Thursday, May 24, 2012

A word from our partner - Jane Przybysz, McKissick Museum director

  INSTALL IT 2 would not have been possible without the support of the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. Museum Director Jane Przybysz overheard me and one of the artists talking about project in the late winter and asked how the museum could get involved. She has since been a tireless supporter of the exhibition and provided invaluable professional expertise which greatly increased the quality of the exhibition. 
Here are Jane's thoughts about the impact of the exhibition, which comes to a close May 26. - Jeffrey Day, exhibition curator.


The scene of opening night for INSTALL IT 2 was a community art educator’s dream.  At the Rangoli: Giant Bird Feeder, venturesome families with children, couples young and old, and curious clumps of seniors gathered round trying to grasp what in the world was going on.  Many were soon on bent knees, flowers or flour in hand, intently focused on adding their own designs to the lot-sized ground painting artists’ Khaldoune Bencheikh and Mary How vision had sketched with colored bird seed and rice to serve as a huge welcoming mat for birds at the heart of the Vista. 

At I Have Loved You So Long, artist Michaela Pilar Brown held court to the tune of traffic passing by the loading dock facing Gervais Street that provided the framework for her installation.  In moments of relative quiet, she talked about her decision to return to her family’s homeplace in rural South Carolina after years of living in an urban setting.  She reflected on how much more time she was now spending in a car on roadways littered with gators—a term truckers use on their CB radios to describe sometimes hazardous tire treads littering the highway.

You could actually sense traffic slow down alongside the Zion Baptist Church where Wendell George Brown had built Ascension—three monumentally-sized, larger-than-life figurative sculptures that paid homage to African American spiritual traditions.  The pottery shards and tree branches poking out of earthen-like figures powerfully evoked bottle trees and burial customs African Americans—especially in South Carolina’s low country—have practiced for generations.

As the evening wore on, a small crowd gathered near the alleyway where Kara Gunter had installed Ghost Trees.  They were patiently waiting for the sky to darken so they might witness the effect evoked by LED lights Gunter had installed at the base of the white gauzy trees she’d constructed to mourn the loss of real trees in an urban setting.

Perhaps because there was a rock band playing outdoors adjacent to Eileen Blythe’s Seven Doors, there was less conversation about and more observation of the Alice-in-Wonderland, door-like structures she’d created from repurposed industrial materials with Adluh Flour’s building as a backdrop.  At one point, my eye was drawn beyond the sculptures through the crack between two parts of the building structure to a spotlit American flag furling and unfurling in the breeze.  I couldn’t help but take this fortuitous juxtaposition of the flag and the installation as a positive sign that the spirit of Artista Vista and of Install It 2 embodied the spirit of America, constantly reinventing itself through individual initiative and collective endeavor. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Last week for Install It 2

In spite of all the rain, the artworks in Install It 2 are standing strong throughout the Congaree Vista. 
You still have a week to take in the exhibition and here's a look at what you'll find.
The exhibition remains on display through May 26. Se the map at the end for locations.
"Rangoli: Giant Bird Feeder" is naturally fading into the earth.

The figures in "Ascension" face both the Memorial Park and the Zion Baptist Church.

"I Have Loved You So Long" transforms a loading dock right on Gervais Street into an artwork.

 At the end of Senate Street, "Blue Spheres" connect to the river and ceramics industry.
 The towers of Adluh Flour serve as the backdrop - and more - for "Seven Doors."
 Art and nature merge with "Ghost Trees."

Friday, April 27, 2012

The finished exhibition - you have a month to see it

Thanks to everyone who came out on opening night to take in Install It 2 as part of Artista Vista.
Now that the exhibition is open we'd refresh your memory about the show and artists as well as share photos of the finished pieces.
Install It 2 will be on display through May 26. All the works are outdoors and available for viewing any time.

 For this year’s installation art exhibition, Install It 2, seven artists tap into the history and natural and built environment of the Vista. This exhibition marks a new collaboration with the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina with the artworks connected through material, content and location to the Museum’s commitment to telling the story of Southern life: community, culture and the environment.
Khaldoune Bencheikh and Mary How, in collaboration with community members, created Rangoli: Giant Bird Feeder at the corner of Lady and Lincoln Streets. The work is based on the rangoli, a folk art from India where women create decorative floor patterns to welcome deities during religious festivals. This biodegradable performance art installation accentuates our relationship with nature, especially the avian variety, even in an urban environment.
Bencheikh is a master of fine arts candidate at the University of South Carolina, and How, an art therapist, is owner of Angelfish Creations. 

Located in the yard of the Zion Baptist Church at Washington and Gadsden streets, Wendell George Brown’s figurative sculpture grouping Ascension is inspired by African-American quilting, spirituals and burial grounds, as well as African grave markers and wooden figures created for healing and protection. Through the source materials and location, the piece reflects upon the African-American history and culture of the area. Founded in 1865, Zion Baptist Church has been at this location since 1870. Washington Street was the primary African-American business district of Columbia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ascension overlooks Memorial Park. 
Brown, a Benedict College faculty member, has shown his work at the Japan International Quilt Show, the American Folk Art Museum in New York and the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington D.C. 


Kara Gunter’s Ghost Trees in the alleyway near Gervais and Gadsden Streets repopulates an alleyway of stumps with trees made of layered paper and adhesive.
The work contrasts the development of the area from natural to mostly man-made. While much of what we are aware of in the Vista is that which has been built there during the past 100 years, the natural world cannot be stopped and declares its ongoing power in places such as this alley.
Gunter holds a master of fine arts degree from USC and has had solo exhibitions at the S.C. State University and Lander University galleries.


The loading dock of City Market Antiques Mall, near Gervais and Gadsden, is the site for Michaela Pilar Brown’s I Have Loved You So Long. Made of kudzu, grape vine, recycled tire tread, steel and grass, the work examines the intersection of family history, memory and myth by using familiar materials in the creation of an other-worldly environment. It continues the artist’s exploration of “home” as a repository for memories which are malleable and transient
 Brown has recently been resident artist at the McColl Arts Center in Charlotte and the Vermont Studio Center and had solo exhibitions at the Harvey Gantt Center for African American Art and Culture in Charlotte and S.C. State University.


 Next to the Adluh Flour-Allen Brother Milling Company, south side of Gervais on Gadsden Street, Eileen Blyth’s Seven Doors is made by mining the materials and the memories of the Vista. Constructed of objects scavenged in the area, the piece connects to the industries which once dominated the area and how those that remain are add to a vibrant, contemporary urban space. The piece is set against “seven strange, square doors” at Adluh, a historic industry and landmark in the Vista for a century.
Blyth holds degrees from the College of Charleston and USC and has had solo exhibitions throughout the region.

Blue Spheres by Virginia Scotchie at Senate and Gist Streets (near the Congaree River) is linked to the brick and tile-making industry once located in the Vista and to Columbia’s place on the geological “fall line.”  A fall line is where rivers descend from upland to the lowland creating rapids. While the fall line limited river navigation, the falling water provided power for grist mills, sawmills and textile mills. In the Southeast, the fall line also demarcates a narrow belt where high-quality kaolin clay deposits are found.
Scotchie, a professor of art at USC, has had her work exhibited in France, the Netherlands, Australia, Taiwan and throughout the United States and in May has a solo exhibition at Hunter College, The City University of New York.

Exhibition curator is Jeffrey Day, who organized the 2011 Install It  exhibition, is an arts writer whose work has been published internationally.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Work day two - less than two until the show opens

Two days out and Tuesday was the day most of the artists started making the big drive on their work. Everyone ran into a few of the expected snags for an exhibition that is in six different locations with a lot of other things going on all around them.

For instance Eileen Blyth was working close to a crowd of about 1,500 people at an outdoor concert. And the wind was blowing like crazy. There was a question of where one might plug in a drill.

A number of folks, including two small buses of small people, helped out on the Rangoli installation. You can too - just show up Wednesday or Thursday and help create this 50-by-50 sculpture of natural materials. If you'd like bring some of your own - flowers, pine cones, bird seed, sweet gum balls.

Eileen Blyth and crew starting to erect the steel at Adluh Flour and Allen Brothers Milling Co. She was very drawn to the shadows on the side of the building and with materials scavenged from around the Vista, she's creating some more.

The Rangoli: Giant Bird Feeder really started taking shape with some help from volunteers. The outline is flour and the fill is mulch and sand.

Michaela Pilar Brown arrived at the loading dock of City Market Art and Antiques with a very full car - balls of tire tread, balls of broken glass, pine tree limbs, blue wax and some wonderful little houses made of birch bark.

A behind the scenes look at works in process

Wendell George Brown constructing figures for Ascension.

The artists taking part in Install It 2 have in most cases been doing preliminary work on their pieces for several months. 
For all of them though the work isn't finished until it is installed at the site for which it was made. 
While several of the artists have been able to do a great deal of work in advance, most will also be doing much during the coming days. 
This is especially true for the Eileen Blyth and the team of Khaldoune Bencheikh and Mary How who are creating their pieces completely or mostly on-site. 


Virginia Scothie in her studio working on Blue Spheres.
Scotchie is a long-time professor at the USC Art Department who has shown her work and taught around the world.

Michaela Pilar Brown with portions of her installation. Brown recently was awarded residencies  at the Vermont Studio Center in and the McColl Arts Center in Charlotte, as well as a solo exhibition at the Harvey Gantt Center for African American Art and Culture in Charlotte. 

Wendell George Brown has taken his inspiration from African grave markers and sculptures. A quilter as well as a sculptor, his artwork  has been exhibited at the Japan International Quilt Show, the American Folk Art Museum in New York and the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington D.C.


Kara Gunter  attaching paper to real trees to create Ghost Trees.
A USC graduate, Gunter was in last year's Install It exhibition. Her next exhibition will be at Frame of Mind in Columbia opening in May.

Eileen Blyth gave us this glimpse of why she fell in love with the wall at Adluh Flour-Allen Bros. Milling Co. where her work will be installed. One might call this a sketch.