People have a natural curiosity about what goes on behind the scenes with creative types. Literary fans trek to the woods of New Hampshire to wander through the former home of Robert Frost, while music lovers peruse the amusement park of Graceland to see the excess that was Elvis’ life. What We Choose, the latest group exhibit at Robert Lange Studios, allows art lovers a glimpse into the often private world of creating visual art.
“Paint dries out over time, so after each painting, an artist usually scrapes down their palette to start fresh, essentially erasing the map they’ve just created of the process,” says gallery co-owner Megan Lange. “We thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to display this map, forcing the viewer to really evaluate how an artist arrived at the finished piece?”
Pairing the artist’s palette with the painting is one of those seemingly simple ideas that you come across and think, surely someone has done this before. But Lange says when she began poking around, she realized they’d discovered a unique concept. Hung side by side with the finished products, the palettes are extensions of the conversation between artist and viewer. “Some artists, like JB Boyd, have very meticulous palettes,” says co-owner Robert Lange, “whereas Fred Jamar’s is a hurricane of color.” Footprints of each artist’s journey, these palettes inform the completed paintings.
The Charleston Fine Art Dealers Association’s Palette and Palate Stroll pairs 10 galleries with 10 downtown restaurants for their annual fundraiser. Since 1999, these events have raised more than $250,000 for visual arts scholarships that in the past have been divided between Redux, the Gibbes, and the College of Charleston’s art programs. Paired with Charleston Grill, Robert Lange Studios has brought together 20 artists, including Karen Ann Myers, Kenton James, KC Collins, Mia Bergeron, Shannon Runquist, Susan Romaine, JJ Ohlinger, and Kirsten Moran. The gallery’s resident artists Kerry Brooks, Joshua Flint, Charles Williams, Nathan Durfee, and Jessica Dunegan will participate as well.
JJ Ohlinger’s “The Bowery” is done with watercolor and a resin coating. Paired with his palette, the urban subway scene is angular and hard against the loose and watery washes of color, offering a sharp and interesting contrast. Kerry Brooks works with colored pencils and has included a collection of pencil shavings with her drawing, “Curtain Call.” The palettes of “Miriam” and “Birdie,” soulful portraits by Kirsten Moran, are abstract images that could stand on their own.
When paired next to his quarter-sized globs of paint, Robert Lange’s depictions of a bottle of olive oil and slippery green fabric spilling off the edge of a book reveal the skill and technique that is involved in his work.
Kenton James, whose dark urban scenes use a surprisingly colorful palette, says, “I think most of us don’t even consider our palettes. They are usually discarded and they are sometimes tragic wastes of paint, but forcing us to display them made us really look at and reconsider them as expressive pieces.”