Gibbes Museum of Art

Charleston, SC



Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto


On Saturday July 1, 2000, the Gibbes Museum of Art will open "Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto," a colorful exhibition illustrating the intrinsic beauty of the ACE River Basin and the impact of urban sprawl on the environment. This show is part of a multidisciplinary production of dance, music, drama and art that focuses on preserving the natural landscapes of the Lowcountry area.

Artist and project director Mary Edna Fraser initiated this exhibition with a group of local artists called "The ACE Troops." The Gibbes Museum of Art became involved shortly thereafter. The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, which funds programs that promote interest in the environment, conservation, the arts, culture, and community welfare, provided support for the exhibition though a grant award to The Community Foundation Serving Coastal South Carolina. Additional assistance is given by the Gibbes through the generosity of Bank of America and contributors to the Gibbes Millennium Exhibition Fund.

"Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto" features 55 works in a variety of mediums - batik, monotypes, sweetgrass baskets, oil paintings and photography. Guest curator is Polly Laffitte who formerly worked as Chief Curator of Art for the South Carolina State Museum. The artists represented are Mary Edna Fraser, Mary Jackson, Jonathan Green, Mickey Williams, Tom Blagden, Jack Leigh, and Marjory Wentworth: two craftswomen, two painters, two photographers and one poet. Their artwork expresses the need for the protection and management of North America's rivers as they face the threat of overuse and development. It also conveys the spirit of the culture that surrounds the water. (left: Mary Jackson, Cobra With Handle, 1984, sweeetgrass, bulrush and palmetto, 14 x 16 1/2 x 14 inches)

The Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers flow from their upcountry origins though the South Carolina Lowcountry and converge at St. Helena Sound, southwest of Charleston, in the 350,000-acre area known as the ACE Basin. The ACE Basin is a rich biological resource and wildlife preserve that is protected by government agencies, conservation organizations and private landowners. Presently, over 150,000 acres of the area is permanently preserved, but environmentalists are challenged by the daily dangers that face the coastal area. More than half of the United States wetlands, at least 115 million acres, have already been destroyed.

"Our hope is that the ACE exhibition will serve as an impetus for environmental awareness and involvement in our community," explains Paul Figueroa, Executive Director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. "The Gibbes is helping to send the message that we need to protect and restore the natural integrity of these landscapes that we cherish. It is exciting that an art museum can play a part in this effort."

"Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto" runs through September 10, 2000. A variety of public programs are planned including Family Day on Saturday, July 22 that includes free admission and activities for all ages.


Select Contributors

Polly Laffitte, Guest Curator for "Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto," is the former Chief Curator of Art for the South Carolina State Museum where she organized numerous exhibitions and coordinated research and interpretation of South Carolina art history. Laffitte now lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as an Independent Curator for a variety of organizations. She formerly worked at Clemson University and the School of Art in Denver, CO.

Tom Blagden, nature photographer, has earned a national reputation as one of our country's most important photographers. Many of his photographs express the beauty and life integral to the ACE basin. His book, South Carolina's Wetland Wilderness: The ACE Basin, has educated thousands.

Mary Edna Fraser is a local artist and coordinates many efforts of the ACE Troops group, which uses its artistic skills to create awareness about the ACE Basin. Her series of batiks, Islands From the Sky, began in 1979 when she thought to design works of art on silk from very high vantage points. Often photographing from her grandfather's 1946 Ercoupe airplane, Fraser explores the natural wonders of the Lowcountry area. Each of Fraser's batiks is strongly inspired by the ACE Basin. Publications reviewing her work include Smithsonian Magazine, Air and Space, The Washington Post, Surface Design Journal, Fiberarts. Chicago Tribune and Textile Designs.

Jonathan Green was raised and inspired by the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Known for his visual interpretation of the people in this place and its history, Greene's bright and colorful paintings tell stories without words. Green is an internationally known artist whose works are in the permanent collection of many distinguished South Carolinians, as well as that of the Gibbes Museum of Art and Charleston Place Hotel.

Jack Leigh, nationally known photographer and native of Savannah, GA, premiered his black and white photos, Oystering, A Way of Life, at the l980 Spoleto Festival. Leigh's poignant portraits of people depict the Southern landscape capturing lifestyles succumbing to changing times. (left: Jack Leigh, Anna Mae Gadsden and Henrietta Kitty, Shucking House, 1980, silver gelatin print, 12 1/4 x 18 1/8 inches)

Mickey Williams, landscape painter, reinterprets the beauty of the natural environment through his paintings. For this exhibition, he has concentrated his recent work on the ACE Basin. Ashepoo Landscapes, a series at the Wells Gallery in Charleston, featured breathtaking paintings of the Ashepoo River. He will continue to work on this series to include the Combahee and Edisto landscapes.

Read more about the Gibbes Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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