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

  • "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...

  • "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...

  • 2019 American Traditions Vocal Competition

    Feb 18, 2019
    12:00 PM - 12:00 PM @ Skidaway Island UMC & The Trustees Theater

    The 2019 American Traditions Vocal Competition (ATC) will be held Feb. 18-22, 2019. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit...

  • 2019 Groundhog Day 2.2 Mile Virtual Race

    Feb 20, 2019
    1:00 PM - 3:00 PM @ YOUR CHOICE

    February 20th is Love Your Pet Day! We want to celebrate all of the animals we love so much with a Love Your Pet Day 5K & 10K! We will be...

  • Will Gruver - LLS ALL STAR Campaign Kick-Off

    Feb 22, 2019
    5:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Service Brewing

    Come join All-Star, Will Gruver, and his band mates as they kick-off ‘Getting the Band Back Together’ for the Will Gruver - LLS ALL STAR...

  • Chefs & Chocolates

    Feb 22, 2019
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Kehoe Ironworks at Trustees' Garden

    Please join Urban Hope for our 9th Annual Chefs and Chocolates Taste of Hope!

  • Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo Style)

    Jan 16, 2019
    7:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Fit912savannah

    Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo Style)    Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo style) is for beginners and advanced beginners  of this type of...

  • "A Star is Born"

    Feb 20, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    The last feature in our run up to the Academy Awards Feb. 24 is, of course, “A Star is Born!!”In this new take on the tragic love story,...

  • The American Traditions Vocal Competition

    Feb 18, 2019
    7:30 PM - 8:00 PM @ Skidaway Island UMC

    The American Traditions Vocal Competition (ATC) returns for its highly anticipated 26th anniversary season Feb. 18-22, 2019. With an outstanding...

  • World of Illusion at Savannah Theatre

    Feb 21, 2019
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Savannah Theatre

    The Savannah Theatre is presenting this incredible blend of comedy, close-up magic, and grand illusion featuring two dynamic, world-class acts for...

  • Savannah Black Heritage Festival

    Feb 01, 2019
    All Day @ Savannah

    The Savannah Black Heritage Festival (SBHF) is a professionally produced, multi-disciplinary festival, and it is one of the many ethnic cultural...

  • 23rd Annual Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration

    Feb 01, 2019
    All Day @ Hilton Head Island

    The Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration showcases the rich cultural heritage of theGullah people and their history on Hilton Head Island. Hilton...

  • Balletomane: Paintings by Spain’s Antonio Torres

    Feb 01, 2019
    All Day @ R. Alexander Fine Art

    The show will be on display at R. Alexander from February 1- March 2, 2019. In conjunction with Atlanta Ballet, a special opening reception will be...

  • License to Chill Snow Island

    Nov 16, 2018
    All Day @ Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

    Margaritaville at Lanier Islands is preparing for a winter wonderland makeover that will surprise and delight local residents and travelers...

  • 2019 Race for Preservation

    Feb 23, 2019
    8:00 AM - 12:00 PM @ Forsyth Park

    Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) is gearing up for the 2019 Race for Preservation. The 5k/10k race route begins and ends at Forsyth Park and runs...

  • Roswell Roots Arts Festival

    Feb 23, 2019
    10:00 AM - 4:00 PM @ DoubleTree by Hilton Roswell

    Come celebrate the arts at the only black art festival in Roswell. Artist from Roswell and the metro Atlanta area will express their cultural...

  • Power Yoga Principles

    Jan 05, 2019
    11:00 AM - 12:15 PM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    This class is intended for students who are new to yoga as well as those hoping to learn more about finding their best alignment in each of the...

  • Bar Food's 10 Year Anniversary Party

    Feb 23, 2019
    3:00 PM @ Bar Food

    Join us as we celebrate 10 years of business! There will be giveaways, raffles, drinks, food, and more!

  • 39th Annual Telfair Ball

    Feb 23, 2019
    6:00 PM - 12:00 AM @ Forsyth Park

    The museum’s most important and exclusive fundraiser is taking a trip from its usual location along Telfair Square this year. On February 23,...

  • 21st SMA Angels Charity Gala

    Feb 23, 2019
    All Day @ Kehoe Metal Building at Trustee’s Gardens

    We hope you will join us for our 21st SMA Angels Charity Gala on Saturday, February 23rd at the Kehoe Metal Building at Trustee’s Gardens. It...

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Scenes of the South

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!

The Cure Gala

Sisters on a journey sold out to a crowd of over 600 mainly female partygoers as they celebrated a night dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancer.This special dinner featured unique, individually-themed table decorations, a silent auction, live auction, and a room full of big generous hearts. The event was held at the beautiful trustees garden, Charlie Morris's masterpiece of a venue.

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.

A Chefs Collaborative

This five course dinner held at Pacci Italian Kitchen and Bar allowed guests to taste exceptional flavors steeped in tradition. Included were the culinary skills of Chef Adam Barnett of The Katharine Brasserie & Bar, Winston-Salem, NC, Chef Robert Hoffman of Angeline’s Charlotte, NC, Chef Daniel Gorman of The Henley Nashville, TN, Chef Sebastien Rondier of Brabo, Alexandria, VA, and Chef Lauren Teague of PACCI Italian Kitchen + Bar.

East and West BBQ

A whole hog BBQ showcase, from two of the south’s most legendary Pitmasters, Pat Martin and Sam Jones. Hosted by Alida Hotel this event was a fabulous juxtaposition between Eastern North Carolina style BBQ and Western Tennessee style. Made possible by the Savannah Food and Wine Festival.

Savannah Food & Wine Fest

Hundreds came to experience Southern charm and hospitality, Savannah Style. The South's best culinary happenings - one exceptional week in Savannah. Iconic and historic coastal venues provided the perfect backdrop for gourmet and fun. South magazine captured the experience at the VIP tent.

Big Wig Boat Bash

Savannah's Riverboat, The Georgia Queen set sail to host the final fundraiser for the 2018 class of Big Wigs, together raising over $100,000 for the Susan G. Komen Coastal Georgia Foundation. This evening included heavy hors d’oeuvres, beverages, a silent auction, music and dancing and a contest to crown the Biggest BigWig! Contest categories included: The Biggest Wig, The Pink Ribbon Award and Best Pink Personality.