A Recent Trip to Columbia, SC, To See Exhibits by Some of SC’s Most Talented Female Artists

Editor’s Note: Sorry there is hardly any notice of the Vista Studios show, we just ran out of time and had to work on the Oct. issue. It was in our Sept. issue and I made several social media posts.

I made a quick trip to Columbia, SC, about a week ago to see some fantastic works by six talented woman before it was too late. Like the white rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland” – I’m always running late, but here’s a warning so you won’t miss out. Go see these shows – some right away before they end. (Offered in order of time running out.) Vista Studios, in Columbia’s Vista area is presenting “Operatic Threads”, a group exhibition, including paintings by Tish Lowe in the Main Gallery and “Threads: Gathering My Thoughts”, a collaborative installation by fiber artist Susan Lenz and graffiti artist Michael Krajewski, on view in the Atrium. Both exhibits will be on view through Sept. 30, 2014.

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In the main gallery at Vista Studios was an exhibit of classical oil paintings by Tish Lowe (classical Italian style). When I see paintings like this it always reminds me of trips to major Midwestern art museums. Except for the setting, you feel like your looking at works by old masters. I’m sure to a lot of younger folks they feel this style is “oh so old”, but there is life in these works that you don’t often see in more contemporary works. And by contemporary I mean works being made by younger artists filtered through today’s art departments at universities and colleges around the country.

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I’ve included an image of some nude studies for the folks in Greenvillle, SC, so they can get a chance to see one of the art world’s classic subjects – people who are not wearing anything. You’ll have to search very hard to find any nudes in that city. Some museums there paint over certain parts of classic nude works.

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Good thing there are a lot of reflections from the glass

The atrium at Vista Studios is showcasing a collaborative installation by fiber artist Susan Lenz and graffiti artist Michael Krajewski. Again, this trip was about seeing works by some of Columbia’s best female artists. I’m not much into graffiti of any kind, and although I’m old enough to have seen many a cave drawing – it’s just not my cup of tea. Like the great break-up line – It’s not you – it’s me.

The installation by Susan Lenz is a wonder to behold – hard to photograph and hard to describe – you just have to see it for yourself. And to do that you’re going to have to hurry, as it is scheduled to come down Sept. 30, 2014 or the day after. Lenz has been making fantastic art out of collected materials for years now – where she got all that thread is mind boggling.

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I asked her if some the baskets had false bottoms and she said no. This is the second version of this piece, and I hope we see it again somewhere, but I imagine storage is a problem. Perhaps some company involved in fabric will purchase it for their lobby.

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One of the great things about the work is that Lenz designed it so people could walk through it and get up close and personal with the work. That way you can discover all the different color combinations and how the light hits it in different spots to make highlights that catch your eye.

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And, do make sure they have the lights on when you go see it. When I first got there I checked out Tish Lowe’s works first, then ran into Susan Lenz and started talking with her about the installation. I keep saying that things didn’t look the same as photos I’ve seen on Facebook and about 15 minutes into our conversation she realized that the lights were not on yet in the atrium. And, pop – there it was – the sparkling piece I’d seen pictures of. That’s what happens when you get talking – details get left out.

So quick run and go see this exhibit.

The City Art Gallery in Columbia’s Vista area is presenting “The Art of Kirkland Smith”, on view through Oct. 11, 2014. Smith is a classical painter who began creating contemporary assemblages using post-consumer materials as an evocative way to drive home the message of the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling. The only classic thing here will be toys you haven’t seen in years because you chucked yours in the trash.

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Smith’s assemblages have become a familiar item in SC’s art scene. Her work of Steve Jobs won the first People’s Choice Award at the first ArtFields® event in Lake City, SC, and some of her works are on view at the SC State Museum in Columbia in the exhibit, “Building a Universe,” on view through Mar. 16, 2015, which features creations by artists whose work deals with space and the universe, either directly or conceptually.

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“The Tree of Life”

When you get up close to Smith’s works, you’re amazed at the items that make the work – items we all know from daily life or our childhood. I’ve included a self-portrait of Smith and then a close up of one of her eyes. It’s a heck of a way to “paint”, but she pulls it off very well. Once you realize that the items only have to represent a certain “color” you get how it works, but when you see the objects used – it really makes you think. Like a little green Army soldier holding a bazooka – making up part of an eye. That’s strange.

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A self-portrait

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Just the eye – close up

And, the point is – all these items are better off in a work of art than filling our landfills. These plastics will never go away in our lifetime.

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An abstract work by Kathy Casey

Of course when I’m at City Art Gallery there is always much more to look at upstairs and downstairs besides the main exhibit. Here’s a work I would have liked to take home with me. But, alas I’m just a poor editor/publisher of an arts newspaper. Look – don’t touch – don’t buy.

The Goodall Gallery in the Spears Music/Art Center, at Columbia College, in Columbia is presenting “The Big Paint: New Works by Eileen Blyth and Laura Spong,” on view through Oct. 13, 2014. These are BIG, wonderful, abstract paintings.

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“The Big Red” by Laura Spong – a little washed out

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Detail of The Big Red – again a little washed out

This is the show that had me itching to get to Columbia. BIG abstract paintings by two of my favorite abstract painters in Columbia. And, I wasn’t disappointed. Just sitting in a pretty good sized exhibit space looking at works that were as big as 8 ft. x 16 ft. made me feel like I was a Texan – where everything is BIG. I mean it’s not often you see an exhibit where there are only six works and they fill the space. The smallest work in the exhibit is big – for normal paintings, but then we have Big paintings and Jumbo paintings.

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“First Black Line” by Eileen Blyth

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Detail of “First Black Line” – close up

When works are this big it’s not only good to enjoy the size itself, but to explore the details of different sections of the work – up close – like you would look at a normal painting. I could have cut sections of these works out and been happy to have a wonderful single work.

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A view of all but one painting

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A quick grab shot of people to show the scale of the works

My favorite was “The Big Red”, by Laura Spong. I really like seeing red in abstracts, but I also liked the “First Black Line”, by Eileen Blyth for its big open spaces and light shades with hints of strong color. I can only dream of having a home so large that I could have both on display side by side, while I just gazed at them both as I made out my bank deposits from my big Texas oil wells.

If you’re someone who likes abstract paintings – you need to go see this show.

The Richland County Public Library’s Gallery in its main branch on Assembly Street in Columbia is presenting “All the In Between – My Story of Agnes,” by Laurie B. McIntosh. An exhibition of paintings telling the cradle to grave story of a life well lived. It’s on view through Jan. 5, 2015. It’s an interesting tribute from a daughter to a mother. You might have seen these works at the first ArtFields®.

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I used to get to see the exhibits at this library space on a regular basis when I was delivering papers, but since I stopped that, I haven’t been hearing about their exhibits to put them in the paper each month. As I was telling some of the artists I met that day during my trip to Columbia – Columbia is not the best at communicating what’s on exhibit there – outside of Columbia.

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This show is one of the biggest I’ve seen in that library space by one artist. McIntosh’s exhibit will make you feel like – “Gee, what have I done to honor my mother?”. My mother was a bookkeeper and she wanted me to become an accountant. That didn’t happen, but I think she liked the fact that I chose the arts to do my work. Something very unexpected in my family.

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The paintings are simple, but tell the different chapters in McIntosh’s mother’s life. At the very end, she has a work for the date of her mother’s death and then one last work, a few months later when the remaining family members took the ashes of both mother and father to a college campus where the two met and spread them around. Now that’s a storybook ending.

Go see these exhibits, if you hurry you can see them all – they’re not too far apart, three within a few blocks of each other.

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