Past Commentaries

June Issue 2000
by Tom Starland

Spoleto Is Off And Running

Unfortunately, our deadlines and the opening of the Spoleto Festival don't give us much time to be able to report much until next month. The few things that we can tell you is that the big winner of the Piccolo Spoleto Juried Exhibition was Gretchen Lothrop of Pittsboro, NC, for one of her wonderful stainless steel sculptures, which took five people to carry up the 35 steps of the US Custom House. Lothrop was once a SC artist who was driven to greener pastures in NC. Now that she lives and works in NC she is hot, very hot, in SC. Fortunately, for visitors and residents of Charleston, Lothrop's lyrical sculptures can be seen on a regular basis at the Eva Carter Gallery in downtown Charleston.

The (retro) location of the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Show, at Washington Square Park, at Meeting & Broad Streets, seems to be an early hit with artists and visitors alike. Hopefully it wasn't because of its proximity to Spoleto's Opening Ceremony. Although there will be no more Piccolo or Spoleto events taking place at the Park - it is only a block away from the Dock Street Theatre and there is another exhibit at the Charleston City Hall just next door. It's well worth the walk.

What's not to like about the location - most of the park is under total shade, the artist's tents are grouped more tightly together, which means less walking around, there is a public restroom over at City Hall, and one of Charleston's hotdog vendors will be right outside the park, plus there are many lunchtime restaurants located within a block or so on Broad Street. It's a nice setting, but I look forward to the shows return to Marion Square next year in the newly renovated and redesigned park. I just hope the City has plans for larger trees than those planted in front of the new aquarium - I guess the City was afraid bigger trees would block the only view of the building, since it can't be seen well from anywhere else in Charleston, except the middle of the harbor.

The other Spoleto related event is the late entry of a new fine art gallery in Charleston located across from Saks Fifth Avenue at 154 North Market Street. Tippy Stern Fine Art will add another high-end gallery to Charleston's growing gallery community. The inaugural exhibition, In The Shadow Of The Flag, on display through June 30, will feature works by Jasper Johns, Faith Ringgold, Colin Quashie, Willie Cole, Radcliffe Bailey, Juan Logan, Leo Twiggs and more. The exhibit features new works created for the show or existing works which hopefully will raise the level of discussion going on in SC about the use of flags as symbols.

Lowcountry Heat Can Burn You or What?

A last minute report from Beaufort, SC, was that one of the vacationing fiberglass cows from Chicago was found burning one morning. Organizers of the cow exhibit suspected that this was the act of some anti-public art movement, but I would think that it is more in the line of general vandalism. Charleston's own famous cow, the Colburg Cow, has suffered thru the years at the hands of college and high school student pranks. I doubt that the highly organized and underground, anti-public art movement has chosen Beaufort as a place to draw the line on public art. Security is always a problem for public art projects - to be truly public is to be vulnerable to public vandalism. Not even art is immune to the twisted mind of those who vandalize everything from public restrooms to works of art.

Spoleto Not The Only Worthy Festival

Although a lot of attention is on Charleston and its Spoleto Festival, soon that attention should shift to Boone, NC, and its 16th An Appalachian Summer Festival, celebrated from July 1-29. The Festival presented by Appalachian State University features visual and performing arts to the likes of Wolf Kahn and Pinchas Zukerman. Throw in a final concert with Kenny Rogers and a fireworks display and you have a mini-Spoleto in a mountain setting. See our cover story for more details.

SC Watercolor Society Exhibition

Spartanburg, SC, is the location of this year's annual SC Watercolor Society Exhibition - their 23rd. This is not your average watercolor show or even a typical one. This is a selection from the best of the best. Each year the show contains works by different artists with a different slant, depending on the juror. This year it was Serge Hollerbach.

The Best of Show winner was Billie De La Penha of Bluffton, SC. A b&w reproduction is offered as this month's cover artwork. Believe me, it looks a lot better in person as most of the images reproduced in our paper do.

I went to this year's opening reception and also saw all the entries for the competition when I delivered last month's issue to the Spartanburg County Museum of Art. And, my hat is off to Hollerbach - he had some hard decisions to make and he came up with a very interesting exhibition. Of course, some of my favorites didn't make the exhibit, but that's the problem with a juried show - there is never enough room for all the worthy images.

In my book, the SC Watercolor Society is not only the largest visual arts organization in SC - it is the most organized and professional in the state - regardless of the fact that they gave me an award a few years back. It's just too bad no one from the SC Arts Commission was there to see the show, but then Columbia is an hour and a half drive away and it was a Saturday evening.

For The Very Very Loyal Readers

As promised last month, on May 26 we launched my Interview With My Self on our web site ( As you may have expected, it's long, very long.

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