As an artist, finding inspiration is not always easy. I have had the privilege of watching West Fraser create his artwork for my entire life–a privilege I do not take lightly. It never ceases to amaze me what West can create from a blank canvas. There are times when I have watched a painting slowly come to life over several weeks, and other times when it seems that the painting sprang to life over night. These scenarios represent the challenges of inspiration.
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Opening on January 28th The Gibbes Museum in Charleston, S.C. is exhibiting a show of West Fraser’s work, many of the paintings are ones featured in ‘Painting the Southern Coast’. This exhibit is the 9th one-man show of Mr. Fraser’s work, and the 3rd one-man show at The Gibbes Museum.
Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser, published by the University of South Carolina Press in July 2016, shares not only Mr. Fraser’s talent as an artist, but also his love of the area he calls ‘My Country.’ “Painting the Southern Coast’ contains history, art, as well as insight into the things Mr. Fraser finds compelling. The book is divided into seven sections, starting with Georgetown, S.C. and continuing along the ‘Georgia Bite’ to St. Augustine, Florida. Follow along with us as we give you a bit more insight into the areas that West explores with his art. Some of the information will be historical in nature, other information will be personal, and of course all will encompass West Fraser’s wonderful light filled paintings. As with the book, we will start in Georgetown County with Hobcaw Barony, one of the largest land grants in South Carolina and the area which would provide South Carolina with much of its income before the ‘War of Northern Aggression,’ through its vast fields of ‘Carolina Gold.’
‘Washo Reserve’ | Santee Coastal Reserve, S.C. | 30 x 36 inches Oil | 2014
Hobcaw and waccamaw are familiar names in the South Carolina lowcountry. To the native americans, these words defined the area which carries the name– ‘between the river,’ or ‘coming and going.’ Hobcaw Barony was the name given to the largest of the land grants in Georgetown, South Carolina and encompasses the area between Winyah Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Winyah Bay is fed by several rivers originating in the upstate—the Black, Pee Dee, and Sampit—also named for Native American tribes who populated South Carolina.
‘Winter Fog’ | De Bordieu, S.C. | 20 x 24 inches Oil | 2008
The colonial land grant known as Hobcaw Barony was established in 1711 and was later subdivided into individual plantations by Lord John Carteret one of King George’s lord proprietors. The area was the second largest producer of ‘Carolina Gold’ rice and was also a well known producer of American caviar and indigo. Georgetown was an important stop on the King’s Highway, which was established by King Charles II as a means for the colonies to better communicate with one another and extended from Charles Towne all the way to Boston.
‘Slave Cabin on the King’s Highway’
Hobcaw Barony, Georgetown, S.C. | 24 x 36 inches Oil | 2008
In the early 1900’s successful Wall Street financier, Bernard Baruch, purchased Hobcaw Barony for use as a hunting preserve. The plantation was visited by many of the influential men of the day including Winston Churchill. When Bernard died, he left the property to his eldest child, Isabelle W. Baruch.
‘Many Springs’ | Hopsewee Plantation, Georgetown, S.C. | 26 x 36 inches Oil | 2014
Belle, as she was known, led a life of great accomplishment. She was a great sportsman–sailing, hunting, and riding were her greatest passions, along with a care for the environment in which she lived. ‘The preservation of this pristine living laboratory was made possible by the extraordinary foresight of Isabelle Wilcox Baruch, known to all as “Belle”—a remarkable woman well ahead of her time. She was a conservationist in an era when that word was barely understood, much less widely used. She was also an intense competitor who thrived on challenge, fought against long odds with grit and tenacity, and was determined to govern her own destiny in a world that, because she was a woman, often tried to tell her what to do.’ (Charleston Magazine ‘The Baroness of Hobcaw” September 2013. Also of interest in reference to Belle Baruch and art.)
We are fortunate to be able to visit Hobcaw Barony and immerse ourselves in the plantation culture of the past. Learning, and understanding, the past is a great way of helping to guide us in the future. For more information about Hobcaw Barony, or to donate to the foundation, please visit http://www.hobcawbarony.com
For information about ‘West Fraser’s book Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser’ USC Press 2016, reproductions, or original art, please visit https://westfraserstudio.com or http://www.helenafoxfineart.com
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The past year has been full of extraordinary happenings for West Fraser and West Fraser Studio
In July of 2016 ‘Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser’ was published by The University of South Carolina Press. By October, the first printing had sold out. Extraordinary.
In September of 2016 the Montage Hotel at Palmetto Bluff opened; the hotel houses one of the largest single collections of West Fraser paintings around. When you walk into the lobby of the hotel and look over to the reception desk, you can see the largest painting West has ever completed. ‘Soaring Wings’ was commissioned to be the centerpiece of the collection and is an absolutely stunning piece of work. This too is extraordinary.
This week, January 28, 2017, the Gibbes opens ‘Painting the Southern Coast,’ a collection of paintings reflecting the book as well as many paintings that represent Mr. Fraser’s mature painting style. This will be West’s third one-man show at the Gibbes, his first was in 1986 (when it was still the Gibbes Gallery of Art), and he was the youngest artist to have a one-man show.
He now has another first, this will be the first show of a single living artist since the museum re-opened in May of last year. And as director Angela Mack said, it better be good. We at West Fraser Studio and Helena Fox Fine Art think it’s better than good, we think it’s extraordinary.
If you are a member of the museum, please join us on Friday evening at 7pm for a preview of the show.
Please stay tuned to our website, Facebook page (West Fraser Studio), Instagram (@westfraserstudio) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information about West’s guided tours of the exhibit happening throughout the run of the show.
Thank you to Adam Parker and The Post and Courier for a well written article about both West Fraser’s and Jacob Lawrence’s exhibit at The Gibbes Museum.
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Join us for a book signing and artist talk on September 22, 2016 at the Charleston Library Society. For more information on the evening, please go to here.
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Often people ask how long it takes for West to finish a painting. It’s a fun question, well no, not really. I once heard him answer the question with what was basically a mathmatic word problem. It was something like this: I’ve been painting all my life, so let’s say 50 years plus a few days, maybe a few months, plus a few hours, plus another few days, plus a year or so, plus an hour or so for stretching canvas and maybe a few extra hours for contemplation.
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We all know that rice was grown in the lowcountry during the colonial era. There are reminders everywhere of our by-gone rice culture. But have you ever thought about what happened to these fields after they stopped growing rice? Many of them were sold to wealthy northerners for hunting plantations. Evidently the rice fields became a wonderful home for ducks.
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