Why do we love art openings so much? It gives us a chance to exercise our liberal arts education, much of the downtown crowd is in attendance, and more importantly, there’s usually free wine. This past Friday, we had four happenings marked in our calendar between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m., and we were determined to make an appearance at all of them.
The event with the earliest start time was the Fr3shArt Portrait Battle, so we started there. In its third year, the battle was held at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry — we were just as excited to explore the space as we were for the art. Artists were set up all over the venue. A few lucky ones even steadied their easels in a pirate ship play area. The Hat Ladies of Charleston served as subjects for the artists, and their oversized headpieces bopping around the museum added to the whimsy of the event. Each of the 24 artists had two hours to paint their model. A whistle was blown at 5:30 and everyone was told to “Start [their] Portraits!” The battle continued into Saturday with two more rounds.
After awhile, we left the child-friendly museum to see the more risque performance of Lauren Kalman’s work at the Redux Contemporary Art Center. Kalman’s wearable art focuses on grotesque body proportions and disfigurement. The first model walked out and the crowd grew silent. The woman was topless and wore a piece that looked a bit like a muslin jockstrap; attached to the front was a two-foot long flaccid penis fashioned from fabric. The audience stood on the edges of the gallery as they watched the model step onto the slowly rotating pedestal in the middle of the room. There wasn’t much discussion between the groups as people couldn’t help but to stare at the mesmerizing figure in the center. As newcomers came to the event, it was interesting to watch their expressions as they entered the quiet gallery with a naked woman in the center.
With the clock ticking, we slipped out the door and bolted to the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, which was celebrating the opening of Lesley Dill’s exhibition Poetic Visions: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan. Upon entering the building we were taken aback by the enormous crowd. It seemed as if everyone in Charleston was there for the party. It probably helped that it’s common knowledge that the gallery caters their events and stocks several bars. We were too late to try any of the Whole Foods spread, but the wine was still flowing. Beverages are prohibited in the exhibition space, so much of the crowd huddled in the hallway, catching up with friends and finishing their drinks.
The next event was above the Crosstown, so we had to leave the Halsey and haul it to 384 Huger Street where Zachary Mallard had taken over the newly renovated space to mount his exhibit TRAFFIC. Even if passersby weren’t aware of the art event, they were drawn in by the unusual sight of traffic light installations hanging in what could be someone’s living room. The owners of the space contributed deviled eggs and other snacks, while attendees were encouraged to savor a glass of wine while they checked out the roadway-themed art.
If you’re like us, you still might be contemplating the meaning of the nude models and the indoor traffic construction barrels. But if contemporary art isn’t your thing, there’s always more wine.