Sumter Gallery of Art exhibits provide creative look at women of S.C.


Welcome to the world of women. Sumter County Gallery of Art offers two opportunities to celebrate contributions of women with "The Supper Table," the inspiration of Cindi Boiter, and "Dream Bodies," fabric sculptures by Maria Britton. Both exhibits will remain at the gallery until April 10.

For history teachers, artists, students, parents, South Carolinians and anyone who is interested in the contributions of women in the development of this state's history, "The Supper Table" provides a fascinating and creative look at 12 women (actually 13, but the two sisters are counted as one entity) who have made an impact on this state. The exhibit itself includes drawings, essays, tiles, filmmaking, videos, a live performance and the elaborately set triangular table set for 12. "Jasper," an art magazine available at the gallery, documents the installation's progress and a description of the women and their significance. The magazine also acknowledges the contributions of those current South Carolina women who helped make the Jasper Project possible.

"The Dinner Party," the creative vision of Judy Chicago 40 years ago as part of the woman's feminist art project in 1979, featured a large, triangular table with place settings for 39 women to honor accomplishments of women such as Virginia Woolf, Georgia O'Keeffe and Susan B. Anthony. Chicago's exhibit also became a format for sexual symbols to promote the feminist movement. (I had the opportunity to see the project at the Brooklyn Museum but did not recognize its true significance until much later.) Boiter's table pays homage using the table settings and talents of current South Carolina women to recall our state's honorees. For example, Althea Gibson's place setting includes a tennis racquet press, a golf club and musical note to celebrate Gibson's forte in sports and, later in life, as a singer. According to Boiter, "Woman have always found a way to create art, whether they called it art or not," and artist Laurie Brownell McIntosh studied how to process indigo for her blue-and-white place setting for Eliza Lucas Pinckney, a colonial plantation daughter who experimented with indigo as a cash crop. More than "200 years after her death, Pinckney was the first woman inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame."

Essayist Carla Damron writes of Sarah Leverette: "Born in 1919 - the year Congress voted to allow women the right to vote - not only did Sarah finish college like all the Leverette children, she was one of three women to pass through the doors of the USC School of Law. Elegantly and dramatically created by visual artist Olga Yukhno, a central cup begins with round trim housing law statutes, several layers to suggest the difficult stages for Leverette to conquer, and finally a picture of her face and white fist pulsing through the "glass ceiling." Not only "was she the only woman in her class to finish she graduated magna cum laude."

Each place setting symbolizes the woman and her place in history, each charcoal picture by Artfield artist Kirkland Thomas Smith captures a quality of the woman's character, and each essay reveals interesting significant information of those selected not for their color or creed but for their impact on South Carolina history.

A special invitation for the theatrical presentation, "A Seat at the Table," written and directed by Vicky Saye Henderson, is extended to everyone on Saturday, March 7, at 2 p.m at the gallery when 13 actors will introduce these women, who, writes Boiter, "were not the Southern belles of Hollywood, popular literature would have us believe but were women with dirt under their fingernails. They were scrappy, determined who came to their missions from places of need, anger and sometimes desperation. They were problem solvers."

"Dream Bodies," a multimedia exhibit by artist Maria Britton, provides an interesting approach to materials and shapes using sheets as a means of creating visual images. She does not predesign her work but lets it flow as she works. Britton's interest in flowers is evident in her recurring use of floral patterns and choice of forms and materials - acrylic paint, spray paint, brush strokes and sewing, one of her special passions. She spent some time in New York and experimented with adding even more stitchery into her pieces to "break the surface of the painting." Her combinations are interesting, especially her use of draping to add movement and design.

When I first walked into her exhibit, I saw a piece that reminded me of my mother's apron. I recalled the "art" my home influenced - dish patterns, napkins, pictures on the wall, towels, sheets and even clothing that I wore. Britton's sculptures become forms of association. SCGA director Karen Watson observed that "we are all wearing fabric but not all in the same frame of mind or same way." Britton's pieces stimulate awareness of shape, form and color, concepts of light and darkness and definition through draping. Her exhibit blends nicely with "The Supper Table," challenging viewers to "tune in" to female artists and the contributions of women in our society. It is not a "let me club you over the head if you don't appreciate me" but rather a chance to recall and acknowledge that a woman's place is more than "just a home."

Both exhibits are free and open to the public. The Sumter County Gallery of Art is at 200 Hasell St.

For more information, call the SCGA at (803) 775-0534 or visit