Feature Articles

May 2013

Charleston County Public Library in Downtown Charleston, SC, Offers Works by Carolyn Ter Poorten

The Main Branch of the Charleston County Public Library in Charleston, SC, will present Our Homeless, featuring works by Carolyn Ter Poorten, on view in the Saul Alexander Gallery, May 1 - 31, 2013.

Poorten offered the following about her exhibit, “The style of my painting, alla prima, reflects the styles of my life – thoughtful, colorful and direct. I believe art reflects life, and art, when really understood, can belong to every human being, for what applies in art applies in life: doing things well, learning to see, being there and sharing what you love. Art teaches you to know yourself and in the end, we are our own best teachers, discovering God’s gifts within us. We all seek the truth. The goal is not making art but living life. Art will result.”

“I was an artist as a girl and then began oil painting in my teenage years. By the time I went to college, I decided I already knew how to paint, so I did not major in art. This may have been better for me than I thought, for through the years my older female students who studied art found they were required to paint soup cans and were often taken advantage of by others. I now realize that in learning to paint, even this lifetime will not be enough. I have 55 ribbons in a back drawer, including 10 best of shows. Entering art shows taught me a lot, including how to look at myself and grow and to become more self-confident, realizing one can be a winner without the ribbon or prize. I have studied through the years with artists I admire in the US and Europe. I lived in France for six months, painting plein aire. I spent many years teaching. I find it rewarding to share my knowledge and try to help create in my students new ways to solve problems and learn “to see.”

“A journey that I have taken for some years was to combine art and theology. It began a few years ago when I published a children’s book, entitled Can We See God?, having done both the writing and the illustrations. When I moved to Charleston ten years ago, continuing my journey, I entered an art show entitled Witness. I immediately knew where I wanted to go to paint - Crisis Ministries in Charleston, also known as the homeless shelter. I sat my easel right there in the courtyard. I have many stories I have collected from these people. Both men and women talked with me and allowed me to paint them.”

Poorten goes on to say, “I moved here from Dallas, where I also spent time at a homeless shelter, and was known as the Bar-B-Q lady, since I made lots of sandwiches for them. Here in Charleston I became known as the paint lady. These pictures were painted on location, with my sitters hired by me to sit, much to their surprise. Along with these pictures came a new path. I believe the spirit always moves us if we take the chance and follow.”
“I married a man from Charleston, long after my first husband died of cancer. I had just obtained a master’s degree in theology. I wondered what I would do with my art and theology from Texas. I decided not to worry about this small detail. I very much wanted to continue painting at the shelter, and since I got to know the staff, they offered me a job as the chaplain!”

“The guests at the shelter were naturally drawn to me. They all volunteered to be painted. I knew this would bring a new sense of dignity to them. They teased each other a lot: “Man, she has you looking much better than you really look!” “Paint me, I am better looking than he is!” These paintings afforded something that is not easy to come by: people who have little in common get to know each other; people who are often fearful of each other get to know each other; people from sometimes different ethnic cultures get to know each other. They liked me and I liked them. Visiting this shelter comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”

“It was amazing to hear their stories, some of which are shared in this show. In these faces we see the deep gravity of every human being. I expressed my almost religious awe towards life as I discovered the essential qualities of their lives. I tried to convey an impression of the person and the place. For me the figure comes first and color is an adjunct to form. I use color more to convey the psychological states of the figures. The colors can be toned down, even silenced, depending on the thing you are portraying. The sea or the open air may come into my paintings but they are a backdrop to the figures and I like to encapsulate figures in small spaces with a little or a lot of depth. Form takes precedence; color is an element that supports form and the whole point is to convey the psychological states of the figures. Relations between them are created by means of hands, bodies and glances.”

“The proceeds of this show will be donated to our homeless and will directly affect the lives of the people for whom I deeply care.”

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Library at 843/805-6803 or visit (www.ccpl.org).


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