Feature Articles

December 2013

Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, SC, Features Works by Christopher Sims & Lori Larusso

The Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, SC, is presenting Christopher Sims: Dress Rehearsal and Lori Larusso: Homefront, on view through Jan. 3, 2014.

Christopher Sims’ photographs capture simulated Iraqi and Afghani villages in the US where troops train prior to their overseas deployment. This exhibition provides a glimpse into a world rarely seen and shows us aspects of what life is like for US soldiers from recruitment, to training for the battlefield. Also included in this exhibition are works from his series “Hearts and Minds” where Sims has captured images of young men and teenagers at the “Virtual Army Experience”, a traveling road show and recruiting event the US Army takes cross-country to NASCAR races and air shows. Participants wait in line to enter a large tent, where they play video games produced by the army and meet decorated soldiers who have returned from service at the fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sims offered the following artist’s statement, “In recent years, I have been making photographs within fictitious Iraqi and Afghan villages on the training grounds of US Army bases, places largely unknown to most Americans. The villages are situated in the deep forests of North Carolina and Louisiana, and in a great expanse of desert near Death Valley in California. The villages serve as a strange and poignant way station for people heading off to war and for those who have fled it. US soldiers interact with pretend villagers who are often recent immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have now found work in America playing a version of the lives they left behind. These villages are places of fantastic imagination.”

“The portraits in Hearts and Minds remind us of the computer and television screens through which most of us have lived the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the filters of distance and media that create for us our own virtual homeland experience. The army reveals itself to be a keen reader of American adolescent emotions and passions, and employs this understanding through a brilliantly designed and bloodless simulation of the thrill of the fight. The portraits also offer us a glimpse into a future that some leaders and strategists have begun calling “the long war,” and suggest to us the young people who will enlist in the coming years in the real army,” adds Sims.

Christopher Sims was born in Michigan and raised in Atlanta, GA. He received an undergraduate degree in history from Duke University, a master’s degree in visual communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MFA in studio art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has worked as a photo archivist at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and currently teaches photography at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Sumter County Gallery of Art’s Curator Frank McCauley states, “I think the community here in Sumter, especially the Shaw Air Force Base and 3rd Army communities will find these images incredibly interesting. Our cities slogan is ‘Uncommon Patriotism’, this exhibition affords the viewer a rare intimate view behind the scenes, showing both where our soldiers come from and how they prepare for where they’re going.”

Sims’ most recent exhibitions include shows at SF Camerawork, the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Houston Center for Photography, the Light Factory, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. His project on Guantanamo Bay was featured in The Washington Post, the BBC World Service, Roll Call, and Flavorwire. He is represented by Ann Stewart Fine Art in Chapel Hill, NC, and Clark Gallery in Boston, MA. He was selected as the recipient of the Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers in 2010 and was recently named one of the “new Superstars of Southern Art” by the Oxford American magazine.

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is also proud to present the paintings of Kentucky based artist Lori Larusso. The exhibition Lori Larusso: Homefront presents her beautiful and brightly colored, shaped paintings featuring representations of middle-America, interior spaces and manicured semi-private outdoor spaces that suggest a relative level of comfort and social acceptance. The architecture and objects represented in these works, such as a stainless steel toaster or an umbrellaed patio table, conjure a decidedly 1950’s nostalgia for American Dream. These elements confirm and at times question the stability of the situation and remind the viewer of the culture we maintain on a daily basis.

Bret McCabe of the Baltimore City Paper states, “Larusso’s paintings hover in that curious realm of suburban pop, where Wayne Thiebaud intersects with Patrick Caulfield. It’s a realm defined by Larusso’s palette and subject matter, and for the most part her targets are soft, but what she chooses to show and hide is what pushes her paintings into more interesting territory, precisely because it’s unclear where she might be headed. There is a calm malevolence that seeps through Larusso’s work, the suggestion that all is not right in the placid world of the great American suburb.”

Larusso offers the following artists’ statement, “I am interested in exploring the unavoidable contradictions which exist in our personal (and collective) systems of belief, by pointing to the complexity of individual situations. Very often, our ideals are a reflection of the way we wish things were, rather than a product of the way we actually experience them. I find this conflict to be in direct connection to the representational image.”

Lori Larusso earned her BFA from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, with a minor in Women’s Studies, and her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art’s graduate interdisciplinary program, the Mount Royal School of Art. She has exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally. Her recent awards include a Visual Artist Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony, the Kentucky Arts Council’s Al Smith Fellowship, a Milton and Sally Avery Fellowship, and the 2012 James Rosenquist Artist in Residence at North Dakota State University.

Sumter County Gallery of Art’s Director Karen Watson states, “These are two wonderful exhibitions, even though the two artists’ bodies of work are very different, viewers will find there is a very interesting and I believe salient symmetry between Sims’ imagery of the warfront and Larusso’s representation of the domestic front.”

These exhibitions are a community effort and would not be possible without the support of First Citizens, The Evening Pilot Club and Ross McKenzie.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Gallery at 803/775-0543, or visit (www.sumtergallery.org).

[ | December 2013 | Feature Articles | Download Carolina Arts' Current Issue | Carolina Arts Unleashed | Home | ]







Carolina Arts is published monthly by Shoestring Publishing Company, a subsidiary of PSMG, Inc. Copyright© 1987-2013 by PSMG, Inc. which published Charleston Arts from July 1987 - December 1994 and South Carolina Arts from January 1995 - December 1996. It also published Carolina Arts Online, Copyright© 1998 - 2013 by PSMG, Inc. All rights reserved by PSMG, Inc. or by the authors of articles. Reproduction or use without written permission is strictly prohibited.