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July 2011

Pickens County Museum in Pickens, SC, Features Several New Exhibitions

The Pickens County Museum of Art & History in Pickens, SC, is presenting several exhibits including: Adornment, a collection of work by members and guests of the CAFfeine Contemporary Art Forum; A History of Tattooing in South Carolina and J. Michael Johnson’s INK Beneath the Skin: A Private Collection of Body Art. All three exhibitions will be on view through Aug. 18, 2011.

Curated by Bettye Hicks, the exhibit Adornment, a collection of works from the popular Upcountry forum of artists, intends to interpret the many definitions of “Adornment”. The exhibition includes works by CAFfeine members Allen Coleman, Melissa Earley, Darlene Fuhst, JJ Ohlinger, Deborah Pagano, Alexia Timberlake Boyd along with invited artists Todd McDonald from Clemson, SC, and hailing from Arlington, TX, Leighton McWilliams and Susan Sterling.

The CAFfeine (Contemporary Art Forum) is a group of like-minded professional artists dedicated to actively engaging each other and the community in ongoing exploration and development of contemporary artistic themes and ideas. Their mission includes the role as a catalyst for the positive growth of contemporary visual arts by creating mutually beneficial opportunities for education and interaction between artists, businesses and the community at large.

The curator for the exhibition, Bettye Hicks, was the owner-director of Handley-Hicks Gallery in Fort Worth, TX, from 1993 until 2005, when she and her husband retired to Greenville, SC. Hicks remains very active in the regional arts community and continues her explorations into contemporary art as an independent curator and patron of the arts.

About the exhibition, Hicks said, “In this show, the artists have focused on the concept of adornment to supplement the museum’s concurrent exhibit on the history of tattooing. Sometimes even simple things become complex when seen through the artist’s eye. Hear the word, tattoo, and instantly an image forms. Leave aside the fact that the dictionary has several definitions of the word, only the last of which has to do with skin art, and the average person will think of ink on skin.”

Hicks continued, “While tattooing is, after all, a means of adorning the body, it is only one means. We have clothes, jewelry, make-up, hair styles and on and on. We adorn our cars, our homes, our workplaces, practically everything. Even entire cities adorn themselves to create an image. The artists in this show have considered these and many other facets of adornment and invite you to ponder with them the role that adornment plays and should play in our world. This art, like all the best art, asks questions that only the viewer can answer.”

A History of Tattooing in South Carolina exhibit is representative of the very diverse cultural reactions to this art form. Tattooing has been practiced by the Native Americans in this area since prehistoric times. Within South Carolina the reputation of tattoos has evolved from sinister convict symbols and the bazaar circus performer to the pride of ones military service. Today tattoos are more socially acceptable, South Carolinians see tattoos worn by everyone from celebrities to suburban moms. As tattoos have become more visible in the mainstream population, the works of the tattoo artists have become more detailed and elaborate. Those modern wearers of tattoos refer to their tattoos as their “deeply personal art collection”. That sentiment was the inspiration for this exhibit.

A History of Tattooing in South Carolina exhibit is set in a timeline. It starts with an example of an early Native American style tattooing bundle to show the types of tools used. Indigenous people wore tattoo designs primarily composed of circles and lines. Sailors and world travelers brought tattoos with human and animal images, introducing them to this area.

This exhibition will tell the South Carolina history of tattooing with materials from the life and times of two esteemed South Carolina tattoo artists, Paul Rogers and William Grimshaw. Courtesy of the Tattoo Archive in Winston Salem, NC, a Paul Rogers collection of photographs, original flash (multiple designs to a sheet of tattooists’ drawings) and memorabilia will be on display. Other items come courtesy of Jeremy Joachim of Hot Stuff Tattoo in Asheville, NC, whose collection of original William Grimshaw flash will also be on exhibit.

The works of contemporary South Carolina tattoo artists; those who will carry this art form into the future, will illustrate how much tattooing has evolved. Today, tattoo artists do not create pages and pages of flash, instead they create at most only a line drawing for their client. Some even skip the line drawing and go directly to what they consider the “real” canvas – the human skin. To show the uniqueness of their particular style on occasion the modern tattoo artists create single designs in pastels, charcoal, color pencil, acrylic or watercolor and these are what will be displayed. The works of eighteen tattoo artists representing nine tattoo studios will be an exciting part of this exhibit.

The A History of Tattooing in South Carolina, exhibition was curated by Helen Hockwalt of the Pickens County Museum of Art and History and Consulting Curator C.W. Eldridge of the Tattoo Archive of Winston Salem, NC.

J. Michael Johnson’s experiences have produced a remarkable collection of photographic work that documents bikers and biker ladies riding for the joy of the day on Daytona’s Main Street. Along with the serious side of these bikers and their deep patriotism, as they ride as escort to fallen soldiers on their return home or ride to commemorate the Vietnam era.

Johnson says, “I like the complexity of one art form like tattooing being the inspiration for another art form like photography. My photographs show an individual’s personal freedom statement to use their bodies as an art canvas. For me, it is an opportunity for all viewing my work to join me in my photojournalist journey into the motorcycle lifestyle”.

Johnson was born and raised in East Tennessee and has lived in the southeast United States all his life. He began taking images and working in his darkroom over thirty years ago and has traveled extensively across the United States and the world to capture images. His love of photography, self-taught methods, and in-field seminars with nationally known photographers, have truly defined the subjects he has photographed and written about over the years.

Since 1997, Johnson’s photographic and written work about Daytona’s Bike Week, as well as many other motorcycle rallies and events, has been repeatedly featured in Easyriders, Biker and In The Wind magazines. He has provided commercial photography services to various companies in the motorcycle industry, including Lehman Trikes of Canada publishing his work in their Pride Matters magazine.

Johnson is the co-founder of the Spartanburg Photo Guild, a member of the American Image Press/Today’s Photographer Magazine, and served two terms on the Board of Trustees, of The Spartanburg Art Museum in Spartanburg SC.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings or call the Museum at 864/898-5963.


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