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2019 Verner Award to honor nine South Carolinians

State's highest arts honor recognizes outstanding achievement and contributions

Awards to be presented May 1 at S.C. Arts Awards


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Nine South Carolinians are to be honored by the South Carolina Arts Commission with the 2019 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts—the state’s highest arts honor. The following recipients from their respective categories are being recognized for outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina:
  • LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:  Cecil Williams, Orangeburg
  • ARTIST:  Tyrone Geter, Columbia
  • INDIVIDUAL:  Kathleen (Kathi) P. Bateson, Hilton Head Island
  • ARTS IN EDUCATION: Simeon Warren, Charleston (Individual) S.C. African American Heritage Commission, Hartsville (Organization)
  • BUSINESS:  Hampton III Gallery, Taylors
  • GOVERNMENT:  Florence County Museum, Florence
  • ORGANIZATION: Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston Columbia Stage Society (Town Theatre), Columbia (Special Award)
Print and web images of recipients available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/plf40ffa55oxh5g/AAAksiSWeKNQxxytp5yBM8DQa?dl=0 “It is an honor and privilege to recognize individuals and organizations who live out the service, commitment and passion that help the arts thrive in South Carolina,” S.C. Arts Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz said. “Each of the Verner Award recipients makes a tremendous contribution not just locally, but they are honored for broad impact on the state’s arts community and beyond. These are outstanding ambassadors for our state." A diverse committee, appointed by the S.C. Arts Commission Board of Directors and drawn from members of the South Carolina community at large, reviews all nominations and, after a rigorous process, makes recommendations to the board for final approval after a series of panel meetings produces a recommendation from each category. The 2019 Verner Awards will be presented with the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards at South Carolina Arts Awards sponsored by Colonial Life on Wednesday, May 1 in a morning ceremony at the USC Alumni Center (900 Senate St., Columbia). The S.C. Arts Foundation will honor the recipients afterward during a fundraising luncheon. South Carolina artists’ work will be on sale to support the programs of the S.C. Arts Commission. Luncheon tickets are $50 per person and are to be available for purchase by mid-March. For more about the Verner Awards or the S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon, call 803.734.8696 or visit SouthCarolinaArts.com.

About the Verner Award Recipients

Cecil Williams (Lifetime Achievement), an Orangeburg native, is a professional photographer, videographer, publisher, inventor, author, and architect best known for his photographic documentation of the struggle to achieve freedom, justice, and equality during the Civil Rights struggle. By the age of 9, he had already begun his career in photography and by 15 was working professionally as a freelancer for such publications as JET and the Afro-American, and as an Associated Press stringer. The teenaged Williams documented segregated life in the Jim Crow era and the Clarendon movement that led to Briggs v. Elliott in the 1950s, countless protests and then desegregation at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina and was there for the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968. Williams, who received an art degree from Claflin University, owns Cecil Williams Photography, LLC and was recently appointed by Claflin as its historic preservationist. Williams is also recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest award to an individual, and Governor’s Award in the Humanities from SC Humanities. In a career that spreads across continents, Tyrone Geter (Artist Category) has built an international reputation as a world-class artist, painter, sculptor, illustrator, and teacher. Recently retired associate professor of art at Benedict College in Columbia, Geter received his Master of Fine Arts from Ohio University in 1978 with an emphasis on painting and drawing. In 1979, he relocated to Africa, living, drawing, and painting among the Fulani and local peoples of Northern Nigeria, “a lesson in the creative process that no art school would ever teach me.” Since, he has illustrated 30 children’s books, exhibited on four continents, and after relocating to South Carolina, until recently taught painting and drawing at Benedict and curated its Ponder Fine Arts Gallery. Kathleen (Kathi) P. Bateson (Individual Category) is president/CEO and executive producer of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina – a past Verner Award recipient in the organization category. She is past president of the S.C. Arts Alliance board, served as chair and founding co-chair of the Arts & Cultural Council of Hilton Head; and was a founding member and is chair of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s Women in Philanthropy. Bateson is founder and president of Management for the Arts, a national firm specializing in NPO organizational restructure, institutional planning, strategic positioning and new business ventures. She has served as a cultural representative on international delegations to South Africa, China and Japan, and is herself a goldsmith and professional set designer. Simeon A. Warren (Arts in Education Individual Category) is a cathedral-trained stone carver, sculptor, and conservator. He holds a degree from the Glasgow (Scotland) School of the Arts, and his career has led to stone work at or on some of England’s major cathedrals (and even Buckingham Palace). In 2001 he emigrated to Charleston, where he was a founding faculty member at what became the American College of Building Arts in 2004. He developed college-level courses for professors, delivered the college’s licenses to recruit and to teach, hired the college’s faculty, and served as dean from 2006 to 2013. Warren owns a private architectural stone practice and is developing The Stone People Project, among other public art projects. The S.C. African American Heritage Commission (Arts in Education Organization Category) identifies and promotes the preservation of historic sites, structures, buildings, and culture of the African American experience in South Carolina, and assists and enhances the efforts of the S.C. Department of Archives and History. SCAAHC is a leader in integrating the arts into education resources, publishing the “Supplement to the Teacher’s Guide Integrating Art into Classroom Instruction” in 2016 and a subsequent revision last year. Since 1970, Hampton III Gallery (Business Category) has supported professional living artists and the estates of professional artists in or from South Carolina ranging from post WWII to the present. Hampton III Gallery’s vision of supporting artists and educating the public to the rich heritage of South Carolina artists continues into 2019. South Carolina’s oldest gallery has more than 500 paintings, sculptures and original prints in inventory. Changing exhibitions, artists’ talks, and special events provide educational opportunities for all. Consultation is available for private and corporate collections. Exhibitions change every 6-8 weeks. The public is invited to all events. The Florence County Museum (FCM) (Government Category) reflects the region’s rich artistic, cultural and historic heritage. Its permanent collection currently includes eight works by celebrated 20th century African American artist and Florence native, William H. Johnson and it is home to The Wright Collection of Southern Art, a volume of over 140 works representing some of the finest in 20th century Southern art (including some by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner). The FCM provides a platform for contemporary artists as host of the Pee Dee Regional Art Competition, South Carolina’s oldest juried art competition, since 1954. Since 1905, the Gibbes Museum of Art (Organization Category) has been a center for creativity for the visual arts. It provides more than 100 educational programs and events. Nine galleries spanning 300 years of art history are showcased to 60,000 visitors a year who discover, enjoy, and are inspired by the creative process. The museum loans 50 objects a year to the major U.S. art museums. Dynamic year-round programming engages, and the Gibbes continually develops new multi-dimensional education and outreach programs that expand the museum experience while offering exhibitions that stay relevant to current topics. Celebrating its 100th season in 2018/2019, Columbia Stage Society’s Town Theatre (Organization Category Special Award) provides quality, live, family-oriented community theatre and entry-level experience for those who wish to participate on or off stage. Every performance has open auditions, with all community members being encouraged to attend. On stage, Town Theatre’s current and alumni performers have appeared on Broadway, network television and in major feature films. Off stage, ample opportunity exists for community members to get involved as costumers, as set and backstage crew, by helping in the box office, or as ushers and house managers.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives in three areas:
  • arts education,
  • community arts development,
  • and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696.

Remembering Carl Blair (1932-2018)

The South Carolina Arts Commission notes with sadness the passing of Carl Blair of Greenville, a former commissioner, chairman, and 2005 winner of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award for Lifetime Achievement (presented annually by SCAC). Blair served as a commissioner on the Arts Commission and was its chairman for two years. The State Art Collection includes three of his works. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May issued the following statement:

"Carl Blair was a gentle giant of the arts in South Carolina. He was one of the pioneers of abstract painting in our state and one of its most successful practitioners. Through his long career as a teacher, he was a major influence on generations of artists who have had significant impact here. As one of the founders of the Hampton III Gallery, he was also a successful artist-entrepreneur.

"As a leader, he was self-effacing but, at the same time, a strong and effective advocate for artists, arts education, and access to the arts in all communities. We will miss his unique artistic voice, his gentle and generous spirit, his wry sense of humor, and the way he lived his values every day."

Details on arrangements can be viewed here. Below, some who knew or worked with Mr. Blair share feelings or anecdotes about his life.
Sandy Rupp:
"Carl Blair was a man of action, whose life exuded a spirit of optimism. He was a mentor to many young artists, who would learn life lessons through listening to Blair’s visual language. His friends were changed by observing his strong faith, guileless heart, playful spirit and creative genius. Carl’s eyes would squint as he admonished, 'always take your art seriously, but never yourself.' A generous, humble man his life reflected grace and gave us hope."
Ms. Rupp is director of Hampton III Gallery in Taylors, which was co-founded by Mr. Blair.

‘Requiem for Mother Emanuel’: Artist hopes his tribute to Emanuel 9 reflects hope in midst of loss

From the Orangeburg Times and Democrat Article by Dionne Gleaton, photo by Larry Hardy
In keeping with his roots in a holiness church, artist Leo Twiggs has a testimony he wants to share with the world. It speaks of the range of emotions he felt following the horrific mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston nearly a year ago.
Twiggs lets his art do the talking for him, though, through his use of batik, an ancient technique of manual wax-resistant dyeing applied to whole cloth. He spent many long nights over the course of several weeks manually dyeing and dipping fabric pieces to achieve a texturally rich and deep-toned series titled “Requiem for Mother Emanuel.”
Nine people, including Senior Pastor and state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, were killed by a gunman during a Bible study session at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.
The tragedy gained worldwide attention and emotionally moved Twiggs, who said his images for “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” did not actually begin as a series.
“The whole idea behind the Mother Emanuel series did not come as a series. I did not think of it as a series. I was doing one painting and that painting was in reaction right after the event happened,” the artist said.
His body of work will be exhibited at The City Gallery in Charleston from Tuesday, June 21 to Sunday, July 31. The City of Charleston is dedicating the entire first floor of the gallery for the display of Twiggs’ work. The paintings will be accompanied by a seven-minute video in which he talks about the nine images and his inspiration behind each.
The “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” exhibition is part of a nine-day remembrance the City of Charleston is hosting to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the church shooting.
“During that period, the exhibit will be open to the members of the church and survivors of the victims for private viewing,” Twiggs said.

‘This is about nine people that perished’

A target and the number nine are symbols that appear in the series, along with the Confederate flag, a symbol that Twiggs has used in his paintings since the 1970s.
“I go all the way back with both the target and the Confederate flag as part of the images in my work. I did a whole series on ‘Targeted Man,’ and I did a series using the Confederate flag,” he said.
The artist said he felt the Emanuel AME Church, often referred to as Mother Emanuel, was the target for such horrible violence because of its rich history. Founded in 1816, Emanuel AME is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States and is the first independent black denomination in the United States.
“Denmark Vesey was a pastor of the church at one time. Charleston probably has more churches than any other single place in South Carolina, but he picked that church because of what it meant to black people,” Twiggs said. “So my first image was this target and this silhouette of the church.”
He said he chose not to reproduce an actual picture of the Emanuel AME Church in the first image of the series, whose pieces were all done in batik on cotton.
“One of the things I didn’t want to do as an artist is to just put a picture of the church because when you paint and put just a picture of the church, you tie everything to a single church, when it’s really about churches. So what I did was create a kind of symbol of a church, a kind of imagery that could be any church. That piece was done in 2015 right after the horrible incident,” he said.
The second image was actually started in 2015 and finished this year.
“I used the flag and the number nine because that’s what it was all about. And it was at night, so I tried to suggest a kind of dark sky, said Twiggs, whose third piece also contained a blood-stained Confederate flag with nine X’s at the bottom of it.
Twiggs said the flag became more like a stain on the starkly white church in his fourth painting.
“I just saw what happened at Emanuel as a stain on this white church. Here is this blood stain on this white church that was really a metaphor for a white garment that somebody’s wearing and gets a terrible stain on. So the flag is there, but it becomes like a blood stain,” he said, noting that the nine multi-colored X‘s at the bottom of the flag represented the nine shooting victims.
“An X means somebody has passed, or that somebody is no longer with us. I don’t know why I used the different colors. I suspect it’s because I wanted to match up with the colors on the flag, but I think it also kind of represents that these were different people,” Twiggs said. “Some were young, some were old.”
He said each of his paintings is a testimony to the nine slain church members.
“They are single paintings that live on their own right. It’s like a testimony,” Twiggs said.
The Confederate flag become a recurring symbol in Twiggs’ “Requiem” series, and it is splashed across the surface of the church. It eventually morphs into a cross on a blood-stained background and then changes into a cross with the red drained from it.
Twiggs said there is somewhat of a transition made in the fifth painting, when the Confederate flag becomes “smaller and less prominent.”
“In this one, the blood of the flag has completely disappeared. … This is the flag, but there are nine stars and the flag is now morphing into a cross,” he said. “This is patterned fabric. This is the only one where I’ve used patterned fabric on it.”
Twiggs said he took a tour of the inside of the church, images of which are included in his sixth piece.
“I had not been inside the church in years. My art teacher at Claflin, Arthur Rose, was a member of that church. So I had been to that church early on, but it had been a long time. I just felt if I was going to do a Mother Emanuel series, I had to see where they died,” he said.
He was particularly moved by a massive stained glass window that was located near the church’s altar. He included its likeness in his sixth image, along with the Confederate flag’s continued morph into the image of a white cross.
“I wanted to get the feeling of what was inside the church. What’s amazing is one side of the church is starkly white, but inside it’s warm and has got all of that old wood. It looks historic,” said the artist, whose sixth image also includes the Palmetto Tree and crescent moon, symbols from the state flag.
Twiggs includes all three symbols of the Confederate flag, the target and the number nine in his seventh image, along with crosses representing the souls of the victims.
“I look at it and think of it as a summary because I used the flag, but the bloodiness is now gone. I used the target as I did on the first one, and then the number nine, which I also used in the second one. So kind of all the things that are incorporated in those paintings are in this particular piece,” he said. “And, of course, you have the crosses of the souls of these people rising and the moon.”
He intended for the title of the series to reflect hope in the midst of great loss, the artist said.
“The reason this is called ‘Requiem’ is because this isn’t about the living. This is about the nine people that perished in this horrible, horrific incident. Nobody knows what happens to you when you die but in the Christian religion, you are transformed from a physical being to a spiritual being,” he said.
“And I try to represent that spiritual being with the cross because the way Christians get to their final destination is the way Christ went to his destination — through the cross. So these people obviously were Christians, and for them that is the journey I try to portray them taking — that rising up from their church to another place,” Twiggs said.
That image is vividly shown in his eighth painting, where a white line of demarcation separates the church from the heavenly place that Christians seek to reach in the afterlife. A darker blue suggests the horror the victims endured on earth, but a lighter blue emanates from above.
“That’s where the sky is bluer, and in there I have a lot of crosses because we call our funerals ‘home going ceremonies.’ We’re going to meet our relatives who went on before us; they’re all up there waiting for us. So when I’m doing this, I’m very steeped in African-American culture and traditions,” Twiggs said.
Deciding how to end the series with his final painting was something the artist struggled with. He thought about how the church was located less than a mile and a half from where Africans were brought to America as slaves and less than a mile from where the Civil War began.
“Mother Emanuel is less than a mile from where Africans were brought ashore and sold on Market Street in Charleston. Mother Emanuel was in a very unique place and is a very unique place. It’s the place where Denmark Vesey tried for freedom and was killed.
“I thought about the history of Mother Emanuel and I also thought that (what happened at) Mother Emanuel is not unique to us. It happened in Birmingham with four little girls. It happened in North Charleston when the guy was shot in the back. … This is the stony road we trod,” Twiggs said, referring to the lyrics of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the National Black Anthem.
It was another line from that song, however, that kept coming back to him and was included in his ninth piece: “We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”
“Those two lines explain Mother Emanuel perfectly,” Twiggs said. “If the victims could speak, what would they say? They have said, ‘We have come treading a path through the blood of the slaughtered,’ and this is what has happened to many of us.”
“So what I wanted in this last one is to kind of sum up and give people the perspective of what Mother Emanuel really means to us as African-Americans. It’s a place that speaks about our journey, the pain of a journey that is repeated over and over when you look at our history,” he said.
In the final image, a number nine sits above the lines from Weldon’s song.
‘Our state’s finest hour’
Twiggs said the seven-minute video that accompanies his series was developed with a $10,000 donation from a group of art patrons in Greenville who have purchased his work over the years. The video was produced by Greenville-based Sailwind Pictures.
Twiggs said the director of Greenville’s Hampton III Gallery gave the donors an opportunity to preview his works and see the video during a special reception. The gallery is the state’s longest operating art gallery in which Twiggs has been a member since 1972.
“It was really a great afternoon. Once you see the video and these works, it gives a whole new perspective of what I was doing,” he said.
The Johnson Collection of Spartanburg acquired the last three of the nine paintings, Twiggs said.
“One of the most significant (art) collections in South Carolina decided to buy all three paintings and to donate them to two national museums and to keep one that so that it could be loaned to museums in our state,” he said. “That, to me, was nice.”
Another donor funded the printing of 5,000 brochures containing images of the paintings and an essay, all of which will be available at Twiggs’ exhibit at The City Gallery in Charleston.
“If you take the brochure, the exhibit could live forever. I’m so proud of that,” the artist said, noting that an artist’s reception is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 8 at The City Gallery following the nine-day anniversary commemoration of the church shooting.
“We’re not doing anything formal when they’re having the anniversary because that’s a quiet time. When they’re having the anniversary, the only thing is that the families of the victims will know that the works are in the gallery,” Twiggs said.
South Carolina ETV also filmed a documentary about the creation of Twiggs’ paintings on June 2. Beryl Dakers, who retired from ETV but continues to work on special projects, is a long-time friend of Twiggs, and she filmed the documentary.
“I know Beryl is also supposed to be going to Charleston to do something with Mother Emanuel. I think she’s going to do some interviews and everything else and then feature the documentary with that. So she’s putting together this documentary,” Twiggs said, noting that the documentary will likely air following the nine-day remembrance,
Bradley Glenn, an award-winning documentary producer from California, is also working on a 60- to 80-minute documentary about Twiggs’ work called “Leo Twiggs: Crossing Over.”
“He plans to bring a crew to Charleston to cover the Emanuel event. So I’ll probably be going down there for that. His documentary is not just about Mother Emanuel,” but he wants it to be a part of it, Twiggs said.
“He (Glenn) said, “I want to get you with some of the survivors.’ I said, ‘I’ve got to wait and see whether they want to do that.’ So he’s going to be in and out of town. It’s going to be interesting to see what he does,” the artist said.
Twiggs said what he hopes to do is contribute to the healing of the community in the aftermath of the church shooting with his works of art.
“When an event happens, there are people who want to write about it, there are people who want to talk about it and there are people who want to paint about it. I said in the video that after Mother Emanuel, it was our state’s finest hour because for the first time that I can remember, we came together as one,” he said.
“It was not about the color of our skin or status, but as one human being in relation to another human being. And, if anything, I hope that the paintings record that moment so that when people look at the paintings, they could say that a tragic thing happened at a church, but what happened as a result of that thing was something that had not happened in our state before.”
Entry to Twiggs’ “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” exhibit is free to the public. The City Gallery is located at 34 Prioleau St. in Charleston. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The gallery is closed on Monday. For more information, call the gallery at 843-958-6484.

Exhibition spotlights artist Carl Blair and his students

From the Greenville News Article by Paul Hyde (Note: Three of Carl Blair's earlier works are in the South Carolina Arts Commission's State Art Collection, including Feeling Free – Appalachia.)

[caption id="attachment_23868" align="alignright" width="300"]Carl Blair, Elation Carl Blair, Elation, 2006 (acrylic on canvas) 54" x 64"[/caption] In a career of more than 60 years, Carl Blair has influenced many a younger South Carolina artist. Several of Blair’s works will be exhibited in Taylors along with paintings by four of his former students who are now successful artists themselves. “Carl Blair and Students” opens Thursday, Nov. 19 at the Hampton III Gallery and runs through Dec. 31. Today, Blair, 82, is a pillar of the South Carolina visual arts community but it took a while for the public to fully appreciate the artist’s abstract landscapes that he began painting in the 1950s. “At the time, everybody wanted realism,” said Sandy Rupp, owner of the Hampton III Gallery. “He was a pioneer of abstract art in South Carolina. People eventually came around and embraced him. I think it’s the spirit of his work that appeals to people.” Blair’s paintings are informed by an overwhelming optimistic vision, Rupp said. “He paints toward the light, seeing an atmosphere of hope and restoration,” Rupp wrote in a catalog accompanying the exhibition. “He sees the coming day and transfers that vision to his fellow man.” The exhibition features about 15 Blair works, including paintings and several of his fanciful animal sculptures. Also on display are 15 other pieces by artists Kevin Isgett, Nancy Jaramillo, Diane Kilgore Condon and John Pendarvis. Isgett and Condon took classes with Blair at Bob Jones University, and Jaramillo and Pendarvis studied with Blair at the Greenville County Museum of Art. Sharon Campbell curated the Hampton III exhibition. Blair, a native of Atchison, Kansas, served on the faculty of Bob Jones University for more than 40 years. He was known as a teacher who would help each student discover his or her individual vision, Rupp said. “He wasn’t someone who wanted to be cloned,” she said. “He always wanted his students to find their unique voices.” Not surprisingly, the four artists featured with Blair are stylistically diverse. “I see four unique artists,” Rupp said. “More than anything else, he encouraged their spirit.” Blair earned a bachelor’s degree in art at the University of Kansas and an MFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, although his studies were postponed by his service in the Korean conflict from 1953-55. Blair arrived in Greenville in the late 1950s. In 1970, Blair founded the Hampton III Gallery with Rupp’s father and two other artists. Sandy Rupp became sole owner of the gallery a few years ago. Blair has been a prominent leader in South Carolina arts circles. He was a member of the South Carolina Arts Commission for 12 years, serving as chairman of the commission for two years. In 2005 Blair was awarded the Verner Award for Lifetime Achievement, the highest award given by the state of South Carolina in the arts. The exhibition’s opening reception is Thursday, Nov. 19, 7-9 p.m. There will be two Coffee and Conversations throughout the run of the show. On Saturday, Nov. 21, 11 a.m.-noon, Blair will be joined by curator Campbell, and artists Isgett and Jaramillo. On Saturday, Dec. 12, 11 a.m.-noon, Blair will be joined by Campbell and artists Condon and Pendarvis. All programs are free and open to the public. Hampton III Gallery is located at 3110 Wade Hampton Blvd., in Gallery Centre, Taylors. Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. and on Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information call 864-268-2771, or e-mail: sandy@hamptoniiigallery.com.  

South Carolina artist Leo Twiggs uses Confederate flag to create art

[caption id="attachment_15555" align="alignright" width="150"]Leo Twiggs, photo by Jerry Siegel Leo Twiggs, photo by Jerry Siegel[/caption] Toward Last Flags, an exhibition of works by South Carolina artist Leo Twiggs, is on display at the Hampton III Gallery in Taylors, S.C. through Nov. 8. Three of Twiggs' works are in the State Art Collection, with two of the works traveling the state as part of the African-American Voice exhibition. In 2008, he received the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts in the Individual category. This Associated Press article by Susanne M. Schafer is running on media sites across the country:

Leo Twiggs’ paintings of shadowy Confederate flags and faceless men with bulls-eyes on their backs are a few of the haunting images he has developed living as a black man in the South. The 80-year-old South Carolina artist says he hopes the works, which some may see as divisive, spark thoughtful reactions and help people understand their shared history, even for those outside the South. “This Confederate flag, the Civil War, they are part of the history of all of us,” Twiggs said. “You take the stars off the bars, and it becomes a cross, maybe a railroad crossing. It can become a crossing over, something that we commemorate, and something we can cross over.” Jovial and chatty at his Orangeburg studio, Twiggs said he is enjoying his best year as an artist. He’s had more than 70 solo shows over his career, and three new shows recently opened in his home state in Myrtle Beach, Greenville and Taylors. Two of them highlight his use of Confederate flags — red, white, or blue smudged with brown or blood-red splotches. In several, the outlines of brown figures float in the background. Many flags are tattered, looking tired and rough. A black cow stands watch in some, recalling an animal Twiggs cared for as a child, growing up in segregated St. Stephens. “We were poor, but we had dignity,” Twiggs said. “Ours was a struggle that speaks to a struggle experienced by all mankind.” Sandy Rupp, owner of the Hampton III Gallery in Taylors, said Twiggs has been exploring flag images since the 1970s. “He’s not trying to divide everybody,” Rupp said. “He sees it as a historic symbol, a symbol of white supremacy that he makes into his own. He makes it his flag, and gives it his power.” As the aroma of hot wax fills the room, Twiggs uses a metal pen-like tool to drip warm wax on a rough piece of fabric. He colors it with hand-mixed vegetable dyes, and then removes the wax with an iron, repeating the process over and over. It takes up to a month to complete each composition. William Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia in Athens, said for many in the South, the flag represents “an unrepentant South, perhaps a South rising again.” “But Leo takes that image and lets it mutate, change, degrade, adapt, into an image that becomes part of his experience,” Eiland said. Other themes fill Twiggs’ work — the rebel flag morphs into a white railroad crossing sign, which divides many rural Southern towns; black ancestral mothers pose in their Sunday best; white boss men in wide-brimmed hats stand over ghostly black and white figures; white strings of hurricane-force winds whip bodies in a storm. Twiggs said his “Targeted Man” series of faceless men bearing bulls-eyes harkens back to the Ku Klux Klan using white robes and burning torches “to try to scare us.” But once the nation came under attack in the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, Twiggs said he realized the images also meant, “we are all targeted, we all have things to fear.”
Image courtesy of Hampton II Gallery: Leo Twiggs, Flag and Figure, 2014 (batik) 19" x 24" About Leo Twiggs Leo Twiggs was born in St. Stephen, S.C. He received his B.A. from Claflin University, later studied at the Arts Institute of Chicago and earned his M.A. at New York University, where he studied with the famed African American painter and muralist Hale Woodruff. He was the first African American to receive a Doctorate in Art Education from the University of Georgia. At South Carolina State University, he developed the Stanback Museum and established the University’s first art department. He was director of the museum and chair of the art department until he retired in 1998. Early in his career he began experimenting with the ancient process of batik as a painting medium. His batik paintings have won international recognition and numerous awards, and several were selected to hang in American Embassies in Rome, Togoland, Decca and Sierra Leone, among others. Twiggs was the first visual artist to receive the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. He received the Medal of Honor in the Arts from Winthrop University in 2004 and the Leadership Award from the Governors School Foundation in 2007. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of South Carolina in May 2012. Presently he is Distinguished Artist in Residence at Claflin University and Professor Emeritus at S.C. State University. Messages from Home: the Art of Leo Twiggs was published in 2011. The book won a National Indie Book Award in 2012.