Photo by Ruta Smith

North Star

True North, Morgan Kinne’s upcoming solo exhibit at Redux Contemporary Art Center, lavishes in buildings and structures. The art collection, on display from Dec. 4-26, explores the history and stories of the Lowcountry through the interiors and exteriors of its architecture.

Kinne’s background is in sculpture, but True North will feature mostly mixed media art. “What I’ll call a drawing is gilded paper that I’ve been walking on and dipping in a canal for six months until it’s tarnished and weathered enough,” she laughed. “There’s nothing that’s actually just rendered by hand.”

In the last few years, Kinne has embraced a creative process that mixes printmaking over cast plaster, and moved away from abstract art in favor of something representational. “In the same way that I’m thinking about mixing cultures and narratives is the same way I work with mediums, drawings, paintings,” she said. “It’s all in there.”

While she doesn’t work on pieces related to the Lowcountry exclusively, plenty of her previous art has honed in on architecture and built environments. One of the earliest inspirations for True North was an artist residency in rural Iceland, where Kinne experienced landscapes with few buildings.

“Something about the relationship between these really simple, Monopoly-style houses stuck in this really dramatic landscape, it was as isolated as I’d ever been,” she said. “It stuck with me and I’ve been growing this body of work ever since then.”

Kinne used single homes iconic to downtown Charleston for ideas when creating some of the art, but the work tries to go beyond the exteriors. 

“I’m not trying to only show Charleston culture,” she said. “I’m looking, in a way, for universals, where I can see how people are living the same way in really different environments.”

The opportunity to create True North began when Kinne received the 2020 Coastal Community Foundation’s Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year Award. The prize is funding the creation of a sculptural piece that portrays aspects of Lowcountry life, culture and the environment. 

Photo by Ruta Smith
Morgan Kinne received the coastal community foundation’s 2020 Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year award

This latest artwork is a three-panel painted work. Each section depicts a different style of architecture: a large Charleston double house, a single house and the Freedman’s Cottage. The Charleston double is the highest of the three and totally flat, the single is off-kilter and lower, and the Freedman’s Cottage is the lowest of the three, almost sinking into the ground. 

“The way that they’re displayed is drawing in different levels of class and hierarchical structure,” she said. “By sinking into the ground, obviously, it [shows] Charleston’s geographical problems and irresponsible, unethical development.”

According to Kinne, many of the art pieces in the exhibit were inspired by the sculpture funded by the grant. In fact, she believes it indicates a shift in her practice as an artist. “How I feel about it right now is that it’s going to be a launching pad for a body of work in the future or a whole new direction for my work,” she said.