Future is bright for Beaufort's big export: Art

lisa@beaufortcountyarts.comJanuary 2, 2013 

The arts scene is one of Beaufort's main exports. People leave with paintings tucked into their boats, with bragging rights about their stay on the Queen of the Sea Islands, all the galleries they perused, the play they attended. I'd bet right now a Lowcountry-made sculpture is freezing in a New England garden, the collectors telling their guests all about the sun and sights and shrimp they found here.

The exports are numerous. In the last few months, the Kazoo Factory shipped 500 kazoos to the New York set of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." "We ship kazoos all over the world every week," said owner Stephen Murray, who also is a board member for ARTworks.

Assemblage artist Terry Brennan sold a herd of mounted animal heads made of reclaimed materials to Ripley's (believe it or not). C. Steve Johnson has a new studio on Boundary Street next to City Hall, where he's working on his performance- visual arts, which he enacts all around the world.

Stephen Kishel sold and installed large metal abstract sculptures for the city of Greenville, a business in Atlanta and HGTV for their "smarthome" in Jacksonville. Glass artist Greg Rawls' plans for 2013 include ARTworks, ArtPrize in Michigan, the new ArtFields event in Lake City and One Spark in Jacksonville.

Omar Patterson, however, is a painter who admits he hasn't gone anywhere -- yet. "I want to travel like an artist should do, get my name out there," he said. Patterson is 19 years old, grew up in Yemassee, attends the University of South Carolina Beaufort and is a resident artist at ARTworks.

"I love coming in here to paint," he said of his studio and the atmosphere. "A lot of 19-year-olds like me don't have this opportunity, so every day I'm here, I am working."

Over Christmas break, he continued with an assignment. Professor Allen Campbell had specified a portrait, and Patterson depicted his grandfather in uniform.

"He loved the Marine Corps," Patterson said.

A few months ago, Kenyon College visited St. Helena Island, on a trade expedition of sorts. Presumably, they're interested in expanding their Gullah archives because they commissioned Patterson with a portrait of the island's Emancipation Oak, and they are attempting to lure him to their own art program. The portrait captures the intricate, brawny tree well.

"It makes me feel very honored, first, and it's good to be a part of a piece of history like the Emancipation tree. It's a symbol of freedom," Patterson said.

He's considering attending Kenyon, or at least visiting, but is also involved with a local entrepreneurial project, in which he's the primary designer of a line of T-shirts that depict Gulllah expressions -- "kooray dey!" -- both verbal and facial.

In the meantime, he works on his assignments and personal projects at ARTworks. "I really want the portrait to have impact," he said.

In the background, he's added one scene of his grandfather as a sergeant inspecting the ranks, and another scene of a train at the Yemassee depot, with new recruits disembarking. He's chosen sepia tones, that nostalgic color of the good old days.

"I have a lot of fundamentals in here," Patterson said, speaking technically and modestly. "Really saturated color to dull color, really detailed to suggestive." The portrait is not just a memorial to his grandfather or a present this Christmas to his grandmother. He wants it also to be a tribute to the Marine Corps and the military in general. One print will go to the Marine Corps Museum, one to the train depot and the Yemassee Redevelopment Corporation, and the rest will be for sale, sometime next year, at ARTworks.

"With every piece, I try to get better than the last," he said. That sounds like the makings of an ambitious, export-filled 2013 to me.

Happy New Year.

Lisa Annelouise Rentz is the transmedia publicity leader for ARTworks. In the new year she will work with children to form storytelling troupes for the BIG Story Fest in April. She can be reached at 843-379-2787.

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