Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another review from Pickens

'Three Women Artists' use different mediums to create their messages
By Jennifer Pacheco
The Pickens Sentinel
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 8:27 AM CDT

PICKENS COUNTY - Shadow and light, earth and water, rhythm and blues - the work of three female artists incorporate those ideas and many more.

"Three Women Artists," a new exhibit at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History showcases the work of three SC artists: Victoria Blaker of Taylors, Glenda Guion of Easley, and Susan Lenz of Columbia.

"They each have their own unique talent," said Helen Hockwalt, museum curator.

The exhibit runs through August 21.

The work of each artist utilizes a different medium: Guion uses clay, Blaker oil and ink and Lenz uses mixed media and textiles.

For Blaker, the movement and light inherent in her colorful oil paintings have a purpose: "I want people to be taken away from the worries and cares of their lives, if only for a few minutes," she said.

Guion has 20 years of sculpture on the first floor of the museum. Her work shows the interplay of her philosophy and subject matter. The recurring metaphor of the shadow figure, a human form without gender, is balanced by stone-like forms infused with the different colors of nature.

One work, "The Seven Generations," shows individual figures lying sideways in curves similar to waves. Guion has imbued each with a different texture mimicking an element of earth.

"Native Americans believed that you should treat the earth thinking about the seven generations ahead of you," she said. "The figures were created to represent the idea that we are stewards of the earth." Earth - in the form of Reedy River clay - has been incorporated into another one of the pieces.

Painting and drawing best capture Blaker's message of life's energy and beauty.

In her "Natural Impressions," exhibit, Blaker has mixed her oils to create thick color that both imitates nature in its subtleties, and exudes vibrancy.

Allen Coleman, director at the museum, was keen on having Blaker present her work.

"I was particularly moved by Victoria's portfolio," he said. "Her oils are so luscious."

Blaker paints to highlight movement in nature. Upstairs at the museum, cocks fight contentiously, trees bow and sweep over water, and cows repose amid a flurry of grasses.

Ink drawings of trees and other natural subject matter add another dimension to her display.

Also upstairs, "Tapestry in Blue," an installation by Susan Lenz, invites viewers to engage in a dramatic representation of twenty-four early female blues singers. In the installation, these women are depicted as saintly martyrs. Adding to the sacred effect, the "Blues Chapel" exhibit has blues music playing in front of an altar, a pew complete with church bulletins and fans, and a bowl in which to place prayer requests or messages of respect. In addition, Lenz's intricate embroidered and beaded tapestries represent the stained glass of a church. The blues singers are honored in the decorations, fans, and bulletins, as well as in the wall art.

"It is absolutely spectacular," said Seth Hemlich of Clemson on Lenz's work. "It really takes your breath away."

Lenz's subject matter has an important place in her heart.

"Early female blues singers lived in a male dominated society, in a segregated country, and worked in an industry that took advantage of their lack of education and opportunity," she said. "They struggled, made sacrifices, and sang of their woes. They were exploited, mistreated, or simply neglected, but their music is still played. The Blues helped change the world for today's young, black, female vocalists."

The Pickens County Museum of Art and History is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; it is open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is free but donations are welcome. For more information, contact the museum at 864-898-5963.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Triple Feature: Review in Upstate Today including "Blues Chapel" by Vista Studio Susan Lenz

Triple Feature by

By Matt Wake
Found in the Upstate Today
Photo Gallery
PICKENS — Blues singers, dusky oils and Reedy River clay vie for attention in “Three South Carolina Women Artists.” The Pickens County Museum of Art & History exhibition is actually a trio of solo shows, featuring the work of Victoria Blaker, Glenda Guion and Susan Lenz.

“If we tried to intermingle them, I think it would have watered it down,” said Pickens County Museum Executive Director Allen Coleman.

“Natural Impressions” showcases Blaker’s oil paintings and quill and ink drawing. Her work provides an alternative view of familiar reality, according to Coleman.

“With Victoria Blaker and her work, she tries to represent places in life that aren’t always something you look at right away,” Coleman said. “She’s relatively new to me. I first saw her work last year. Victoria is very energetic in the way she works with the medium of oil painting. She’s developed that into her own language.”

Blaker was active in the arts community for years — even prolific, exhibiting in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Then she took a break from promoting her work to raise a daughter. Even during this self-imposed sabbatical, Blaker continued to create.

With her daughter now enrolled in college, Blaker is returning her art to the public eye.

“Now we’re trying to tell everyone, ‘Look, she’s back,’” Coleman said.

“Natural Impressions” includes 39 works. A Greenville resident since 1991, Blaker extends her creative zeal to others — as adjunct faculty and through adult education programs at Furman University.

In her own work, Blaker hopes to mimic flicker and capture movement.

“My goal is for every piece to pulsate with an artistic expression that is unique to my own intellect and perception,” Blaker said. “Energetic pen or brush strokes and movement of light direction often accompanied by thick paint are employed to help give each work a surface vitality that can further enhance the visual experience.”

Guion’s “Twenty Years of Ceramic Sculpture” also transmits commotion, albeit in a more abstract manner. Stylized silhouettes — which the artist calls “shadows” — are a recurring theme in her Pickens County Museum material.

Living in Easley, Guion finds equal inspiration from psychoanalyst Carl Jung and the enigma of human spirit.

“It is the contrast between the organic, the synthetic and the psychological that interests me,” Guion said. “I hope to communicate in my work that which surrounds me both physically and mystically — from earth, gardens, and man-made forms to archetypal symbols and theories.”

Pickens County Museum Curator Helen Hockwalt helped Guion compile “Twenty Years.” As its title suggests, the show presents an overview of artistic growth over two decades. Guion’s last solo show at the Pickens County Museum was in 1988. In arranging the new 34-piece exhibit, Hockwalt wanted to connect past and present.

“A piece that actually hung here in 1988 is on the right flank of the room, and on the other side is one of her latest works,” Hockwalt said. “I find her work interesting in her repeated use of silhouette figures. As a viewer looks at them, they could become any number of people or things. She doesn’t answer all the questions.”

All of the “Twenty Years” pieces are wall hangings. “Seven Generations” is comprised of seven smaller works, while clay excavated from Greenville’s Reedy River was used to create “River/Shadows.”

An instructor at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville, Guion has been a chairperson for Greenville Open Studios — an annual tour of artist workspaces — since 2004. Her artwork can be seen in various public collections, including those at Clemson University, Columbia College and the Sumter County Museum of Art.

If the Blaker and Guion collections are Friday and Saturday respectively, the Lenz show is Sunday.

In her ambitious mixed media installation, “The Blues Chapel,” Lenz pays homage to great female blues singers from the ’20s and ’30s. In those days, the blues was a gritty vocation. Trouble in mind, whiskey in hand and hell hounds on your trail. Being female didn’t help matters, Lenz said.

“Early female blues singers lived in a male dominated society, in a segregated country, and worked in an industry that took advantage of their lack of education and opportunity. Physical abuse, drug and alcohol dependence, and poverty plagued most,” Lenz said. “They struggled, made sacrifices, and sang of their woes. They were exploited, mistreated or simply neglected — but their music is still played. “

Lenz believes yesterday blues queens, like Bessie Smith, opened doors for modern video vixens. Based in Columbia, Lenz developed her own acumen under renowned British fiber artists Valerie Campbell-Harding, Jean Littlejohn and Jan Beaney.

The “Chapel” installation’s centerpiece, “Tapestry in Blue,” is a traditional block pattern quilt adorned with images of 24 blues legends. Flashy doodads echo the gaudy stage clothes worn by race-record stars.

Church pews and a floral altar continue the Sunday vibe, a curious atmosphere for gals devoted to fast times.

Coleman marveled at the transformation of the museum space.

“It’s an amazing feeling walking inside. Susan has really turned the gallery into a chapel,” he said.

A 78-song mix CD of the singers depicted spins non-stop inside the shrine. If you listen hard enough, you can hear a few ghosts humming along in the key of E.

Monday, June 16, 2008

John Adams Hodge Presents: EARTH, SEA, and SKY

Earth, Sea, and Sky: A Photo Essay by John Adams Hodge opens at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady Street on Thursday, June 19. The fine art photography exhibition will include an opening reception on Friday, June 20 from 6 - 9 PM. The artist will host additional viewing hours: June 24, 26, and 30th from 4 - 6 PM and June 22 from 3 - 6 PM. If these times are not convenient, call 803-540-7950 to schedule an appointment.

In his provided statement, John Adams Hodge describes his exhibition as follows:
"Earth, Sea, and Sky" is a celebration of the universe, our blue planet, and the wildlife and diverse cultures that inhabit the world. It features photographic images taken from such diverse places as Alaska, Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Scotland, and other locations in the USA such as the Basin and Range, North Cascades, and the South Carolina coastal plain. Images of the universe are also part of this collection. These images were taken on the go, in the air, in the bush, at sea, on the trail, off the trail, at the observatory, and on the road. This photo essay is meant to renew and inspire the human spirit again and again."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Susan Lenz: The Blues Chapel at the Pickens Museum

(Click on image above and below to enlarge.)
Three women artists, including Vista Studio artist Susan Lenz, open solo exhibitions on Saturday, June 21 from 6 - 8 PM at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History. The shows run through August 21. For more information about the museum, its hours, and location, please click here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yaghjian in Greenville and Lenz in Edgefield

(Click on images to enlarge.) Above and below are the invitations to King Snake Press: Ten Years After, an exhibition on view at the Greenville County Art Museum June 5 through July 27. This exhibition is a dynamic and unique set of monotypes produced by fifteen South Carolina artists, including Vista Studio artist David Yaghjian. The fifteen artists have been part of the ten-year history of Greenville's King Snake Press. The show was organized by King Snake master printmaker Phil Garrett who will give a gallery talk on June 12 at 6:30 pm.

Also on June 12 is the closing reception for Blues Chapel, an installation at the Region 2 Discovery Center in Edgefield, SC. Created by Vista Studios artist Susan Lenz, Blues Chapel debuted in 2006 and will move from Edgefield to the Pickens Country Museum of Art and History for another two months. The opening reception in Pickens will be on Saturday, June 21 from 6 - 8 PM. In the post below is a video of the Blues Chapel as shown in Pickens.

Blues Chapel in Edgefield, SC