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Verner Award recipient Mary Whyte releases portrait book

We the People hits just in time for Veterans Day

Internationally acclaimed watercolor artist Mary Whyte, a 2013 recipient of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the arts, has a poignant new collection of watercolor portraits being released just in time for Veterans Day this coming Monday. Cover image of We the People: Portrait of Veterans in America by Mary WhyteWe the People: Portraits of American Veterans, is just available through University of South Carolina Press. The collection of watercolor portraits of military veterans from each of the 50 states: men and women from all walks of life and every branch of the military. This moving tribute by Whyte captures the dedication, responsibility, and courage of these true patriots, instilling in us a greater sense of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice their own lives to protect the hard-earned freedom we all enjoy. Mary Whyte is a Charleston based artist and author whose watercolor paintings have earned international recognition. Her works have been exhibited in galleries and museums and featured in publications nationally and internationally. Whyte is the author of five books including Working South and Down Bohicket Road. She is the recipient of the Portrait Society of America’s Gold Medal and the Verner Award, South Carolina’s highest honor in the arts. CBS "Sunday Morning" viewers will get to see an interview with Whyte this coming Sunday, and she is to appear Thursday, Nov. 14 on SCETV's "Palmetto Scene." An exhibition of the 50 portraits is running through Dec. 22 at City Gallery in Charleston. The Post and Courier called the collection "a feat of artistry." It will go on a national tour in the new year. [caption id="attachment_42649" align="aligncenter" width="600"]"Family," single mother, watercolor on paper, 29 x 27.5 inches, 2018. "Family," single mother, watercolor on paper, 29 x 27.5 inches, 2018. Tanya, Hanahan, SC, Marines E-4, 2006-2009[/caption]  

New book takes dogs in literature for a walk

Furman librarian Jeffrey Makala co-edits anthology

Jeffrey Makala, Furman University special collections librarian and university archivist at the James B. Duke Library, has co-edited a new book about dogs in literature. The book, “In Dogs We Trust: An Anthology of American Dog Literature,” is co-edited by Jacob F. Rivers III and published by the University of South Carolina Press. A book signing event is set for Saturday, June 8, 10 a.m.-noon at M. Judson Booksellers in downtown Greenville. University of South Carolina Press offers this description of “In Dogs We Trust”:

“‘In Dogs We Trust’ is a grand anthology that celebrates the many sterling virtues of the canine species. Dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years as working partners. By the 19th century, their role expanded to companions. American dog literature reflects this gradual but dramatic shift that continues even today. Our household dogs are quite literally closer than ever to us: sleeping in our beds, getting dressed in Halloween costumes, and serving as emotional support companions.

“The first comprehensive anthology of American dog literature, ‘In Dogs We Trust’ features stories, anecdotes and poetry from periodicals dating from the 19th to the early 20th century. By mining the vast American literary archive of this time, Rivers and Makala reveal the mystique and magic of the human-canine relationship and what they believe is one of the best connections humans have to the mysteries of the natural world.”

Rivers is the director for the Office of Veterans Services at the University of South Carolina and a teacher in the Department of English. He is the author of “Cultural Values in the Southern Sporting Narrative” and “Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen: 1830-1910.” Apart from his roles as special collections librarian and university archivist at Furman, Makala is owner of Two Terriers Press. He has written about 19th century American literature and book history in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America; Literature & History; Printing History; and The Oxford Companion to the Book. He is also an editor for The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP News).

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U of SC Press celebrates the life and work of Boyd Saunders

The University of South Carolina Press has recently published A VIEW FROM THE SOUTH: THE NARRATIVE ART OF BOYD SAUNDERS, by Thomas Dewey II with a Foreword by Charles R. Mack.

Event TODAY at U of S.C. Thomas Cooper Library, 4:30 p.m., Columbia

A VIEW FROM THE SOUTH is a celebration of the prolific artist's heartfelt devotion to the people and places of the American South. It is the first comprehensive examination of the life and art of Boyd Saunders, one of America’s premier printmakers. In this celebration of an enduring and widely acclaimed career as an artist, Thomas Dewey II chronicles Saunders’s work not only as a printmaker, but also as a painter, sculptor, illustrator, author, educator, amateur musician, and sometimes horseman. With great care Dewey exposes the common thread that runs through Saunders’s visual expressions: his intriguing tales that reveal his heartfelt devotion to the people and places of the American South. Dewey has captured Saunders’s life story through intensive research as well as via a series of interviews with the artist over several years. Details of Saunders’s early life on a West Tennessee farm and his family’s long attachment to the land document a profound influence on his life, outlook, and art. But Saunders was also moved by literature—namely that of William Faulkner, whom he met while earning a master’s of fine art at the University of Mississippi. Saunders credits Faulkner with inspiring much of his work, demonstrated in his Spotted Horses, a limited volume of lithographs illustrating Faulkner’s short story of the same name, which was published by the University of South Carolina Press in 1989. Now a distinguished professor emeritus of the University of South Carolina, Saunders founded its Art Department’s printmaking program as well as a southern printmaker’s organization called the Southern Graphics Council. In the more than forty years since its founding the organization, now called SGC International, it has grown well beyond its southern borders and now serves twenty-five hundred members worldwide. A View from the South features more than 120 color images showcasing the themes, ideas, and techniques Saunders has used in his paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts. His art is exhibited throughout the world and is included in many private and public collections, including the Boston Public Library, the U.S. Wildlife Collection in Washington, D.C., and Shanxi University collection in China. A foreword is provided by Charles R. Mack, professor emeritus of art history at the University of South Carolina. Thomas Dewey II is a faculty emeritus associate professor of art history at the University of Mississippi. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history from Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dewey has published widely in professional journals and penned an entry, “Audubon in Mississippi,” in The Mississippi Encyclopedia. On March 14 Boyd Saunders will be celebrated by the University Libraries and the University South Carolinians Society in a 4:30 p.m. event at the Thomas Cooper Library, where Boyd Saunders will show a "mini-retrospective" and discuss "The Storyteller's Art."

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Pat Conroy to be celebrated at public memorial event

From The Beaufort Gazette Article by Stephen Fastenau; photo by Todd Bennett - KRT

[caption id="attachment_26272" align="alignright" width="250"]Pat Conroy and Cassandra King The late Pat Conroy is shown with his wife Cassandra King[/caption] Fans and friends of late Beaufort author Pat Conroy will have another chance to say goodbye next month. Conroy will be celebrated with a public memorial at 5 p.m. May 14 in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Conroy’s wife, Cassandra King, as well as friends and fellow writers Bernie Schein, Ellen Malphrus, Patti Callahan Henry, John Warley and historian Walter Edgar are expected to attend and participate. Singer Marlena Smalls will perform some of Conroy’s favorite songs. Conroy died March 4 at age 70 following a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Planning for the public memorial began about the time of his funeral. People who weren’t able to make the funeral or stayed away fearing the large crowd will now have another setting to remember Conroy, said University of South Carolina Press director Jonathan Haupt, who worked closely with Conroy through his Story River Books imprint and helped organize the memorial. “Certainly the need has not gone away,” Haupt said. “The loss still seems raw and new for a lot of people.” The best-selling novelist will also be recognized with the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, held Oct. 20-23 this year in Beaufort. The schedule for the festival should be complete in the next few days, Haupt said. After a successful days-long celebration for Conroy’s 70th birthday this past fall, organizers decided to continue the event. The lineup looks to be as much a celebration of Conroy as it is a nod to the Southern writing and novelists he worked to foster. “He was a very generous person,” USC Beaufort Center for the Arts director Bonnie Hargrove said. As opposed to the weekend-long celebration in the fall that will feature a full slate of fellow writers and family members, the list of presenters for the May memorial needed to be short. Haupt wanted people who could speak directly of what Conroy meant to his friends and fans and keep the program within about an hour. All the participants were willing, he said. Warley is Conroy’s friend, author and former classmate at The Citadel. Conroy met Malphrus during a trip to Maine, pushed her to finish her book “Untying the Moon” and was there as Malphrus co-chaired his birthday festival last year. Callahan Henry was also a participant in the birthday festival and is a fellow best-selling author. “He crossed that wide river and with him he took so much light, so much brightness, a brokenness that he turned to beauty,” she wrote on her Facebook page after Conroy’s death. “The world is better for having him and dimmer without him.” Any fear of the outdoor memorial becoming too somber should be erased when Conroy’s longtime friend and noted jokester Schein begins to speak. Schein was fond of telling people he actually wrote Conroy’s books, once told Conroy the president wanted the author to visit the White House and caused Conroy to dodge calls from Barbara Streisand — fearing a Schein prank — when she wanted to turn his “Prince of Tides” into a movie. “I think we’re all still mourning in our own way, but there is a need to laugh and celebrate and remember,” Haupt said.

Inaugural Deckle Edge Literary Festival to honor traditions and forge new ground

Note: One Columbia for Arts and History received a South Carolina Arts Commission Quarterly Grant to help support the Deckle Edge Literary Festival. The inaugural Deckle Edge Literary Festival, taking place Feb. 19 – 21 in Columbia, S.C., features readings, book signings, panel presentations, exhibitors, writers’ workshops, activities for children and young adult readers, and a range of other literary events for many interests and all ages. Events take place in or near downtown Columbia, and many events are free. A sample of events: Friday, Feb. 19

  • 1 - 2 p.m.: Top 20 "Outside the Box" Book Marketing Ideas, Shari Stauch, $30 per person, Historic Columbia's Woodrow Wilson Family Home
  • 2 - 3 p.m.: Plotting Strategies for Short Stories, Novels, and Plays, $30 per person, Paula Gail Benson, Historic Columbia's Woodrow Wilson Family Home
  • 7 p.m.: Opening Night Celebration - Concert and Burlesque Show, Columbia Museum of Art, $10
Saturday, Feb. 20
  • 9 - 10 a.m.: S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Workshop for Kids, free, presented by The Watering Hole Poetry Organization, Tapp's Art Center
  • 11 a.m. - noon: Hub City Press Executive Director Betsy Teter moderates a panel of First Novel Prize winners Matt Matthews, James E. McTeer and Susan Tekulve, Columbia Museum of Art
  • 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.: Conversation with Southern Superstar Mary Alice Monroe, Columbia Museum of Art
Sunday, Feb. 21
  • 9 - 10:15 a.m.: Overcoming Creative Anxiety: 5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Writing & Remain Calm, Cassie Premo-Steele, $30 per person, location TBA
  • 1 - 2:30 p.m.: Writing and Healing with Ed Madden, $30 per person, Historic Columbia's Seibels House
  • 3 - 4 p.m.: IndieSC Launch - Calling all indie authors and aspiring writers in S.C! Presentation of free self-publishing platform by the South Carolina State Library, Columbia Museum of Art
View the full schedule online. Read a Free Times article about the festival. While Deckle Edge has its roots in the storied tradition of South Carolina’s literary life, festival organizers are committed to forging new ground and hope to appeal to regional and national audiences while remaining a community-focused effort. Festival partners make up an extensive network of South Carolina literary and cultural organizations, including Richland Library, the University of South Carolina PressHub City Writers Project, the S.C. Center for Children’s Books & LiteracyEd Madden and the Columbia Office of the Poet LaureateSouth Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, the Low Country Initiative for Literary ArtsJasper Magazine, Richland County schools, and others. Deckle Edge is built on the strong foundation of the South Carolina Book Festival, a project of the Humanities CouncilSC , which announced the festival’s dissolution this past summer. The Humanities CouncilSC is now actively pursuing a variety of year-round statewide literary initiatives and has been supportive of the plans for Deckle Edge as a new literary event to be hosted in Columbia. “The S.C. Book Festival was a tremendous gift to readers and writers in the South, and we’re grateful to the Humanities CouncilSC for sharing their expertise with us as we create something new,” said Deckle Edge co-chair Darien Cavanaugh. “We would not have been able to move so quickly on launching Deckle Edge without their guidance and good will.” In addition to local talent, the festival will highlight a handful of New York Times bestselling authors from the Carolinas, beloved favorites from past S.C. Book Festivals, and many voices not previously heard from at South Carolina literary events. “This is Columbia’s literary festival,” said Deckle Edge co-chair Annie Boiter-Jolley, “but it’s also joining the larger conversation about literature of and in the South. We look forward to sharing our vision with writers and readers, and to hearing from them as to what Deckle Edge might become in future years.” Via: Deckle Edge Literary Festival

Mary Alice Monroe to judge third SC High School Writing Contest

Deadline for students to submit entries is Nov. 2. New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe will judge the third annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest. Monroe, an Isle of Palms resident and noted conservationist, has written nearly 20 novels, most set in coastal South Carolina and many reflecting the importance of the relationships between people and places. She follows novelist Pat Conroy and South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth as judge of the contest, which is presented by the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina Press. “We’re excited and honored to have Ms. Monroe as our grand judge,” said Steven Lynn, dean of the South Carolina Honors College and founder of the contest. “We know these acclaimed writers have busy schedules, and for one as celebrated as Mary Alice Monroe to take time to read the work of young writers tells me she’s interested in the future of our state.” The topic from previous years remains the same this year: “How should we improve the state of South Carolina?” High school juniors and seniors can respond in 750 words or less in the genre of their choice—poetry, fiction, prose, essay, or drama. Monetary prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third-place winners, and USC Press will publish all the writings by the winners and finalists in Writing South Carolina: Selections from the Third High School Writing Contest under its Young Palmetto Books imprint. Monroe will write the foreword. “My personal motto is ‘Make a Difference,’” Monroe said. “The topic speaks to me because it encourages all of us to consider ways in which we can give back to our community.” The program includes a second round in which finalists will gather at USC in Columbia for an impromptu writing contest. They’ll also hear remarks from Monroe, tour the university’s library collections, and receive books signed by South Carolina authors. Monroe will judge the finalists’ submitted and impromptu work. Winners and finalists will receive cash awards. First-place winners receive $1,000; second-place winners receive $500; third-place winners receive $250. The first-place winner in the senior class receives the Walter Edgar Award, funded by SCHC alumnus Thad Westbrook and named for the well-known USC professor and South Carolina historian. The second-place winner receives the Dorothy S. Williams Award, which is funded by an anonymous donor and named for the late public school educator in Anderson County. “I’ve entered contests, both as a student and as a professional,” Monroe said. “It’s part of the journey of a writer. I’ve won, placed with honorable mention, and of course, did not place. It’s exciting—a rush—to win, of course, a validation and a time to celebrate. Not to win or place can be a burn, but once the pain passes, I go over the scores and critiques carefully. A good judge or critique points out what the writer did well, not only what the writer did wrong. There is a lesson in that too, and getting good feedback is essential to fostering good writing and good thinking.” Deadline for students to submit entries is Nov. 2. Students can find out more about the contest and how to email their work here: http://schc.sc.edu/writing-contest. Via: S.C. Honors College  

Saluda High teacher helps her writers discover world beyond small town

From The State Column by Salley McInerney, photos by Tracy Glantz
[caption id="attachment_19141" align="alignright" width="298"]Saluda High School Kelly Minick teaches English at Saluda High School. Each year a number of her students have been finalists in the South Carolina High School Writing Contest. Here, Minick works with students Breanna Boatwright, left, and Caitlyn Sanford in AP Literature.[/caption] SALUDA COUNTY, SC — On the town square of Saluda, the double doors leading into Rexall DRUGS are covered over in brown paper. It’s just as dark, peering through the front door of the SALUDA movie theater where a sign on the glass boasts “ARTIC AIRE” – a tiny penguin poised between the two words. To the casual observer, it’s tempting to regard this small burgh some 40 miles west of Columbia as merely a quiet place to pass through. On the outskirts of town, cows graze in bucolic pastures. Tractors are parked in tin sheds. No, you simply wouldn’t think much was brewing in Saluda on a mild morning in March. And you would be wrong. Inside English teacher Kelly Minick’s classroom at Saluda High School, a pitch-perfect storm of expression has cut loose; a literary landslide has begun. Eight of the 29 finalists in the prestigious South Carolina High School Writing Contest – set to conclude this Saturday in Columbia – have emerged from this place. “Somehow in this classroom we have developed a sense of camaraderie and I don’t know the reason why,” Minick said. “I just stand up and do what I do. The only thing I can think of is that I have given my students an opportunity to be creative. To see things from a different point of view. And, I have pushed them.” Indeed, the class on this recent morning is a rapid-fire discussion of characterization. Words like “verisimilitude” (having the appearance of truth) are used. Phrases like “All roads lead to tone and theme” are not uncommon. A little Latin gets thrown in – en medias res – in the middle of things. Names of novels get bandied about. William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” And some of literature’s most vivid characters too. Captain Ahab, from “Moby-Dick.” All the while, Minick never stops moving. She charges to the blackboard. Writes down something a student has said. She perches on a desk, listens to a student. She points to another student. “I want some people who haven’t talked to me,” she said. She goes back to the blackboard. She perches. She smiles. She cajoles. She pushes. “Ms. Minick is a teacher in the truest sense of the word,” said student Alex Lybrand. “Throwing knowledge at a kid is one thing. Ms. Minick opens our minds to all these ideas. She is allowing us to use our potential. She allows us to put down our ideas in ways that we would never have thought of. She makes me see things that I did not notice before. I don’t feel like there are any wrong answers in here. We don’t make mistakes in this class. We just have different interpretations.” Student Lori Able describes the magic of Minick’s teaching this way: “This class changes your view of the world, especially coming from Saluda.” Which, ironically enough, is precisely where the 35-year-old teacher is from. “I was born and raised in the house I live right across from now.” Minick graduated from Saluda High in 1997 and then Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina with a degree in English. “The last thing I wanted to do was be a teacher. I didn’t want to deal with the bureaucracy of it.” But, Minick said, in 2001, “My mom ran into someone who worked at the grocery store who said, ‘Do you know they are looking for an English teacher at the high school? ’ ” The rest is English, if you will. Minick applied and was offered the position. Did she know anything about teaching? “Absolutely not. Noboby taught me how to teach, but I did know my content. So, I taught what made sense to me. I want my students to be able to read, interpret their literature, form opinions based upon the text and then figure out how it is relevant to their lives.” And how does she describe her students? “Besides brilliant? They are from Saluda County. They come from all kinds of homes and all kinds of backgrounds.” And this Saturday, eight of them will undoubtedly shine in the big city, where they will be given 40 minutes to write on a subject disclosed just before work begins. The contest is sponsored by the South Carolina Honors College and the University of South Carolina Press. Novelist Pat Conroy and South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth will judge the students’ work. And what will Minick’s parting advice be to the students who hail from a small town where a store’s windows are covered in brown paper but where she has opened wide a world beyond Saluda County borders? “I’ll tell them, ‘Just do what you do. Just do what you know how to do. ’ ”

Poets and writers invited to submit work to Fall Lines – a literary convergence

Poets and writers are invited to submit previously unpublished poetry, essays, short fiction and flash fiction to volume two of Fall Lines -- a literary convergence. While the editors hope to attract the work of poets and writers from the Carolinas and the Southeastern U.S., acceptance of work is not dependent upon residence. Submissions will be accepted through March 1, 2015. Fall Lines is a literary journal based in Columbia, S.C. and presented by Jasper Magazine in partnership with the University of South Carolina Press, Muddy Ford Press, Richland Library and One Columbia. With a single, annual publication, Fall Lines is distributed in lieu of Jasper Magazine’s regularly scheduled summer issue. Please limit short fiction to 2,000 words or less; flash fiction to 350 – 500 words per submission; essays to 1,200 words; and poetry to three pages (Times New Roman 12 pt.) While you are invited to enter up to five items, each item should be sent individually as a single submission. Please include with each submission a cover sheet stating your name, e-mail address, and U.S. Post Office address. There is a $3 reading fee for each short story; for up to three poems; for up to three flash fiction submissions; or for each essay. Submit work online at https://jaspermagazine.submittable.com/submit. Publication in Fall Lines will be determined by a panel of judges. Accepted authors will be notified in May 2015, with a publication date in June 2015.  Accepted authors will receive two copies of the journal.

USC Press brings back Palmetto Poetry Series

From The State:

 Nearly three years after poet Kwame Dawes left the University of South Carolina for the University of Nebraska, one of his publishing projects is getting a second life. The current rendition of the Palmetto Poetry Series just released its first book — “New and Selected Poems,” by South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth — under its new editor, Nikky Finney. The selection process for future publications is under way, guided by Finney and a five-member board: Dawes, Wentworth, Terrance Hayes, Charlene Spearen and Ray McManus. “It seems to me that South Carolina is particularly known for fiction writers,” said Wentworth. “We have many who are New York Times best-sellers. But we have poets. To have Nikky Finney and Terrance Hayes win the National Book Award back-to-back says something about the quality of those poets.” Jonathan Haupt, director of the University of South Carolina Press, agrees. He’s credited with reviving the series. “I believe that a state that boasts the oldest poetry society in the nation and two recent National Book Award winners in poetry deserves this kind of opportunity for its current and future poets,” he said. “I chose the board in consultation with Nikky. We wanted a group of diverse talents with a likeminded commitment to supporting the accomplishments of South Carolina’s established poets while also discovering new voices as-of-yet unheard. This is that group. There’s no question about it.” Among the criteria for publication in the series is a tie to South Carolina. “You might have been born and raised here,” said Wentworth. “Nikky Finney is definitely a South Carolina poet, though she’s lived in Kentucky. Terrance Hayes is rooted here.” Another criterion is excellence. Haupt describes Finney’s participation as a key indicator of the series’ ambitions. In a press release, he noted: “As with last year’s announcement that Pat Conroy was joining us as editor of our fiction imprint, Story River Books, Nikky Finney’s appointment as editor of the Palmetto Poetry Series solidifies USC Press’s commitment to finding and fostering exceptional literary talents here in our home state. “Nikky’s monumental skills and unparalleled instincts as a poet make her an ideal choice for reinvigorating our poetry series. Moreover, she brings to the Palmetto Poetry Series undeniable evidence of the power and responsibility of poets to reshape lives, both at home and elsewhere.” Wentworth says that Finney exemplifies the goals of the series. “Her work is grounded in this place and in history and social justice. Though we don’t necessarily associate those themes with experimental form, her last book in particular is incredibly innovative. “That’s such a perfect fit for what we’re trying to do: looking at history in new ways, looking at experience in new ways. In many ways, that’s the type of work we hope to publish. Nikky’s personality and warmth will attract a lot of people in. You make an immediate connection with her. Poetry series can seem elitist or skewed a certain way—Nikky is the last person you’d see that way.” Wentworth also explores themes with a broad reach, as her “New and Selected Poems” shows. Along with pieces from her collections “Noticing Eden,” “Despite Gravity,” and “The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle,” the book contains 28 new poems. For her book launch at the State Library on April 18, she read a variety, among them “Newlyweds,” which has become a popular choice for weddings and was turned into a choral piece by composer Nathan Jones. She also read a few works based on short newspaper stories that caught her eye—such as “Runaway Cow Tracked Down in Germany,” which begins:
A cow named Yvonne, whose escape kept a corner of Bavaria on tender hooks, has turned herself in after three months on the run.
“I shape them, put a form on them, and whatnot,” she said. “They’re either very funny or very dark.” What makes poetry the art perhaps most relevant to daily life, said Wentworth, is the way “it shapes our collective experiences. Everyone is struggling with making sense of things. Reading poems is a great way to discover meaning. There’s a redemptive quality to finding your own experiences, whether love or profound loss, reflected in someone else’s words. You don’t feel so alone when you find a poem that articulates what you’re feeling.”
Via: The State

Verner Award recipient Mary Whyte “paints pennies”

2013 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award recipient Mary Whyte recently talked about her work and the current state of the art market for "5 Questions with Ashley Byrd" for  South Carolina Radio Network. (Listen to Whyte’s explanation of painting pennies – 56 sec.)

Mary WhyteMary Whyte is recognized around the world for her lifelike watercolors depicting working-class Southerners, Gullah Geechee culture and people she described as “pennies” who are overlooked by too many of us. Whyte is the 2013 recipient of South Carolina’s highest arts honor, The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award. The Johns Island-based artist is the subject of a biographical collection, her third book of work published by USC press and authored by Martha Severens, curator of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. Ashley Byrd: You painted in oils, and taught yourself a different medium, watercolor. How in the world did you do that? Mary Whyte: I started painting when I was 16 in watercolor….and I was the one young person in the class. Back then, there certainly wasn’t the internet and access to You Tube and videos on how to do anything. There weren’t any watercolor instructors back then. I think I’ve only had two or three teachers ever in watercolor. But I did go to art school and of course there the training is mostly in drawing and oil –and watercolor traditionally has never been seen as a real mainstay in art; it’s always been viewed as a lightweight, a preparatory medium. The serious art schools,  academies in Europe just never really teach watercolor. So it was really just through going to museums and studying the works of the masters that I painted with it. I always loved it, just the way it goes down, the sparkles it leaves behind on the paper. I think we learn by simply doing something over and over again. Byrd: Tell me about the use of light, a realistic light in your paintings: Whyte: As a teacher I tell my students that it is light that describes form, and it’s how light sits on a surface or rakes across a surface or gets lost in a fluffy surface, that describes what we are looking at.  But it’s more than that. To me, light is also magic. and it can really create the mood to a painting,  where the light is coming from, whether it’s dim light or noontime light, backlighting. I think it can really set that stage and it is really important to me as it is to most artists. Byrd: In your compilation of working people, these paintings of real people are not too precious, not too stereotypical, but ordinary people and just beautiful. How do you choose your subjects? Whyte: In this new biography book, we also have a collectors edition..and I chose for the clasp a penny. And for me, the penny is symbolic of the people that I paint. and the best way I can explain it is that when most people walk and they see a penny lying on the sidewalk, most people will step over the penny and keep walking. And so, that’s who I paint. I paint pennies, people who are often overlooked and passed by. And I think that’s where we find the real humanity. I firmly believe that you can take almost anybody, give them a makeover, give them a script and you have this sort of pseudo-celebrity person. But what I want to paint are the people that fall under this radar: real, true, honest Americans. Byrd: How do you approach people, these pennies you see and you want to paint them? Whyte: I really like painting people I don’t know, because I feel I don’t have this obligation to them. Of course, all of my models are compensated and they sign a permission form and they understand what might become of this painting. But when I see someone on the sidewalk, I’ve never regretted asking someone to pose for me, even if they said no. But I have regretted the people I didn’t ask. I guess what I look for is a certain profoundness in a person. You can’t make that happen. It either is or it isn’t. And so when I see that in a person or a person in a certain situation, I simply go up and I tell them that i am an artist and I want to make some sketched or to take some photos for a painting, I always get the same  two reactions from the people. The first is that they say “You want to paint me?” and I love that, that sort of unassuming surprise of someone, that unpolished, true, natural heart of a human being. The second is, “Wait, I have to go fix my hair” and I say “No, no I don’t want you to fix your hair, I want you to be just like this, just as you are.” So I have actually had very few people say no to me. Byrd: Because you are truly interested in them as a person and that surprises them…. Whyte: That is exactly it!  When you show sincere interest and appreciation of a person, they will open up. Being an artist, I have had so many wonderful doors opened to me, as a stranger, people that when they hear that I am in the area painting or that I want to paint them, they invite me into their home, they have given me places to stay—-to me, a stranger. Byrd: Tell me about the market right now.The newest ways that we communicate these days, through social media, does that help or hurt people trying to make a living in fine art? Whyte: That’s a yes and no answer. Certainly with the advent of social media, it can certainly increase the market range of an artist so that an artist is able to show their work to a somebody in Europe and sell it to that person in Europe. I also think that in some ways it doesn’t help us as artists in that there are so many artists who have their work out there and so many artists that call themselves plein air painters or atelier painters that those particular categories of artists I think begin to lose their specialness when there are so many artists doing it. That being said, social media does give many more opportunities for artists to find their niche in the art world and to locate a certain type of client that their work may appeal to. As far as how the market is right now, I think that a lot of artists are struggling. We are so closely tied to real estate, if people are not building and buying walls, you’re not putting something on the walls. For many artists, it’s become a more competitive market.
Via: South Carolina Radio Network