Hands down, one of my top three favorite things about living in Charleston is all the art. I can’t say that owning a big house fits well with my personality, but admittedly, the one great argument for it in my book is the potential for turning it into a gallery full of beautiful and unique pieces of art. For now, though, I settle for window shopping in the local galleries and attempting to gain some skills by visual osmosis.
One of the ways I gratify this pastime is attending the seasonal art walks held on the first Fridays of March, May, October, and December in the French Quarter. Basically, if you like to drink wine, walk around one of this country’s most beautiful cities at night, and support the talent of dozens of local artists, you need to go on an art walk. Depending on what you like, be it painting, photography, sculpture, or an eclectic hodge-podge of all three, I would recommend different places in the downtown art scene for your perusal. The gallery that captured my attention on the most recent walk was Robert Lange Studios on Queen Street.
RLS hosts an exhibition just about every month, presenting works from one or more of their eighteen in-house artists and current guest artists. Their styles vary from whimsical to intensely realistic, and when you walk through the door you can almost sense imagination gently expanding the corners of your mind to take it all in. There is nothing stuffy or ostentatious about the industrial chic interior with its vibrant paintings neatly arranged on the brick walls and several of the artists’ studios laid bare before the public eye. The gallery invites you in with an aura of warm friendliness and a love of wonder.
The exhibit for this particular month, titled An Unfolding Pause, spotlights gallery owner Robert Lange himself, and focuses on the little events and scenes in life that grab our attention and consume the senses. The largest piece in the show is a spectacular rendering of a single bumblebee pollinating a flower. Being a bit of an eccentric insect lover, I was naturally drawn to this work because of the precise detail that went into recreating the creature’s physiology. My current favorite of Lange’s, however, is a much smaller painting entitled Onlookers. The reflection in the deep eyes of a child so enchanted me, that I had to go back and study it a second time.
During the evening art walk at RLS, resident artist JB Boyd was also busily painting in his studio and chatting with onlookers, so I stopped to admire his work and ask him about his current series for the gallery’s upcoming April exhibit, Braving the Elements. Each participating artist is creating four paintings uniquely representing water, earth, fire, and air, and I was able to get a sneak peek at some of the works to come. Boyd paints the places he loves, and the variety of angles and perspectives in his work reveal much about what he sees in a tree, or a wave, or a cloud—the details and flourishes of nature’s beauty that can elude so many of the rest of us. He told me that typically he has one reason for beginning a series, one image that he favors over the rest. In this case, it is his elegantly simple depiction of a wooden fence line in a snowfield, embodying the element earth. All four scenes in the series come from Wyoming, his state of residence prior to living in South Carolina. Boyd has lived in numerous states on both coasts, chasing after new variations of landscape that elude cultural borders and captivate him with fresh examples of light and color.
Boyd's relationship with the gallery sprung from a random encounter with Megan Lange, an evening spent with Robert and Megan over beer and football that same night, and an ensuing friendship based on their mutual love of painting. Since joining the gallery not long after its opening in 2003, he has given seven solo exhibitions at RLS and participated in numerous group exhibitions.
I am excited to see his finished works for the Braving the Elements show, which opens Friday, April 4th from 5:00-8:00 pm, and I invite our Traveling Ink readers to come out and admire the hard work of Lange, Boyd and many others. If you can’t make it to the show opening, I encourage you to come out to one of the many galleries in the French Quarter on the night of an art walk or any weekend you may have free. We are incredibly privileged to live in a city full of people passionate about sharing beauty through the arts!
Lauren's name means “A crown of laurel leaves,” which is what the ancient Greeks used to give the poets they wanted to honor. Perhaps that's why she loves to write. She also loves to sing Taylor Swift a little too loudly, paint, collect insects, laugh at what God’s doing in her life, and take care of her chameleon. She moved to Charleston because she was always cold and needed a warmer climate. She loves all this city has to offer—the history, the art, the romance, and, of course, the water!