The day before the “Linda Stein: The Fluidity of Gender” sculpture exhibit opened last week, Jim Arendt exhibited energy and enthusiasm that might equal what Lynda Carter showed in the later 1970s as “Wonder Woman” in the TV adaptation of the old comic-book series.
This show of 18 artworks, some life size, fill the Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery, at Coastal Carolina University in Conway. A new year has brought an array of exhibits across the Grand Strand, with all kinds of styles, so no matter how cold the weather gets outside, head inside and take in color, expression, meaning and even some history.
Arendt, in his third year as director of the Bryan gallery, said coordinating six professional exhibits or works by living artists and three CCU student art collections every year allows the campus to not only connect with youth studying for careers in the art field, but showcase some tools used in their education for the whole community to enjoy.
Walking through the gallery on its final day of preparations for the Stein exhibit, Arendt turned one of the body casts on a pedestal that will let viewers see all the details all the way around.
He said the exhibit shows how “armor protection relates to ideas of traditional roles of women and men in society,” perhaps “gender bending” to reflect “the male role as a warrior into in a female realm.”
Stein built casts and torsos are covered with leather, bits of metal and other materials in a “very innovative, creative” way, Arendt said, versus using “decorative art that has taken elements to be subversive.”
This exhibit lets viewers see a feminine quality, letting women state, “We’re warriors, too,” Arendt said.
Stopping to observe a wall piece that includes comic-book strips of “Wonder Woman,” he said the DC Comics series dates to the 1940s and that with the superhero’s strength without weapons and use of a “lasso of truth,” it “helped to improve the images of women.”
The father of two young daughters, one of whom revels in seeing a “Wonder Woman” cartoon series on television, Arendt wondered, in this age of movie remakes of classic stories, maybe the franchise is “due for a revisit.”
Looking at the works across the gallery, Arendt said “Fluidity of Gender” contains a “cross pollination of ideas” with pop culture and art for education, to find new ways to make them “relevant and expressive.”
Welcoming the public to this and every CCU exhibit all year round, Arendt said its presentations of art take “a lot of preparation and logistics,” incorporating elements such as signs, lights, design, speakers and digital accouterments all arranged “in house” with help from CCU arts staff and student interns.
Visitors to the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach also might spot Arendt’s name in one of its three new exhibits: “FiberArt International 2013,” an international juried exhibition by the Fiber Arts Guild of Pittsburgh through April 24.
This roundup of contemporary fiber art comprises 37 of the original 73 works – chosen from more than 1,200 entries – by artists from 36 countries, including Japan, Sweden and Wales. This collection includes a Captain America suit made of lottery tickets, and Arendt’s two-dimensional portrait in cut denim, “Yvette & Ansley,” showing a woman with a baby in her arms.
All tacked up
Brookgreen Gardens has saddled up to start 2014 with two art exhibits.
Besides “Sojun tu Gullah Geechee” (“Sojourn to Gullah Geechee”), a traveling exhibit from Geechee Kunda Center, in Riceboro, Ga., and continuing through March 16, “Equine Spirit: The Horse in American Art” opens Saturday, going through April 20.
Robin Salmon, Brookgreen’s vice president of art and historical collections and curator of sculpture, said 75 pieces are spread across two galleries.
“For thousands of years, the equine image has been linked to mankind,” Salmon said. “First as hunter, and later as domesticator and partner, man’s long relationship with the horse is often celebrated as a powerful and complex image in art.”
She called “Equine Spirit” special because “it presents important historic and contemporary works from the Brookgreen collection alongside sculpture, paintings, drawings and etchings borrowed from the best American artists that portray the horse.”
“Visitors to the exhibit,” Salmon said, “will enjoy depictions of horses at work, race and show horses, and horses as patriotic and historic symbols.”
This exhibit took more than a year in planning.
“I reached out to the lenders that long ago,” Salmon said. “We have had what I call a ‘musical chairs’ kind of response. All of these artists’ works are desired for numerous museum and gallery exhibitions, therefore some of the pieces that I specifically requested were not available because they were promised elsewhere. And, artists have to earn a living; some pieces are sold in the interval and are no longer available.
“Then the fun begins – learning what the second choices or other options might be and, in some cases, they are better than the pieces I had originally asked for. Artists usually want to try to accommodate exhibit requests, so the ‘special’ pieces, often from the artists’ personal collections, come out of the vault and off of the studio walls. It’s great when that happens. You get a blending of my and the artists’ curatorial vision.”