Sumter County Gallery of Art hosting guild winners' exhibit



Christmas has come early at the Sumter County Gallery of Art.

The annual Sumter Artists' Guild Winners Show will kick off alongside an opening reception of Susan Lenz' "Last Words" exhibit today, Dec. 16, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Harriett Green, formerly of the South Carolina Arts Commission and now an independent art consultant, judged the guild show and picked the lineup of winners.

Best in Show went to Sylvia Pickell for the second year in a row for her "sublime" quilted piece "River," said Karen Watson, executive director of the gallery.

The first-place winner was Barbara Rowe for her whimsical porcelain piece "Joy Ride on Nimbus." Second place went to Genevieve Rath for her exquisite watercolor, "Ornamental Cabbage," and third place went to Catherine Coulter Lloyd for her impressive ceramic platter "Offering With Lilies."

"As always, we had three strong honorable mention winners - Erin Baribeau's delicate 'Interlude,' J. Michael McGuirt's 'Little Things' and Denise L. Greer's 'Come Together,'" Watson said.

Because of a large-scale construction project - the replacement of the gallery's HVAC system in preparation for Norman Rockwell - the annual Sumter Artists' Guild Exhibition was only open for three weeks before it had to close.

"We had a well-attended opening on June 24, and voting for People's Choice was enthusiastic," Watson said. "So enthusiastic that there was a tie for People's Choice! Constance Brennan's mixed-media 'Age of Aquarius' and Ashley Lareau's watercolor 'Drinking Buddies.' Together, all these artists promise a high-quality Winners Show."

The exhibition runs concurrently with the gallery's "Last Words" exhibition.

Susan Lenz is a "delightfully difficult artist to classify." She is a fiber artist and also an installation and assemblage artist.

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Ohio State University. Her first institutional exhibition, "Blues Chapel," was presented at the Sumter gallery in 2006.

"'Last Words' is an installation of art quilts, suspended chiffon banners stitched with collected epitaphs, 2-dimensional mixed-media photo transfers stitched with found objects and other artwork that transforms a space into a cemetery-like setting," according to Watson. "Grave rubbings on silk, vintage household linens, recycled material, stitches and cemetery angel images are meant to reflect both personal and universal mortality. The installation creates a serene environment that encourages contemplation.

"Embroidered epitaphs hang on chiffon panels. Artificial flower petals, all collected from cemetery dumpsters, are used to line the perimeter of the exhibition because they bring a ubiquitous part of the cemetery landscape into an interior space and because they are a token of love and remembrance.

"The exploration of the final words marking others' lives and why they were chosen can cause one to reflect on their own existence. The work investigates the concept of remembrance, personal legacy and our common human frailty. The atmosphere created by the translucent chiffon and the delicate works is quiet and peaceful."

Lenz stitches both by hand and machine but also indulges a passion for book arts and 3D found objects. Altering found photos is an obsession.

Her work has appeared in national publications, numerous juried exhibitions and fine craft shows including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Smithsonian Craft Shows. Lenz has been featured on art quilting television programs and on South Carolina ETV's Palmetto Scene. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., and the McKissick Museum in South Carolina.

She is represented by The Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as the Sumter County Gallery of Art gift shop.

The exhibitions will run through Feb. 18, 2022. The gallery is located at 200 Hasel St. and is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A concomitant installation of work, "Behold The Wonder" by Susan Lenz, at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Sumter opens Sunday from 1-3 p.m. and continues through Feb. 13, 2022. The works featured illustrate the intersection between contemporary art and spirituality. A canopy of doilies and lace suspended high above the pews covers almost the entirety of the nave of the church. Familiar images such as the Madonna and Child, Gothic architecture and the Blessing hand gesture populate her hand-stitched and machine-embroidered "Elements in Blue Series." Works in the "Stained Glass Window Series" are not made of glass but of melted polyester velvet that mimics qualities of stained glass.