We move through our world focused on chewing up the miles to the freeway, not on the roadside views we’re traveling. We stroll out to get the mail and see only the weeds that need pulling, not the bird nesting or the magnolia blooming. We live in a place for a year or a lifetime and forget to see the sights, scenes and moments that make the place – and our lives – what they are.
“Art in the Low Country,” the Main Gallery exhibit at the Averitt Center through April 28, holds up a mirror, a telescope, a magnifying glass to help us see ourselves and our home more clearly, more beautifully — with imagination, realism and even humor. The 31 pieces by 19 area artists capture the landscape and details, the spirit and insights around us — some through familiar views and others in starkly fresh perspective.
The landscapes will feel wonderfully familiar. Joseph Olsen’s spontaneous watercolor, “Time Well Spent,” takes us down a sun-dappled woodland path where we discover a morning fisherman in his bright red boat – and feel his contentment ourselves. Karen Youngblood’s journey “Into the Light” emerges at a dusky wetlands waterway, opening to a vista of grasses so green they nearly glow, pointing us on to the shadow-and-sun blues and golds of the distant trees.
Two photography entries take us to different Low Country landscapes. “Fiery Blaze in the Sunlight,” by Kathy Diane Shepherd, finds the beauty that never fades in a deserted farm cabin shining red and orange in the sunset. In Deborah Bailey’s “Georgia Pecan Grove” we’ve arrived at sunrise, morning mist hanging heavy in the tree branches.
Mary Anderson, owner of Anderson Art Gallery on St. Simons Island and both the Juror and Curator for the show, chose the exhibit pieces from among 98 submissions from more than 30 artists. “The work was very, very nice,” says Anderson, who represents more than 20 nationally known artists. She found her selection task a pleasurable challenge. “We probably could have put in more if the gallery space had allowed.”
“I loved the ceramic pieces,” adds Anderson. “One of favorites was the donkey.” Brandy Cleary’s clever “Gunner Pot” is a brown teapot-sized vessel with a donkey’s placid head and sturdy feet. Long ears flank the top opening and the swooping tail forms a handle of stoneware.
Whimsy also delights in Marjette Schille’s “Flight of Fancy,” a watercolor that launches sea turtles into a sky filled with vibrant long-tailed kites soaring over the tiny specks of beach lovers below. And in Jeanine Cook’s gouache piece, “Come into My Garden,” the meticulous rendering of just-blooming branches surprises us with a web-spinning spider that may make you jump — and certainly smile.
A pair of pieces by Anthony Faris seems to explore the interior landscape of us Low Country dwellers as much as the world we inhabit. The first, a contemporary mixed media collage, overlays a field of green and a patch of blue with disquieting found objects, such as a faceless photo, a scrap of embroidery, a rusting bottle cap. The second piece, a light-bathed digital image, sets the arrow-straight slats of an antique ladder back chair against the red, white and blue of an American flag in almost Norman Rockwell warmth. Two very different approaches, made all the more provocative by being hung side by side, add thoughtful depth to this celebration of who we are.
A line from a T.S. Eliot poem may be the most apt review of Art in the Low Country — and the best reason to see it yourself. “And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Lynn Lilly is a Statesboro resident who appreciates good art.