Arts & Culture

Painting 'Gullah-Geechee stories'

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  • Amiri Farris had always heard about Gullah culture growing up. His great-grandparents and grandmother were from South Carolina. But he was born in Pennsylvania and raised in West Palm Beach, Fla. So the talk of Gullah custom had escaped him until he moved to the Lowcountry.

    "I really didn't appreciate it until I came and saw the culture," he said. "Surrounded by it, I could really understand it more."

    The Savannah artist has since made the scenes of Gullah life a staple of his paintings. His work will be shown starting Saturday in an installment at the Coastal Discovery Museum."Gullah-Geechee Stories" is a mix of his vibrant-colored depictions of Sea Island life combined with poetry about the experience of the Gullah people, who are descendants of slaves from West Africa.

    "I initially had the idea to write a book (of poetry), but being a visual artist I thought it would be best to combine the two," he said.

    Farris' work as become a staple in the Lowcountry, frequently showing in Savannah and the Beaufort County area.

    His works have been shown around the world, including in the U.S. Capital. As part of the Beaufort tricentennial, Farris created 20 new paintings that showcased the past, present and future of the city. In 2008, the Penn Center named him Artist of the Year.

    Farris moved to Savannah in 1994 to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design, staying in the area and teaching at Georgia Southern and Savannah State universities. He currently teaches studio and fine arts at University of South Carolina Beaufort.