Confessions from Eleven of the South's Greatest Artists


Published:

Cedric SMith, Jensen Hande, Sal Rodriguez

Shrouded in mystery and myth, the South is, perhaps, the most culture-rich area of our great country and therefore has seen no shortage of artists. 

A select few, however, see the South for what it is- taking from its physical, spiritual, historical and emotional domains, and in turn creating transcendent works of art that propel us forward and shape our way of thinking.

 

Cedric Smith

Hometown: Thomaston, Georgia

Medium: Mixed-media paintings, photography

"Smith creates large, provocative, mixed-media paintings that conjure up the absence of African Americans in advertising and popular brands, many of which were created by African Americans and conveniently white washed over."

To say Cedric Smith is prolific would be an understatement. He seems to be constantly creating, researching and working through ideas. Many know him for his photography work. A self-taught artist in all respects, he has a way of creating intimate spaces within the walls of his photographs, making an indelible connection between the subject matter and camera, and giving us, the audience, a rare feast of the eyes. His mixed-media paintings, however, delve deep into life growing up in the rural south. Taking from a wide range of historical sources, most notably brand advertising and photography, Smith creates large, provocative, mixed-media paintings that conjure up the absence of African Americans in advertising and popular brands, many of which were created by African Americans and conveniently white washed over. The paintings themselves are beautifully rich, aesthetically pleasing and deceptively simple, qualities that most artists spend their entire careers trying to achieve. Most notable however is the way in which Smith seems to reclaim this power, no doubt through extreme diligence, and make it seem effortless. Some of these pieces are on public view at the Francis Walker Museum in Thomaston, GA, the Tubman Museum in Macon, GA, and Morris Brown College in Atlanta, GA. cedricsmithphotography.com 

 

June Stratton

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

Medium: Oil, silver leaf on aluminum 

"She attributes her inspiration to the South’s abundance of natural beauty and its sublime coastal estuarine environment. "

June Stratton’s paintings are often whimsical blurred visions of fantasy that immediately transport you to a place of fragility. She’s been working as an artist since 1989, working mostly in Seattle, but in 2010 decided to move to Savannah. “When I lived in Seattle I was known mostly for my dark moody tonalist landscapes,” says Stratton, “when I moved to the South I used the change of environment to reinvent myself as an artist. The funny thing is in my current surrealist work the landscapes have crept back into my paintings…I believe that if you are not pushing yourself then you’re not creating.” Her current aesthetic blends photorealistic portraiture with a surreal touch, reminiscent of Magritte, though perhaps entirely more fantastical. “I start from an idea I have in my head then find the appropriate model and collaborate with them. I take hundreds of photos and sometimes my initial idea evolves into something completely different once I review them. I create a photo mockup complete with the surrealistic elements like clouds, water and nature that is my coastal environment. Using this mockup as a guide I go to my easel block in the composition with paint. When that layer dries, I add silver leaf. What follows is multiple layers of paint with many adjustments. I finish with varnish which brings out very rich color.” She attributes her inspiration to the South’s abundance of natural beauty and its sublime coastal estuarine environment. (“That and the fact that paint dries faster here,” she mentions cheekily.) You can currently find her work at the Robert Lange Gallery in Charleston, Reynolds Square Fine Art, and Distinction Gallery in Escondido, California, as well as the cover of American Art Collector. junestratton.com

 

Katherine Sandoz

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

Medium: Painting + fibers

"She is always moving forward, always changing and growing."

Katherine Sandoz arrived in Savannah in 1995, graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design, and over 20 years later still calls Savannah her home. For the past 12 years she has worked full-time as a commercial and fine artist, moving seamlessly from illustration to painting to fibers. Her works of art are bold and full of emotion. “I create color-fueled abstractions, depicting the natural world that are informed by photographs, drawings, detailed painted studies and abstract studies,” says Sandoz on her process. For the past 20 years she has let the people and landscape of the South inspire her and inform her subject matter. “The faces, the flowers,” she says, “natural-born Georgians. The water, land and sky I paint surround Savannah and extend throughout the South. When I pick a location or subject matter outside our region, I don’t doubt that parts of that South reappear.” With her fine art in particular she akins her work to that of any other profession, “all vocations require dedication to the foundations of the trade and a fierce desire to reconsider, reorder and reinvent,” Sandoz says. She is always moving forward, always changing and growing. You can find Sandoz’s work currently at Laney Contemporary, Spalding Nix Fine Art and her website. katherinesandoz.com 

 

Shelley Smith

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

Medium: Metal and mixed media

"I’m intrigued by taking something so grotesque and transforming it into something beautiful,” Smith says.

Inspiration is a struggle for many artists, but creative vision seems to come easily to Savannah artist Shelly Smith. “The ideas in my head just have to come out,” Smith says. “If I don’t make them they just stay in there and I can’t move on to something else.  It’s like an attic. You have to make room.” For years, she says, metal was the connecting theme in her work – more specifically, upcycled oil drums.  She made dresses from strips of metal hammered into shape on an anvil (see “Ornamental Armor,” p. 128).  Jewelry, platters, vases, light fixtures and other utilitarian items sprang to life from reclaimed metals. But her new work has a new overarching theme: birds.  “I used to paint birds all the time with watercolors before I was a welder,” she says. “Now I just feel like I see them everywhere.” Smith is preparing for a fall exhibition of mixed-media pieces called “Gods and Monsters,” housed in a miniature church. And, per usual, everything will be made from found and recycled materials. From simple bird rings to lifelike, disembodied metal torsos with metal birds cascading up and out, the likeness of birds has come to dominate many of Smith’s recent works in “Gods and Monsters”. “It’s my biggest project to date,” she says. “The birds, to me, represent human transformation and an ability to excel.” Landscaped by hand with a metal rose garden, the tiny church will look like a lush environment, despite the fact that it’s made from discarded things. “I’m intrigued by taking something so grotesque and transforming it into something beautiful,” Smith says. 

 

To discover the other seven great artists and more, subscribe now or pick up the February/March issue of South Magazine.

 

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Events Calendar

  • "Keita Takahashi: Zooming Out" Exhibition at Telfair Musuems

    Jan 24, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums hosts the first museum survey of the work of visionary videogame designer Keita Takahashi (Japanese, b. 1975). Takahashi is noted...

  • "The Prints of Dame Laura Knight" Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Jan 19, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Telfair Museums' Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums exhibits nine prints by Dame Laura Knight (British, 1877-1970), together for the first time since they were acquired by the museum...

  • “Jaume Plensa Talking Continents” Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Mar 01, 2019
    12:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b. 1955) is one of the world’s foremost living sculptors. He is widely known for large-scale public artworks and more...

  • "Rembrandt and the Jewish Experience" at Telfair Museums

    Mar 15, 2019
    12:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    This exhibition contains 21 etchings by Rembrandt and one drawing by Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter Lastman (Dutch, 1583-1633). These works highlight...

  • SCAD40 CELEBRATION AND THE PREMIERE OF SCADSTORY

    Apr 26, 2019
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Poetter Hall

    Enjoy a private gathering of SCAD friends and VIPs for dinner, live music and the first look at 360-degree immersive exprience, SCADstory, created...

  • SCAD40 Block Party

    Apr 26, 2019
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Bull Street at Madison Square

    Fête this milestone anniversary with entertainment and art installations where is all began.

  • BBQ Cook Off on BBQ Road

    Apr 26, 2019
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Silver Coast Winery

    Think you have what it takes to be the King of the grill? Come to the 3rd annual BBQ Cookoff on BBQ Road. There will be a free wing competition on...

  • 2019 Tybee Wine Festival

    Apr 26, 2019
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Sip international wines and sample fresh coastal seafood and other culinary delights at the Tybee Wine Festival. Now in its 11th year, the Tybee...

  • Lean Ensemble Theater presents Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon

    Apr 25, 2019
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ HHPS Main Street Theatre

    Paul and Corie Bratter are newlyweds in every sense of the word. After a six-day honeymoon, they get a surprise visit from Corie's loopy mother and...

  • Rembrandt Exhibit

    Mar 15, 2019
    All Day @ Jepson Center

    Rembrandt lived and worked in Amsterdam during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Although most residents of Amsterdam during...

  • NOGS Tour of Hidden Gardens

    Apr 26, 2019
    All Day @ Savannah

    The 44rd Anniversary of NOGS (North of Gwinnett Street) is the perfect time to visit Savannah, Georgia, the largest urban landmark Historic...

  • 10th Annual Bid for PAL Online Auction

    Apr 25, 2019
    All Day @ www.PALauction.org

    Shop the Lowcountry and beyond from the comfort of your couch! With the "Bid for PAL" Online Auction you can splurge on a golf package, a spa...

  • 2019 Komen Savannah Race for the Cure

    Apr 27, 2019
    6:00 AM @ Ellis Square

    6:00 a.m. Packet Pickup and Registration 7:15 a.m. Welcoming Remarks 7:45 a.m. Survivor Processional 8:30 a.m. 5K Start

  • 2019 Sand Gnat Challenge

    Apr 27, 2019
    7:30 AM @ 17 South Rod and Gun Club

    Our 3rd year with the Sand Gnat Challenge IDPA match! Back Up Gun Compact Carry Pistol

  • Days at the Dock Festival

    Apr 27, 2019
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Holden Beach

    Appreciate the finest arts and crafts vendors, eat delicious food around the festival or go listen to awesome entertainers. Don’t forget to watch...

  • Make Savannah Spring Festival

    Apr 27, 2019
    10:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Maven Makers

    Make Savannah and Maven Makers have teamed up to host a Spring festival pop-up featuring Makers and artists! Join us on Saturday, April 27 from 10...

  • Make Savannah Spring Festival

    Apr 27, 2019
    10:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Maven Makers

    Make Savannah and Maven Makers have teamed up to host a Spring festival pop-up featuring Makers and artists! Join us on Saturday, April 27 from...

  • Let's Makeup for the Cure

    Apr 27, 2019
    11:00 AM - 4:00 PM @ Belk

    At Belk in Oglethorpe Mall Benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on Saturday, April 27th from 11 AM to 4 PM. Make your donations to the...

  • A Taste of Calabash

    Apr 27, 2019
    11:00 AM - 6:00 PM @ Calabash Community Park

    Join the “Seafood Capital of the World” in celebrating their 4th Annual Taste of Calabash Festival. There will be great seafood, arts and...

  • Savannah Philharmonic Chorus' "Frost on Leaves of Grass" Concert

    Apr 27, 2019
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    This captivating chorus-only concert features poetic pieces centered on uplifting themes written by two legendary American poets, Walt Whitman,...


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Scenes of the South

The Clyde

The Clyde Venue is Savannah’s newest, most modern, wedding venue located in the Historic Landmark District. The space has been completely renovated, and a work in progress for more than a year. The venue is 5,200 square feet and includes a grande room, large marble bar, catering prep area, and restrooms. It’s located at 223 Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The Fire Ball

IAFF Savannah Firefighters gathered together at Savannah Station March 15th to celebrate with friends and family. They welcomed their newest members, honored those that recently retired and acknowledged departments joining from around the world! The event was a blast. From 6pm-10pm guests danced to live music, sampled premium foods and even played with local puppies up for adoption.

Savannah's Newest Hot Spot Opens

SEED Eco Lounge, Barrelhouse South and Rogue Water welcomes a new addition to the family. Vice is located on Broughton at Saya's former location. Few pursuits tap into the pleasures of nightlife more than music. Giving yourself over to the rhythms, the lights, and the energy is a total release. Amazing DJs get the crowds moving, and other patrons ensure that there's plenty to see and socialize with. This sleek and sexy underground spot is sure to be one of the best spots for Savannah's night life.

The Royal Flush Casino Night Presented by Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah

Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah hosted “The Royal Flush Casino Night” on Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Savannah Station, with all of the proceeds going to benefit families at the Ronald McDonald House of the Coastal Empire. The casino-themed party will feature heavy hors-d’oeuvres, an open bar, live music, dancing and complimentary casino.

The Telfair Ball

The 39th annual Telfair Ball celebrated the 200th anniversary of the remarkable architecture of Telfair Museums historic buildings and the pioneering legacy of Mary Telfair. This year the Ball was held in Forsyth Park among a myriad of carnival performers and fanciful nymphs. Hundreds of Savannah locals and many visitors came together to celebrate a love of art and South Eastern heritage. The ball supports the future of the Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters, and the Jepson Center. Proceeds directly fund the museum's educational outreach, exhibitions, and release activities, bring the benefits of art to over 190,000 people each year.

Hearts for Healing Gala

The Faith Equestrian's Annual Hearts for Healing Gala at Tybee Wedding Chapel on Friday evening started out with a bang as the Free Spirit Orchestra' violin twins played their rendition of some of the greatest musical hits. The attendees were reminded what the event was all about as the founder Bonnie Rachael was recognized after story after story was shared to a room of teary eyed party-goers. Congrats to event director Bonnie Karr and her amazing team for a job well done!

Southern Coast Heart Ball

The American Heart Association's 22nd Annual Southern Heart Ball took place on February 2, 2019 and celebrated all the life-saving advances made so far while raising funds to continue to further AHA's mission. The black-tie gala brought together more than 400 guests to enjoy a night of dining, dancing, live entertainment and both live and silent auctions. Those in attendance got to hear the story of Lily Cochran, who was born with several congenital heart defects. Her father, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, also had a heart disease and was honored at the event.

PUTTING Away Crime

On Saturday, January 12, 2019 Savannah helped McGruff the Crime Dog take a bite out of crime at the Crimestoppers Savannah's 3rd Annual Putt Putt Mini Golf Tournament held at Island Miniature Golf and Game on Wilmington Island. Proceeds went to helping fund rewards for the Crimestopper's anonymous crime tip line.

Dining in the Dark

On Saturday, January 12, 2019, the 3rd Annual Dining in the Dark event presented by The Charles C. Taylor and Samir Nikocevic Charitable Foundation benefitting the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision, was held at the Embassy Suites/Downtown Savannah.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2018

Savannah's 39 Rue De Jean celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the official end of this year’s growing season. Harvest is complete and vintners—especially in France—are ready to celebrate the completion of the harvest. Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that is annually released on the third Thursday in November. Nouveau wine undergoes a very short fermentation process, and yields an extremely fresh and fruity wine.