Ansel Adams’ iconic photography comes back to Myrtle Beach art museum

It may be hard to believe, but we do have art museums in town. And bonus: these art museums are displaying more than local hobbyists’ watercolor renditions of marsh grass and fishing piers. Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum is now running not one but two diverse art exhibitions that are free to the public - headlined by one of the most legendary American artists to ever get behind a camera lens.

The first is “Classic Images: Photography by Ansel Adams.” Adams’ photographic work is more than just a collection of pretty pictures. His wilderness photography is fine art, iconic and vastly influential. His photo of President Jimmy Carter was the first to be treated as an official presidential portrait. He’s photographed every national park in the United States, and one of his images was carried aboard the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. And it all began as a fluke when Adams took some photos on a family vacation in Yosemite National Park.

“Adams didn’t necessarily believe it was all about the equipment,” says local photographer Clifton Parker, creative director at Ellev Design Studio. “He was often quoted that the most important aspects of photography were a good eye and a great imagination. He spent years in the darkroom, enhancing and manipulating images to get the right effects.”

The exhibit is an Adams’ best-of compilation, including 72 black-and-white images. The collection is dominated by landscapes, but there are also nature close-up, portraits and architectural subjects. The museum will also present a series of lectures and docent tours featuring experts on Adams’ work.

“Our Adams’ exhibit in 2004 is still the most popular exhibit in our 17-year history,” says Patricia Goodwin, executive director of the museum. “That exhibit had 54 photos. This one has 72, and each one Adams’ picked himself in the ‘70s to represent the best of his career.”

Running concurrently with the Adams’ exhibit is “Claire Farrell: A is for Art.” Farrell is a mixed media artist, taking a new approach to the alphabet. The collection portrays 26 mixed media monotypes (a 3D-type digital image melded with collage and etching). Each monotype represents different subjects in art and culture – B is for Beethoven, H is for Hemingway, W is for Wine, all the way to Z for Zoo.

Farrell, a native of Charleston, lives in Columbia. She’s a graduate of Duke University and holds two master's degrees from the University of South Carolina, one in art studio. She also studied in Italy in 2002. All the works in the “A is for Art” series was created in the last few years.

“The art scene here can be frustrating,” says Parker. “So often, everyone gets caught up in being the family beach that we miss out on the arts. To get away from the same old beach and bird paintings is refreshing. To see these kind of exhibits are a great moment for this city.”

Lectures on the Adams’ exhibit:

• June 18, at 2 p.m. – Elizabeth Howie, Coastal Carolina University visual arts professor, delivers “The Tender Soul of Stone and Space: The Landscape Photography of Ansel Adams.”

• July 23, at 2 p.m. – Photographer Jack Thompson delivers “Classic Images of Myrtle Beach.”

•  Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. – Easton Selby, CCU visual arts professor, delivers “The Alchemy of Ansel Adams’ Darkroom.”

• Aug. 20, at 2 p.m. – Fine art photographer Andrea Baldeck delivers “Ansel Adams and Contemporaries: The Intrepid Ones.”

• Sept. 3, at 2 p.m. – Donald Withers, photographer/master naturalist, delivers “Close to Home: Finding the Grand Landscape in Horry and Georgetown Counties.”

• Sept. 10, at 2 p.m. – Douglas Haller, former curator of photographs at the California Historical Society, delivers “Ansel Adams' Photography as Conservation Advocacy.”

• Sept. 21, at 2 p.m. - Kyle Waters, photographer/wildlife scientist, delivers “Far From Home: Wild Photography in a New Age.”

Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. But from June 17 to Aug. 17, the museum will stay open until 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday, and until 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

Admission to the lectures is free, but donations are accepted. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call the museum at 238-2510 to make a reservation or for more information.