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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Greatest Chefs 2019

Chefs are invisible artists. They keep us salivating, our minds fixated on the last time we ate at our favorite restaurant, and when the next time we plan on going. Nominate your favorite chef now!

Greatest Pets 2019

Man's Best Friend can be South's Greatest Pet with the right amount of love. Enter your pet and get those votes! Limited to southeast Georgia and the Lowcountry. Voting begins June 10 and ends July 1.
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Events Calendar

  • Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show Hunter Jumper I

    Jul 23, 2019
    8:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Broyhill Equestrian Preserve

    See competitors complete the courses in several Classics and Divisions. Outdoor show on grounds adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • Summer Sea Camp

    May 27, 2019
    9:30 AM - 4:00 PM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    Kids 6 to 11 years old * Morning and/or Afternoon Modules * After Care * Curbside Drop-off/Pick-up   Summer FUN for the kids…designed to fit...

  • Summer Reading Program

    Jun 01, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:15 PM @ Live Oak Public Libraries

    Reach for the stars with Summer Reading Program at Live Oak Public Libraries! Explore "A Universe of Stories" from June 1 through July 31...

  • SS Savannah (1819-2019)

    May 23, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Ships of the Sea Museum

    2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's groundbreaking trans-Atlantic crossing.  In recognition of this monumental achievement,...

  • "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...

  • Ready. Set. Summer. at Bluemercury!

    May 13, 2019
    10:00 AM - 8:00 PM @ Bluemercury

    Summer is quickly approaching – stop into your local neighborhood beauty store Bluemercury for all the essentials you need to refresh your...

  • Love Your Hair at Bluemercury!

    Jul 18, 2019
    10:00 AM - 6:00 PM @ Bluemercury

    Beginning July 18th, your local neighborhood beauty expert Bluemercury will kick off ‘Love Your Hair’ Events in stores – and on...

  • "Spider-Man: Far From Home"

    Jul 24, 2019
    3:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Peter Parker returns in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the next chapter of the “Spider-Man:...

  • MAGNUM OPUS - 2019 ARTS ON THE COAST ANNUAL EXHIBIT

    Jun 27, 2019
    5:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Deep South Photopoint

    The Arts on the Coast (AOC) is proud to present its 2019 Annual Exhibit hosted by the Photopoint Gallery and Elmgren's Garden Center in...

  • French Moderns: Monet to Matisse, 1850-1950

    Jun 15, 2019
    All Day @ Consumer Museum of Art and Garden

    The biggest names in French art such as, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be showcased...

  • 8th Annual Savannah Ambucs/Vaden Nissan Celebrity Bowlapalooza Kickoff and Auction

    Jul 25, 2019
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Plantation Club at The Landings

    Come join us for a night you won't want to miss! The Savannah Ambucs and Vaden Nissan for a night of fun and fundraising at The 8th Annual...

  • Literary Love: Authors Rock Savannah

    Jul 25, 2019
    All Day @ Savannah Mariott Riverfront

    Join countless authors for a 3 day weekend full of books, fun and goodies! the even runs thursday to Sunday, in Savannah GA, at the Savannah...

  • Blowing Rock Tour of Homes

    Jul 26, 2019
    9:00 AM - 4:00 PM @ Various homes & gardens

    Open the doors to some of Blowing Rock’s most special private homes & admire the special features, furnishings, & grounds. 2018 featured homes...

  • Symphony by the Lake

    Jul 26, 2019
    6:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Chetola Resort

    Experience a moving performance by the Symphony of the Mountains, conducted by Cornelia Ornish. Surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge landscape,...

  • Hitchcock or Hepburn Series: Rebecca

    Jul 26, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Lucas Theater for the Arts

    Relive the intrigue and glamour of old Hollywood in this Hitchcock or Hepburn series of alternating thrillers and romances.  ...

  • Friday Concert Series

    May 03, 2019
    7:00 PM - 12:00 AM @ Historic Courthouse, Downtown Blairsville on the S

    Come enjoy live music every Friday Night from the first Friday of May through the end of October. The Historic Union County Court House will host...

  • Golden Girls Gone Wild!

    Jul 19, 2019
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Picture it! Miami, 1980s. A lovely suburban home shared by four fiesty older women. Now, picture this!  Kansas City’s Late Night Theatre...

  • Forsyth Farmer's Market

    Jun 29, 2019
    9:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ South end of Forsyth Park

    Outdoors, kid and pet friendly Local food and plant vendors

  • Savannah Carnival

    Jul 27, 2019
    6:00 PM @ Clyde Venue

    A Brazil-inspired Carnaval will serve as the theme for Hustle and Blow Dry Bar’s latest philanthropic movement, as the Savannah salon joins...

  • 84- The Van Halen Tribute

    Jul 27, 2019
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Coach's Corner


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Scenes of the South

Bohemian Hotel 10th Anniversary

Stonewall50 - A Legendary Block Party

The Stonewall 50 block party, held on June 28th outside the LGBTQ Center on Bull Street, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Protest — one of the most important moments in LGBTQ history and the catalyst for the gay rights movement.

Pelindaba Lavender Savannah Grand Opening

Pelindaba Lavender Grand Opening was this past Thursday, June 28th! This fun night included ribbon cutting, product sampling, lavender refreshments and special prizes! During this festive evening 10% of sales benefitted the good work of Coastal Pet Rescue. Stop by the store at 112 E Broughton St, Savannah, Ga to see the many products they offer!

Sonja Griffin Evans Gullah Art Exhibit

The Sonja Griffin Evans Gullah Art Event in Hilton Head displayed several paintings featuring the culture and heritage of the African-American Lowcountry. Sonja Griffin Evans paints with bright vibrant colors — while also incorporating materials such as tin and wood — to emphasize the traditional Gullah style, evoking an emotional response by bringing to life historical and cultural events.

JCB MudRun 2019

Participants hit the ground running at this year's JCB Mud Fest, climbing through tough obstacles in either the 5k or the 5 mile run. At the end of the race was a long slide where, upon finishing, contestants found themselves in the Party Pit. Winners from various age groups were presented with trophies, and all the proceeds from the JCB Mud Fest benefited the Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development.

Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum's 200th Anniversary!

This past Wednesday, May 22, we celebrated with Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum for for the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's historic trans-Atlantic crossing — the WORLD'S FIRST oceanic voyage under steam! On this year's Maritime Day, Ships of the Sea celebrated the Savannah's 200th anniversary with a commemorative ceremony provided by the PROPELLER CLUB, where Robert Morris unveiled two eight-foot paintings. The evening also included an amazing performance by the Parris Island MARINE BAND, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and celebratory beverages!

Brews For A Cause at Top Deck

This past Tuesday, May 21 we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Top Deck Bar! We joined up with Southern Eagle and a great group of like minded people to benefit Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire in their efforts to provide financial assistance to the surviving families of local law enforcement officers and firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty. It was another memorable night in the South filled with great people and even greater crafted beer! This month's Featured Craft Beer: Island Coastal Lager Sponsors: Island Coastal Lager, Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, Southern Eagle, South Magazine

Brews for a Cause at Churchill's

This Thursday, Churchill's was pack as we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Churchill's! We joined Southern Eagle and The Coastal Heritage Society. Southern Eagle provided great craft beer, Sista Rae Rae performed live, and the silent auction was a huge success. All the proceeds from the silent auction — including a diamond necklace from International Diamond — benefitted the Coastal Heritage Society.

Nine Line Foundation Dinner

On Friday, May 17, Nine Line hosted their Foundation Dinner that included special guests WWE Superstars Mark Calaway aka The Undertaker, Dustin Rhodes aka Goldust, John “Tig” Tiegen, hero of Benghazi portrayed in the movie “13 Hours,” Chad Prather, comedian and social media celebrity, and Graham Allen, social media celebrity. Guests mingled with the superstars and bid on auction items to raise money for the foundation. Matt Lyda put on a stellar performance as the MC of the event and kept the crowd entertained and bidding.

6th Annual Nine Line Run for the Wounded

The Nine Line Foundation and Nine Line Apparel celebrate Armed Forces Day for their 6th Annual 5K/10K Run for the Wounded in Savannah, Georgia. Proceeds from the race go directly towards their newest initiative: building a transitional community, a Veterans Village, for homeless veterans right here in Savannah, Georgia. With both 5K and 10K options available, this twilight run turned out to be another great success.