The Southern, a contemporary art gallery tucked behind a Pizza Hut, standing tall in a sea of construction, is a heartening site. The gallery itself is an affront to the mass consumerism taking place, daily, along upper King Street. Tourists clutching lattes, shopping bags dangling from their arms, walk, wild-eyed into the fray that is sometimes (hopefully) local boutiques, but also more often than not, big box chain stores. This sight is most common on the zenith day of all consuming days — Black Friday.
The Southern wants to offer Charlestonians a safe haven in the dark, dark day after Thanksgiving. Their small works show, Get Well Soon, is designed to up your dopamine levels. Seriously. As the show’s description tells it: “While it is a common experience to fall in love with a certain artwork, scientists now have evidence that shows the brain reacts similarly when viewing artwork as when falling in love! It has always had the ability to serve as a source of happiness, light-heartedness, and joy.” Damn straight.
Participating artist Lydia Campbell assures us that she has never taken part in the typical, “buy everything or die,” Black Friday. An employee at Artist & Craftsman, Campbell graduated from College of Charleston this year with a BA in studio art. Working primarily in watercolor and graphite drawings, Campbell says that she creates images based on photographs she’s taken of people and places in her life.
“For the show, all the images are sourced from my parents’ photo albums,” says Campbell. “I chose a couple that stood out to me — whether they made me laugh, see a piece of myself, or I saw something that I wanted to be doing.”
Perusing Campbell’s online portfolio, you get a taste of her life, of the things, perhaps, that give her joy. There are the blurred lines of the watercolors, the bare flesh exposed against the darkness in “Lancaster Night Fishing III.” A cat sits, front paws touching and eyes closed shut, maybe caught in a yawn, or better yet, a smirk, in the muted still life of “Cricket.” And our favorite Campbell piece is probably the one we can relate to most, “Royal American Selfie,” featuring deep reds in the faces of, presumably Campbell, and a friend.
Fellow Artist & Craftsman employee, Camela Guevara, joins Campbell — and almost 100 other artists — in Get Well Soon. Guevara currently serves as North Charleston’s artist-in-residence. “I went to school in North Charleston, so it’s cool to share art with kids there,” she says. “Art is so important. People can get discouraged at a very young age.” Part of Guevara’s goal as an artist is not just to create, but to encourage others to create, no matter how intimidating they may think art can be. She credits Artist & Craftsman with providing resources, from classes to materials, that help artists young and old find an outlet for creativitiy.
Guevara, who works primarily with fibers, created small gouache (opaque watercolor) paintings for The Southern’s exhibit. “I was sifting through all of this media that I’m interacting with on a daily basis,” says Guevara, who compares her process to the filtering mechanisms of an oyster. The resulting paintings are evocative of the sea, too, with Guevara noting that many of the brightly colored lines in her works are reminiscent of pieces of coral.
Hand-held pieces of beauty, from Campbell’s watercolors to Guevara’s gouache bursts of color, are ideal — and most importantly, affordable — works of art for first time buyers. And, as Guevara sees it, these smaller pieces allow artists to have a little fun. “Artists are giving themselves space to create even when they’re not guaranteed to sell,” she says. “It’s really fun to be in a show with a bunch of people and connect with them.”
And she does mean a bunch. Like we said, there are approximately 100 artists participating in Get Well Soon. From the stark nude prints of Carrie Beth Waghorn to the intense stares of Greg Hart’s photography-based portraiture to the bold colors of artist and graphic designer Richard Drayton a.k.a. Concept RXCH, there’s a small work for every buyer. Drayton, who describes his art as futuristic collaging incorporating African American/black culture/anime and street/fashion style with natural and earthly elements, says he’s inspired to create by, “a desire to create what doesn’t exist yet.”
The small works are for the buyers, yes, but undoubtedly there is a small work for every artist. As Guevara says, “I think it’s important to create stuff all the time.”
Addicted to buying small works? Here are some more opportunities around town:
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