Arts & Culture

Five Minutes With: Artist Joan Templer

Most artists tend to pick a medium and stick to it. Joan Templer didn't go that route.

The Beaufort abstract artist has constantly experimented and innovated over her life as an artist that stretches more than 50 years. Her journey is captured in her self-published collection, "Joan's Eye," available at the Charles Street Gallery.

Templer was born in South Africa and raised her family with her husband, John, in the United States. The couple both taught architecture at Georgia Tech, moving to Beaufort about 12 years ago. The book shows how her work has evolved and changed, experimenting not just with types of images but types of materials and methods of creation.

Templer explains her life as an artist.

Question. What compelled you to put together a book?

Answer. I had done a PowerPoint presentation of my work at Sun City Hilton Head. And that included a lot of my old work and slides. I collected slides of my old work because you had to do that in teaching. It was the first time I really put it in order, and I thought it had a bit of a sequence to it.

Q. How is your early work influenced by living in South Africa?

A. This was the time of apartheid. And we weren't allowed to say anything in opposition. Some of my friends were in jail because of that. Looking back at my work, I realized I was being outspoken in a different way. I did work with figures, faces with no mouths. One with a woman who had a Band-Aid over her mouth.

My whole life changed when I moved to New York. I was really unhappy in New York for a while. It was a different culture. I was looking for an identity, and you can see that in my work. But things changed. It was interesting (to look back at my work). At the time I didn't realize I was criticizing anything, it just showed up.

Q. You've also created a lot of murals?

A. I was given a commission by the south African government for a mural in an airport. I did it on this hard, thick enamel. They wanted it to do something with the air, so I went to a physics lab and saw how they blew smoke through the aircraft because they like to see the resistance. So that's what I based the mural on.

Q. After you left South Africa, you didn't return for 40 years. Why did you decide to return?

A. To see family, friends. We came here in 1969. There's so much crime there now, which is sad. It's such a gorgeous country. There's electric wire on top of walls surrounding houses. The crime is overwhelming the police force there.

Q. What's next for you?

A. The next exhibition is going to be at Honey Horn. I'm doing small abstracts. It's with modeling paste. I do an under painting of acrylic and a top painting with oil.

Q. Why is it that you use a lot of different styles?

A. Normally people think you need to have a technique and work on it. I'm the opposite. I have to jump around from one technique to another. I always say, Picasso had a lot of different styles, too.