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May Issue 2010

SC State Museum in Columbia, SC, Features Portraits of South Carolinians

A project that started as a way to decorate a medical school's walls has blossomed into a major photographic exhibit at the South Carolina State Museum. The exhibit, Palmetto Portraits: Images by Contemporary South Carolina Photographers, includes more than 275 photographs by 24 South Carolina photographers depicting South Carolinians at work and play. The exhibit, will be on view in the Museum's Lipscomb Art Gallery through Jan. 9, 2011.

"This project started in 2006 as an effort to provide inspiring images on the walls of education buildings at the Medical University of South Carolina," said Curator of Art Paul Matheny. "By using photographs of South Carolina subjects, university administrators believed it would be a unique opportunity to remind the medical students and educators of the people that they might, one day, be serving."

Before the project began or the work was selected, MUSC administrators recognized that the project also had importance as art as well as a document of the people of the state. They contacted Matheny to assess the museum's interest in becoming a repository for a collection of the images so that they could be preserved for future generations. "Of course we were delighted to accept this significant collection of work by South Carolina photographers of South Carolina citizens," he said.  "This project furnished us with a snapshot of South Carolina's people from 2006 to 2009."

Museum guests will see people representing such occupations as crabbers and crab net makers, bakers, blues and jazz musicians, fine artists and folk artists, business owners in small communities and along King Street in Charleston, hat makers, sweetgrass basket makers, shrimpers and other local tradition-bearers, among many others. The photographers range from Charleston's Jack Alterman to Columbia's Brett Flashnick to Greenville's Blake Praytor and many more.

Matheny said that the exhibit will enable these photographs, for the first time, to be viewed and studied as a single collection in its entirety. "Prior to this exhibition at the State Museum, the portraits were exhibited in four separate series at the Medical University. Together, they illustrate the diversity of our state, both geographically and ethnographically.
"In addition, some of these photographers have helped preserve traditions from our state in their photos."

Matheny said the exhibit "provides a glimpse into an under-recognized world of individuals who together continue to help make South Carolina the unique place it is." 

Some photographs will be accompanied by objects that relate to their subjects, including products of their trades or works of art by some of the artists who have been photographed, said the curator.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call Paul Matheny at 803/898-4921 or visit (www.southcarolinastatemuseum.org).

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