Five Minutes With: Artist Candace Whittemore Lovely

August 5, 2011 

Candace Whittemore Lovely is far from a Southern rebel. The Vermont-born painter has made a living on beach scenes -- girls in white dresses against the bright blue background of the ocean.

But a few years ago, she decided to rebel. She dressed up the Confederate battle flag in pink and then did the same with the colonial "Betsy Ross" flag with stripes of pink and white. They were part of a show called "Good and Plenty," centered around a pink, black and white theme.

But the paintings were never shown publicly until recently. She's creating posters and prints in honor of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.

Lovely, a Hilton Head Island resident, describes how she was able to find peace in the Stars and Bars.

Question. How did this idea come about?

Answer. I painted it in 2001. I was preparing for a show called "Good and Plenty." That came about because I took a girl out to the beach (to paint) and she had dark hair. She had black ribbons on her dress and a black dog and a white dress. I ended up using a lot of black, white and pink in the painting. It reminded me of licorice, those Good & Plenty candies.

Q. How did the flags play into it?

A. After 9/11, I'd read about all these flags being sold. It made me realize how much of an attraction there is to the flag. I started researching and came across Jasper Johns. He did flags in different colors, different approaches to the flag. I called mine "Good and Plenty Hug" (Colonial flag) and "Good and Plenty Kiss" (Confederate flag) after the "X" and "O" for kiss and hug.

Q. How did you get into the beach portraits?

A. I really think it was logical. I studied in black and white in art school. It was natural for me to take a figure in white and go outside with it. White reflects all sort of colors with a figure ... on the beach. You get all these fun things going on. I did well with women on the beach, and then people started bringing their daughters in and asking me to paint them. I wasn't really into doing commissions, but it worked out. All of my paintings represent love and joy in some degree.

Q. Even the flags?

A. I could paint something that represents something horrible to some people. But it still turned out pink. It's nectar and peaches and sweet honey. It's the good things of the South.

Q. Were you afraid that it could get a negative reaction?

A. I think we better stop it. The South is beautiful. Growing up in Vermont, I never really thought the South would still think about the war. But we do. There's still strong emotion. But the South didn't lose. We're still part of this country. It's time to surrender and come from a place of peace and love.

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Candace Whittemore Lovely

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