Clemson University exhibition connects West Greenville’s past and present

Clemson University’s Center for Visual Arts was awarded a One-Time Project grant for the Sense of Place exhibition, which opened June 13 and runs through August 30 at the Center’s satellite location in Greenville.

From Clemson University’s Art Opportunities & Announcements by Greg Shelnutt:

Clemson University’s Art Department has been awarded a $5,000 grant by the South Carolina Arts Commission allowing the Center for Visual Arts at Clemson University to bring the internationally and nationally recognized editor, founder and curator of Fraction Magazine, David Bram to curate the Sense of Place exhibition that will be on display June 13 – August 30 in its satellite facility, the Center for Visual Arts-Greenville.

Bram invited four photographers to visit The Village of West Greenville to observe, learn and interpret what they discover through an artistic trained eye using the lens of a camera. “It is my sincerest hope that the results of this project will be a collection of works where the creative community as well as the existing neighborhood will share and connect with each other” expresses current program coordinator for the CVA-Greenville, Eugene Ellenberg. “The exhibit will be designed to spark conversations and genuine interactions which will empower the neighborhood while acknowledging their history.”

Art photographers invited to participate in this exhibit have a relevant body of work and strong photography portfolios that will help convey and bring together a relevant exhibit meant to honor its residents and surrounding community. The artists selected to participate in the execution of this exhibit are Leon Alesi, Dustin Chambers, Dawn Roe and Kathleen Robbins.

Photo by Dustin Chambers


Curatorial Statement:
In 1935, a photography program was added to the Information Division of the Farm Security Agency (FSA) to visually document the living and working conditions of farmers. The agency hired 12 photographers to travel around the United States, meeting and photographing its citizens. Many of these images were published in newspapers and magazines of the day. The idea was to show America to Americans, but it has also served as a historical document of a time and place. Nearly 80 years later, we have a record not only of the geographical appearance of the Great Plains, but the faces of those who lived there as well.

In 2008, I was involved in a large-scale project featuring Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I was part of a group of photographers asked to document the town, and the resulting images were included in a book and show entitled, “Through the Lens: Creating Santa Fe”.  The largest state-owned museum, The Palace of the Governors, now owns the entire collection of photographs.

When I was approached this spring with the opportunity to curate a show of photographs taken in a small section of Greenville, South Carolina, I was reminded of my previous experience in Santa Fe as well as the FSA photography project. I have never been to Greenville, though I was made aware of the rapid change and growth in the area: new restaurants, coffee shops, art spaces, and loft apartments.

With this in mind, my impulse was to put together a group of photographs that would provide a snapshot of Greenville today and could withstand the passing of time.  This collection would create a historic document for the town and its people through the exhibit, “A Sense of Place.”

I selected four photographers for their unique eye and ability to demonstrate the theme of community. Each was given very loose instructions; they could photograph whatever they wanted in the method of their preference as long as they stayed within a certain geographic area. Having previously worked with each photographer either as an advisor or as editor of Fraction Magazine, I trusted their vision and craft would present Greenville in all its beauty and distinctiveness.

Dustin Chambers was the first to arrive in Greenville and dove right into the culture.  The resulting portrait work is honest and engaging. Kathleen Robbins spent a day with a youth boxing club, encapsulating their spirit and brazenness in her portraits. Leon Alessi spent time walking around and interacting with people.  His quiet portraits show aspects of both new and old Greenville.  Dawn Roe took a different approach and worked solely with the architecture and landscape. Her diptychs reflect her unique photographic style while integrating landmarks of Greenville.

Perhaps the most unexpected element of this show is how strongly three of the four selected artists gravitated towards the people of Greenville.  This was a pleasant surprise; their faces reflect the past and the future.  This collection is meant to do just that: connect our remembrance of the past to hope for the future in a glimpse of the present.  “A Sense of Place” creates a snapshot of history that we hope will be of interest for generations to come.
— David Bram, July 2014

To see more images and read the artists’ statements, please visit: