Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blues Chapel and Last Words by Susan Lenz

DATES AND TIMES: Blues Chapel and Last Words

Blues Chapel and Last Words
Gallery 80808/Vista Studios
808 Lady Street, Columbia, SC
February 4 – 16, 2010

Opening Reception: Friday, February 5 from 6 – 8. The reception will include the free tribute “Ladies Sing the Blues…” at the Blue Martini, which shares the common hallway with the gallery, starting at 7 PM (a second, expanded tribute will be presented at 9 PM with a $5 cover).

Gallery hours: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 AM – midnight; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 11 – 6; Sunday Noon – 6. (803) 252-6134 for Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.

Blue Martini hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7 PM until past midnight. Doors opening on the night of the reception at 6 PM. (803) 256-2442.

Last Words is sponsored by

Fletcher Monuments:

Shives Funeral Home:


The Christian Counseling Center:

More of Susan Lenz's work can be seen on her blogs:

Susan Lenz
presents BLUES CHAPEL and LAST WORDS, fiber installations at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios

Columbia fiber and installation artist Susan Lenz presents two related installations from Thursday, February 4 through Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady Street in Columbia’s downtown arts and cultural district. The exhibit includes two distinct areas: Blues Chapel and Last Words.

Blues Chapel is an installation honoring the great women of the early Blues world. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Alberta Hunter are among the twenty-four singers depicted saint-like above an altar and before mahogany church pews. Music fills the gallery and the opening reception will include a free performance at 7 PM in the Blue Martini, just down the shared hallway. The installation has just returned to Columbia after two months in the Great Denton Arts Council’s Gough Gallery where it received extensive media coverage in the arts-oriented community.

(Above: Billie Holiday by Susan Lenz, one of 24 early female Blues singers honored in Blues Chapel.)

The installation is the artist’s tribute to the hard-singing, hard-living women. “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,” Lenz said. “Physical abuse, drug and alcohol dependence, and poverty plagued most. They struggled, made sacrifices, and sang of their woes. They helped change the world for today’s young, black, female vocalists.”

(Above: Father and Mother, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt by Susan Lenz. Click on image to enlarge. To see other art quilts in this series to be on view at Blues Chapel and Last Words, please visit the link above. Click on image to enlarge.)

If Blues Chapel is considered the “church”, then Last Words is its churchyard where the departed rest. Last Words, based on gravestone rubbings on fabric and collected epitaphs, explores the concepts of remembrance and mortality. This brand-new body of work is made up of over 30 grave rubbing art quilts, 25 photo transfers stitched with found objects (Angels in Mourning Series), and a focal point of sheer chiffon banners embroidered with hundreds of collected epitaphs.

(Above: Be Ye Also Ready, Angels in Mourning Series by Susan Lenz. One of 25 xylene photo transfers of cemetery angels stitched with found objects. Click on image to enlarge.)

“The work suggests the serenity of a cemetery, the connection with the past, and the frailty of life,” Lenz said. “Personal and universal issues of mortality are evident in the selection of words from the past that address the future.”

"Last Words is an exploration of final memories, the ways in which we mark our lives on earth. It poses important questions about how we remember others but also how we intent to be remembered ourselves. It asks, "What are your final wishes?" To this end, the exhibition sponsors are more than art supporters but places to help guide personal answers."

(Above: Eboniramm who will present a free tribute at Blue Martini during the opening reception and also a later performance that night with only a $5 cover charge.)

Ladies Sing the Blues…and it never felt so good! During the art reception on Friday, February 5th, the Blue Martini will present the tribute “Ladies Sing the Blues…” hosted by the “Queen of Blues” Bessie Smith, portrayed by singer Eboniramm. Eboniramm will spotlight Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Anita O’Day and other female blues pioneers (all included in Blue Chapel). The Blue Martini will present a second, expanded “Ladies Sing the Blues…” starting at 9 PM Friday, February 5th. The $5 cover charge will include Eboniramm and more ladies singing the blues.

Exhibition: February 4 – 16, 2010
Opening Reception: Friday, February 5 from 6 – 8. The reception will include the free tribute “Ladies Sing the Blues…” at the Blue Martini, which shares the common hallway with the gallery, starting at 7 PM (a second, expanded tribute will be presented at 9 PM with a $5 cover).

Gallery hours: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 AM – midnight; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 11 – 6; Sunday Noon – 6.

Blue Martini hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7 PM until past midnight. Doors opening on the night of the reception at 6 PM.

Members of the media can schedule interviews with the artist by contacting her at (803) 254-0923 or mouse_house@prodigy.netMore of her work can be seen at http://artbysusanlenz.blogspot.com

For information on the concert “Ladies Sing the Blues….and it never felt so good!” Contact the Blue Martini at (803) 256-2442

Thursday, January 28, 2010

CWWYX Reviewed by Mary Gilkerson in The Free Times

Issue #23.04 :: 01/26/2010 - 02/01/2010
Artists Present 10th Annual Group Show

A review of Winter Exhibition, on view at Gallery 80808 through Feb. 2.


This year’s Winter Exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios is the tenth annual one that Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams and Edward Wimberly have held as a group, the eighth with David Yaghjian. The annual exhibit reflects the close working relationship that the four have.

Mike Williams, Detail (acrylic on linen, 2009).

Williams and Chesley have been making welded metal sculptures for some time. At times, there are close similarities in how the two deal with constructing formal shape relationships. Both use balance and counterbalance, point and counterpoint to build compositions in three-dimensional space.

Some viewers might not have picked up on the strong relationship between Chesley’s abstract sculptures and his more realistic paintings. His Kline/Zen pieces, hanging as a body in the main gallery, provide an obvious bridge between the two bodies of work. All on paper, the Kline/Zen works explore simple figure-and-ground relationships juxtaposed with strong, simple gestural marks. In essence, they are two-dimensional forms of his sculptures.

But they also reflect the basic shape relationships that form the underlying structures of Chelsey’s landscape pieces. This is more obvious in some paintings than others. Twilight, Sandbars is a small, square composition in which the landscape elements have been reduced to fairly flat areas of color, with the value and intensity of the colors providing the sense of depth. But the same sort of interplay is present in the more representational River, Twilight.

Stephen Chesley, Island (oil, 2009-10)

Williams’ newer paintings still feature the fish images for which he is known, but they are often less gestural than in the past, with more tightly structured geometric forms. Glossary II is more about the fish as a shape and a visual structure than about a form moving through water. The more structured forms create a flatter space activated by the rhythm created by the color patterns.

Some of those same linear patterns appear in his landscapes describing the lush vegetation of the swamps. The tree trunks and their reflections in Early in the Morning interlock in the same sort of diagonal structures. Enlarge a section of this painting and the geometric structure of Glossary appears, simply with more gestural strokes.

Yaghjian and Wimberly both explore more existentialist themes with a leavening of humor. Wimberly’s surreal juxtapositions of familiar objects create pieces that pull the viewer into a conversation that does not have a definitive answer. A freshly plowed field is peopled by an odd assortment of figures in Evening on the Farm. Raggedy Ann dances under the evening sky with a ballerina doll, watched by two monkeys in an armchair. The Raggedy Ann doll has appeared in Wimberly’s work for several years now. Her adventures seem to be part of a heroine’s journey in the Jungian sense. As playful as the figures seem, there is usually an element of reality, or the threat of it, that separates these from whimsical illustration.

Painting by Edward Wimberly

Yaghjian continues his Everyman series, pieces that explore the tragi-comic nature of life with a mythic edge. He has added a new dimension to the work, though — literally. This year, he has wooden sculptures derived from cardboard cutouts. Working in a sort of low relief and taking the same figures as their subject, the sculptures are a natural progression from his paintings and prints. He has managed to retain a good deal of the freshness and gestural quality of the original cutouts, which can stand on their own as finished works.

Yaghjian also has a new series of paintings that focus on very simplified tree forms, usually only two or three in a composition. Like Chesley, he emphasizes a simplified figure-and-ground relationship in these pieces. The paint has gotten thinner, applied in washes more like watercolor, with the same quick gestural marks that he uses in his monotypes.

Looking for the individual growth of the artists is part of the interest of an annual event like this. But another is finding the links not only between the different bodies of each artists’ work but also among the artists.

The 10th annual Winter Exhibition will be up through Feb. 2 at Gallery 80808 (808 Lady St.) Hours are Mon-Sat 1-5pm. Call 252-6134 for more information.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CWWYX, Winter Exhibition featuring Chesley, Williams, Wimberly and Yaghjian

(Above: Exhibition invitation. Click on this or any image to enlarge.)


(The initials CWWYX stand for Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, Yaghjian and the Roman numeral for "10"....X. This is the tenth annual WINTER EXHIBITION.)

January 22 - February 2, 2010

Opening Reception: Friday, January 22, 2010 from 6 - 9 PM

Gallery 80808/Vista Studios
808 Lady Street in Columbia's downtown arts and cultural district

Gallery Hours: Monday - Saturday from 10 AM - 5 PM and Sunday from 1 - 5 PM

LAST DAY: Tuesday, February 2, 2010

For additional information, please call the gallery at (803) 252-6134

(Above: Mickey and Marilyn. Oil by Edward Wimberly. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Glossary II by Mike Williams. Acrylic and ink on canvas. 30" x 30". 2009. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Detail. Acrylic on linen by Mike Williams. 2009. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Steel Fish by Mike Williams. 2009. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Twilight, Venus. Oil on Masonite by Stephen Chesley. 10" x 7". 2009. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Twilight, Sandbars. Oil on masonite, 8" x 8". 2010 by Stephen Chesley. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: River, Twilight. Oil on masonite. 20" x 18". 2009. Stephen Chesley. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Stephen Chesley's Leaves. 10" x 7". Oil on masonite. 2009. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Stephen Chesley's Twilight, Island. 10" x 7". 2009. Oil on masonite. Click on image to enlarge.)

Regarding the upcoming exhibition, Stephen Chesley wrote the following "stream of consciousness" statement that embodies the feel, tradition, inspirations, and anticipation of the upcoming tenth anniversary WINTER EXHIBITION:

Once again a kite takes the wind and four of the kings musketeers rally for a mid winter respite ,,,,this event,,, the tenth... a decade,,,,,ten years,,a century...last man standing,,, familiar patrons and artist will gather at the usual place while all around seems to have moved on ambling, jesting, in the name of progress, or ambition, or Higgs bosons...and the four artist: Chesley,Williams,Wimberly,Yaghjian unveil another brace of ideas in art, a cool anchor for a late January crowd to reflect on and start the new horizon. Its a conundrum to ponder the circuitous route of these four artist ;Yaghjian ;from New York through Atlanta, the 60's lingering,,trials and hard tenacity,,old mirrored leaf frames with birds,,,the artistic family heritage,,Star dog,,,and young ballerina shoes that showed up one day,,Wimberly; through hand grenades in Italy, coast guarding the Outer Banks, southern well-written, cats on roofs, a last milk-skinned blue eyed wild girl in the family tree and Finland,, the proper condensate on a perfected mint julep,,and fisherman’s punch gleaned from the entire melee,,Williams; from Sumter Prothro backroads ,Chevys,,sooty welding shops,hot summer signs,, shot gun netting and finessed catfish lines,,heavy impasto to repay wild places, Grant Wood gothic, two kittens both types,, invisible wild ways ,,,,Chesley; from upstate New York , a Trailways bus to 50's beaches ,,,,the last beatniks, the sea under and over,, set aside hotel room gallerys,,and stop lights blinking off-season solitude. These four offer a revisit with the usual suspects for a few hours of art and visor lifting ,,,,,,in a new year,,,,,finally,,,with two numbers again,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,like the old days.

(Above: David Yaghjian's Transition. Acrylic and Chalk. 2009. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: David Yaghjian's Temptation of Anthony. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: David Yaghjian's Armenian Man. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: David Yaghjian's Angel. Oil. Click on image to enlarge.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jeff Donovan Slide Show creating Striped Tie

(Jeff Donovan's Mid-Career Retrospective at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. Photo Credits: Ashleigh Burke.)

For a slide show of Jeff Donovan creating Striped Tie, click HERE!

Rachel Haynie's Review of Jeff Donovan's Retrospective

Donovan's retrospective proves two out of three ain't bad

January 14, 10:05 PMColumbia Fine Arts ExaminerRachel Haynie

Jeff Donovan’s retrospective show, remaining on view at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios through Monday, January 18, re-established contact between the artist and some old friends.

Sure, patrons who have followed his work for three decades, as the show title indicates, braved un-Columbia-like cold for the show’s opening. But the works themselves were among the old friends Donovan was happy to see again.

“Fortunately, many of the people who have collected my work over these years are right here in town,” said Donovan, speaking from his studio where he was putting finishing touches on a few new pieces the last day of 2009, a week before his show was set to open.

The thought-provoking name of the show – “Three Decades/Twenty Years” – is a footnote to Donovan’s early years as an artist, with a decade-long hiatus during which life sidelined his art.

As he prepared for this show and he went back through his sketchbook, though, the artist was surprised at how little had changed since the beginning. “When that decade elapsed, I picked up where I left off,” but he noted even during that decade, doodles serve as evidence art was still stirring within him.

Painting what compels him, sometimes described as quirky, he believes his ability to be, and remain, “his own artist” can be credited to his decision to earn his living outside the periphery of art.

Although he knew from an eighth-grade playground epiphany that he art, beginning with art school was in his future. And although he did study at Ringling College of Art and Design, he paid the bills by working in construction until those building skills, coupled with his artistic ability, were parlayed into set building in Carl Copeland’s scene shop behind Dutch Square Mall.

Now his “day job” is with ReNewell, Inc., the Columbia art conservation business of Ginny Newell.

“Work, although related to art, relieves my art of that burden, freeing me to paint what I feel, not catering to anyone else’s view of what art should be.”

The nonchalance has worked. Donovan’s “own thing” has been rewarded by a dogged cadre of followers and collectors, some willing to allow their pieces to join the artist again for the duration of this winter show.

The reception for the presentation of IfArt’s show catalog is set for Monday evening, 7-9 p.m., January 18 at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review by Mary Bentz Gilkerson of Jeff Donovan's Retrospective

Exhibit Showcases Donovan’s Organic Evolution

A review of Jeff Donovan: Three Decades/Twenty Years, on view at Gallery 80808 through Jan. 19.


An artist’s career rarely develops in a straight line. There are usually digressions along the way, whether in style, subject or media. But Jeff Donovan’s work over the last 30 years has progressed in a remarkably consistent way, despite an interlude of almost 10 years when he made very little art at all.

Wim Roefs of if ART Gallery has produced a mid-career retrospective of Donovan’s work, Jeff Donovan: Three Decades/Twenty Years, on view at Gallery 80808. (Full disclosure: This reviewer’s own art work is also represented by if ART Gallery.) Roefs has not organized the exhibit in the traditional chronological overview, but instead has grouped work thematically and aesthetically. This makes it clear that Donovan has had an ongoing dialogue with his own work, organically integrating and synthesizing the past with the present.

Born in Milford, Del., in 1957, Donovan grew up all over the globe because his father was in the Air Force. After finishing high school in Delaware, he went on to Ringling School of Art in Florida where he stayed for two years.

Donovan considers Reclining Figure, created around 1977-‘78 after he left Ringling, his first successful painting. Between then and 1984, he was an active participant in the Columbia art scene. These early works are more reflective of the figurative work of the artists from the School of London such as Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud than the cool and cerebral work of minimalism and conceptual art that was dominant in the United States at the time.

In the mid-‘80s, life intervened with the birth of Donovan’s daughter, his divorce and a diagnosis of Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. While he was not painting after 1984, he was doodling on all kinds of surfaces and banking ideas for the future. They might not have been formal sketchbook drawings, but they were important enough that he saved them.

Study for the Friar with the Plywood Collar Goes Boating, done in ballpoint pen on a paper towel, is a composition that he has since explored in both paint and clay. But the fundamental themes are present in the initial sketch. Many of his pieces have autobiographical elements, but it is in ones like the Study for the Friar that he makes his most direct social commentary, poking at inflated cultural icons.

His strongest influences are from 19th and early 20th century art. Like the work of Honoré Daumier and Edgar Degas, Study for the Friar uses exaggeration of the figure and dark humor to convey a narrative, even if it is an open-ended one.

In 1994, Donovan returned to making art and the sketch became a fully realized painting. Several elements appear that are recurring themes in his work — boats adrift on limitless seas, disempowered religious figures, clothing that entraps the wearer within a role.

While some of these elements are present in his early work, his paint application and surface treatment become fully developed during this time. There is more richness to his layering of color and marks than in pieces like John, John, the Idiot Cowboy from 1979.

In 2004, Donovan began making clay sculptures. The new medium has become a vehicle for exploring these themes in three-dimensional form. But The Friar (2005) is not just a sculptural version of the earlier painting. It is a much quieter, more contemplative piece. The friar’s head is still weighed down by the enormous sheet of plywood, but his figure is more upright and solid in the way that it bears the weight.

In many ways, the irony has left the work. And that is true of most of Donovan’s recent work. He still uses humor, but it is gentler, less cutting. Viewers can trace these developments themselves through Jan. 19 when the exhibit will close with a reception and presentation of the retrospective catalog.

Three Decades is on display at Gallery 80808 through Jan. 19.
Gallery 80808 is at 808 Lady St.; call 252-6134 or visit for more information.