More than 170 local artists submitted works for the sixth installment of Contemporary Charleston, hosted by the City of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs. That’s more artists than we thought even existed in this town. From there, a panel of judges chose eight finalists to represent the Holy City’s contemporary art scene.
Curator Erin Glaze says the decision was unanimous. “Our artistic community is very diverse,” Glaze says. “It was after the top eight artists were reviewed that we were happy to see each media being represented. That is one of the goals of Contemporary Charleston each year, and this proves that the panel was balanced in their judgment as to what ‘art’ is and what is considered cutting-edge.”
DH Cooper’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the country. Her current body of work, The Nanny Project, explores the dynamics of the relationship between nanny and child. Archival images of African-American nannies and their white families are printed on fabric as cyanotypes and are then used as sections of a larger quilt. The work documents people from a specific time period while bringing relationships, family, and complex friendships into question.
Rebecca West Fraser’s contemporary paintings and mixed-media works are a stark contrast to Cooper’s fiber art. An MFA graduate from Alfred University, Fraser returned to her hometown of Charleston in 2010 and has been a regular player in the local arts scene. Her large-scale paintings are complex compositions of otherworldly locales and characters. Foreign and familiar at the same time, her paintings are engaging and encourage reflection.
Nina Garner, a College of Charleston graduate, incorporates found objects into her intimate mixed-media compositions. Photography is a major element of her work, with silver gelatin prints taking center stage in many pieces. She gives new life to the discarded refuse that she finds.
While Garner’s art is relatively quiet, the work of fellow artist Conrad Guevara is colorful and loud. Also dealing with found objects, Guevara’s creations are varied in form, from a 3-D installation to mixed-media. The artist defies definition, and his art boasts some of the strongest visual and textural appeal of any of the artists.
Greg Hart was a successful freelance illustrator before deciding to concentrate on art. His mixed-media, abstract portraits are created from photographs. There are elements of Fauvism and street art in his works, and his strident use of color and a stencil-like focus on facial features make his portraits visually striking.
Alan Jackson is an architect by profession and an incredibly diligent and steady-handed artist. One piece is covered in small curved lines repeated until the entire surface is transformed into an army of lines, never quite touching but floating in space. His monochromatic pen-and-ink drawings are striking, proving that contemporary art does not need to have shocking visual elements, bright colors, or three dimensions to make a bold statement.
Melinda Mead is another purist working in a single medium: photography. Her quiet, staged scenes encourage a voyeuristic contemplation of the subjects who are captured in a moment of reflection. Dark interiors are lit with natural light from a nearby window. Ordinary moments are presented with varying degrees of mystery and drama.
The 3-D installation art of Lauren Frances Moore shows the diverse range of contemporary art in the Lowcountry. Moore’s expressive, unique installations have garnered much attention and praise by the local art elite.
The goal of Contemporary Charleston is to showcase the talent of local artists and to make a broader statement on art in the region. This year’s group seems more than capable of carrying out that mission, and while they may be under the radar now, we think they’re ready to take flight.