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

  • A Savannah Scavenger Hunt: Historic Savannah Adventure

    Feb 19, 2020
    8:00 AM - 10:00 PM @ Savannah

    Explore beautiful Savannah. Steeped in Civil War history, you will be sure to find some new-to-you spots. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a...

  • #iSPYtogether Summer Challenge

    Jun 01, 2020
    12:00 AM - 11:45 PM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    We’re in this together! We’re experiencing a shift in the world together, and together we can keep each other healthy and connected in the...

  • Prohibition Cocktail Classes

    Jun 22, 2020
    6:00 PM @ American Prohibition Museum

    Monday & Tuesday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Prohibition Cocktail Classes at Congress Street Up inside the American Prohibition Museum....

  • Free Fort Pulaski Days

    Jan 20, 2020
    All Day @ Fort Pulaski National Monhument

    Fort Pulaski National Monument will have six entrance fee-free days in 2020. The dates for 2020 are: ● Monday, January 20 – Martin...

  • Georgia Mountain Fair

    Aug 14, 2020
    10:00 AM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Look forward to the 70th annual Georgia Mountain Fair, held at the historic Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds this summer! Thousands of visitors from...

  • On the Spot Murder Mystery Show

    Jun 26, 2020
    6:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ Savannah Coffee Roasters

    On The Spot Murder Mystery Dinner Show hosted by The Odd Lot Improv Team at Savannah Coffee Roasters, 6:30 p.m. An entirely improvised...

  • Tedeschi Trucks Band Signs 2020 Tour

    Aug 14, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    The Tedeschi Trucks Band Signs 2020 Tour will be making at stop at the Johnny Mercer Theatre on Friday, August 14th at 7:30pm. Tedeschi Trucks...

  • The Price is Right - Live on Stage

    Aug 15, 2020
    All Day @ Johnny Mercer Theatre

    “The Price Is Right Live™ is returning to Savannah by popular demand! “The Price Is Right Live™ is the hit interactive...

  • 50th Anniversary Tour w/ Special Guest Don McLean

    Aug 25, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    It’s been 50 years since Randy, Jeff and Teddy, left the cotton farms of Fort Payne, Alabama, to spend the summer playing music in a Myrtle...

  • Rodney Carrington Live Concert

    Aug 27, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    The Savannah Civic Center is excited to Rodney Carrington will be coming to the Johnny Mercer Theatre on Thursday, August 27th at 7 p.m. Rodney...

  • First Fridays in Starland

    Jun 26, 2020
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Starland District

     Monthly arts event in Savannah’s Starland District, with street fair, art market or gallery shows. Starland doesn’t like to...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — St. Paul & the Broken Bones

    Sep 03, 2020
    8:30 PM - 10:30 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival performances, St. Paul & the Broken Bones will perform...

  • Gene Watson, Janie Fricke and Marty Haggard Concert

    Sep 05, 2020
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

     Enjoy an evening of real country music with Gene Watson, Janie Fricke & Marty Haggard. Plus a special tribute to legendary Merle Haggard!...

  • Shinedown Concert

    Sep 06, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    Multi-platinum rock band Shinedown has announced their Shinedown: Deep Dive tour, an intimate run of Spring 2020 dates that will see the band...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

    Sep 11, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Johnny Mercer Theatre

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival (SMF) performances, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit will...

  • Happy Together Tour

    Sep 12, 2020
    7:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Enjoy an evening of hit after hit…after HIT!  The Happy Together Tour features: - THE TURTLES - CHUCK NEGRON (formerly of Three Dog Night) -...

  • Revolutionary Perspectives Lecture Series

    Sep 15, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah History Museum

      The annual Revolutionary Perspectives Lecture Series focuses on a wide variety of topics unique to the American Revolution era. Each...

  • Dailey & Vincent's LandFest 2020

    Sep 17, 2020
    3:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

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  • 39th Annual Savannah Jazz Festival

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  • Mile Long Yard Sale

    Sep 25, 2020
    10:00 AM - 3:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    One man's trash is another man's treasure. Come shop 1 mile worth of treasures at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds! Free entry to shoppers! ...


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Scenes of the South

Plant Riverside District Grand Opening

After $400 million and the better part of the past decade, the Plant Riverside District has finally opened for business. This 419-room JW Marriot marks the creation of a all-new entertainment district on River Street's west end. Speeches were made, hands were shaken (or rather, elbows were tapped), and the ribbon was finally cut, unveiling this monumental project for the public to enjoy.

Faces of the South 2020 Gala of the Decade at Plant Riverside District

On July 24, 2020 Richard Kessler unveiled his greatest accomplishment to date, the Plant Riverside District, to a guest list that read like a who’s who of Savannah’s movers and shakers. Adding to the excitement was the concurrent release party for South magazine’s Faces of the South: The Trilogy Edition. With safety and social distancing measures in place, guests enjoyed the sweet sounds of the Equinox Orchestra, dined on a sampler platter of Savannah’s finest food and drink and marveled at the excitement of watching Savannah’s hottest new entertainment district come to life.

Faces of the South Gala of the Decade at Plant Riverside District part II

On July 24, 2020 Richard Kessler unveiled his greatest accomplishment to date, the Plant Riverside District, to a guest list that read like a who’s who of Savannah’s movers and shakers. Adding to the excitement was the concurrent release party for South magazine’s Faces of the South: The Trilogy Edition. With safety and social distancing measures in place, guests enjoyed the sweet sounds of the Equinox Orchestra, dined on a sampler platter of Savannah’s finest food and drink and marveled at the excitement of watching Savannah’s hottest new entertainment district come to life.

Danny Merritt 2020 Election Watch Party

Danny Merritt held his election watch party at Coach's Corner in Savannah, Georgia on Tuesday, June 9th. Merritt ran for Congress for District 1 against incumbent Buddy Carter.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 5

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 4

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 2

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 3

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 1

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

February Brews for a Cause

February's Brews for a Cause was held at the Drayton Hotel on Thursday, February 27th. South Magazine and Southern Eagle teamed up to raise money through a large silent auction for the Savannah Ambucs organization. Craft Beer samplings from Wild Leap Brewing, alongside appetizers from the Drayton Hotel were offered to guests.