July Issue 2000
Gibbes Museum Of Art, in Charleston, SC, Promotes Environmental Awareness With Exhibit
Beginning July 1 and continuing through Sept. 10, the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, will be hosting Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto, a colorful exhibition illustrating the intrinsic beauty of the ACE River Basin and the impact of urban sprawl on the environment. This show is part of a multidisciplinary production of dance, music, drama and art that focuses on preserving the natural landscapes of the Lowcountry area.
Artist and project director Mary Edna Fraser initiated this exhibition with a group of local artists called "The ACE Troops" . The Gibbes Museum of Art became involved shortly thereafter. The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, which funds programs that promote interest in the environment, conservation, the arts, culture, and community welfare, provided support for the exhibition through a grant award to The Community Foundation serving Coastal South Carolina. Additional assistance is given by the Gibbes through the generosity of Bank of America and contributors to the Gibbes Millennium Exhibition Fund.
Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto features 55 works in a variety of mediums - batik, monotypes, sweetgrass baskets, oil paintings and photography. Guest curator is Polly Laffitte who formerly worked as Chief Curator of Art for the South Carolina State Museum. The artists represented are Mary Edna Fraser, Mary Jackson, Jonathan Green, Mickey Williams, Tom Blagden, Jack Leigh, and Marjory Wentworth: two craftswomen, two painters, two photographers and one poet. Their artwork expresses the need for the protection and management of North America's rivers as they face the threat of overuse and development. It also conveys the spirit of the culture that surrounds the water.
The Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers flow from their upcountry origins through the South Carolina Lowcountry and converge at St. Helena Sound, southwest of Charleston, in the 350,000-acre area known as the ACE Basin. The ACE Basin is a rich biological resource and wildlife preserve that is protected by government agencies, conservation organizations and private landowners. Presently, over 150,000 acres of the area is permanently preserved, but environmentalists are challenged by the daily dangers that face the coastal area. More than half of the United States wetlands, at least 115 million acres, have already been destroyed.
"Our hope is that the ACE exhibition will serve as an impetus for environmental awareness and involvement in our community," explains Paul Figueroa, Executive Director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. "The Gibbes is helping to send the message that we need to protect and restore the natural integrity of these landscapes that we cherish. It is exciting that an art museum can play a part in this effort."
The Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers flow from their upcountry origins through the South Carolina Lowcountry, and converge at St. Helena Sound, southwest of Charleston, in the 350,000-acre area known as the ACE Basin. The Ace Basin is a rich biological resource and wildlife preserve. It is the home to a number of plants and a variety of trees, including longleaf-slash, loblolly-shortleaf, oak-pine, oak-hickory, and oak-gum-cypress. The basin is also home to shrimp, oysters, clams, a variety of fish and birds and numerous other creatures.
Pottery, weapon fragments, shell middens and rings found at the ACE Basin date back to approximately 10,000 B.C., and serve as evidence of prehistoric occupation by a number of Native American groups. These include the Iroquoian, Muskhogean and Eastern tribes, as well as the Timucuans, Guales, Yamassees, Cauboys, and Yuchis tribes. During the 17th and 18th centuries, English and Spanish explorers began to enter the region, but after a number of wars between the two nations, the Spanish moved to other areas.
Similar to the Native Americans who settled in the region thousands of years ago, today's residents of the ACE Basin are striving to preserve the land by limiting harmful hunting, agricultural, and manufacturing practices. In fact, a number of governmental agencies and environmental groups have gotten involved in finding ways to preserve the ACE Basin as a biological resource and wildlife sanctuary. Large portions of the land are privately owned, but other parts have been protected under the National Wildlife and Scenic Rivers Act or the South Carolina Scenic Rivers Act. With the goals of preservation and conservation in mind, people of the region will maintain it as a popular recreational area where people enjoy sport fishing, boating, swimming and other water activities; and animals and plants safely grow and prosper.
Ace Exhibition Contributors
Polly Laffitte, Guest Curator for Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto, is the former Chief Curator of Art for the South Carolina State Museum where she organized numerous exhibitions and coordinated research and interpretation of South Carolina art history. Laffitte now lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as an Independent Curator for a variety of organizations. She formerly worked at Clemson University and the School of Art in Denver, CO.
Tom Blagden, nature photographer, has earned a national reputation as one of our country's most important photographers. Many of his photographs express the beauty and life integral to the ACE basin. His book, "South Carolina's Wetland Wilderness: The ACE Basin", has educated thousands.
Mary Edna Fraser is a local artist and coordinates many efforts of the ACE Troops group, which uses its artistic skills to create awareness about the ACE Basin. Her series of batiks, Islands From the Sky, began in 1979 when she thought to design works of art on silk from very high vantage points. Often photographing from her grandfather's 1946 Ercoupe airplane, Fraser explores the natural wonders of the Lowcountry area. Each of Fraser's batiks is strongly inspired by the ACE Basin. Publications reviewing her work include Smithsonian Magazine, Air and Space, The Washington Post, Surface Design Journal, Fiberarts, Chicago Tribune and Textile Designs.
Jonathan Green was raised and inspired by the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Known for his visual interpretation of the people in this place and its history, Greene's bright and colorful paintings tell stories without words. Green is an internationally known artist whose works are in the permanent collection of many distinguished South Carolinians, as well as that of the Gibbes Museum of Art and Charleston Place Hotel.
Jack Leigh, nationally known photographer and native of Savannah, GA, premiered his black and white photos, Oystering, A Way of Life, at the 1980 Spoleto Festival. Leigh's poignant portraits of people depict the Southern landscape capturing lifestyles succumbing to changing times.
Marjory Wentworth, poet and author of the chapbook Nightjars, has collaborated with Mary Edna Fraser to present Haiku workshops, exhibitions, and illustrated readings for the National Air and Space Museum, The Gibbes Museum of Art, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Their words and images will be combined in the book What the Water Gives Me. She participated in the exhibition, A Celebration of Barrier Islands: Restless Ribbons of Sand, in 1999 at Duke University Museum of Art. Wentworth's poetic elements, add a human dimension to the ACE exhibition.
Mickey Williams, landscape painter, reinterprets the beauty of the natural environment through his paintings. For this exhibition, he has concentrated his recent work on the ACE Basin. Ashepoo Landscapes, a series at the Wells Gallery in Charleston, featured breathtaking paintings of the Ashepoo River, He will continue to work on this series to include the Combahee and Edisto landscapes.
A variety of public programs are planned including:
Friday Feast, July 7, at 12:30pm, for a talk and lunch with guest
curator Polly Laffitte; Art After Dark, July 11, at 6pm, for a
docent led tour of the exhibition; and Family Day, July 22, from
10am-1pm, that includes free admission and activities for all
For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings or call the museum at 843/722-2706 or visit the museum website at (http://www.gibbes.com). If you would like to know more about the ACE Basin, please contact the The Coastal Conservation League at 843/852-7880 or the Lowcountry Open Land Trust at 843/577-6510.
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