Page 1


8 14 18 20 22 26 32 34 38 40 46 48

Book Fourteen : 2011


Warehouse Theatre

Joe and Kelly Shull

Eliot Dudik

Renee Rouillier

Herman Thompson

Whitney LeJeune

Laura Spong

Kwame Dawes

O’Neal Compton

Artists Among Us

Poetry: Exorcism

These pages are the labor of many talented hands, from writing, design and editing, to sales and marketing. We encourage you to contact us with any feedback or story ideas at our website. Please support the artists, your community leaders and advertisers. For advertising information please contact us at: 803.386.9031 or undefined magazine is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any manner, in whole or in part, without the publisher's written permission. Write us at: undefined Magazine 709 Woodrow Street : 321 : Columbia, SC 29205 803.386.9031 Š2011 All Rights Reserved


Laura Spong, “Why?”. Oil on Canvas. 30x90”. 2010

Philip Mullen: undefined magazine Book 15 Guest Editor In 1963 Philip Mullen’s professor punched him out and later said Philip was the worst student he had ever had. In 1969 Mullen moved to Columbia and the Columbia Museum purchased his painting/assemblage “Cola. Wall” in November of that same year. After it was shown, eighty four (84) people petitioned the museum to never show his work again. In 1975 Mullen’s work was part of the prestigious Whitney Biennial, shown at the Whitney Museum in New York. He moved to New York later that year and rented Andy Warhol’s old factory

gefaltet Natur

This brief overview initiates the art concept gefaltet Natur,(folded nature). The evolution of gefaltet Natur follows the concept of graffiti art whose placement in familiar surroundings is left to be interpreted by those who happen upon it. Similarly, gefaltet Natur involves unexplained placement in publications also lending itself to discovery and interpretation by those who notice. A signing of the gefaltet Natur at a date much later than its initial presentation affirms the metaphor that nature is there for those who seek it,and that nature’s complex interactions are often folded in complex ways often undetected and disregarded by a civilization focused on dominance and popular culture.

as a studio/residence. He subsequently joined David Findlay Galleries which led to fifteen (15) solo exhibitions in New York. Now, a Distinguished Professor emeritus at USC and surprised to find himself a part of the art establishment, he is excited to be guest editor for the November issue of undefined. Philip says “undefined is an incredible magazine for any market. Columbia is very lucky to have it here due to the courage the magazine has shown in what it will present and the high quality of the physical magazine.”

South Carolina Festival of Dance The University of South Carolina has had a big year in 2011, but it’s nowhere near the end, especially with their newest addition, The South Carolina Festival of Dance sponsored by the USC Dance Program. The 3 day festival kicks off October 7, with the showcasing of some of South Carolina’s professional dance companies in the state-of-the-art Koger Center for the Arts. Susan Anderson, the brains behind the operation said, “I’m so proud of our dance program that I really wanted to show it off.” And showing it off is exactly what they plan on doing. “I thought it would be great if we brought the professionals and the dancers in training together to learn from each other and have an enriching experience,” said Anderson. The festival is open to dancers 11 and up, with previous dance experience a must. Kindra Becker, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, has been instrumental in the programs progress. “Susan brought up the idea of writing a grant to the Provost Office for the festival and after we got it, we ran with it. It turned into something I didn’t expect and it’s become a great opportunity,” said Becker. “There’s something here for everybody.” Not only does the festival offer the opportunity to see South Carolina dancers at their best, but it offers a wide variety of classes from beginner to professional, such as jazz, hip hop, musical theatre and ballet technique taught by some of the state’s most influential dance faculty. To learn more about the festival and participation, visit or call the university dance program main office at (803) 777-5636.

First Annual Photography Contest We invite you to submit your work for our first photography competition. Submissions are not limited to any theme and can be entered in either the Professional or Student/Amateur categories. Color and BW photos accepted. Enter as many times as you would like. The top winners will have their work published in undefined magazine's photo issue, January 2012

For more information visit or send an e-mail to:


Tim Floyd Celebrates the Bible to each can. On those pieces of paper, the book of Matthew will be printed so that when the work is assembled, you will not only be able to read the entire book, but the colors will portray the face of the author.   “It’s different, If I had just done that as a painting it would have been ok, but doing it in more contemporary materials makes it more interesting,” said Floyd. “My daughter, Felicia, and I are doing this together,” Floyd stated. “She did all the colors and typography.” While she may have muscular dystrophy, that does not hold her back from designing the labels and layout of the massive piece by using a special computer software and a single clicker. “It’s been fun working with my daughter. She is very artistic, but she just can’t move her hands or arms to create like you or I.” The duo who have been working on the piece for three weeks, expect it to take another month to finish up. There are no set plans as to where the work will show at its completion, but Floyd and Wendy Wells at City Art are playing with a few ideas.

When you think about recycling, you may think blue bins filled with cans swept away to a recycling center in hopes of bettering the planet; but if you were actually thinking artistic celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, you win. And if you were, then you and Columbia, SC artist Tim Floyd were on the same wavelength. “I stumbled onto a piece of interesting information,” Floyd said about the anniversary. “I’m a Christian and the Bible has been a major influence on my life and our culture and it surprised me that I hadn’t heard much about it this year. I thought it was pretty awesome and I should do something.” So he put his artistic ingenuity to work. “I’m always exploring with different materials and new ways to approach art. Part of my training in graphic design is problem solving and finding a solution. If you think about it like that, this idea of letting people know about the anniversary was a problem and the solution was printing the book of Matthew on paper labels and attaching them to cans. Once assembled it will compose a face of the author the book was written by.” Simple solution, right? Floyd who works with many mediums in various fields, specifically graphic design and fine art, was greatly influenced by Chuck Close for this work in progress. The finished product will be comprised of 360 cans and stand around 6 feet tall. The gridlike design will require various colored paper pieces be attached

Off Menu with Kristian If you think the Hawaiian Islands are simply beautiful, tropical islands with a mediocre food scene, you'd be very mistaken. Forget the awful poi and hit some of these gems for a true sense of what Hawaii has to offer. Roy's on Waikiki Beach 226 Lewers Street (808)923-7697,

Yama's Fish Market 2332 Young Street (808) 941-9994,

Alan Wong's 1857 S. King Street (808)949-2526,

A culinary rock star, Roy Yamaguchi continues to blow up the minds and palates of mainlanders from both sides of the Pacific. Start with his signature martini of pineapple-infused rum, then get a half-order of his world famous butterfish. From there, the menu is your oyster, brimming with culinary pearls. This place is so good, you may find yourself dining here more than once.

Located on a side street in the Moiliili area of Honolulu, this place is nothing to look at from the exterior...or the interior, for that matter. However, what happens on the inside is pure Hawaiian magic. If you want authentic Hawaiian food at dirtcheap prices, look no further. Choose from an amazing array of Poke, Kalua Pig or their fantastic lau laus (meat wrapped in taro leaf, then steamed) and then head out to the beach or local park (like Pearl Harbor) to enjoy.

A founding father of New Hawaiian Cuisine and chef to the president, Alan Wong's bustling namesake restaurant is located in a nondescript office building a few blocks away from the busy streets of Waikiki. Once inside, however, NOTHING is nondescript! Be sure to try one of their hand-crafted cocktails while perusing the ultra-fresh menu. For a surefire hit, order the Lobster Lasagna. Its a revelation.

Kauai Grill at the St. Regis Princeville, 5520 Ka Haku Road (808)826.9644 On the rustic island of Kauai, treat yourself to an amazing meal at the Kauai Grill, located at the St. Regis Resort in Princeville. A year or so ago, world-famous super-chef Jean-Georges Vongrichten took over the food operations at the St. Regis. Since then, it has quickly vaulted into the top spot of ALL Hawaiian restaurants under the innovative reigns of Chef de Cuisine Colin Hamaza. To keep this brief, I can simply say this...if you go to Kauai and don't eat at this magnificent restaurant, you are wrong. It may be a bit spendy, but it is worth EVERY penny.



SC Film Comment by Chris White

Cinema Trouvé Greenville’s Jeff Sumerel finds films where we least expect them “indigenous” adj. originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native

Sumerel says his films find him. Each is inspired by a found object. And sometimes the object found is a person. “Theodore Gottlieb (aka Brother Theodore) found me in Greenwich Village in the spring of 2000,” he says of the subject for his most recent film, TO MY GREAT CHAGRIN. “I asked him why a filmmaker from the Deep South should be his biographer, and he said that he had always been an outsider: ‘just like you!’” Sumerel’s most recent work, an idiosyncratic gallery exhibit of “digital art” titled Exhibition of 16 Vignettes, demonstrates his tendency to arrive at the party first….before any of the other guests have arrived. “Finding an audience for my films is not unlike how the work itself is born,” he explains with a smile, “The audience has to find me.” Indeed, the cutting edge can be a lonely place. It is territory artistic innovators must make their peace with, yes…but it is also the rarified space the undefined audience craves. Indeed, artistically unambitious SC movies can go watch themselves. But…if a South Carolina filmmaker is striving for Criterion Collection excellence, they should be enthusiastically embraced. It’s just not enough for local folks to make films; we need them to make great films. We need more Jeff Sumerels. Support authentic South Carolina film. Jeff Sumerel’s 2009 feature-length documentary on the life of macabre performance artist, Brother Theodore, TO MY GREAT CHAGRIN, has screened has prestigious film festivals all over the world— including Columbia’s Indie Grits Festival. Find it here:

Not one to take issue with the editors at the New Oxford American Dictionary, my own experience with indigenous South Carolina film has occurred most un-naturally. Working as a production assistant on Jeff Sumerel’s wistful short film PLOW THE SKY in the spring of 1992, I knew I’d met someone truly unique: an ingenious-indigenous South Carolina filmmaker. SKY’s narrative—a dubious tale of a carnival “diving mule”—was so utterly unexpected. “I kept seeing that old amusement park on the side of the highway,” Sumerel explains, “It was telling me the story of a diving mule.”

SC Screens North Charleston’s friendly, neighborhood cinema: Park Circle Films Executive Director Nicholai Burton describes Park Circle Films (at “The Olde North Charleston Picture House”) as communitymandated. “There was a vote to determine what the locals wanted most. Grocery store won, followed closely by coffeehouse,” he says. “Independent cinema ran a respectable third…and that we could afford.”

Burton’s friendly collective of Lowcountry cinephiles gathers each Saturday night at 7:00 sharp to take in a smartly curated collection of bright new works by emerging filmmakers from across the globe (with a cult favorite sprinkled in on occasion so no one gets all uppity). Admission is five bucks…unless you’re a member of the Park Circle Film Society. Then you get in for two.

Chris White, Undefined Magazine Film Editor, is an indigenous South Carolina filmmaker who grew up in the Midlands, makes his home in the Upstate, and escapes to the SC coast every chance he gets. His latest feature is TAKEN IN (2011).


Warehouse Theatre has sold out without selling out Paul Savas ambles into the coffee shop wearing a chalk-striped, navy blue suit coat more evocative of the “Executive Director” part of his title, than its “Artistic Director” rejoinder. Suddenly self-conscious, I stand taller. Scan the room for a place to sit. I’m wearing a suit coat, too. And I think he notices when I button it. Such is our custom, we men over forty who make plays and write magazine articles for a living. Should we have a business-like meeting to attend, we tend to throw on one of our dad’s sport coats. Means we’re serious about our work. Practically shouts it. “How’s the swimming?” I ask, referring to the 3,500 gallon, on-stage pool that Savas’s wife Shannon Robert just designed and built for The Warehouse Theatre’s current play, Metamorphoses. “Did you see the pictures?” he practically demands, eyes wide. “Very cool,” I admit with a nod. “Just wait’ll you see the show!”


while allowing for smaller scale, “studio” productions, late night comedy performances, and community forums. The mix has caught on. Greenville residents of all ages and backgrounds are more likely than ever to find themselves in The Warehouse Theatre’s cozy exposed red brick and heart pine lobby. If he’s not acting on stage, you are most likely to find Paul Savas pouring you a generous glass of wine at the theatre’s concession bar. While his pour is quite liberal, the way he manages the theatre’s books is not. “My dad was a corporate businessman,” he says. “I like to think I picked up some of his money management skills.” Must be. The Warehouse Theatre is among the best-managed and most financially stable arts organizations in South Carolina…and, perhaps, the Southeast. Since his arrival, Savas has concerned himself with fiduciary soundness and artistic aspiration. This balanced approach has been well-received…especially by his Board of Directors who welcomed him to the job with a dim financial report. “It was bad. No one to blame, just…poor business management. We spent more than we took in.” Savas says this matter-of-factly. Like a corporate CEO. “We’re finally in the black. But…we’re not out of the woods by any means.” With funding for the arts under attack at the federal and state

aul Savas and Shannon Robert came to The Warehouse Theatre from New York City four years ago with impressive professional theatre resumes and a compelling vision to for Greenville’s first “alternative” playhouse. “We’re a community theatre,” Savas says. “And I know that sounds unprofessional to some people, or lacking in quality. But we’re building this community theatre in a professional manner…living within our means and producing great plays.” It is this sensible approach that is so refreshing when one visits The Warehouse Theatre. Staff and volunteers find a true sense of community in the work. These aren’t theatre hobbyists or drama dabblers. This is a theatre community that is serious about creating great work. And the audience is responding. Last season saw nearly 44 consecutive sell-out performances. That is unheard of success for any theatre company—but especially in Greenville, South Carolina. And it flies in the face of advice rendered by many so-called community theatre experts who breathlessly advocate the programming of light comedies and musicals to attract large audiences in medium-sized, suburban cities. Since taking the reigns of The Warehouse Theatre in 2007, Savas has programmed consistently serious mainstage seasons,



only take seven minutes to drain.” This is a joke…a knock on wood. This pool won’t break. It’s built like a battleship. But still…there is a risk. She and Savas take it in stride. “If I wanted safety and security, I wouldn’t have told my parents I wanted to be an actor,” Savas confesses. Thus begins the 38th season at The Warehouse Theatre—an epic Roman poem, lyrically acted in a swimming pool. Tickets are selling quickly. There is talk of extending the run. Next up: Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man. Savas and Robert promise that there will be no prosthetic devices used to create John Merrick’s ghastly form in the production. It will be intensity, intimacy that will force the audience to look at what we’d prefer not to. “And the pool, of course,” Robert says with a grin. “After all that went into building that pool, we’re playing the entire season in it.” The Warehouse Theatre is working. Small, simple steps…smart programming choices marked by artistic ambition…and a friendly, winning way. Savas voice on the other end of the theatre’s telephone answering machine says it all: “We spell theatre the pretentious way, but I assure you, we are not.”

level, austerity in arts organizations is no longer just “good practice.” It’s do or die. “I want this theatre to do more, be better…I’ve got a list. Things I want to see us do here in the next five, ten, fifteen years,” his voice rises in volume. People nearby notice. “But we have to do the little things right now. And little by little I know we’ll get there.” The theatre’s current production of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a perfect example of getting the little things right. “We look for an intriguing hook when we select plays for our season,” Savas explains, “The cool thing is, we’ve found that people are intrigued by artists who strive for something bold.” Bold is something of an understatement in the case of “The Metamorphoses.” Ever seen a play performed in a three-foot swimming pool? Shannon Robert, the play’s director and designer, describes Ovid’s epic Roman poem as flood-like. “Essentially, Ovid’s poem chronicles the ancient Greek myths. But it’s gorgeous, lyrical…stories flow into one another like a symphony.” Indeed, Robert’s pool gives the production a tactile sense that is rare in the theatre: it’s wet. The stage itself is alive… shimmering, ebbing and flowing. “It took almost seven hours to fill,” she says, “Of course, it’ll


skeleton doll on the doorknob from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas; the Dali clock; and creations from the low-brow artist Mark Ryden, “which you can find in every room—walk around, he’s everywhere.” “I’ve always been a fan of the surrealists, like Dali, and I’ve always been a huge Warhol fan too. My favorite Warhol quote is here on the wall and I always tell people this: art is what you can get away with. I’m a firm believer in that,” Joe says. But where does Jellykoe art come from? “Joe just has a crazy mind,” Kelly confirms. Joe’s paintings, of a “lowbrow” style influenced by pop culture, old cartoons, the theater of the absurd, and tattoo designs—“all the stuff that I really like”— originate on the backs of restaurant order sheets from Ruth’s Chris Steak House, where Joe works. One side reads ‘Table #, server;’ the other reveals a wildly creative sketch. “When I’m at work or anywhere and I think of an idea, I immediately sketch it out. If I like it well enough, I save it in my folder. I never sit down and stare at a blank canvas, like, ‘what should I paint?’ I flip through my folder to see what sparks my attention that day.” Joe pulls out an accordion folder and leafs through some drawings. He’s organized the folder by category, including heartwarming topics like blood, skulls, and cannibals. But the sketches aren’t scary. The bald, nose-less cartoons with the odd tooth or two sticking out of their grins induce much more laughter than fright. The paintings capitalize on word-play: one entitled “Stockholm” depicts a wide-eyed creature smiling benignly at the happy pewter ball chained to his leg; “Heart to Heart to Heart” shows a joyful skull atop a long rib cage containing three red shapes. The couple recalls another painting: a creature wearing a dunce hat holding poop on a stick. “We’ll have that one for a while,” Kelly had said, but it sold at its first showing. A woman in her thirties pointed to it exclaiming, “I want that one! This reminds me of my son!” Joe used to do impressionist cityscapes, like the primary-colored painting hanging above the living room couch. His work shifted towards surrealism, eventually settling into the lowbrow style, which is also known as pop surrealism. Kelly’s plush toys have a similar look to Joe’s paintings. “The dolls cross over into folk art, just because they have a more primitive aesthetic, with unraveled seams and stuff like that,” Kelly explains. This keeps the dolls from appearing too polished. Impressively, each of the 500 dolls Kelly has made is different. “We never do the same one in the same fabric twice. We want people to have something one-of-a-kind.” This is one factor that separates the dolls from mass-produced toys—each is a special art piece. Though the Wonky Dolls first came into being as Christmas presents for the couple’s nieces two years ago, teenagers and young adults are the biggest fans of the plush toys. “From the start we didn’t really have kids in mind,” Joe says. The dolls, like the paintings, have a cute but creepy

construction, which is based on a background story. Kelly and Joe are in the process of publishing a book compiling each doll’s personal history. Kelly holds up a plush rabbit made of two mismatching patterns. “His story is that he was cut in half and then sewn together backwards. If you don’t know that story you’re like, what the heck is wrong with this bunny?!” Tales of Wonk and Woe will combine Kelly’s dolls, Joe’s illustrations, and the couple’s degrees in English. “Yes, our degrees!” “Mom and Dad, we did it!” Besides the book’s eminent release party, the Jellykoe duo has some exciting gallery shows approaching. On September 17th, “Lower than Lowbrow,” a solo show hosted by Café Chartier in Lexington will take place from six to ten. Joe and Kelly also will be involved with First Thursday, a monthly event to revitalize Main Street and promote Columbia artists. On October 6th, local artist Amanda Ladymon will fill S & S Art Supply with Jellykoe creations, as well as hors d’oeuvres, wine and a DJ. “We’re making huge five to six foot tall plushes to decorate her store front window,” Joe says excitedly. This show, called “Cartoon Love/Cartoon Violence,” will last into November. “We’re just thankful we’ve come so far,” Joe exclaims earnestly. “You never want to set your sites too high, but every step’s been a step up, and it’s exciting to think how far we could go with this. If this could be our whole life it would be a fun life,” Joe says, and then laughs. “Already is a fun life!”



Eliot Dudik has traveled a different road

Imagine a drive that should take 2 hours, turning into a 14 hour escapade, every weekend for the span of one and a half years. That is the basis of the “love story” between Eliot Dudik and Charleston’s lowcountry. This modern day explorer “fell in love with Charleston and jumped on the chance to live there” when he moved from Maryland to attend the College of Charleston as an undergraduate student. “That’s when I devoted my life to photography and decided that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Dudik explained. The dedicated photographer became inspired by the back roads he passed during the trip from his Charleston apartment to his graduate classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design along highway U.S. Route 17. With his large format view camera in tow, his agenda became to “pick a different back road I hadn’t been on. Explore the roads and see what I came across and who I met.” In a 10 to 12 hour period, Dudik may capture, at most, 20 shots since the large format camera is such a slow process, not that taking the extra time “exploring and driving around” bothered the lowcountry lover. His adventures turned into his first monograph, which he fittingly named “ROAD ENDS IN WATER.” This series showcases the landscape, rivers, people, and architecture that Dudik was captured by and his goal is for the photographs to capture the audience in the same way. “The idea of cultures that are nestled in the woods and marshes being destroyed by commerce and transportation really scared me and evolved into this project. This is a love story about the area and an opportunity for recognition and preservation of the lifestyle there now. The portraits stare back at the viewer in order to force an interaction and conversation, and attempt to extinguish any chance of disregard.” said Dudik passionately. The shots lure the viewer into Snuffy’s House, filled with taxidermy deer heads, the deep woods for the A.B.A.T.E. Biker Rally, Antioch Baptist Church to see the lone Thelma on Valentine’s Day, and into the Sacred Space off of Muckenfus Road. Bud,

Cam & Hayden, Jimmy Mac, Anthony, Betty, Wimpy, and Buddy Baily are just a few more of the faces and lifestyles you will get to know along the way. “I am still in contact with some of the people I photographed and I return to exchange photographs and books with the folks who worked with me,” recalled the photographer about his connection to the people in his series. Dudik graduated in 2010 with his Masters of Fine Art in photography. Before graduation, he assembled the series of photographs into a photo book. The book and the photographs themselves will be the featured show at Art + Cayce Gallery on September 9 at 6pm running through October 9. Recently, Dudik became an adjunct professor in the photo department at the University of South Carolina. “Teaching is my

main focus, but I am in the beginning stages of a couple new projects, and am still very much invested in this body of work,” said Dudik. To check out Dudik’s work and maybe purchase a piece of your own lowcountry experience, visit his website at

story: erin emory



Renee Rouillier tells of stories made not born Renee Rouillier’s ceramic sculptures often stop viewers in their tracks, halting them long enough to conjure up their own versions of the story the piece is trying to tell them. Like imagery from art of the Surrealists and German Expressionists, to whose work the artist has long been drawn, there may be lurking within her pieces an edge, a dark side – or an unforeseen side of reality. Rouillier’s art continues to turn, evolve, even though she has progressed now far beyond her initial and protracted “vessel” period. Speaking of art in the round, she arrived at ceramics circuitously, having worked her around many of fine arts’ genres: drawing, painting, and textiles. But she seldom circles back anymore. So smitten was she with ceramics when she discovered this medium, she decided to continue learning, building, and in time that decision became her ticket – so far, one way - to Columbia, and the University of South Carolina into whose Master of Fine Arts program she was accepted. After she completed her degree, she was an adjunct faculty member for eight years, loving the opportunity to work with students and loving being involved in their creative development. “When I tried ceramics, I knew that was it,” Rouillier recalled of her formative art studies in Brockport, New York, close to the Canadian border her forebears crossed. “I love the mind-hand connection, love how malleable the material is, love being able to forge something from it.” It has not been unusual for her to make ceramic pieces multi-media by weaving or carving on them. Yet, in getting up to her elbows into clay, she didn’t leave behind any of those earlier forms of creativity; in each of her evocative clay sculptures, all the other media still come into play – and that is no pun. Every work has been a culmination of her earlier art making, only now there are slips and glazes, and clay to receive her evocative concepts. Her creations appeal to other homo sapiens because they are lifelike. Rouillier’s highly-conceptual clay sculpture is crafted with obvious notes taken from the human form; they are imbued with lifelike characteristics – you might even say a bit of attitude, and often with playful adaptations. Donna Green of Southern Pottery, where Rouillier’s work is represented, described the pieces as “very personal – profound.” How each viewer or “touchy-feeler” responds to her textural art is as inimitable as the piece itself. “I am honored when someone buys my work,” said the gentile-speaking Rouillier.

“But I have to admit it has been hard sometimes for me to let a piece go. I am fortunate that I know where many of my pieces are, who bought them, and that gives me great pleasure and comfort.” Rouillier keeps some of the clay sculptures around – they are good company. They inhabit her home and take their places on walls, tablescapes, and ledges alongside collected works by colleagues and other artists. “Like many artists who may not have a lot materially, I do have great art!” Fellow graduate students and later collaborators with whom she has swapped pieces have been even more important as a collegial sounding board for her. “It is so productive to work in an environment in which you can step out of your studio and exchange ideas, ask for an opinion and know you will get a straight – informed and, usually nurturing - answer.” Having ready access to such input is one half of her ideal work environment; the other half is solitude. When she is deeply focused on building a piece, she finds it jarring to be interrupted. “It is difficult to immediately regain that intensity. Having a positive environment is so essential to the creative process, and I have been fortunate to find that at the City Clay Center.” The intensity of Rouillier’s work is an easily-understood explanation for why it often is described as passionate. But another reason is that the pieces convey poignant messages – in any of several ways. “There are so many issues and situations that can be addressed through art, and I hope, and intend my art to raise questions,” Rouillier said. Her series Silent Conversation is a great example. Curiosity is piqued, but subtlety - the sculptor permeates the clay with a recognizable emotion, in this case, the familiar banter between a co-joined maternal figure and the mother’s clay spawn. Just a tilt of a featureless head conveys they are attuned. And since they aren’t two separate figures - the smaller one seems to emanate from the larger one - Rouillier has addressed another situation. “Cloning and genetic altering is so much in our news, filtering into our societal DNA, and technology has also caused much more social isolation and inequity of available resources. Advances in science and technology, although beneficial, pose questions, trigger consequences. There seems to be too little accountability for our actions.” She hopes her art gives the viewer pause. No artistic cloner is she. She enjoys studying the works of other ceramists, but she cannot even be accused of imitating her own work; each piece can stand alone. “Duplicating a piece is


“Art can address many situations. I hope, and intend my art to raise questions about many issues.” spiritual connections.” Roullier, whose first academic degree prepared her to teach interdisciplinary art to children, delves into, and is informed by, the lore of past tribal cultures. “I am fascinated by ways in which identity and power transfers between human and animals in some of our backstories, and there is a connection with all life forms.” One of her admonishments, via her work, is for us to look out for each other in this life. “In this world we all depend on each other,” she said. If one of us doesn’t protect or nurture the other, what might happen? She answered her own question, playfully but shrewdly, by sculpting a parade of ants crawling up the side of an anteater. Her intuition tells her when a body of work is complete. “I like to take a little time off before beginning a new series,” she said. “That’s when I get back into my sketch book and see what speaks to me, conceptually. Right now, I feel my work is about to experience a growth spurt.”

“When I Grow Up I Want to be a Bluebird”. Earthenware, oxides, underglazes, glazes. 22x6x4”. 2008

very difficult; you cannot re-capture the particular feeling, emotion that went into the original.” Even in her series, there always are differences – if only in the coloration from the glaze, which she prefers to create herself. She does, however, mimic nature, although you would never find a creature like hers in the wild, or in a zoo. “I like watching nature channels on TV,” she said. Observing how an animal stands, crouches or pounces feeds her imagination and may manifest itself in a future sculpture. Covering the natural faces of these contrived creatures with masks allows viewers to identify with them more universally. “I like the use of masks because there is a great storytelling connection there – coming out of myths and legends. For centuries, masks have had the ability to transform the wearer into a different persona, one having myriad powers and

“Summer Carnival II”. Earthenware, slips, glazes, wire. 20x12.5x7.5”. 2008 right: “Deadly Playmates”. Earthenware, oxides, underglazes, raised glass. 17x8x9”. 2011




ost of the pieces usually reside out of the elements in the protection of the barn at the back of the property. But their creator, Herman Thompson, had pulled the sculptures out and carefully arranged them that day so that we could view them. The inventiveness of Thompson’s combination of materials as well as the sheer number of pieces was impressive. The most dominating is a permanent fixture, one that towers over the edge of the driveway. This sculpture is a roughly nine-foot tall tyrannosaurus rex constructed entirely from found metal pieces. From a distance the dinosaur reads as a cohesive body; it’s only when you are within a few feet that the metal parts begin to read as individual components, giving a hint to their original use. Thompson’s primary material is found scrap metal that he welds into complex sculptures ranging in subject from the prehistoric to the everyday. Drawing from pop culture as well as his surrounding environment, he make works that are so popular in his community – and not just with family and friends - that he has a hard time, as he says, “keeping enough of them to have a big enough body of work to show.”


“I feel like I’ve succeeded when the bees try to drink nectar from the flowers. They just buzz around and get frustrated.” But describing Thompson as “self-taught” isn’t totally accurate. Trying to pin a label on artists working outside of the mainstream contemporary art world is really a pretty meaningless exercise. Folk art, traditional art, outsider art, naïve art, selftaught art are all terms that are used somewhat indiscriminately to describe work created by non-academically trained people. While Thompson might not have any formal training in art, his family has a tradition of creativity. “I learned to weld from my father. He loved to make things,” says the artist. “Everybody in my family is creative.” So in that sense he is not unlike other traditional artists who learn their craft from an older practitioner, usually a relative. Thompson inherited a drive to make something out of what other people would simply throw away. He points to several planters along the driveway and says that his father made those as well. Walking over to what appear to be white concrete urns and vessels, I’m astonished when they turn out to be repurposed automobile tires, completely transformed from their original doughnut shape. After heating them, his father had cut and shaped them, opening them out like flowers into decorative containers for the garden. The younger Thompson is in many ways an environmental artist, recycling cast off tin and other metals into work that transforms the space that he installs it in. He seems very aware of how he uses that space, not really that surprising in someone working with large sculptures that require an understanding of the physical demands of balance, proportion and placement. His desire to “get the subject right” can lead to a prolonged process, one that lasts months, sometimes even years since he’s more interested in finding the parts that fit the idea than in


manufacturing an idea to fit the parts. One of the challenges of searching for just that right scrap is that it not only has to have the right form and shape, but also has to balance structurally with the rest of the piece. This in and of itself is no mean feat since many of his pieces are large, well over eight feet in height and/or length. Thompson’s persistence in the quest can and has led to a sculpture standing shrouded in plastic for months at a time until one of his forays to the junkyard yields pay dirt. When he finds that elusive perfect scrap, Thompson brings it back to the large area at the back of his family’s property where he has a carefully ordered workspace. The space, really an out-door studio, occupies a large area filled with the materials of his craft. Radiating out from the center, like a painter’s palette with the colors laid out around the edges, are assorted collections of metal that he has grouped and ordered according to size and shape so that he can find what he needs quickly. His welding area in the center, the earth bare to prevent flying sparks from igniting. He works with a surprisingly small torch considering the size of his final sculptures. Thompson learned from his father to work with the metal as a craftsman, by smell and sound as well as sight. The hiss of the bubbling metal speaks to him, telling him just when it’s hot enough for the join to stick. Sometimes his subjects are ones that he becomes familiar with through hours of research at the library. The public library in downtown Columbia is Thompson’s research center where he reads voraciously about a broad range of topics from Impressionist art to texts describing the anatomy of the dinosaurs that fascinate him. Other times his subjects are drawn

from the surrounding natural world, like the deer that stays on display in the front yard. Thompson started out creating single figures but says he is really drawn to making groups, like the school of fish stretched out in a line in front of us in the yard. Several of the arrangements form self-contained tableaux, groupings of objects and creatures in an accompanying environment. A group of red metal cannas peek up about the shrubs in the edge of the front yard. From twenty feet away the “flowers” do a pretty good job of fooling the human eye, but up close they confuse the bumblebees as well. “I feel like I’ve succeeded when the bees try to drink nectar from the flowers. They just buzz around and get frustrated,” he says with evident satisfaction. At times Thompson embellishes his work with a painted surface created with simples spray enamel. How he approaches that finish depends entirely on the piece. The red cannas with their sinuous foliage are fairly flatly painted. The fish, on the other hand, have more complex patterned surfaces created by spraying paint through a variety of materials, one layer on top of another to create a dense texture. The surfaces of some sculptures retain the original finish of their component parts. Others are left to patina naturally in the outdoors, especially if they are too large and heavy to be taken apart and moved. Thompson visibly winces at the thought of how difficult it was to take apart and move the Tyrannosaurus Rex. He says that’s one sculpture that is going to stay right where it is. Some of the artist’s objects are put to more prosaic uses. A small garden plot sits to the side of the


A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. — Oscar Wilde


story: Kristen Gehrman



O’Neal Compton is larger than life When O’Neal Compton was 26, he moved to New York City. A wayward Southern Baptist and medical school escapee from Sumter, South Carolina, he followed the bohemian call of Broadway dreamers, sure of his destiny as an actor. When he arrived, he was so broke that he rented his apartment in hourly shifts and split a 1971 pea green Volkswagen beetle with three friends, each paying $350. The sputtering old car racked up so many parking tickets that when it finally got booted, Compton just left it parked in the street and walked away You could say that is how Compton has jaunted through life, moving from one adventure to another, racking up big laughs and minor offenses, and never really cashing in before going whole hog with the next challenge. In fact, it’s hard to say whether his cyber-pseudonym “The Whole American Hog” refers to his roaring enthusiasm for whatever is in front of him or his wide-spanning status as an actor, filmmaker, musician, photographer, and political strategist. I arrive at his house north of downtown Charleston just after a thunderstorm. There is a soggy, peaceful stillness spreading from his grassy garden to the abandoned bridge down the street, across the open marsh. The Lowcountry serenity is a far cry from 1970s New York City tenement housing and the littered streets of L.A. where he built his acting career. Recovering from hip surgery, he answers the door in a wheelchair, nothing containing his robust smile and hospitality. Looking over the rims of round tortoise shell glasses, he asks “How ‘bout a margarita and sushi?” The walls are stacked with his own photography, framed in recovered wood using techniques he learned from his cabinet-maker father. Yellowed images of ancestors overlook the kitchen, a bookcase next to the door stands over-laden with antique political buttons, harmonicas, trinkets brought back from the Alps, a Darwin fish car decal, and a bone and metal contraption that will soon be his new hip. The collection serves as a reliquary of the winding roads and sharp turns Compton has taken in his life and career. Born in 1951 to a 13th generation Southern American family, he started working in his grandfather’s funeral business as a young teen. At a young age, he was exposed to nearly every tragedy in his tight-knit community. “I saw my three friends’ dead bodies right after a car crash when I was a kid,” Compton remembers. “I was so deeply effected by these early experiences that I turned to the arts as an outlet.”

lthough his academic parents already had him on track for medical school, Compton started playing the drums at his uncle’s dance hall on the weekends. But it wasn’t until he started studying biology at Wofford College in 1976 that he discovered theater. “My parents were so disappointed that I wanted to be an actor back then,” Compton says. “But once art grabs you by the throat and you realize that you are good at something, all you can do is go with it. I needed the stage so badly, it was the first thing that really made my heart soar.” Fast forward thirty years and Compton’s career includes roles in over 12 Hollywood films, acting along side the likes of Jodie Foster, Eddie Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and Sharon Stone. He’s walked on over 20 TV series, notably Seinfeld, Party of Five, and The Wonder Years. He’s learned to morph into the kind of loud, honky characters that directors snatch up to play the umpire, the Texan, and the witty police officer. Back home in South Carolina, he commandeered Lucky Boys, a highly successful film production company specializing in TV commercials. Big businesses across the Southeast sought after

lovers kissing under a bridge, a monk walking to town—all images possessing a reverence for the subject’s quiet quotidian. “One time, I was shooting a group of young people on a bridge overlooking the Thames River in London. They were clearly high on heroin and it was as if, in their wild state, they were crying out for the lens,” Compton recalls. “I’ve learned a lot about the needs of humanity from taking photographs. These kids had created their own little support group, and maybe the next day all they would care about would be their next fix, but in this moment, they were everything to each other.” Grown out of his need to be in the bright lights, Compton poured himself into preserving fleeting moments starring the anonymous. Within a few years, his private passion garnered the attention of international galleries, gracing the walls of the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London, Castle Haggenberg in Vienna, and a number of others in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and Charleston. Today, his work hangs in the homes of old friends, Morgan Freeman and Emma Thompson. The likes of Billy Bob Thornton and Elizabeth Taylor have purchased his pieces from galleries abroad.


(left)O’Neal with Morgan Freeman in “Deep Impact”. (center) As Earl Haffler in an episode of Seinfeld. (right) With Anthony Hopkins and James Woods in “Nixon”.

his hilarious stock characters such as the hillbilly car salesman, the backwoods doctor, and the Southern front-porch gentleman. In a decade and a half, he became a stockpile of made-for-TV personas, the kind of quasi-star that always gets cast, sometimes gets recognized, but never quite fulfills his dream of producing a feature film. As the biz would have it, Compton racked up and burned out by the end of the 90s. Even though he had relished in his on-screen success, the fact that none of his screenplays were ever produced left him discouraged. So, he traded Hollywood for a Harley Davidson and a Pentax 67 camera, and left behind his California ranch. This time he headed for the Alps, seeking space, solitude, and unsuspecting subjects. “I went from being on one side of the camera to the other,” Compton says. “I had a long lens and a passion for capturing people in their natural environment from far away, it was all about finding that true sense of humanity.” Rolling from Alpine villages to major cities across Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, he drew on his production skills to teach himself the art of candid portraiture. From clandestine corners, he produced introspective shots of elderly women at the bus stop, field hands sweating in the sun, young

“Artists promote truth to me in this world, and as an artist I hope to participate in molding a healthy, liberal worldview. I seek just the right juxtaposition of beauty, honesty, and despair,” explains Compton. When not shooting in the field, he experiments with fine art photography, working primarily with female nudes. However, his approach is very similar to his hands-off, candid techniques. Rather than professional models, he shoots female friends, women who are ready to reveal themselves from the inside out. The title of his nude series “Interiors,” although staged inside of stunning architecture, actually refers to the interior souls of his subjects. “I’ve found that most women are very introspective, especially when they feel comfortable enough to take their clothes off for the camera,” says Compton. “Usually, I will leave the room and let them situate themselves a bit. Then I will come back and shoot them from a distance, maybe even from an adjoining room. It’s amazing how quickly they turn their thoughts inward, and how their body responds.” For all of the directions Compton has taken with his career, all of the dreams he has chased, ambitions he has fulfilled, cars he’s left booted in the street, it seems that photography has been his


highest calling. In a sense, his photographs are a culmination of his life’s work, revealing not a list of film credits, but rather everything he has learned about life. Twenty years ago, when he had just started exploring photography, he wrote in his journal, “Why does my heart jump with anticipation each time I take my camera out of the case? I think it’s because I’m overwhelmed by this glorious technology which allows me to capture a microsecond of eternity with a stack of ground glass and a rectangle of emulsion.” Today, Compton continues to take photos in Charleston and also maintains The Whole American Hog, his popular, left wing political blog. He has donated his time and personality to political campaigns, supporting liberal candidates with a strong sense of humanity—the kind of people who might look at his photo of a heroin addict or a homeless man and feel compassion. Refusing to live by one title or be boxed in by one identity, Compton chooses to follow his momentary bliss. With great respect for his life’s experiences and the people who have helped him along the way, he sees his spider web of passions as a source of ever-evolving artistic possibilities.

With Sharon Stone on the set of "Diabolique”

(left) O’Neal Compton. “untitled”. (below) Behind the scenes on the set of “Seinfeld”





EXORCISM For Edgar Alan Poe The drunk see into the gloom, hear voices; the drunk blues man knows the mist of unsettled spirits, he shouts loudly at the way his skin pimples as if a soft cold wind has stirred in this oven of a Pittsburg tenement; the dead are drawn to the promise of whiskey. How casual he is after sweaty wrestling with the beast; how calmly he walks away after—as if he has done this before, the dance of bodies hurled against walls—it is not easy to kill a man with your hands they will fight for everything to live. Any child who sees the bloated body of a familiar spirit, even once, will be marked for life—not a curse but a queer anointing, as if the dead are always with us. She knows that you can wrestle the dead, silence them with a body alert to its every muscle, she learns. The “Ship of Zion” fills the room. So many ships have held the unsettled dreams of black folk. Now the “Ship of Zion” stirs some ancient gene that makes the glinting ripple of open water a trigger for tears, for memories older than reason. “The Ship of Zion” rocks against the nudge of waves, and the fear of death by drowning returns to the woman who sings in that robust voice while the spirit stares through the gloom. The drunk man will collapse eventually, all fight gone. The fighter’s body will give way, the neck’s strain, the taut press against all peace. This child will see and know. Sing, woman, sing, woman, sing! (unpublished poem) −Kwame Dawes


undefined magazine - Book 14  

No fluff, no filler. Just the Southeast and the outstanding artists, musicians, architects, chefs, designers, painters, sculptors, craftsme...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you