October 2008

Camellia Art: Exhibiting Lowcountry creativity

Author: Ann DeMart | Photographer: John Brackett

Maybe it’s the coastal light or our proximity to wildlife and sea creatures. Or it might just be that the easy living in the Lowcountry seems to nurture creativity. Whatever “it” is, our area has it—that certain something that attracts and influences artists of all types. From this large pool of talented artists, Adrianne Lively, owner of Camellia Art, has hand-selected a distinctive few, who brilliantly represent the Hilton Head art scene. As soon as you walk through the door of the gallery, you’ll enjoy a variety of paintings, sculpture, photography, turned wood objects and even fish prints that show the unique influences of the Lowcountry.

Lively has loved art since she was a child, something that came as a surprise to her CPA father, and her mother, who’s in medicine. “They were a little like deer in the headlights when I told them that I wanted to go into art,” she said, “but they’ve been really supportive.” She chuckled and added, “Even my siblings are in medicine and accounting.” Lively’s background is in graphic arts. She earned a BFA from Indiana University in Pennsylvania, and did graduate work in Florence, Italy. After college, she headed to Hilton Head Island and never left.

In 1985, she and a friend started the gallery; three years later, Lively bought out the business, which has been in its current Pope Avenue location for 17 years. The little gallery has seen some big changes over the years. Recognized from the beginning for its expert custom framing services, Camellia Art had evolved into more of a gift and art shop. Two years ago, Lively made the decision to focus her business on art and framing. It was a very good decision.

Today, Camellia Art is more successful than ever and currently displays the work of 22 professional artists. “The work we show is diverse, and our artists themselves are diverse in the work they do,” said Lively.

Southern folk art is in full glory at Camellia Art. In fact, painter Louanne LaRoche is an international expert on the genre as well as a representative of it. Her friends call her strong, colorful paintings of figures an “eruption of her wonderful spirit that simply spills out onto the canvas.” Cassandra Gillens, a self-taught artist, is inspired by the culture she first saw when she visited Beaufort as a child. She has lived there for years and paints portraits of simple southern living in vivid colors, with flattened shapes and bold compositions. Other appealing folk artists, including Helen Stewart and Amos Hummell, depict familiar southern scenes in their distinctive styles.

Painters Martha Worthy, Kelly Logan Graham and Laurie McIntosh use brilliant colors to depict the fanciful creatures and spirit of the Lowcountry. Brucie Holler, a South Carolina native who received a BFA in painting and formal training from several educational institutions, creates both abstract and representational art inspired by her personal experiences. Ben Ham’s breathtaking large-format photography reflects the dramatic light and nature of the East Coast countryside.

Vicki Bailey Ebbers’ work ranges from landscapes to figures and every media from pastels and watercolor to oil and drawings. Some of her most memorable work is imbued with an ethereal light. Lynn Parrott’s beautiful, multi-layered landscape paintings verge on abstraction, and give a unique perspective of the marshes and tides. Nature is the medium in the work of Brian Vaughn, a fisherman and artist who specializes in Gyotaky, the Japanese art of printing making. For those who prefer their art in three dimensions, there’s John Diamond’s turned-wood bowls and vases that highlight the wood’s beautiful grains and patterns. The mixed textures of Vance James’ sculptures combine found driftwood and bronze, and talented sculptor Robert Ferguson also works in bronze.

In addition to work by these and other fine local artists, Camellia Art provides creative and reasonably priced custom framing that highlights each piece of art’s individual character and style. Whether she’s exhibiting the work of local artists or creating frames to exhibit your own art, Lively’s skilled eye is obvious. Suzy Pace has been working with Lively for more than 10 years. Lively called her “my right arm” and commented on her talents. “We do all our framing right here. And, we try to push the envelope in our work, demonstrating creativity in preserving and exhibiting your art or memories.”

Lively also expressed her joy at being able to make a living at something she loves. “We’re blessed every day to work with such delightful artists and clients,” she said.

The gallery’s Web site offers a simple, easy-to-view online gallery, but the glowing colors, gorgeous textures and dramatic images of the Lowcountry are best appreciated in person. Camellia Art is located at 8 Pope Ave (near Sea Pines Circle) on Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 785-3535 or visit camelliaart.com.

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