A REVIEW

Exhibits provide rewarding start to art in '18

BY JANE COLLINS
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 1/21/18

Special to The Sumter ItemSumter Gallery of Art's current exhibits Laura Spong "Once in a Green Moon" and the Sumter Artists' Guild Winners provide a rewarding start to art in the new year. To paraphrase Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," …

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A REVIEW

Exhibits provide rewarding start to art in '18

Posted

Special to The Sumter Item

Sumter Gallery of Art's current exhibits Laura Spong "Once in a Green Moon" and the Sumter Artists' Guild Winners provide a rewarding start to art in the new year. To paraphrase Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," color, color everywhere and no hue did it shrink, emotion filled with energy, much more that one would think."

Opening night Spong sat almost demurely on the bench in the entry hall while her paintings, filled with passion and force, dominated the gallery. Her entry triptych "Once in a Green Moon" leads the viewer through the sections with carefully controlled swoops of black, blending each section into a journey across the large painting. Motivated by emotion, Spong worked on her small "Minotaur Ouch" from 2011-16, putting it aside until each section felt right. Although lighter in color, her two "Flowers I and II" do not translate as pastel. Instead, their colors appear forceful.

"Going Down River," a larger piece, relies on massive sections of green and turquoise to create energy, adding white and blue and red orange shapes to emit a sense of depth. "At the Edge of Nowhere," another three-paneled composition, uses strong white and black with splotches of vermilion. Spong creates a sense of movement through intense vertical shapes. The blue-white shape in the right panel resembles a large mushroom bomb cloud; black forces add continuity along with white forms. "To the Utmost," another large painting, features a lighter background, its central color focus dominates, not so much in size as in the almost orange layer that seems superimposed over the color, leading the eye into the center of the lighter background. There is an elusive aura in the completed piece.

Spong's collaboration with Columbia poet Jonathan Brent Butler further emphasizes her dedication to emotional impact. "The World Begins," a pamphlet available at the gallery, astutely discusses how the two began to work together and the creative processes it involved, each being careful not to be too literal. "I found it harder than I thought," Spong says. "I don't usually think about something before I start. I paint from the kind of mood I am in, or what the season is and how that affects me and try to get that in a painting." Butler concedes that he had to write poems that "could complement the work of this painter I admire." He tried to keep his poetry short, often using the spare suggestiveness of the haiku and tanka to avoid keeping people from standing in front of a painting reading a long poem. Both express "creating moods." In "Deathless," Butler reinforces the blue movement over the lighter green background and almost specter-like images at the top: "This is what the Chinese painters were getting at: mountains and mist and a tiny bridge suspended between two peaks in a sea of fog ." In "Snow Globe," the paint strokes blue images are accented with dark blue and white outlines, seeming to swirl and move. Butler observes "All that evening, snowflakes fell with no regard to me as I walked the street, blowing into my hands against the cold."

"How Long Before the Green Turns Blue" accentuates the unexpected atmosphere central to Spong's compositions. The dark background becomes illuminated with the unexpected "river" of neon yellowish green pulling the eye out into the foreground. She manages to use large forces of color and unexpected dashes of lighter hue and form to force attention into the painting and then out into the total impact.

The Sumter Artists' Guild Show winners underscore the variety and versatility of their artistry. Jim Wade's entries include a delightfully undulating ceramic dragon, a finely drawn feather, a sculpture using rulers, loops of yarn and a photograph in "Dream Weaver," and a whimsical collage of wallpaper, flooring and two stylized dancers filled with energetic lines in "Juke Joint." Halimah Shah's scope of interest is shown in her varied entries - a delicate blue ceramic bird feeder with a copper-colored wire stretching across the piece and out the side finished with brown beads, several other ceramics, and a white-and-black marbled effect picture.

Amanda Cox's pieces emphasize both the scale and technique found in her work. Her large, colorful florals contrast with two large landscapes, darkly stark but emphasized with intense stripes of color as shadows. Her smaller landscape accentuates her ability to control size and form. Napoleon "Brad" Bradford's pieces celebrate various approaches to the subject of flags, his skill in his sculpture, especially his intricate geometric "Sculptures I, II," and his painting "Autumn" with its focus on filtering light. Denise Greer's works like "Blu Too," reinforce her love of words and her ability to create collages and paintings that utilize strong areas of color and intricate detailing, especially with lines and design.

The exhibits remain at the Gallery through Feb. 16.