ANOTHER OUTDOOR ROOM

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Bought a great old bench at the flea market Saturday for five bucks.  It has been around.  Paint-dripped, heavy, weathered and constructed in a novel way, we have just the place for it in a new outdoor room being created next to the pool.  You would think I would learn.  Oh yeah, lots of fun creating all these gardens, and even adding three new zones to our watering system recently.  The plantings are doing great, but  funny how weeds respond to daily watering.  Who would think?

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The best part of the little bench is the seat back.  Made of one large piece of lumber, it has split and the pieces were moved a couple inches apart from each other to make a fine undulating line.  The top of that plane looks like someone took an axe to it.  There is a bit of a grey/blue color to it, which I knew would be enhanced when coated with varnish.  The bare wood would darken and make the combo better.

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The construction of the bench from the back reveals a complete “joie de vivre” in terms of engineering.  Notice the nails attending the close side.  Reminds me of my craftsmanship.  How fast can I get this thing done?!

As with my sculpture,  a shiny varnish is used to accomplish two things.  Protect the wood, and exclaim to the viewer:  this is intentional, the primitive nature of this piece.   It is varnished and shined up so there will be no question that THIS is the intended statement.

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Here the little bench sits on an almost blank canvas near a fairly recently laid eccentric pathway.  It is varnished now and the wood is redder and darker.  This will get watered every day by the new system.  Who knows how long it will last?

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Same for these partners in crime on the other side of the young fig tree.  Their rust is enormous, and heterogeneous so it looks like a heavy skin.  How much watering can they take?

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I have never seen chairs of this design before, and their style is a refreshing change from the norm.

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Soon the cut weeds out here will turn to centipede grass.

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FOR YOU, BETSY KAEMMERLEN

We are Facebook friends.  Your name is familiar to me, but I know not from where.  It must be art.  We have so many common friends; I looked.

It can be this way or not, but with some people being the aforementioned FB friends, you can get to know a lot about a person.  Especially if they talk about passions and interests.  Artists, of course are self-revealing.  It is their business to sort and create.

Glenn is having a hard time with the immediacy of Facebook, and I get that.  Only looking at it once in a while through me, even that much information is too much.  This week in South Carolina after the massacre in Charleston, I took to Facebook, hard.  We do not use television, so it provided some information.

There are some people who I have met briefly who have become my kindred souls on Facebook.  Lucy, Pat:  I know your faces, but I know what is going on under the visage much better.  Choose the right words for a passionate issue, and there you are in your true self for almost all to know.

So.  One of my favorite places is the Goodwill Clearance Center on Hwy 1 in Columbia.  It is the last place inventory from all the Goodwill stores in the area fluffs itself up to try be sold. The inventory sells by the pound there, and on Sunday, it is half price for a pound.  Books and things made of glass are cheaper per pound because they are heavy.  But don’t get me wrong, this stuff is not the worst of the worst from all the Goodwill stores.  It is stuff that just happened not to sell.  I bought a paint by number from the 50s/60s, framed and under glass for about a quarter.  Any collector of these would be proud to have it.  No flaws, perfect.

Two Sundays ago, the pickings were not so good for the special waste that is used in my sculptures.  But the book selection was fantastic.  Bought 8 heavy books, histories, biographies, my old algebra book from the 60s which I gave to my daughter.  They cost me in total $1.95.  Couldn’t even get to the car without dropping them, so bountiful.

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Above is one of the books.  Copyrighted in 1957, I thought the compositions would be good to look at in thinking about sculpture, and they are mid-century interesting, but too vertical for me.  I am a square composer, maybe a little bit horizontal, but mostly square.  It is a great book, with hundreds of photos.

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I need to sort and place things in the correct places.  Through FB, I know that Betsy is interested in this stuff.  Have to get this book in the right hands.  Hope she does not already own it.

BEV-LEE HAS BALLS

And lots of them.

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Many of her balls are colorful old bowling balls which carry along the patina of age.  To install some of the outside ones,  she simply places a little rebar stick into the ground, and into the thumb hole of the ball.  She judges the length of the rebar to make them hover, and in this case, above the grass on Isa’s island.  Isa the greyhound used to make a bald spot in the middle of this island as she was master of this domain.  Kind of like the Little Prince on his planet, I always thought.   Isa is gone now, but the balls keep her memory on the island.

Bev-lee is old enough to have established her style.  Some never do, but she has loved orbs as long as I can remember.  She used to have an admirable glass office with her big job, and you could see the balls all through the adjoining work space.  Having an even bigger job now, she works from home and all those balls are in the home office.

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They hail from all over the world, and they are not just decorative.  These icons of hers run much deeper than just objects to collect (although there is much merit in simple collections).

Balls are Bev-lee’s visual language.  They integrate all the rooms of her house visually, and the balls on the inside and the balls on the outside claim the same nationality.  They are visual team players.

You have already seen outside balls and inside balls, but these balls also do jobs.  This is why we know that balls are far beyond a collection.  They solve problems, they create compositions, they move.  I told you Bev-lee had balls.

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Does your Mother-in-Law Tongue droop over the edge of its pot?  Use balls to keep it in place.

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Need a dust ruffle for your bed?  Why not use balls?

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Blank space under a tall table?  Fill it with balls and play with interesting texture contrast as well.  All good.

EVERYTHING is a composition.  The entire interior of this house is connected visually by repeated orbs.  All the rooms make sense together.  And this repetition is really important outside the house; in the front and back.

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The idea of balls is introduced to the viewer at the entry of the house.  Here the red annuals were selected to repeat the beautiful red bowling ball.  So now you know what you are in for in the back of the house.  Welcome to ball world!

Bev-lee has been working on a couple of ponds for many years, and creating the landscape around them.  It was many years ago, hotter than hell, when we were racing around the city doing what we do when we get together.  The “Waste as a Way of Life” world joins the orb patrol for a couple of days.  We saw that some enormous bushes were being fairly ripped out of the gardens of a shopping center.  The bushes themselves plus the root balls probably stood five feet high.  We asked about the future of the bushes; they had none.  Bev-lee talked the workers into bringing the enormous things, maybe eight, to her house, and then muscle them into the back yard.  She tipped them well.   We dribbled water on those big boys for a couple of days until she could get them planted.  It is shocking how many survived; I swear it was 100 that day.

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Above is one of those bushes, probably four feet high and wide now, and below is its context.  It is part of the landscape of the upper pond.

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There is a footpath between the two ponds.

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And the lower pond.

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Form plus function is the best, anyone will tell you.  This is what is so marvelous about Bev-lee’s universe.  She wondered  how to keep the netting that holds leaves out of the ponds in place for the winter months.  Her solution is brilliant.  She puts a big exercise ball in each pond in the middle.  On the edges, smaller balls secured from bins at Target.  After the nets are installed, the balls don’t move, and the leaves are excluded.  And her orb fetish is intact!

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It gets better.  For two years she has not removed the balls at all when not needed in winter.  She chose their colors appropriately in the first place, they are lovely as the little waterfall moves them around the lower pond (movement is a great attribute for a composition) and she has not had a fish taken by predators since she decided to leave them.  Trifecta!

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Bev-lee has balls.

 

 

NEW FINDS FOR NEW SPACES

It has been a portable accommodations desert since my last discovery of retro metal lawn chairs.  The last one Glenn found at the county waste disposal site needed a lot of work.  But it was FREE—the best!  We have not addressed its broken legs yet which is awful as its seat and back are among the most intact we have.  Maybe when one is forced to pay for something, the repair is more insistent.

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Today was a really fine morning for me at the flea market, but my partner came home with every bit of his money.  Sometimes that happens.  More money slipped from mine than usual between lawn chairs, sculpture raw materials, a fine chalk figure, and a cement lotus.

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Hard to believe, but there are spaces on this acreage that do not have a composition of old lawn chairs and gliders positioned so one can contemplate either nature or their navel.  I have been working behind the pool and beside the newly moved silo, and unfortunately there were no lawn chairs for that space.  The path below is now finished and a fig tree planted to the left of this area.

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Now that space will have two fine figures, and these are of a design never seen by me.  The backs and seats of the chairs are punched through with a series of capsule-like shapes.  The ones in the middle of the backs and seats look like the three tiny staggered windows that used to be on the front doors of tract houses back in the fifties.  The chairs look rusty here, but they are very solid.  They have lived outside lives nicely.  The holes in chairs do much more than make them beautiful.  They get water out of places where it might corrode the metal.  My earlier “free” find bent at the knees because water was allowed to settle there.  Those spots are like Achilles’ heel for outdoor furniture.

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This bar at the front of the seat on these chairs is new to me as well.  It may be simply a design choice, but water can gather underneath the front of the bottom plane if the metal is curled under to finish it.  These chairs seem to me to be of a cleaner design than those of the 1940s.  They might nudge towards 1960 in dating.

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This fine little pond accessory still had its original price tag on it.  It is from Henri Studio, Palatine, Il., and is a cement lotus flower.  It is dated 1987.  I have an email into the company now for information as to how to best hook it up.  It is extremely heavy and the sprayer is copper, just under the normal size of a water hose.

CREATIVITY OR OBSESSION?

My Ben is eleven months.  In the last almost a year, I have bought him more of one thing than anything else, by far.  Clothes or toys?  No.  They don’t last.  Ice cream?  He is too young for that.

Chairs.  I have bought him three chairs and am now making him one.  What is that about?

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My daughter has taken a picture of Ben with his turquoise chair for each of his eleven months.  It is a theme in the pictures, a sub-plot.

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Stuff happens behind the chair, as here.  This chair was a shower gift.  To me, it is a beautiful and sweet piece of sculpture.  I fantasize about him being big enough to sit in it.

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Last summer I bought this little metal outside chair.  It is sweet, but it would be perfect if it matched all the others around here.

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Have had no such luck with that.  Have never even seen a child’s 1940-50s metal lawn chair for sale, although I am sure they exist.

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Then I bought the old wooden rocker for him.  He knew exactly what to do with it.  The size is perfect.

Ben uses Gee’s sixty year old stroller when he is here.  It is not Ben’s however, it is a piece of sculpture located in our bedroom when not being used by him.

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Now I am making him a chair that he will never be able to use.  Dangerous.  Cannot figure out where this stuff comes from.

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THE WORKINGS OF CREATIVITY

Artists need to observe patterns in their behavior.  For me,  pattern is the most important element in art making.  Knowledge comes from repetition, visual cohesiveness comes from repetition, personal truths come from repetition.  Notice.

If the artist can pull way back and observe the chronology of their work, patterns will emerge.  Often, that pattern is seen retrospectively, but it helps to know what you are doing, even if you are in the middle of it.

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A while ago, I knew that sooner or later I would do something with chairs in my work.  Love their shapes and their differences.  We have two houses chock full of chairs, to the point that we can handle no more.  Where did this start?  Figured that out.

It was with my rather large collection of gliders.  Most are in good shape, nicely reflecting a well-used history.  Some are kind of abused however.  It was with these that the idea came.

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Glenn got this one for me off of a street in south St. Louis.  Its rails are gone, and the seat is full of automobile body putty.  I still wanted it.  I WANT THEM ALL.

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This one is in better shape, but the rails and swinging devices are totally gone.  It sits on nubs.  Low-slung.

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This aluminum glider skeleton never had any cushions.  I put pressure treated wood where the seat should be and have plants on it nine months out of the year.  Being aluminum, it is in fine shape.  It simply has no cushions.

I would love to be able to take parts of these gliders and mix and match them, weld them to the other, and make silly conjunctions.  My mind can see how wonderful they would be.  But I lack the skills.  Glenn has them, but he has his own work to do.  I dropped the idea and started working with wooden windows.  I can do screws and a drill.

The chairs did not leave completely however.  An early window sculpture features the back of a chair that was found in a house built in 1939 which was moved to our land.  It was used as a beautiful line.

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The detail shows also that an armrest for an outdoor aluminum chair was used in the composition.  The break in the pane of glass is highlighted in gold paint the way the Japanese do their broken teacups.

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Coming into the present, the image above represents a good haul from one day at the Goodwill Clearance Center, a place where parts for sculptures are secured.  The white baby high chair I bought for the wood, knowing that it would make great spacers to keep my windows from colliding.   They would do what the dowels are doing in the image below.

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I sat the doll chair in front of three windows for which I intended to use it as spacers.  Then I thought, why not keep the chair integral but also use it as spacers?  So below it is in progress.

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And here it is finished, but not photographed with an infinity wall yet.

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A child’s ladder, divided in two and wooden hammer complete the image.  The sculpture rolls around on wooden casters.

For the next chair in progress, the windows are completely dropped.  Interesting way to progress.

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ALL THE RINGS

My husband made all four of our wedding rings.  One for him, three for me.  The first two he made the morning we flew off to Italy to get married in 2009.  I watched and waited.  We had been together long enough for me to know that we respond to pressure much differently.  It is amazing that he always gets stuff done on time.  Holding those work hours, I never would.

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It was a while before I realized the rings were made of welding rod.  Bronze (love turquoise).  They are simple lines that wrap around our fingers two and a half times.  The first of the four was pure experiment.  That was my Rome ring.  Where the spiral band ended between the ring finger and the two on either side was too short.  It should have gone a quarter of an inch more towards the palm side of the hand.  Then the three lines on the front would be complete.  He knew he had to change it when we got back from Rome.  He hammered it some more, the metal got too thin, and it broke.  Have no idea where it is now.  That was ring number one.

Ring number two solved the design problem.  Now the ring was, so to speak, in my hands.  That’s where trouble starts.  I am hard on things.  I try to do too much, too quickly.  Stuff gets beaten up or lost.  It really is a terrible characteristic.  Glenn is the total opposite.  When we met, he had an old cycling team uniform from age 14 in his trunk.  All beautifully embroidered.  I started using it for running in the winter and then painting interiors. Poof!  It was gone in a year.  Terrible.

Don’t know when ring number two was lost.  You see, when gardening, gloves just don’t work for me.  Nor when laying bricks, which is what I have been doing all this week.  I had been taking my ring off in the kitchen before going out to work.  Glenn noticed.  But in the early days of ring number two, I did not take care.  It was lost either in a garden or down the drain, we thought.  Oh well, we have lots of welding rod.  Glenn made ring number three.  That is the ring that was taken off and left in the kitchen last week.

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So the other day we were making the bed.  The bottom sheet was so tight that we had to pick up the mattress and bend it to get all four corners in.  Glenn picked up the mattress, and what I saw left me speechless.  Ring number two was sitting in the middle of the box spring, all alone, as if waiting for a princess to lay down and test the mattress.  My mouth opened, but nothing could come out!

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How in the hell did it get there?  Some other sheet changing time?  When we first erected the bed in the new bedroom?  Who knows.

I have chosen to wear ring number two.  Its design is slightly better.  Glenn thinks we should put number three back under the mattress, and he is right.  It feels good to have a wedding ring under where you sleep.

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THE STORY OF AN AESTHETIC

 

The following are some of the most loved things around here.  Stuff that shows its history is most meaningful.  Ghosts of things.  Things that have BEEN places and in others’ hands.  This little desk was in an old barn made of railroad car wood and was on the property Glenn bought in 1974.  It sat in that barn until my discovery in 2008.  I love it.  It has no drawer, but who cares?

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The little black hoof-like feet are original.  Just had to take a picture of it on the piazza we are laying.

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Some child, at some time, made stars.  We preserved them.

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Found this old aluminum lawn chair in a dumpster.  It had been painted many colors in its life.  Used a tool and dug into the last paint job, the black, and revealed other colors as I chose.  Then it was protected with a thick “varnish” for metal.  Where to put it?  The decision wasn’t difficult.  I have had this amazing ceramic piece for decades.  They were made for each other.

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The following two pictures are not very good, but they illustrate how I added color to the walls of my home when renovating, and how color is discovered in my sculptural work.  Above with the lawn chair, the same thing was done.  Scrape or sand away layers of color to reveal the color history of the thing.  This house was built in 1939 and a lot of life has taken place here.  I let it show.

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Below is the back of the house just after we moved it to our acreage.

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So, it makes sense that my aesthetic should one that celebrates the history of a thing.  The Japanese call it wabi.  Or sabi.

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IMPROVE YOUR FLEA MARKET FINDS

Almost didn’t go to the flea market yesterday. Too tired. So lucky the “good-Lee” won the battle; our treasures were excellent yesterday. Spent an hour or so in total and really improved a wonderful little watercolor, bought for a buck. Many of my best things cost only a buck!

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Above is what I bought: a sweet little watercolor of a woman reading, in a water damaged mat, with spaces between the miters on each corner of the frame. The frame had to come apart.

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Decided to continue to use the original mat as it is a wonderful gold color that pairs up well with the gold in the painting and the natural wood frame. Since the water damage was only at the bottom, I cut a new cream colored new mat 1/4″ larger in the window than the original mat. Because of this decision it was not necessary to remove the brown paper on which the painting was created from the mat. They have been taped together for well more than fifty years and why disturb them? I know, others would argue this.

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Above is the back of the watercolor, done on a piece of a brown grocery bag. The old-fashioned mailing label is from West Virginia. There is no zip code used, so the painting probably was done before the early sixties. There is a fifteen cent stamp on the bag also. These too elements are interesting, but do they help to date the painting? Look at the cardboard used to support the painting and the mat.

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A Betty Davis movie? And she looks young here! I have never seen a cardboard advertisement like this, and correctly still haven’t. The ad was cut off at the bottom to use in the frame. I kept the old ad in the frame package.

Searching “Charles Washington Ranson” finds an old opera house in West Virginia that has been remodeled. Born in 1910, it was renovated in 2011.

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The miters were re-glued and nailed together. The frame itself was cleaned up with Old English Scratch Cover.

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On the back of the cardboard backing is written: “Compliments of e.e. Critcher”, in a European kind of hand, using small letters for the first and middle name initials. Also written is: “Eleanor Coleman states Mrs. Critcher painted this when Eleanor was a little girl”.

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I put the layers of the framing package together, and hung it in the bathroom with other small treasures.

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ROBERT MILLS AND CARL BLAIR

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.

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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.

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Photo: AgnosticPreachersKid

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.

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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!