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Who’s-who of female #SCartists headline new project

Home-grown historic women to be honored by home-grown talent

[caption id="attachment_40815" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Eartha Kitt placesetting by Mana Hewitt Eartha Kitt placesetting by Mana Hewitt for The Supper Table.[/caption]
The Jasper Project announced its most ambitious multidisciplinary arts project to date – The Supper Table – enlisting the talents of more than 50 of South Carolina’s most outstanding women artists from the fields of visual, literary, theatrical arts, and film. An homage to Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist art installation, The Dinner Party, and using Chicago’s project as a loose model, Jasper Project Executive Director Cindi Boiter conceived of The Supper Table as an innovative way of honoring some of South Carolina's largely un-celebrated, yet groundbreaking women in history. After consulting with experts like Marjorie Spruill, professor emeritus in women’s history at the University of South Carolina, Boiter selected 12 historic South Carolina women who, via their work in the arts, medicine, law, business, athletics, entertainment, and more, changed the course of human history. Using the model created by Chicago, Boiter commissioned Richland Library Maker Coordinator Jordan Morris to create a 12’ x 12’ x 12’ wooden table at which visual artists would create place-settings inspired by and honoring the historic women. In addition to the 12 visual artists, a dozen artists each from the literary, theatrical arts, and film were also invited to participate. The result is a multidisciplinary arts installation and performance which will premiere in September along with the release of:
  • a book Setting The Supper Table,
  • the premiere of a series of 12 looped 90-second films,
  • a staged oration by 12 women actors based on essays written by 12 literary artists,
  • and, of course, the installation of the table itself, complete with 12 place-settings.
Funded in part by a Connected Communities grant from Central Carolina Community Foundation, The Supper Table premiere begins Friday, Sept. 6 at Trustus Theatre with a celebration, performance, and panel presentation before moving Sunday, Sept. 8 to Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for another premiere celebration and the installation of The Supper Table, complete with films and a collection of 12 original portraits of the honored women created by Artfields People’s Choice winner Kirkland Smith. After, it will travel to other venues in the state throughout 2020. In addition to the hand-crafted table with artisanal place-settings, the books, looped films, and portraits, the installation will also include three walls comprised of 120 hand-embossed tiles, each celebrating an additional history-making woman from South Carolina, some living and some deceased, called an "Array of Remarkable SC Women." These tiles were hand-painted this past spring by women and girls from the state's Midlands region. The women honored at The Supper Table range from indigo entrepreneur Eliza Lucas Pinckney to college founders Mary McLeod Bethune and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright to ground-breaking law professor Sarah Leverette, who died last August. The honored subjects also include Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Matilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angeline and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, and Modjeska Monteith Simkins. Eight of the 12 place-settings are devoted to women of color. Visual artists involved include Michaela Pilar Brown, Mana Hewitt, Eileen Blyth, Laurie Brownell McIntosh, Olga Yukhno, Flavia Lovatelli, Bohumila Augustinova, Lori Isom, Renee Roullier, Tonya Gregg, B. A. Hohman, and Heidi Darr-Hope. Jordan Morris created the actual table and Kathryn Van Aernum is the official photographer. The city of Columbia’s Brenda Oliver assisted with tiles along with Diane Hare. Literary artists include South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, Eva Moore, Claudia Smith Brinson, Carla Damron, Candace Wiley, Christina Xan, Qiana Whitted, Meeghan Kane, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Jennifer Bartell. Boiter is also writing an introductory essay for the book. Film artists include Emmy award-winning filmmaker Betsy Newman, Laura Kissel, Roni Nicole, Faye Riley, Katly Hong, Ebony Wilson, Jordan Mullen, Steffi Brink, Carleen Maur, Lee Ann Kornegay, Lillian Burke, and Tamara Finkbeiner with Josetra Robinson. Kornegay is also creating The Making of the Supper Table, a full-length film that will premiere in spring 2020. Indie Grits Lab’s Mahkia Greene is overseeing the filmmakers. Vicky Saye Henderson is overseeing the casting and directing of the theatrical artists.
For more information about The Supper Table,visit its Kickstarter campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table.

University of South Carolina professor films the “Cotton Road”

Filmmaker Laura Kissel received a South Carolina Arts Commission Media Fellowship in 2007/2008.  Her documentary, "Cotton Road," has been screened at festivals and on college campuses across the country, including the Santa Monica Independent Film Festival, where it was awarded best documentary feature. From the University of South Carolina Story by Glenn Hare

At one point in Laura Kissel’s newest film a shopping cart rolls through aisles of low-priced blouses, slacks, jackets and sweaters. It’s a critical scene in “Cotton Road,” an award-winning documentary, that follows the journey of American-grown cotton across the Pacific Ocean to textile and clothing manufacturers in China, and the return trip of dresses, pants, socks and underwear that end up in retail outlets across the U.S. Laura Kissel“It’s a global phenomenon that I feel hadn’t been fully explored in film,” explains Kissel (pictured right), a filmmaker and media arts professor in the School of Visual Art and Design at Carolina. “The idea started in a small town in rural Georgia where I was working on another film about a cotton farmer.” Fascinated by the process, she learned that the majority — 75 percent, in fact — of all the cotton grown in America is shipped to China to be manufactured into clothing and other products and then shipped back. For a year, Kissel filmed more than 150 hours of footage. Starting in Aiken County, she documented the planting and harvesting, and then followed the cotton to the port of Savannah, Ga. During the first leg of this international odyssey, farmers, gin operators, truck drivers and commodities brokers explain their role in getting the fluffy plant from the fields to southeast China. “It’s a worrisome crop,” South Carolina grower Carl Brown tells the camera. “You worry about it from the time you plant it. You worry about it when you’re getting ready to pick it. You worry about it when you get it picked. The blasted thing will teach you something every year. And most of the time it teaches you something you didn’t want to know.” Once in China, “Cotton Road” focuses on lives of warehouse employees, factory workers, plant managers and even a factory cook, each explaining their role in transforming raw cotton into thread, thread into bolts of cloth and finally cloth into garments. The film records their lives in Hangzhou, Changzhou and Shanghai, where Kissel lived for seven months. “The first time, I think the smell (of cotton) is terrible,” Cathie Xu says in the film. Xu is a logistics and warehouse employee working near Shanghai. “But my boss tells me it’s the smell of money. Now, I like the smell.” Liu Chengfeng, a 19-year-old textile worker, is in the factory to help her family. “My mother said we must repair the roof right away, otherwise the house will flood when it rains,” Chengfeng says while facing the camera. “When I saw they repaired our house, I realized my schooling was over.” [caption id="attachment_17076" align="alignright" width="235"]Textile worker Textile worker in Changzhou, China[/caption] Chengfeng’s story isn’t unusual. Many young women leave China’s rural provinces in search of better lives in factory cities. Chengfeng is part of the largest migration of people in human history. The number of people living and working away from their homes in China is estimated to be 160 million to 230 million people. The impact of Western production standards is also made clear. “Some of my customers would like to give me orders, but the problem is that some American orders require factory inspection,” complains Jiang Guifang while walking through her factory. Guifang is the general manager of the Shanghai Sky-High Fashion Co., a small garment company. “The factory inspection standards are very, very high. For example, no working overtime. If they work overtime, you need to pay them several times their salary. How can we afford those salaries on the prices offered by American companies? I can tell you the truth: All companies that have ‘passed’ inspection have actually done something underhandedly.” In addition to a China-based producer, Kissel was helped by several UofSC faculty members in the making of “Cotton Road.” Music professor Fang Man composed the score, while language and literature professors Michael Hill and Jie Guo helped translate the Chinese to English. Since its completion earlier this year, the documentary has been screened at festivals and on college campuses across the country, including the Santa Monica Independent Film Festival where it was awarded best documentary feature. “Cotton Road” goes on to illustrate how the combination of low-cost labor and the appetite for cheap consumer goods is the force pushing this global transaction. “Clothing production travels to places where labor costs less and ‘human resources’ are plentiful. Most clothing is made by hand and not mechanized,” Kissel says. The industry needs people to sew on sleeves and buttons. Combine that with Western society’s rapacious consumption for cheap goods. “We consume and consume and consume. Somebody is going to have to supply that demand. China has become the manufacturer for the world. “I wanted to implicate the consumer in some way, to bring the consumer into the story,” Kissel says. “The best way to really do that was to think of the life cycle of the  clothing we buy, which we are so quick to discard. It’s the consumer’s responsibility to be aware that our consumption habits have negative impacts on the environment and human condition.”