Capturing Carolina is a challenge. Tourists try with their point-and-shoot cameras. Locals memorialize her in song. And visual artists interpret her landscapes and people through a variety of mediums. Carolina represents a vast number of things to a vast number of people. How you define her is perhaps unique to each of us.
This uniqueness is evident at the Charlotte Art League’s (CAL) August exhibition, “My Carolina Home.” Running through September 28th, art in this exhibition reflects on Carolina and her people, places and history, hoping to show DNC visitors a grassroots flavor of Carolina art. True to CAL’s spirit, the show presents a wide variety of talent and mediums. But the diversity in this show owes its multiplicity to the unique meanings Carolina inspires.
Even with the variety in artwork shown, clear themes run throughout “My Carolina Home.” A common language both visual and spoken prevails in describing Carolina. We speak of her smoky mountains, rolling foothills and fragile outer banks. Many artists in the show portrayed the natural Carolina landscape. Paul Hastings captured the majestic Carolina mountains in his work “Yellow Jasmine,” while Todd Baxter’s “New River Plein Air” portrays the rocky, winding nature of Carolina rivers.
We also speak of her abundant wildlife — the shy black bears, numerous kinds of avians and streams full of trout. Artist Christopher McIntosh’s painting “Barn Owl” shows just one of these wild avians. Perched on a branch the owl stares out at the viewer, demanding your attention. McIntosh’s use of oil and resin gives the canvas a textural quality, and his color palette of blues, whites and browns perfectly conjures the owl’s nocturnal world.
We further use Carolina as an adjective — carolina blue, a carolina sky, carolina barbecue, and who could leave out carolina girls. Pat Tyler’s collages “Dilworth” and “Southpark” capture groups of Queen City carolina girls dressed in sophisticated outfits with attitude — one might even say sass. After all, “Carolina girls got good looks and sweet personality too.”
While I recognized Carolina in almost all of the works in “My Carolina Home,” Vaughan E. Justice’s two paintings “On a Clear Day” and “Saturday Washday” resonated with my definition of Carolina — family. Growing up, it was the women in my family who did the laundry, and often it was quite a social chore. My mother, grandmother and I would hang out clothes to dry in our big straw hats, regardless of the perfectly working dryer sitting inside. I can still hear my grandmother say, “If the sun is shining, why waste energy on something the sun will do a fine job drying?” Justice’s lush, bold colors and the anonymity of the woman hanging the clothes in “On a Clear Day” recalled these Carolina memories.
The Charlotte Art League: 1517 Camden Rd., Charlotte; 704-376-2787 or email@example.com.