Confessions from Eleven of the South's Greatest Artists


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. 


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.


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. 


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

  • 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,...

  • Savannah Philharmonic Chorus Auditions

    Sep 07, 2019
    10:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle

    The Savannah Philharmonic is holding auditions throughout the year for singers to have the opportunity to join the Chorus for the exciting...

  • “Summon the Sea! Contemporary Artists and Moby Dick” Exhibition

    Oct 11, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Summon the Sea! Contemporary Artists and Moby Dick examines the work of six contemporary artists—Corey Arnold, Guy Ben-Ner, Patty Chang, Tristin...

  • Savannah Philharmonic Chorus Auditions

    Sep 07, 2019
    10:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle

    The Savannah Philharmonic is holding auditions throughout the year for singers to have the opportunity to join the Chorus for the exciting...

  • "Portrait of the Artist" Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Aug 03, 2019
    12:00 PM - 12:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    This exhibition brings together several photographic portraits of recognizable creative individuals from Telfair’s permanent collection....

  • Special Veterans Day Screening: FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)

    Nov 11, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    With legendary actors Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Montgomery Clift, 13 Academy Award nominations and 8 Oscars...

  • Piano Cannibals -- An Evening of Elegant Piano Music

    Nov 13, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    The Savannah Arts Academy presents an evening of piano music featuring performances by Dr. Geoff Haydon, director of piano studies at Georgia State...

  • Volunteers needed for The Salvation Army

    Nov 14, 2019
    9:00 AM - 12:00 PM @ Salvation Army

    The Salvation Army Savannah is kicking off their annual holiday season Red Kettle Campaign on November 14, 2019. They announced an ambitious...

  • 2019 Red Kettle Campaign Kick-Off

    Nov 14, 2019
    5:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Georgia State Railroad Museum

    Salvation Army is holding a Christmas campaign kick-off event featuring Christmas carolers, elf appearances, an eatery serving...

  • Museum in the Moonlight

    Nov 15, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum

    Get your groove on at our 13th Annual Museum in the Moonlight + Featuring A Nickel Bag of Funk and Jim N' Nicks!!No need for a ticket - this is a...

  • Still Standing - A Tribute to Elton John

    Nov 15, 2019
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    You loved the movie “Rocketman” on our big screen! Now come see a live concert tribute to Sir Elton John on the stage of the coolest little...

  • Chase Rice Concert

    Nov 15, 2019
    All Day @ Grayson Stadium

  • Forsyth Farmer's Market

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

    The Forsyth Farmers’ Market vendors offer a variety of local goods including seasonal produce, eggs, honey, pastured meat, bread, cheese,...

  • 6th Annual Pee Wee Rodeo

    Nov 16, 2019
    10:00 AM - 1:00 AM

    Do not miss this year's Pee Wee Rodeo - It will have everything your little ones want to see, plus some great things for adults too! *Stick...

  • Fall Harvest and Cane Grinding Festvial

    Nov 16, 2019
    All Day @ Oatland Island Wildlife Center

    Help us celebrate Georgia's diverse agricultural traditions during our annual cane grinding event. Centered around our 1800's Heritage...

  • Musical Matinees: FUNNY FACE (1957)

    Nov 17, 2019
    3:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre

    Dispatched on an assignment, New York City-based fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) is struck by the beauty of Jo Stockton (Audrey...

  • National Theatre Live: ALL ABOUT EVE

    Nov 19, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Gillian Anderson (X-Files, NT Live: A Streetcar Named Desire) and Lily James (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) lead in All About Eve, broadcast live...

  • 2019 Holiday Artist Collective

    Nov 21, 2019
    4:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Deep South Photopoint

    An upscale, holiday art market featuring one-of-a-kind collectibles, original paintings, genuine photographs, fine art prints and gifts created...

  • Howard Family Dental 11th Annual Free Day of Dentistry

    Nov 22, 2019
    6:30 AM - 4:00 PM @ Howard Family Dental

    Howard Family Dental is proud to offer their 11th Annual Free Day of Dentistry, held on Friday, November 22nd, 2019. The staff and dentists at...

  • Dharma Talk with Teijo Munnich

    Nov 22, 2019
    7:15 PM - 9:00 PM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    Join Zen teacher Teijo Munnich for a Dharma talk! This session is the first in a two part visit by Teijo to Savannah.   The topic of this year's...

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Scenes of the South

6th Annual First Responders Luncheon

Harris Lowry Manton LLC hosted its 6th Annual First Responder Appreciation Luncheon on Monday, Oct. 28 at Daffin Park. Free lunch was offered as a “thank you” to local paramedics, firefights, police officers and emergency medical responders.

DineSouth's VIP Icebox

DineSouth 2019 VIP room sponsored by IceBound was a hit at this year’s event! With a special performance by Ken Roy, guests enjoyed exclusive vendors such as sushi from Rue de Jean and popsicles from Savannah Square Pops. Made complete with a full-serve bar, the VIP room was chillingly spectacular!

DineSouth 2019

DineSouth 2019 was a huge hit - by far one of our best ever! Thank you to all of our vendors, sponsors, entertainers and patrons. The Equinox All Stars rolled us into the night with fabulous tunes while Savannah for Morons and The Stardust Pixies treated guests with show-stopping amusement. Hunter Cattle came through with bells, livestock and a petting zoo. But of course, the event was topped off with some of the best flavors Savannah has to offer followed by mouthwatering cocktails. It was a night to remember, and we couldn’t have pulled it off without our amazing clients, supporters and staff. Thank you to Savannah Station and Events Work for helping us pull off anything great year. See y’all next time!

Anne Pappas Grand Opening

Anne Pappas Interiors celebrated the Grand Opening of their new full-service design studio and showroom at 101 W. Liberty St. in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District, on Thursday, Oct. 10. “This inspiring space will allow our talented team of designers to provide exceptional creative services to clientele who appreciate the art of design,” said Pappas. A member of Coastal Living and Southern Living’s exclusive Designer Network, Pappas offers a fresh, inspired approach to interior design, incorporating a variety of textures and design elements inspired by nature, travel and global style. Pappas and her team welcomed guests with light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at the event.

Savannah Film Alliance Honors Gala

Glitz and glamour were galore at the Savannah Film Alliance Honors Gala celebrating the Savannah Entertainment Industry as Charles (Bo) Bowen and his team orchestrated the event of the year. The night was unforgettable for all, but even more so for many hard-working and deserving individuals who were recognized for their contributions to the local film and television industry

Bitty and Beau's at Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott gives back with Bitty & Beau’s Saturday, Sept. 28. Kendra Scott gave 20% the proceeds of their sales from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to Bitty & Beau’s Coffee. Bitty & Beau’s, which aims to provide jobs and change the way people see those with special needs and disabilities, provided muffins and coffee.

Brews for a Cause September at Mansion on Forsyth

South magazine in collaboration with Southern Eagle hosted Brews for a Cause at Casimir’s Lounge at the Mansion on Forsyth Park on Thursday, Sept. 26 in a successful effort to raise money and awareness for CURE Childhood Cancer.

Savannah Hospice Gala

Hospice Savannah celebrated 40 years of the “Art of Living” at the Landings Plantation Ballroom on Thursday, Sept. 25.

Latin Dance Party Featuring Gino Castillo & The Cuban Cowboys

The 38th Annual Savannah Jazz Festival hosted a Latin Dance Party, which featured Gino Castillo & the Cuban Cowboys on Thursday, Sept. 25 at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. Castillo - the Afro-Cuban jazz singer and percussionist – led the Charleston-based Cuban Cowboys as they brought patrons to their feet, dancing the night away to his funky–jazz, high-energy tunes.

Grand Opening Studio 60 | Body Brite

Studio60BodyBrite owner and girl boss Bobbie Ciaccio unveiled Savannah’s newest salon to the public by hosting a grand opening, “Pink Party,” on Friday, Sept. 13.