If ever you find yourself on Pawleys Island along the coast of South Carolina, you might drive past a little street known as Dagullah Way.
It features some shops, eateries and a few homes on an average palmetto, oak-lined drive. You might think it is named for a local person or family or that it is Native American in origin, but in fact it's a play on words alluding to a rich cultural heritage - the Gullah, or Geechee people.
Descendants of slaves from Sierra Leone in West Africa, the Gullah reside in rural coastal communities on the islands off the Southeast U.S. coast. They are known as Gullah in North and South Carolina and Geechee in Georgia and Florida. With more than three centuries of relative isolation from the rest of the world, these peoples grew into a unique nation with their own language and customs (some you might know, such as gumbo) that still flourishes today.
Celebrated in song and folk tales throughout the Southeast, the Gullah have among their chroniclers one Jonathan Green. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, Green has dedicated his art to capturing the life and rich beauty of his Gullah roots.
Using a palette of rich color and pattern, Green presents figures working, eating or simply spending time in contemplation, amidst the coastal landscape. A sense of timelessness pervades his imagery, referred to as "narrative realism," with no particular element dictating when the narrative is taking place.
This allows the viewer to be lulled into his world like a warm afternoon spent on a porch and, truthfully, for those of us from the South, we know that some things simply do not change. Straw hats, billowing skirts and the toil of fishing and farming, played out by figures whose faces are rarely seen, are at once familiar and mythic. They welcome us into their community, and with a bright, hospitable ease teach us a little about "da Gullah way."
Don't miss this opportunity to view this internationally exhibited and highly honored artist; it may be cold or rainy outside but, in Green's world, the skies are blue and the breeze is fine.
"Jonathan Green: Images of Home" opens Friday evening with a preview reception at 6 p.m. During the evening, Green will present a short talk about his work.
The exhibition will remain in the Averitt Center's Main Gallery through Feb. 21. As always, entrance to Averitt Center exhibitions is free and open to the public. Green's exhibition is sponsored by After Hours Glass Company and is part of the Averitt Center's African Heritage Series, underwritten by The Johnson Firm P.C.
The Averitt Center galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information about gallery exhibitions, call (912) 212-2787 or visit www.averittcenterforthearts.org.