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.)

Carl Blair, Elation

Carl Blair, Elation, 2006 (acrylic on canvas) 54″ x 64″

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.