Sunday, November 15, 2009

A different side to some people you probably know

Tom Beard, left, and Kevin Bush at the den of music Papa Jazz        

The singer and the song - without sets

Kevin Bush spends his days promoting the talents of others as the public relations manager for the USC Department of Theatre and Dance.

But almost anyone who goes to theater in Columbia has seen him on stage.
He starred in the recent production of “The Producers” at Workshop Theater and will have another big role in the Trustus Theatre production of “Rent” opening in a few weeks. Among the many (many many many many) shows he’s been in are “Bat Boy,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Oklahoma,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Amadeus,” “The Full Monty,” “Sweeney Todd” and the list goes on (and on and on and on.)

Now here's a third side to Bush.
The next time he’s on stage it will be just Bush, a microphone and a three-piece band led by Tom Beard. For “Evolution: 21st Century Songbook” at the Columbia Museum of Art he and the group will perform contemporary American classics by Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Vega, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Jimi Hendrix and some less familiar singers and songwriters.

“We’ve tried to thematically connect the set list,” Bush said. “A few songs deal with emotions surrounding ‘wanting’ and then we get it into the issue of ‘getting and losing.’ Ultimately we have to deal with the cards we’re dealt. In one way or another, it all gets wrapped up in the larger theme of ‘change’ or ‘evolution’.”
Singing, not singing and acting, is what the Bush started out doing. Growing up  in Charleston he was in his guitarist brother Eddie’s rock and pop group and the two brothers will play a couple of Eddie’s songs at the concert. (Eddie Bush is part of the pop-country trio One Flew South that records for Decca Records.)

“Singing has always been my primary interest and it has only been in the last few years that I've been able to embrace musical theatre as an outlet,,” Bush said.
After graduating from USC in 1998, Bush moved to Los Angeles where he worked for the promotion and advertising firm Post No Bills (based in Columbia). He moved back to Columbia in 2001 where he continued working for the company until he was hired by USC in late 2007.

 “One thing I missed from my time in Los Angeles was that Columbia didn’t have a place for cabaret,” Bush said. “I really came to love the environment of a small club with just a piano and a voice and great songs that make you think.”
What he didn’t want to do was trot out the old show tunes and ‘50s songs that make up many cabaret acts.
“My interest has not surprisingly been in performing the songs that have meant something to me and my generation.  The essence of the song choice is rooted in bringing attention to the songs and songwriters which I think - or hope - would be considered the standard-bearers of popular music 50 years from now.”

“Evolution: 21st Century Songbook,” 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, Columbia Museum of Art.  $10 and $8 for museum members. (803) 799-2810.


Art curator make his own marks

Paul Matheny has organized exhibitions by the artists Brian Rutenberg, Robert Courtright and the artist couple William Halsey and Corrie McCallum for the S.C. State Museum where has been art curator for eight years. What many people don’t know is that Matheny is also an artist.

An exhibition of his painting opens Thursday, Nov. 19 at the Hampton III Gallery in Greenville and is his first solo show at a commercial gallery. Matheny’s process for the paintings is, well process-oriented. He writes all over wooden panels, then paints over what he has written using the spaces of the letters and words and sentences and spaces in between to shape the image.

“All the writing is still there, but you can’t see it,” Matheny, right, said. “It’s obliterated.
“The words are part of the process that creates a type of matrix for the painting to evolve from. Like loose gesture line drawings that later evolve into something else. Aside from their aesthetic, the words themselves are not necessarily important to the piece.”

The unusual method came about in an unusual way.
Matheny was organizing a quilt exhibition at the Museum of York County where he was a curator in the late 1990s when he came across oddly-written letters. To save paper the correspondents had written one way across the page, then turned the paper to write more in the cramped spaces along the edge and between the existing lines.

Matheny has always kept journals and sketchbooks and began writing his in the same manner. When all the space was crammed with words in every direction, he would add color. Several years ago he moved from paper to wood (most 12-by-16 or 20-by24-inches) that he paints panels a golden color.
Then he starts writing.

“It can evolve from conversations in another room, song lyrics, ideas, general thoughts, prayers, memories and recollections,” he said. “Often I am writing about what the next painting might be or general ideas about paintings.  Once I start writing on a panel I try not to stop until that section is complete or even stop to think about what to write. It’s spontaneous writing.”
The early paintings were influenced by the vernacular architecture of the region – roadside vegetable shops and firework stands. The new ones are much more linked to nature and contain images of trees and birds.

Matheny grew up in Anderson and studied at Winthrop University. He has shown at various art

centers and was in a two-person show at Hampton III two years ago.
Although making art is a break from the business of being a curator, it is closely tied to his work in designing exhibitions. There’s something about the way Matheny puts art shows in a space that subtly reveals that it’s the work of a practicing artist.

“I think a lot about how to place artworks in the gallery – how a piece on one wall might be reflected in the glass on one across the room,” he said. “I’m constantly moving things around.”

(From top: "Consortium," "Stories from Trees," and "Remedy.")

“Bellwether: New Paintings” opens Thursday, Nov. 19 with a reception from 7 to 9. The artist give a talk at 8 p.m. The show runs through Dec. 31.  The gallery is at 3110 Wade Hampton Blvd. several miles east of downtown Greenville. (864) 268-2771.

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