Monday, October 04, 2021

Blues Chapel at the Art Center of Kershaw County

(Above:  Blues Chapel, my solo installation at the Art Center of Kershaw County.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Back in July 2006, I started this blog in order "to hold on to some of the wonderful, artistic things that have happened to me" ... and that statement was written regarding my solo installation, Blues Chapel. At the time, Blues Chapel was my first museum exhibit.  I thought it would be the biggest, most important, and life changing event of my entire arts experience.  

It was life changing.  

Little did I know that this show was really just my own beginning.  Little did I know that I would create lots of installations and come to identify as "an installation artist".  Had some soothsayer whispered the future in my ears, I wouldn't have believed the words.  Neither would I have believed that Blues Chapel would be resurrected fifteen years later and its opening reception would be the kickoff to a four-day Blues Festival ... but that's what has happened!

This morning Steve and I installed Blues Chapel in the Bassett Gallery at the Art Center of Kershaw County.  The opening reception is this coming Thursday from 5:30 - 7:30 which is also when Camden's 24th Annual Carolina Hometown Blues Festival starts. 

The statement remains mostly the same:

Early female Blues singers lived in a male dominated society, in a segregated country, and worked in an industry that took advantage of their lack of education and opportunity. Physical abuse, drug and alcohol dependence, and poverty plagued most. They struggled, made sacrifices, and sang of their woes. They helped change the world for today’s young, black, female vocalists. Blues Chapel is an installation inviting visitors to reflect on the music, lives, and the changes brought about by these pioneering vocalists, including Beverly “Guitar” Watkins who was an annual performer at the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival for many years.

The focal point of the installation is a unit of twenty-four portraits called Tapestry in Blue. Each singer is depicted with a gilded halo and most are embellished with buttons, beads, found objects, and acrylic paint. Among those pictured are Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, and Koko Taylor. Images include reverse glass painted names. Blues music adds atmosphere. The work can be enjoyed while sitting on a mahogany church pew and reading a faux-service bulletin or using the summer blues fans.

In keeping with Tapestry in Blue is a new, haloed portrait of Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. The Arts Center suggested this inclusion to honor Watkins who passed away in 2019. Photo permission was secured from Bill Blizzard’s. The work was created on a section of an old blue-and-white needlepoint rug. Other exhibited work includes hand and machine embroidery based on Gothic and Romanesque architecture, fiber art "Stained Glass Windows", and another art quilt depicting Bessie Smith.

When I first created Blues Chapel, three of the twenty-four singers were still alive.  Sadly, they are now all deceased but their music fills this exhibition and The Blues will be honored for years and years to come.

 This show is much more spartan than most of my other installation but it seems appropriate to the feel of a sacred space.  I am proud of the work and looking forward to the reception.


Alex said...

Simply stunning and I think all the more effective for the spartan surroundings. I wish I could see (and hear) it in person!

Margaret said...

I agree with Alex (above); there is an elegant simplicity in the way the pieces have been arranged, inviting the viewer to take in each one deeply. I too wish I could be there in person to see it.

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

agree with both Alex and Margaret... Find it interesting that when we look at our beginning, and then see where it's led us, can be intriguing. As you were to find yourself... But how amazing that your solo show is required years later to form part of the opening of the Blues Festival

Susan Lenz said...

Last night was the opening reception. Blues Music filled the space and browsers wandered around the church pew. The best part of the evening was spent in conversations with Blues Festival attendees who really knew most of the twenty-four early singers featured in the artwork.