Pat Callahan and Christian Thee of Columbia, Tarleton Blackwell of Manning, Phil Garrett of Greenville and Edward Wimberly of St. Matthews.
The art show is a way to reach across disciplines and appeal to a wider range of people, said Paula Watkins, festival director and assistant director of the Humanities Council.
The festival also has an arts panel this year, somewhat tied to recent art books. Lynn Robertson, director of the McKissick Museum at USC, moderates the panel that includes Harriett Green, visual arts coordinator of the S.C. Arts Commission, Todd Herman, chief curator of the Columbia Museum of Art, and George Stewart, a photographer. That’s Saturday at 10.
A musical ties in is also part of the festival. Reverend Floyd Knowlin and the choir of the Lighthouse of Jesus Christ will perform during the 4:30 Saturday session with authors Stanley Lanzano and Charles Joyner. Lanzano is author of True Places: A Lowcountry Preacher, His Church, and His People a photographic documentary of the lives of Knowlin and his congregation. Joyner will be at the festival in conjunction with publication of the 25th anniversary of his ground-breaking book Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community. Blues singer Drink Small plays Sunday at 4
One person who will be missing from the festival is Rick Bragg, who was to be keynote speaker. He canceled every this week due to an illness. It appears that only today was a replacement found. That’s John Hart of North Carolina and author of The King of Lie, Down River and most recently The Last Child.
The festival, 9 – 5:30 Saturday and 11:30 – 5 Sunday, has all kinds of panel discussions, book signing and other events. Go to the festival website at