New Shows at Laney Contemporary and RO3 Gallery: Low Country Passion & The Vastness of One’s Life

BI-WEEKLY ART COLUMN

"purple, please"
"purple, please"

I am always excited when the cutting-edge Laney Contemporary Gallery hangs a new show. But when it’s a show created by a nationally acclaimed artist who happens to be a friend, I am beyond excited! Don’t miss “The Nature of Not Knowing” by Betsy Cain, hanging this Friday, January 7. 

A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Cain received both her BFA and MFA degrees from The University of Alabama, experiencing formative undergraduate work at Auburn University and Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. After the culmination of a national grant through New Mexico’s Roswell Museum and Art Center in 1981, Betsy and photographer husband David Kaminsky moved to Savannah where she has maintained an independent studio practice for four decades. It is fun to look back on my studio visits over the years – everything from a gorgeous space overlooking the canopy of live oaks on Wright Square to the rather sinister former abattoir, Meddin Meat Packing Company, on Louisville Road.

One of our city’s most highly accomplished contemporary artists, Cain’s multi-media paintings are in many corporate collections and in such public institutions as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences, the Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center for the Arts, Savannah, and the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, NM. She was awarded the Macon Museum’s Bowen Award in 2018 for Artistic Excellence and the Georgia Women in the Visual Arts, Governor’s Award in 1997.

Cain describes her show as a “Pandemic body of work with most pieces made in 2020 and 2021. We could have called the show “Sequestered!” Since I work alone in my studio, my studio practice did not change much with the onset of the virus and subsequent shutdown, except that I had so many fewer distractions from an eclipsed social life.” However, “The generalized anxiety we all felt did permeate my work. I think of the two “eye of the storm” paintings, which seem to reflect a kind of turmoil or vortex of energy. The Covid storm we are all experiencing is anything but calm.”

She goes on, “I continue with paintings, works on paper and cut-outs, all exploring an essence of form and the suggestion of both the figure and the landscape. Since I don’t work from life (with the exception of drawing/painting on Ossabaw island), I distill relationships and imagery from what I perceive and experience. I am very much engaged with the low country landscape, tidal estuaries, the maritime forest, dripping spanish moss, rich textures, and saturated hues…

“My husband and I live on the marsh, and we witness the dramatic turns with tide, light, and storms. It is a never-ending inspiration to me. As is the color indigo, which I use in abundance in many of these works. I like the fact that a pigment can be associated with a place, with this place.”

In stark contrast to the plethora of color she employs and the preponderance of indigo, Cain says, “Many of the cut-outs in the show are painted with the blackest black (Black 3.0). I am using these pieces in the famous mirrored room at the gallery and am excited about the context. A dualism is established with all the refractory light and the deep darkness of the cutouts”

As I wrote last month, I consider Laney Contemporary, located at 1810 Mills B. Lane Blvd., to be the sexiest gallery in town; an amazing space housed inside a brutalist concrete bunker of a building that more people need to discover for themselves. Here is your chance. 

The following Friday (January 14) is your opportunity to check out our city’s newest gallery, Rule of Three, or RO3, a gorgeous little space, situated on the edge of the historic district at 915 Montgomery. RO3 was founded by Stephanie Forbes, an Augusta, Georgia native with the distinction of being SCAD’s first “double legacy” graduate. A SCAD Atelier Associate, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Painting (2019) and is a multidisciplinary artist who utilizes such mediums as sculpture, photography, and jewelry, who, despite, her youth, has a strong resume in art gallery management.

Rule of Three’s name is a nod to both the classically pleasing compositional layout of artwork and to the fact that she and her parents are artists. The space, presented to Forbes by Anthony Koncul of JAK Homes who had previously transformed Cedar House Gallery was originally a barber shop and café. Post renovation, the two-room gallery was stunning in its clean white simplicity when I visited for last month’s opening. Forbes also has plans (which may morph before they come to fruition in the 3rd quarter) for the adjoining space. The current concept is a casual beer and wine tap bar with mocktail offerings to create a “bar gallery” kind of vibe, which she hopes will be perfect for a date night, solo or with friends.

On January 14, Rule of Three presents “Tilting at Windmills,” a compilation of screen prints and paintings from Savannah-based artist Debora Oden, an award-winning printmaker and professor at SCAD who holds both a BFA and MFA in art from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The curated exhibition will be Oden’s first solo exhibition here and represents a look into the historical context of her life. 

Forbes’ press release explains, “A bit like resurfaced memory, these works highlight defining moments of Oden’s life as a mother, an artist and teacher, as much of these works have been created sporadically, rather than collectively, along the timeline of the artist’s life…many of these works feel almost like an obsessive hope and calling to tap into the depths of our pivotal moments in life, that we should sit with but only for a moment, taking the necessary time to pull from them what we need in order to gracefully move in this life.”

The title of the show derives from “Don Quixote,” one of Oden’s staple pieces in the exhibition made up of over 20 smaller paintings and displayed as one large image. To tilt at windmills, of course, means to attack imaginary enemies and, specifically to this exhibition, derives from Miguel de Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’ where Quixote imagines himself fighting giants as he attacks windmills. Forbes tells me, “It’s a bit of a “fool on a knight’s mission” kind of story; One where the hero remains endowed to the mission of saving what may not need to be saved, or curating stories in his mind that simply do not exist. To compact this in relation to Oden, it may be distilled to the idea that creating art to replicate the vastness of one’s life may sometimes feel overwhelming, an honor hard to make tangible; but as an artist, we are obligated to do this.” 

Laney Contemporary, 1810 Mills B. Lane Blvd., is open Tuesday-Friday 11-5 and Saturday 11-2 and by appointment. (912) 438.4442. Laneycontemporary.com. Instagram.com/laneycontemporary. “The Nature of Not Knowing” runs January 7 through March 19 with the opening reception postponed (due to Covid concerns) to Friday, February 4, but check for updates. 

Rule of Three Gallery, 915 Montgomery Street between Gwinnett and Park, is open Wednesday - Saturday, 11-5 and by appointment. (706) 373-9905. Ro3Gallery.com. Instagram.com/ro3_gallery. Opening reception for “Tilting at Windmills” is Friday, January 14 from 5 to 9 and the show runs through February 18. Covid protocols observed.