Years ago, coming to South Carolina to teach at Columbia College was the beginning of my education about the American South in all respects. My image of it at that point was fairly close to the old “Andy Griffith Show”. Never had been to the South, and had only been to a beach in various big Japanese cities. No Atlantic.
I had a lot to learn, and it was pretty much based on the political philosophy of the South: State’s Rights. The place looked inward, and this view was very different for me. School children had to memorize all the counties in the state. They knew a lot about “honor” and called women something between Ms and Miss. With new acquaintances, one would verbally search around until you found common kin. It was an interesting ballet to a foreigner like me.
And since the natives knew so much about their native sons, they kind of generalized that proposition. I was a wet behind the ears new college instructor, wondering all the time about what I did not know, so I was always punting.
Robert Mills was the first guy that the proud students knew more about. He designed the Washington Monument, the White House and many other federal style buildings in DC. He was a big fish locally being educated in Charleston. But unless as a student (outside of SC) of American architecture, one does not run into him all that much in survey courses. It is Thomas Jefferson who set the style and who is studied, not the (dare I say?) followers, although Robert Mills may have been the first American-made architect and worked under seven Presidents.
Credit: © Katherine J. Trimnal, Columbia, South Carolina
What is called “The Robert Mills House” sits in the heart of Columbia. It is associated with him by name, not the owner because the man died before it was finished.
Above is the White House. Notice the similarities. And you can find many expressions of this style in county buildings all over the state and in DC.
And then there was Carl Blair. A generation older than me, he had taught in at least three major institutions in South Carolina. He is a favorite native son, a very unassuming man. Associated mostly with Bob Jones University which has a collection of art well beyond its otherwise influence, he helped to forge the profile of the arts in this state. His brilliant oils and acrylics are like visual poetry. He speaks in a well-honed language.
I re-met Carl again last weekend at The Manor House http://www.manorhousebb.com in Greenville. We have been in at least one exhibition together: “A Hundred Years, a Hundred Artists”, mounted by the State Museum in Columbia, I don’t know how many years ago.
Carl “hangs with” the beautiful and brilliant owner of the bed and breakfast. It was a treat to talk with him, and to be in an environment that features exquisite art eclectically mixed. He wears a ball cap that says “Koren War Veteran”. He makes a quiet statement simply in that gesture. He has done us all proud!