Sam Rueter (above) and Bri Wenke met selling work at the City Market and are now represented by the Grand Bohemian Gallery. For their second independently curated show, they brought on fellow figurative painter Morgan East. | Photos by Chad Savage

The two-day, immersive Resurgence exhibition at Silver Hill Studios explores themes of grief, nostalgia and memory. The show is curated and organized by visual artists Sam Rueter, Morgan East and Bri Wenke, who will unveil 25 new paintings in a space transformed by an immersive light projection created by Seth Abrahamson, known as Lazer Catcher, and a soundscape by audio engineer Preston Dunnavant.  

Bri Wenke in studio. | Photo by Chad Savage

In October 2021, long time artist-pals and collaborators Wenke and Rueter presented their first independently curated show, Consumption. They raised $20,000 from art collectors to put together a one-night show which 600 people attended. 

“We got hundreds of comments like, ‘We want more of this — when’s the next one?’” Rueter said.

Rueter said she and Wenke have a shared mission “to push the boundaries on the contemporary art scene in Charleston,” and their hope is to continue on that mission with this next show. 

“We can say what we want to say when we curate independently,” Wenke said.

For the Resurgence show, Wenke and Rueter brought on fellow Charleston-based figurative painter Morgan East. 

Morgan East. | Photo by Alexandra Rostad

“There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a part of the direction that they’ve been taking art in Charleston,” East said.

Since moving to Charleston from New York seven years ago, Rueter said she’s noticed a pattern of artists leaving Charleston for bigger and better art markets. 

“I’ve met so many incredible, talented people in this city,” Rueter said. “It’s kind of been a pattern where we make friends, and then within two years, they’re out. It’s easy to drop into these bigger cities with these bigger networks. But there’s such a need and a longing for this kind of work here in Charleston — I know that people want it. So it’s a matter of fighting against that old system here of what kind of art is acceptable … It’s been a fun challenge.”

East emphasized accessibility as an important goal for the show. “We’re doing $5 a ticket so people can come and have the experience, and even if they can’t afford to collect art, we are inviting people to come and to think about the things in question.”

Each artist approaches the show’s themes of grief, nostalgia and memory in different and personal ways. 

“How do we manage grief, and how do we use it to propel us forward?” Wenke said. “What’s the quote — ‘Grief is just love with nowhere to go.’ Since Covid, so much has changed and forced us all to go inward, literally, metaphorically, emotionally. For me, the grief element also encompasses a personal transition in life, a loss of an older self and resurgence of a newer self.” 

East’s inspiration for this show is more literal. When her father was diagnosed with, and later died from, vascular dementia, she was moved by the experience of community while grieving. 

“I didn’t realize how you could go through a grieving process while somebody was alive,” East said. “So that was just something that I started making work about — not just about the grieving process, but also about the support systems and community that you build as you go through that.”

Rueter added, “When we think about grief, we think about the all encompassing aspect of losing someone. But then there’s also the healing aspect to it, and the communal aspect — all these different kinds of relationships that can kind of come together and help you to reemerge — to come back to the surface.”

The show is open 6-9 p.m. March 17, with viewing hours the following day from 1-4 p.m. and again from 6-9 p.m. Advance tickets are $5, or $10 at the door. Resurgence is partially funded by the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grants Program.

Lazer Catcher will present a visual projection the artists describe as immersive and emotional. 

“That will be a part people can really step into and experience and hopefully feel something,” Wenke said. “It’s going to have a lot to do with water, surging and rising — the cyclical waves of grief.”

The projections will move in tandem with the immersive soundscape created by Dunnavant. The artists collected sound bites from friends, family and other creatives of sounds that they find nostalgic. “Think, boots walking on gravel, or a motorcycle revving up, or the sound of birds on your morning walk,” Wenke said.

Rueter said the main idea Resurgence will drive home is the idea of a collective sense of belonging. “I hope the show can be a reminder that we all are in this together, we are all connected, and I think that is what art is meant to do. That’s our hope.”

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