Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Don't miss" show at Sumter gallery closes 4/22

This is the final week ahead for two wonderful exhibits at the Sumter County Gallery of Art that really captured my imagination on a visit back in early March. Joe Walters is a South Carolina artist based now in the Low Country who has been recently creating numerous wall-mounted sculptures, assemblages really, that seem to replicate thickets of branches, leaves, bird eggs, and the like from natural models, but carry their own abstractions with them. Some of these are combined here to form triptychs, making larger statements. Jeffrey Day wrote an excellent piece in the Free Times some weeks back that gives you a really good sense both of what Walters' art is like and the kind of career he is having, what makes him tick.

Across the hallway, in the other gallery space of roughly equal size, is an equally evocative show by North Carolina artist Anne Lemanski. Lemanski's work, too, is essentially sculpture, but she seems to come out of more of a craft tradition, having studied at the Penland School in North Carolina. (I asked Jeffrey Day recently about where the dividing line into "craft" can be located, especially when talking about pieces that don't have any clear link to functionality...he laughed heartily and gave me one of those "you don't want to open THAT can of worms" looks.)  Most of her work here consists of fantastical animals, some more realistic than others, composed of various materials (leather, paper, even industrial plastics) sewn together; the animals (more specifically the manner in which they are depicted) are meant to evoke larger political/sociological/ecological questions in the viewer. A good example is her coyote made of Mexican serapes:

 More intricately--and intimately--spectacular, is the array on the far wall of the space entitled "A Century of Hair 1900-1990."  Lemanski uses her same painstaking techniques of assemblage to portray women's hair styles from each decade of the century, and as the gallery's own notes on the exhibit describe, "embedded in each sculpture is a commentary on the culture of the time: how women were regarded and the challenges they faced in each decade." Much more on Lemanski and her working process from Verve Magazine here.

Directions to the Sumter County Gallery can be found here. I had not been to the gallery prior to this visit, but found that combining a drop-in at the gallery with a walk around the nearby Swan Lake Iris Gardens makes for an extremely pleasant half-day trip. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing more work from these two Carolinas artists in the years ahead.

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