Monday, August 31, 2009

Faculty exhibition a big mess for everyone

I’m trying to determine who should be the most embarrassed about the University of South Carolina art department exhibition. There's the McKissick Museum, where the show is on display; the art department which isn’t very engaged in this excellent exhibition opportunity; and the university which should be chagrined at is being represented in such an unflattering and public manner.

That said, both the museum and the art department are in a tough spot with this every- two-year show. The museum has little control over what’s submitted. And while it doesn’t appear that the artists spent much time considering what they would put in the show, why should they when they can only have one piece in the show and have no control over what the other artists submit?

The generically-title “Biennial Department of Art Faculty Exhibition” consists of about 20 fairly recent pieces most in traditional mediums of painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture along with two videos.

Given that the museum and art department have two years to create this exhibition, it’s hard to understand why it is so pedestrian. Shouldn’t the museum come up with some unified theme for the show? Shouldn’t the artists create specific pieces for this show? And shouldn’t there be a range of work that shows everything the department is about?

By and large the art is fine, but nothing to get excited about or worth making a special trip to see.

A few works rise above the rest such as Pam Bower’s funny and disturbing painting of a pig head and Marius Valdes’ laugh-out-loud image of colored eggs held captive. (Upper left) Ann
Hubbard’s abstract oil stick paintings are always well crafted and the one in this show, “Time Channel,” is particularly good. The surface is thick and slick and the imagery blends the abstract, and rather otherworldly, with a landscape reference. You’d be hard-pressed not to be impressed and slightly disturbed by David Voros’ “Icarus,” (left) a nearly-life sized man flying horizontally across a black background. (The museum was unable to provide images of all but one of these works. It also has the incorrect dates for the show listed on its website.)

It’s not often you get to wear 3-D glasses in an art gallery, but that’s what Simon Tarr’s intentionally-disorienting film asks you to do. But 3D movies have the same problem they did when “Bwana Devil” hit the big screen back in 1952 – you have to wear those stupid glasses and it still doesn’t look that good. The other cinematic experience is the public-service documentary “Why We Smoke” by Susan Hogue. It’s unimaginative, providing no new information or unique viewpoints and is poorly constructed in every sense.

Several artists have managed to sneak in more than one piece by saying a group of works is actually one piece. I don’t buy it, but I’m glad to see more than one piece by an artist.

With only one work per artist it’s hard to get a real sense of the artist’ overall quality or concerns. I’ve seen many pieces and shows by a lot of these artists over a long period – but that doesn’t do a normal museum visitor much good. These artists are better than this exhibition shows. I’m assuming that any art department faculty member who wants to be in the show can, but four or five are missing.

One has to sympathize with the museum staff. This is a show that somewhere along the line the museum agreed to do as a service to the art department, but isn’t a priority. For the artists it looks like both an entitlement and an obligation. Considering that, everyone does about as well as they can, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. (Although in the case of Bowers’ painting, a sow’s ear is much nicer than a silk purse.)

This exhibition should be THE showcase for the art department and the university – the place where people can see the best the department has to offer. Someone – the museum, the art department, the university- needs to make this show a priority or make it disappear.
But it won't soon disappear - it's up until Jan. 9.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

An Argentine affair - and art

That the South Carolina Progressive Network, a social and economic justice organization, decided to make hay, and maybe some money, from Gov. Mark Sanford's dalliance to the South shouldn’t be surprising. The group plans a fun-sounding fund-raising “Argentine Affair” named in commemoration of Sanford South American love affair.

Now it has a painting about the Gov which will be sold at the October event.

Brett Bursey, head of the progressive network, asked Columbia artist and Columbia, South American native Alejandro Garcia to do a tango at the event.

“I told him, no way, I hardly know any steps,” Garcia said. “But I said I’d love to create an artwork that reflects the deeply conflicted feelings of our honorable governor.”

Garcia discovered a story about Sanford and his affair with a woman in Argentina in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel which used lyrics from a tango song from the ‘30s. The song and the artwork aren’t particularly harsh on the governor. They're more of a comment on love and loss. The lyrics may remind one of Sanford’s “soulmate”-bearing remarks.

‘I want to drown my heart with wine
to extinguish a crazy love
that more than love, is pain…
And that's what I'm here for,
to erase those old kisses
with other lips' kisses. “

Update on ballet things

A few days ago I wrote a piece for Free Times about financial and sort-of legal dramas at the Columbia City Ballet. Nothing really huge, but with a little more news value than usual. The day that story appeared I published here a commentary on the larger issue the ballet faces - lack of quality work. (It is below.)

I was shocked by the lack of response the pieces received. A colleague did call me one night about the Free Times piece and told me he was having trouble finding the news in the story. Yep, you got a point there I told him. A few comments at the end of the on-line version of the Free Times stories came in - the usual expected things calling me an idiot and saying the City Ballet did work as good as any dance company in the world.
I told Dan Cook, Free Times editor, "Well obviously, no one give a rat's a... about this."

Wait, he said, more comments are coming in. And now there a bunch, not dozens, but several. The comments thought don't appear to be about the story in Free Times, but either the commentary on Carolina Culture or some independent conversation taking place in the community about the City Ballet. Several people talked to me about the commentary over the weekend at various events I attended and i did finally get a comment directly at the end of the commentary.)

So, take a look at the comments at Free Times

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I guess the summer is over

I hope you have a lot of energy, because you are going to need it during the next few days. I suggest fortification with pie.

Shameless self-promotion warning!
You can start this the evening of Thursday, Aug. 27 with a scintillating talk on the arts by Me. I’ll be speaking about the role of the reporter and critic in the arts, the Columbia and South Carolina arts scene and taking questions about whatever you want to ask. It’s at 6 p.m. at Compass 5 Partners, an architectural firm that has been mounting art shows.
Compass 5 is at 1329 State St. Call (803) 765-0838.
I’ll tackle a similar subject in a slightly more formal setting Sunday, Aug. 30 at 3 p.m. at the Columbia Museum of Art. This talk with take a trek into the museum collection and it may be a literal trek depending on how many people show up.
Both events are free and open to the public.

Art and the university all over the place

You can look at this as extremely poor planning on the part of the University of South Carolina or the sign of a busy and production place.
Four shows with USC connections have opening events Thursday, Sept. 27.

An opening for “External Signing,” an exhibition of prints by Michigan artist Bill Hosterman takes place from 5 to 7 at the USC art department gallery. (Above "Cadence.")
Though Oct. 2.

There’s assistant professor Sarah Schneckloth’s
“Recall Pattens” (right) from 6 to 8 p.m. at City Art Gallery. The exhibition consists of 50 exquisite 12-by12-inch drawings and is up only through Sept. 4.
City Art is at 1224 Lincoln St.

Several USC students and other artists open a group show. "Kiln Opening," from 7 to 9 at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. The show includes ceramics, iron and photography. The show at 808 Lady St. remains on display through Sept. 1.

Weird. wonderful and tasty
Then it is onward and upward to Maya’s Wonderland, a multi-media performance event.

Music by Maya’s Big Vermillion starring the sensational singer Lorrie Rivers,(above) a “phobic puppet show” by Lyon Hill, belly dancing by Ashley Bennett (right) and others, a “weird balloon pop,” tarot card readings, a kissing booth, DJ, sideshows and (my fav) a blueberry pie eating contest.

Find Wonderland at 701 Whaley St., from 8 to 11 and admission is $10.

Art on TV by artists who don’t watch TV

If for some strange reason, let’s say you have swine flu or have been struck by a large iron object (anvil, skillet) and can’t go out, tune into SC ETV at 9:30 p.m. for “All Rendered Truth,” a documentary about self-taught artists. The film was put together in part by Scott Blackwell, who opened the Immaculate Consumption restaurant in Columbia about 15 years ago and later moved to North Carolina where he operates a baking company and began collecting art. The documentary explores the lives and art of 21 artists from throughout the South. An exhibition featuring the artists can be seen at ETV offices, 1041 George Rogers Blvd., through Sept. 17. “All Rendered Truth” will also air Sunday, Aug. 30 at 2:30 p.m.

Things are a little calmer on Friday night – no rambunctious art talks

A show of new works by Michael Krajewski of Columbia opens Friday, Aug. 28 at the HoFP Gallery on Devine St. "Copy Me, Don't Copy Me" is made up of paintings, drawings and mixed media works. The opening reception runs from 6 to 10 p.m. (803) 799-7405. The show is up through Sept. 19.


Saturday night’s alright for tangos

Dez Codas is a guitar and double bass duo that wander the musical map from tango to jazz to classical. Bassist Craig Butterfield, of the University of South Carolina music school, and guitarist Matthew Slotkin give a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29.

The group will give two world premieres - "Waxwing” by John Orfe, pianist and composer for Alarm Will Sound, and “Song and Dance Man” by Dick Goodwin of Columbia - as well as play the music of Manual De Fall and Astor Piazolla. The concert is at the School of Music Recital Hall, Assembly and College streets. Dez Codas is wandering in more than musical ways – the Columbia stop is part of a tour taking them to Presbyterian College in Clinton Aug. 31 and Coastal Carolina University in Conway Sept. 1 both at 7:30 p.m. Call (803) 777-4324 or email

Next week
You may not know the name, but Terry Jarrard-Dimond has been a significant presence in the South Carolina art community for a couple of decades. A solo show of her new textile works, “Constructions,” opens Tuesday, Sept. 1 at Columbia College.
The artist will give a gallery talk Sept. 17 at noon. The show is up through September. Call (803) 786-3088

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The 'genius" of the City Ballet doesn't seem all that smart financially or artisically

Late last week, I started working on a story about the Columbia City Ballet for Free Times, Columbia’s alt-weekly newspaper. I had been getting tips from various sources about allegedly-nefarious doings at the ballet company and so had Free Times, so we joined forces on the story. (It is in Free Times today.

While the ballet isn’t exactly in top financial fitness form, it is doing OK. Y
es, it has been lugging around some debts for years and is adding more, but it is also paying some down. The City Ballet certainly isn’t the only arts group that has had money troubles.

The more disturbing part of the story is that artistic and executive director William Starrett hired an attorney to send a “cease and desist” letter to a former board member he accused of saying bad things about him. That’s pretty yucky – especially since no one on the board knew about it, although it would be worse if they did.

I can’t decide if Starrett is monumentally egotistical or monumentally dumb. And I like him. He’s always been helpful to me as a reporter even when I ask hard questions.

Although many ballet board members state unequivocally that Starrett isn’t running roughshod over them, they do give him a lot of leeway even when things have been going so wrong for so long. Why is t
hat? Because, they say, Starrett is a brilliant artist. At least one used the word “genius.”

This is the board’s big blind spot out of which all other problems seem to mysteriously appear.

I have not attended everything Starrett and the ballet company have done. I am not a dance expert. But I have seen dance performances by big and small companies from around the world (including a number from Columbia.) When I have seen the City Ballet I don’t recall choreography, storytelling or technique that brought the word “genius” to mind. I usually saw average dance, mediocre choreography and often-silly ideas poorly executed.

The great work of the City Ballet was to be “Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green,” inspired by the paintings of Lowcountry native Jonathan Green which premiered in 2005. The first half was twice as good as I imagined it would be – the second half 10 times worse than I feared. Disjointed, tacky and just plain wrong.

Over the years, I’ve attended other City Ballet productions, such as “Dracula” as well as performances of the traditional repertoire.

I did not see early the Hootie and the Blowfish ballet done early this year. Many people I’ve talked to liked it, but the main reason they went is that they were big fans of Hootie and the Blowfish back in the day and the band played at the performances. (Those who came with a more critical eye thought it was bad.)

Pop-oriented dance productions, such as "Hootie" and the City Ballet’s “The Little Mermaid” and “Cleopatra,” are what an organization does to make money and broaden the dance audience. The money these more low-brow offerings bring in fund more serious productions and maybe a few people who come to the Hootie ballet will return for “Giselle” or “The Sleeping Beauty.”

But there’s a problem: the Hootie dance played to half-empty houses and basically broke even. So it won’t be funding anything.

And another: audience members who got bit by the dance bug will not be able to take in much serious dance at the City Ballet. The only traditional work it is doing this season is “The Nutcracker.”

The City Ballet has managed to dumb down dance and lose money. That doesn't immediately bring to mind the word "genius."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nude Wednesday!

'Candy," by Vickie Bailey Ebbers of Hilton Head

New chair for the university art department

The University of South Carolina has made an interesting move - naming a person with a degree in English chairman of the art department.
This isn't just any English professor.
H. Thorne Compton chaired the USC theater department for almost a decade, has been associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and associate director of the Institute of Southern Studies and was coordinated the university's Bicentennial celebrations. He's kind of a utility player who also happens to be interested in and knows a lot about all of the arts.
His appointment was apparently announced kind of out of the blue last Wednesday and he moved into his office at the department the next day.
He replaces Cynthia Colbert, an art educator with the department for 30 years, who has been chairperson of the the art department for four years.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's all fairly abstract in Columbia these days

We appeared to be blessed with the abstract.
At City Gallery one can see 50 small drawings by Sara Schneckloth, at the Columbia Museum of Art 30 big paintings by Cleve Gray and at the State Museum nearly 70 pieces by Robert Courtright. In a few days an exhibition by Bill Hosterman that includes a dozen abstract prints will add to the mix.
It hardly makes sense to lump all these artists and their work together. Abstract art covers a wide range of approaches from those which "abstract” something to those that are much more about what’s going on in the artists’ heads and arms and hands. These shows of course prove that point.

Sara Schneckloth
at City Art
Schneckloth, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina for two years, stresses the act of drawing, but her pieces in “Recall Patterns” are the least purely abstract of those that can be seen around town.
The pieces in are a mixture of pastel, colored pencil and china marker on black paper expressing a kind of hand and eye dance. At the same time they feel connected to something real. Looking at these drawings, it’s hard to not think of fish, dragonflies, sea slugs, butterflies floating in a field of falling veils of color. They are spiny and loopy and moving through space (water, outer space, a thick atmosphere). Even though they appear to be moving they are also trapped within and upon the 12-by-12- inch piece of paper on which they are created.
Her lines are sometimes barely there and other times solid and firm. The wide-ranging titles (“Alien Heart,” “Wander Lust,” “Calculus”) seem to come after the drawing is made and are, like the drawings, somewhat descriptive but never obvious.
The works are beautiful, but fun; mysterious, but accessible.
City Art is one of several places Schneckloth’s art can currently be seen. Her work is in the just-opened USC art faculty exhibition at USC’s McKissick Museum through Jan. 9; “Not Saying,” a group show at Clemson University through Sept. 17; and the most recent edition of the journal “New American Paintings.”
“Recall Pattens” is up through Sept. 4 and a reception will takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 27. City Art is at 1224 Lincoln St.

Final day to see Robert Courtright
retrospective at State Museum

The 50-year retrospective by Courtright, a native of Sumter, is in its final hours – closing at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23. It is a long-overdue big show for Courtright, who has spent much of his life in New York and France, although he maintained ties here and has a home at Edisto Island.
By the late ‘50s, he was working in a very abstract manner that he has mostly maintained since. The dominant form in all his collages, which make up the bulk of the show, is deceptively simple: grids of colored paper. Each nearly identically sized piece of paper is floats slightly between above the support rather than overlapping as in traditional collage. Although these pieces are monochromatic, each piece of paper has color and texture variations.
Some use recycled paper from which the text can be faintly seen.
The newest collages involve heavier, high-grade paper that has been painted, sanded and painted again.
You can find a full review with lots of photos of the Courtright show on this website. It appeared June 7. (See archives listing at bottom right.)
Courtright, 82, was never all that caught up in the New York art world and has spent a great deal of the last 50 years living in Europe. He slipped a bit between the cracks as far as getting attention and it’s a shame that when this show comes down Aug. 23, it’s over and not moving on to any other venue. It deserves a longer life.

Cleve Gray's beautiful old-fashioned
paintings at Columbia Museum

Painter Cleve Gray, who died at 85 in 2004, lived his entire life just outside New York and was friends with many of the first and second-generation abstract expressionist and colorfield artists, especially Barnet Newman. He was also closely tied to the art world though his many years as a writer on art and close friendships with people including the writer and curator Thomas Hess. But he lived nearly his entire life on the Connecticut estate where he grew up and was independently wealthy and socially connected so he was a bit of an outsider.
The exhibition at the Columbia Museum (organized by the State University of New York at Purchase museum) focuses on the last 30 years of work.
The paintings in “Cleve Gray: Man and Nature” are the works of someone who created work in a style that had been dominant in the ‘40s and ‘50s and never changed it much. The art in the show looks very much like what he and many others were doing decades earlier. For those familiar with more famous artists of the ‘40s and ‘50s, especially Mark Rothko, Gray’s work looks derivative.
The paintings in this show are large (none smaller than 5-by-5 feet) often thinly washed in color so the weave of the canvas is visible. Most of the time, there are gradations of the color on the surface. Atop the veils of blues, yellows, reds, he made large gestures in a contrasting, usually darker color.
The most powerful and original of the 25 painting on display are the final few. This handful of works consists of erratic marks in oil stick down the center of a canvas that has been soaked with warm glowing colors. They feel like life bursting forth and struggling to hang on and make a final mark as death approached the aging artist.
Even well-informed museum visitors may have never heard of Gray and this late-period exhibition doesn’t prove particularly enlightening beautiful through the paintings may be.
A show spanning his entire career would have been much better, but Columbia doesn’t really need a major retrospective by a moderately-known abstract artist. If it does, it would be one by a person with a local connection such as Robert Courtright. And we have that show.
What it could use is an exhibition with a sampling of high-quality works by some of the bigger names of the period which could also include good, but overlooked artists like Gray. The museum does have a decent sampling from its collection of such works and artists in the contemporary art gallery adjacent to the Gray show.
“Cleve Gray: Man and Nature” continues through Sept. 27.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's up this weekend and next week as well

A couple of late additions to
what's going on

S.C. Philharmonic music director Morihiko Nakahara will introduce
the movie "Departures" at the Nickelodeon Theatre Friday, Aug. 21.
The movie is Japanese, as is the music director, and follows a struggling young cellist who has decided to change careers.
That's at 8 p.m.

Art faculty show opening

Every two years the artists in the University of South Carolina art department have an exhibition at the McKissick Museum on the USC campus. It opens Saturday, Aug. 22.
The show is composed of mostly-new works by about 20 full and part time faculty members.

Black Elks speaks
and sings
and plays music
and makes magic

Tom Hall and the Plowboys are at it again.
The band is offering up a multimedia interpretation of the visions of Black Elk, the Native American holy man. This is really a kind of opera (like The Plowboys’ earlier “The Sharecropper’s Daughter”) inspired by the 1932 book “Black Elk Speaks.”
The band will perform and images from various artists will be used in projections as well as being installed around the hall. Among the artists who have provided images are Alejandro Garcia, Thomas Crouch, Matthew John and J. Pierce Giltner.
Black Elk, who lived from 1863 to 1950, began having visions when he was a child and continued to be a great spiritual leader throughout his life.
The concert will even include a sampling of Native American food.
The event takes place Friday, Aug. 21 at the Columbia Museum of Art. Doors open at 6 and the show starts at 7. Admission is $15 or $12 for museum members.
If you want to read a detailed, well-crafted and lovely story about this project check out Otis Taylor's piece that appeared in The State. You should be able to find it at

Last of the summer
art for new series

Early this summer the new group Pocket Productions launched a Friday night series with music, visual arts, theater and miniature golf.
The final one, at the Columbia Marionette Theatre Friday, Aug.21, will have a more experimental approach with artists including Sammy Lopez, Dre Lopez, Alexander Coco creating works in front of the audience and a film and live puppet shows. And some sort of mangled sports event.
These events have been fun and imaginative and really added something to our summer. We hope when the heat returns next year so will this.

Doors open at 7. Admission is $5. The theater is at 401 Laurel St. (803) 546-6822.

Tate boys ride into town

The Tate Boys sounds like a bluegrass band or a gang of baby-faced outlaws. Nope, just some artistic brothers who have a photography show opening Thursday, Aug. 20.
Adam Tate works in film in Texas while Clinton and James are actors who took up photography several years ago.
The show opens with a reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21 and will be up through
Tuesday, Aug. 24.
Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady St.

Printmaker pushes the
edge in new Columbia show

Printmaker Bill Hosterman has a solo show opening Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the USC art department gallery.
Hosterman studied printmaking in South Africa on a Fulbright Fellowship and holds a master of fine arts degree from the Indiana University.
He'll be showing both abstract and representational etchings, woodcuts and pieces that include collage.
A reception opening the show will be held Aug. 27.
The gallery is located in the art building at Senate and Pickens streets.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nude Wednesday! (Extra nude edition)

Life drawing by Warren Manly, completed at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18.

David West puts the finishing touches on a painting, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 8:30 p.m.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On the "Cotton Road" in China with Columbia movie maker Laura Kissel and a cast of millions

Columbia film maker Laura Kissel discovered a cotton field in Georgia and its long life became the subject of her 2005 film “Cabin Field.”
Kissel, an associate professor in the University of South Carolina art department, wanted to know more about what happen to the cotton once it was picked, baled and carted away by truck and ship. She had only been as far as the cotton gin nearby.
“I told (the landowner) I wanted to follow the cotton to its final destination,” she said recently, “and he told me I'd have to go to China to accomplish this. I got the idea for this film right there in the cotton gin in Arabi, Ga.”
Kissel just returned from eight months in China where she has been working on the movie "Cotton Road."

She followed cotton (although not the cotton from south Georgia) as it arrived in ports, was taken to mills and then to factories where it was transformed into clothing, packed in shipping containers and shipped back to us in the U.S.

The story started on farms throughout South Carolina although it came to embrace cotton from all over the world.

In China she filmed and interviewed cotton field workers and those toiling in factories in the cities where they have moved by the millions.

“The real story is the story of migrant workers, who have come from the countryside to cities all over China in search of a better life,” said Kissel. “They are part of the largest migration of humans in history."
In an email from China early this summer, Kissel wrote, "I still have not been able to spend as much time with migrant workers as I wanted to. The reason is because they work all the time (7 days a week, 12 hours or more a day). It is next to impossible to meet up with them."

But since she was there so long, thanks to a Fulbright Fellowship, Kissel was able to spend time building trust with those she wanted to interview. Even if they were so busy they barely had time to talk they were willing to talk.

‘There is a weaving factory in Jiangsu where we have been filming,” Kissel said. “When we were there I brought photos of the South Carolina cotton harvest and the workers I met in South Carolina and they ADORED the images. Several of the women we filmed with are from cotton farms and they couldn't believe how different U.S. cotton looks from Chinese cotton.

“The Chinese people I have met have been incredibly open about their lives and very interested in working with me.”

Spending all that time shooting and interviewing is just a small part of the process.
It will be another 18 to 24 months before the film is finished. Kissel wants to have it on the film festival circuit in 2011.
"This is the biggest thing I've ever done."
For more about the film go to

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review of "The Sweet Abyss" at Trustus

During the past 15 years Jon Tuttle has graced us with several fine plays. Add “The Sweet Abyss” to the list. The play that opened Friday night at Trustus Theatre is beautifully-written with fully fully-drawn characters and packed with ideas.

“The Sweet Abyss” supplies hearty laughs, dewy-eyed moments and delightfully complex medical terms. The play maintains a fine balance and tone that engages in a tight-rope act above a dangerous chasm of new-age philosophy and cheap laughs. It never falls in. The playwright and the audience are fortunate that the play is in the steady and capable hands of director Dewey Scott-Wiley or things could have gone very wrong.

To read the rest of the review go to

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who is that pointing at you?

Memo to City of Columbia
Drive down Gervais Street
and look at the banners. They're big, they're orange and there are a lot of them. Morihiko Nakahara is the S.C. Philharmonic music director.
Not, as the city website says, Nicholas Smith.

Weekend is here

Six artist will be “Breaking the Rules” at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.
The artists working in a variety of mediums are are Howard Hunt, Bonnie Goldberg, Warren Brussee,Charles Adams, Bob Manown, Taryn Shekitka, David West and Malena Georgieva (from Bulgaria via New York).

The title comes from the fact that they're showing work that isn't their typical work.
It opens with a reception Thursday, Aug. 13 starting at 6.
This is a short show. Ends Sunday, Aug. 16.
Lee Mont's exhibition "Testimony" at the
Gallery at DuPre, 807 Gervais, will also be open Thursday night.
"Maybe not a gallery crawl but a possible gallery hop," Mont says.

Photo by Malena Georgieva
Drawing by Taryn

How sweet i
t is

I’ve been writing about Jon’s Tuttle’s plays for nearly 15 years, so it's good to see another one being born.

The Francis Marion University
professor’s newest one, “The Sweet Abyss” opens Friday Aug. 14 at Trustus Theatre.
The play
follows the trials of a woman deeply effected by the death of her cat and opens with a hilarious scene in a tctologist’s office.

The woman is played by Elena Martinez-Vidal with E.G. Hear
d and Joe Morales filling several other roles. Dewey-Scott Wiley directs.

Tuttle’s other plays include “Holy Ghost,” “The While Problem,” “Drift” and “The Hammerstone.” They have been widely produced and published.
(For more about Tuttle and this play go to…) “The Sweet Abyss” runs through Aug. 22.
Call (803) 254-9732.

This one is completely out of the blue

Work by self-taught, folk and outsider artists is on view at the S.C. ETV studios.
The exhibition is being held in conjunction with the upcoming broadcast of the movie "All Rendered Truth."
The show is composed of 21 pieces by artists from nine Southern states including
R.L. Burnside, Pervis Young, Mose T. and Carl Dixon.
The collection and the film are the work of Scott Blackwell. Blackwell started the Columbia restaurant Immaculate Consumption before moving to North Carolina where he started a cookie company which uses folk art images in its packaging.
The exhibition can be seen weekdays from 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. through Sept. 17. The studios are at 1041 George Roger
s Boulevard in Columbia.
The movie will be shown Aug. 27.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Sweet Abyss at Trustus

You can read my story about Jon Tuttle's new play "The Sweet Abyss" in Free Times, Columbia's alternative weekly.

Nude Wednesday!

A new work by Bonnie Goldberg of Columbia.
It will be in the exhibition exhibition "Breaking
the Rules" opening Thursday, Aug. 13
at Gallery 80808.
Other artists in the show are Taryn Shekitka, Warren Brussee,
Howard Hunt, Charles Adams, Malena Georgieva, Bob Manown and David West.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Walking the walk

A few days ago, I went to Greenville for the gallery crawl in the Pendleton Street Arts District.
I haven’t spent much time in Greenville recently and when I have it has been to see exhibitions at the Greenville Count
y Museum of Art or Hampton III Gallery, see a performance at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts Center or go to the Bob Jones University art museum.

A few years ago, I went to the Art Bomb, a former mill town community center that is now filled with artists’ studios. Since then the rest of the area around Art Bomb has turned into an emerging arts area.

During the recent cr
awl, about 30 galleries, studio/galleries, artists studios and slightly more retail-oriented, art connected businesses open their doors. (The crawl is held the first Friday of the month most of the year.) The quality of work in the studios and galleries varies greatly. Some is highly commercial representational work, some very amateurish and some quite well-done and engaging. Along with the individual galleries and studios, Upstate Visual Artists also has a space, an old house, giving the area an institutional anchor.

One of the artists in the area is Mark Mulfinger, a long-established and very accomplished printmaker and painter. His cramped space (left) is piled high with art covering just about ever surface with paintings leaning on one another and against everything.

Artist Gle
nn Miller has a clean open space (top right) and he’s working on a series of large paintings of South Carolina musicians which will be part of an exhibition (and performances by some of the players) at the Pickens County Museum.

Angie Carrier-Schmerbeck, who re
cently moved back to South Carolina, has a shop where she makes, shows and sells paintings as well as clothing.
The Light and Art Gallery has a wide range of things – from paintings to vintage furniture (and on the recent night, Columbia writer Janna McMahan signing copies of her novels.)

If not all the art was great, the setting sure is.

Pendleton Street is a funky mix of the newly-arrived artists bumping up against barber shops, a bright yellow and green diner where you order at the window and eat on a bench outside and a faded, but fully-occupied shopping center.

This is a prime example of an emerging art district pre-gentrification. It reminds me of North Davidson Street in Charlotte circa 1995.

Take Pendleton back toward downtown you’ll soon be in the West End area of Main Street which is all pretty darn fancy these days, although not too many years ago it was a lot like Pendleton Street.

The redevelopment of the West End and the central part of Main Street started about 20 years ago when the Peace Center opened and really took off when Falls Park on the Reedy River was developed and the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities opened nearby.
I was walking around with a friend who lives in New Mexico and she noted about how reasonably priced much of the art was. I told her that wasn’t just Santa Fe and Taos talking – the prices were fair for the South Carolina and North Carolina market.

The same night a Columbia artist, Susan Lenz Dingman was in Asheville for the gallery crawl there. That’s in the old heart of downtown with everything from the high-end, long-established Blue Spiral Gallery to a bunch of artists’ studios/galleries in the former Kress and Woolworth stores. All the places are within walking distance of one another and unlike Pendleton Street it has plenty of nice places to eat and drink. (If that green and yellow diner had been open, I would have been art the window.)

The arts are very much part of the definition of
Asheville, so they don’t always get driven out by the gentrification they started.

“The quality was good and there was interesting use of materials,” Dingman told me. “There were things I was tempted to buy.”
Dingman writes on her blog “Art in Stitches." (See the link top the right.)

"Quite affordable work was on display in both the refurbished Woolworth and Kress buildings. These old structures were subdivided into individual artists’ booths. Though the quality varied, the creativity was remarkable. Recyc
led materials stood beer carton books (from $6.50) and the soft sculpture toys at Canoo (made from socks and sweaters, each individually names, and none over $37).”

A few days before I went to Greenville, I was talking to someone in Columbia about various things, when the subject of gallery crawls came up.

She couldn’t understand why Columbia doesn't do more than two a year in the Vista. Actually, there’s only one.

Vista Lights once had a strong art component, but now it is mostly a prelude to holiday shopping.
Artista Vista was created about 20 years ago to fill the art gap and during its early years had lots of art that spilled out of the galleries onto the street and into vacant buildings.

As the Vista began rapidly developing, most of the art moved back into the galleries. (Despite the view from construction cranes and bulldozers there are still plenty of empty buildings in the Vista and some are buildings that used to be occupied.)

I expressed the same concern to gallery owners and artists in the Vista many years ago. They told me, the gallery walks are labor intensive and expensive and they had no interest in doing more. Others say the galleries can never agree on what they should do and just do something and get it over with.

Looking around Columbia, the only place that lends itself to a gallery crawl is the Vista, where there are about half-a dozen galleries of some sort, as well as the State Museum. Only those in the core of the Vista (City Art, if Art, Vista Studios) are within walking distance of one another. So many non-art places in dominate the Vista that even during a gallery crawl the non-art crowd outnumbers those there for the crawl. (Just like how homeless people outnumber others on Main Street during a good portion of the day.)

The time to add more gallery crawls in the Vista has passed.

So, I wonder, why hasn’t a new art area emerged in Columbia? We saw some possibilities a few years ago in the area of Rosewood where residential gives way to industrial, but that petered out.

The Olympia and Granby mill villages with their cheap rents have always attracted artists and when the former mill town community center was turned into Gallery 701 in the late ‘90s, it looked like that might all take off. But then the roof of the building collapsed and it was empty for years.

The center has now been reborn as 701 Whaley, the second floor of which houses
The 701 Center for Contemporary Art. While a few businesses and office are located in the building, it is not full of artists but wasn’t intended to be.

Even though there are still plenty of cheap houses and buildings in the mill villages it is getting scarce. A decade ago a big apartment complex was constructed between Granby and the River and in the last couple of years two huge apartment complexes have gone up on the Assembly Street side of Olympia. The USC fraternity and sorority village and the Colonial Center have eaten up all the industrial parts of the neighborhood and the university recently built its mega baseball field on the river just a couple blocks away from 701 Whaley.

For urban pioneers that land is gone, gone, gone.

The benefit of living in a university town and capital is you get a lot of cool things you don’t have to pay for directly (concert halls, museums, theaters), but those entities eat up a lot of land leaving few opportunities for the little guy.

The other logical place for an arts area is in West Columbia around State Street with its mini-Main Street. Some of those attractive storefronts are vacant, but there are also some long-established businesses there that make it appealing. And just around the corner on Sunset you’ll see a couple of empty buildings that look prime for studios and galleries as long as you don’t mind smelling the chicken plant, as well as an old shopping center with a store where all artists I know shop – the Habitat for Humanity resale shop.

It may be too late for this area as well with the McMansion development along the West Columbia/Cayce Riverwalk and the construction around the old brickyards near Knox Abbot Drive.

North Main Street was in play a number of years ago, but it never took off. A committee formed by the city about five years recommended developing an artists village around the Township Auditorium as it was renovated. The large plan didn’t go far (and also kind of killed the North Main proposal.) While there has been some art movement in that area, again, much of the land is tied up and most of the former houses there occupied by businesses.

This area abuts the State Hospital grounds before long will be up for redevelopment. If you want to know the role the arts will play in this, just head down to the former Central Correctional Institution site. That former prison site and once publicly owned land is located in the Congaree Vista overlooking the Columbia canal and the Congaree River and is sandwiched between the State Museum and EdVenture and the Marionette Theatre.

The land is now filled with high end condos and townhouses.

So one might ask, is there a place in Columbia for an arts community to take the place of what the Vista once was? I’ve been thinking about the options and they don’t look good.
But maybe I’m missing something. I hope so.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Some housekeeping - but I'm not doing your laundry

I'm not selling out, I'm buying in

When I started this website in April, less than a month after getting laid off as arts writer at The State newspaper, I wasn't sure where it would lead. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it has been received and how many readers it has. One of the wonderful things is that people are reading it who didn't read the newspaper and didn't know who I was or what I did.
The site is also reaching all parts of the state and I regularly hear from readers from Beaufort to Pickens to Aiken.
One thing also happened a few months ago is someone asked if they could buy and ad on the site.
Ah, sure, said I.
Since then a number of organizations - the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston, the S.C. Philharmonic, the Spoleto Festival and others have placed ads on the site. (The Brooks Center for the Performing Arts is placing an ad next week.)
The ads are those logos you see to the right (the Halsey and Philharmonic now): click on one an it will take you to the organization's website.
If you are interested in purchasing an ad, contact me at the Contact link at the right (

More blogs below.
Farther down in the right column you will also find a list of blogs and websites that I regularly check out.
They include "Think Denk" by pianist Jeremy Denk, who some of you may have heard play at Spoleto or a chamber music series in Columbia, Camden or Savannah and "Flyover Journal" which proves art views from various smaller cities. Some recent additions are from Columbia artists - "Drawing::Static::Kenetic" by SaraScheneckloth and Susan Lenz Dingman's "Art in Stitches."
Check them out sometime - they deal with many of the issues you can find at "Carolina Culture" but with a different approach.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New art by Phil Moody at Contemporary Art Center

My first impression of "As Bees Practise Geometry: Recent Experiments with Photography" by Phil Moody - remarkable. It's not your usual photo show. (You should really click on the image above to enlarge it. There is no glass involved in the piece.)
The exhibition opened Thursday, Aug. 6 at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Get up and get going - this is a busy weekend

Photos and stories

Phil Moody, a long-time professor at Winthrop University, has been the third artist in residence at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art this summer creating work for a show that opens Thursday, Aug. 6.
Although he is a photographer, Moody has long pushed the boundaries of the media, using dyes, text and doing extensive research about his long-time subject matter - the textile industry and the people who worked in it.
"As Bees Practise Geometry: Recent Experiments with Photography" consists of 10 large pieces for the exhibition at the center, which is the former community center for the Olympia Mill Village.
The works incorporate images of former mill workers, pages from a mill supervisor's log and sections of stories he gathered from textile workers. He has also created an experimental DVD for the installation.
A native of England, Moody has spent much of his career exploring the demise of the textile industry in the Carolinas first in documentary images which have evolved into more experimental work with text and blocks of color.
The show opens with a reception Thursday from 7 to 9. It's free for members of the center; $5 for others. Moody will give lectures about his work Sept. 3 and 15.
For information go to

Drawing on the edge

"Recall Patterns,” also opening Thursday, Aug. 6 at City Art Gallery, consists of 60 new small drawings by Sara Schneckloth. An assistant art professor at the University of South Carolina Schneckloth often does huge drawings and for her last show here she made sorts of drawings using air hockey tables.
"Memories exist somewhere between heart and mind, where they evolve, spin, break down, multiply, explode, or quietly hum in the dark," the artist writes. " I draw as a way to understand this phenomenon within myself. "
Schneckloth holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin. She has lived and worked in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Cape Town, South Africa.
The show will remain on display through Sept. 4.
A reception will take place Aug. 27.
The artist also recently started an excellent, attractive blog. It is at

Small shows
in alternative spaces

Two slightly less formal galleries, right next door to one another, open shows and hold receptions Thursday as well.
A reception for a show by Abstract Alexandra, Mike Krajewski (that's his wacky work at left) and Jarid Lyfe Brown are showing at the new music and art spot The White Mule. The artists will be there as will wine for a tasting. (The White Mule in the former Jamming Java coffee house, located underneath Main Street.)
That will happen from 6 to 9. Then a band starts playing.
Come upstairs, turn around and look to your right. You’ll see clothing and jewelry by Bohumila Owensby are at the Frame of Mind eyeglass and art gallery. Owensby runs the Columbia Museum of Art shop and she won the top prize in the Runaway Runway fashion show earlier this year for her beautiful trash bag wedding dress. That runs from 5:30 to 8.
If you have read this far and it's not yet noon on Thursday run down to Frame of Mind - someone will be making art outside the shop.
(It's now 2:27 and the artist, Bill Guess, above, is probably finished making his imitation Piet Mondrian. Three artists will be doing public art Friday, Aug. 7.
Both places are located on Main Street, just across the street from the Columbia Museum of Art.

Greenville gallery crawl

I’ve always wondered why Columbia art galleries don’t do more frequent crawls. Too much work, I’ve been told. It’s hard enough to do it twice a year, I’ve been told.
Maybe there just aren’t enough galleries.
If you want enough, head to Greenville Friday, Aug. 7. The Pendleton Arts District crawl which has a couple dozen galleries, studio/galleries and studios open for the First Friday event – yep almost every month.
Among the places that are taking part are the Light and Art Gallery, Village Studios and Gallery, Upstate Visual Arts, Gallery 1279 and many others showing just about every kind of art you might imagine although I can’t vouch for the quality of all of it. (A look through various images on line shows some good looking and not so good looking art.)
The crawl runs from 6 to 9. As part of its celebration of its a new home at 4 Smith St. Upstate Visual Arts is also throwing a party from 4 to 9 p.m. with food, art and games
Directions: take Interstate 26 and Interstate 385 until the highway ends in downtown Greenville. It dumps you right onto North Street. After about a half a mile you will come to Academy Street. Go left or south there. Academy curves around and crosses the Reedy River. After a dozen or so hard to count blocks you’ll hit Pendleton Street. Another five or oddly-shaped blocks and you’ll be in the arts district.
For details and more information try

Get your art tools

If all this has got you thinking about making art, a new art supply shop opens Saturday. S & S Art Supply, 1928-B Rosewood Drive, opens with a little party Saturday, Aug. 8 from 4 to 8. Like many art supply stores they’ll offer discounts for students and teachers.

The art of cartooning

“Southern Satire: The Illustrated World of Jak Smyrl” by the late Palmetto State cartoonist goes on display at the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum Saturday, Aug. 8.
Smyrl, who died in 2007 at 83, was staff artist and illustrator for The State and the Columbia Record newspapers from 1949 to 19 86
A special reception and talk about the exhibition will be held Aug. 27 from 5:30 – 7 p.m.
“Southern Satire” has about 50 works and a series of whimsical maps highlighting some of South Carolina’s historical locations.

Crooked Creek art in Chapin

“August Arts,” a show by the Crooked Creek Art League, runs this Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 6 – 8 at Palmetto Fine Arts in Chapin.
The show is composed of works by 18 artists including Jennie Branham, Julie Brown, J. J. Casey, Jean Kirkley and Donna Reid.
The gallery is at 107 Virginia St. and open 10 to 6 for the show. Call (803)932-0265.

Opera at the Colonial Center – well, an opera singer anyway

And get this: opera singer Deborah Voigt will give the commencement address at USC. She’ll be at the 10:30 a.m. graduation Saturday, Aug. 8. It’s at the Colonial Center. The soprano noted for her mastery of music by Strauss and Wagner, made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1991.
She has performed at all the major opera house around the works and is well known for her performances of “Aridadne Auf Naxos” and “Tristan und Isolde,’ as well as being dismissed in 2004 by one opera company because she was too big to fit into the little black dress they wanted her to wear. The opera company got a lot of grief and Voigt got gastric bypass surgery. She’s said to be singing better than ever.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nude Wednesday!

Nude study by Jason Amick of Columbia More of his art can be seen at

OK, everyone. By this point I fully expected to be buried in nudes - well its a nice thought anyway. By I'm not. So get out your cameras take some pictures of your pictures and send them to me. I love the intimacy of the nude sketches and drawings that have dominated Nude Wednesday, but for variety I'd love to get some paintings, sculptures, photos - whatever.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Columbia buildings I like

I have been called "the champion of ugly buildings," but like to think I just have quirky eyes.

Byrnes Building, Sumter and College (front and back)
U.S. Post Office, Assembly Street, with a view of the below-grade portions one usually doesn't see
Office building with non-functioning entrance, Lady at Pickens
1213 Lady St.
Parking garage entrance, Taylor and Assembly