Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gibbes Museum, Charleston & Beaufort, SC


"Still Life with Fish" Wm. Merritt Chase 1903

 Before A. Paul & I headed out of Charleston for Savannah, we squeezed in a visit to Charleston's Gibbes Museum of Art established in 1903 by bequest of James Gibbes, Sr. and opened to the public in 1905. The entire first floor of this Beaux Art structure houses a collection that weaves the story of Charleston's history through the arts.  Within this collection, one can find a few select gems by William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri and Elliott Daingerfield.  The second level of the gallery houses two special exhibits. The contemporary exhibit, Art of Our Time,  includes works by Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, & Alexander Calder.  In the rotunda salon, J. Henry Fair's aerial photographic series, Industrial Scars, documents the impact of industrialization and are hauntingly beautiful as well as mind numbing.  In this same salon, a monumental Tiffany Skylight
J. Henry Fair
 graces the ceiling.  Overall, the Gibbes is a small museum but their collections demonstrate that Charleston is a town which loves its arts from the days of its foundation to the present.  Charleston is a definite must-visit for anyone who has an appreciation for the arts.

An hour drive south of Charleston, we entered the picturesque lowcountry of Beaufort, S.C.  A changing blue-violet sky hung serenely over wide open stretches of lowland marshes. 

lowland outside of Beaufort

One stretch of land to the next was simply stunning. It is easy to see why so many artists are lured to capture the beauty of the lowcountry in their artwork.

Beaufort, one of the largest natural harbors on the Atlantic, has been called home by the Cherokees, Catawbas, Spanish, French, and British.  Founded in 1711, it is the second oldest town in South Carolina.As one gallery representative, Al Hefner, told us, "In Beaufort, you will find  a British soldier buried next to a Native Indian in our cemetery." 
"Bedhead" M. Dunn Ramsey
Deanna Bowdish with
her works
 As in Charleston, A. Paul & I were met with southern hospitality and warmth.   After a cup of coffee overlooking a harbor suffused with silver light, we wandered down quaint Bay Street to take in the art in several galleries.   At Hefner's Bay Gallery, Marcy Dunn Ramsey's contemporary portrayals of the lowcountry caught our eye. 

Deanna Bowdish, artist and director of The Gallery, another gallery venue in town, offers a diverse group of artists' work. Deanna's own lively contemporary work match her great sense of humor and whimsy. 

It was one artist at Deanna's gallery that captured my attention and pulled at my heartstrings.  Karen Keene Day's wild horse series are inspirational in subject as they are in purpose.  Day, though painting horses from a young age, began exclusively painting wild horses upon learning that America's last wild horses were being rounded up and slaughtered even though protected under a congressional act. Pamphlets on herd & land managment of wild roaming horses accompany her paintings to remind viewers of the fragility of losing the free spirit wielded by these wild-roaming horses, which she seeks to capture in her work  As much as we enjoyed lingering in Beaufort, A. Paul & I still had a visit to Hilton Head and drive to Savannah ahead of us.  Beaufort, though small in size, is rich in history, art, and hospitality. We know we will be back one day.

A. Paul & I made a short excursion to Hilton Head but the development layout of the island made it difficult to discover the art venues that it may have to offer.  I do know that the Council for the Arts for the State of SC is located at Hilton Head but beyond this our stop there was not an inspirational one.  

The sun was setting as A. Paul and I drove from Hilton Head, SC to Savannah, GA .  Tomorrow, we explore  Telfair Museum of the Arts,  Jepson Center for the Arts and Scad Museum of Art in Savannah.

Dusk Color


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