Photos provided

Kate Hooray Osmond’s “A Song of Charleston,” sat untouched in her studio for a year. Initially created for the 2020 Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Osmond said the painting was a sign of hope for what’s to come during 2020. For the next couple weeks, it will be hard to miss the work that’s been waiting in the wings.

When Osmond was asked to create the poster art before last year’s festival was canceled, she wondered, “How could I cast a broad enough visual net to include everything the festival has come to represent?” She eventually landed on the idea of illustrating her love for Charleston: 

“I love my city very much and it is a living, breathing thing. Our town has experienced every kind of challenge in its history and it is still transforming today. We are helping our city grow and I designed the poster to give a nod to as many facets as I could.” 

“Bubbles Bubbles Everywhere,” 48 x 48 in, 2021

Osmond could not have possibly anticipated the painting would go unseen for a year. In a time of collective uncertainty, Osmond began to see the artwork as “a bright beacon that I looked upon to boost my spirits.” She calls it “poetic” that the poster, which brought her hope in dark times, represents this year’s festival. This year’s festival is “more important than ever,” she said. “Piccolo Spoleto is nothing less than a shining gem of hope, joy and inspiration, and is necessary now more than ever. It is a mirror of the beauty of humanity and I am so grateful that it will shine on our city once again.”

Osmond’s vibrant paintings and installations show an appreciation for the natural patterns of the universe. Inspired by science, math and music theory, Osmond has an ability to depict order and chaos in a single brushstroke. She describes her most recent body of work, “SPECTRA,” as an exploration of the rhythm of life.

“It beats with every motion, every step, every sunrise. The melody of life is stunningly beautiful and full of terror. I want to learn the tune so that I may teach the song,” she said.

Osmond’s poster art references the song of life, with a musical staff strung like a ribbon through the city and its landmarks. Notes rise from factories, float like pollen from a magnolia and bubble in the harbor.

When asked what the song of Charleston might sound like, Osmond imagines birds chirping before sunrise, the hum of rush-hour traffic — a “crescendo roar of airplanes and ocean waves, finishing with the delicate ‘I love you’ my children and I share every night,” she said. “The song changes every day and is more beautiful than the day before.”

 The poster is dominated by a kaleidoscopic sunset, one of Osmond’s hallmarks. “The cycle of the sun is a nod to the central focus of all my work. I represent life and existence as a circle with colors radiating out of it.” The colors in “Song” are balanced and complement each other. Osmond sees this as a metaphor for life.

Osmond’s painting, “A Song of Charleston,” is Piccolo Spoleto’s official poster this year | Photo provided

“Sadness balances joy, night supports day, and destruction supports new growth,” she said. “Every part of life is important and integral to the health of a system.”

Last year, Osmond launched CRISIS, an in-place artistic residency which reframed the time of isolation as an opportunity for creative and personal growth.

“2020 was rough for everybody. My family and I have been lucky, but I had some very low moments where I questioned my future as an artist. I thought if I was struggling, maybe other creative people were too. In times of crisis and change, creativity is one of the most necessary and amazing tools that humans possess, but it can be hard to harness that creativity during stressful times.”

The tuition-free residency serves “as a way to let artists know that there was someone, somewhere on the planet, that supported them and believed their creative practice is important,” she said.

And the CRISIS community has already had an impact, she said.

“It now has a network of over 200 individuals all over the globe and I’m proud to say that it has helped me, too.”

Chloe Hogan is an artist and writer, currently working as a Museum Engagement Specialist at the Gibbes Museum of Art.