ALONGSIDE THE cobble-stoned River Street, nestled snugly between a gourmet candy store and a festive holiday shop, lies the co-op, Gallery 209 – a provider of local fine art in Savannah for the past 45 years.
Gallery 209 is just one of several establishments that is part of the refurbished, historic cotton warehouse of the 1820s. The gallery has featured fine art, jewelry, pottery and other crafts of local artists since 1975.
Each month one artist from each category of 2-D and 3-D art is recognized as Artist of the Month. In this cheer-filled month of November, Sue Nichols and Kathryn Riechert are the talented artists honored and recognized.
The beauty of the 31-artist-owned, co-op gallery lies in the impeccable variety of the artists’ styles.
The 2-D Artist of the Month, Sue Nichols, is an oil painter who often creates highly textured and detailed art images of flowers and landscapes found in the Low Country. The 3-D Artist of the Month is Kathryn Riechert, who works predominantly with sterling silver, using traditional metalsmithing tools and techniques to create whimsical enameled jewelry. Contrary to the complete differences in process and product, both women create brilliant art with vibrant colors that conveys the joy of the artists to their audiences.
Riechert has been a partner with Gallery 209 for 12 years now.
She was raised on a farm in Florida and moved to Savannah to attend SCAD, where she completed a BFA in the Metals and Jewelry Program in 2002. Riechert began making and selling her own jewelry as soon as she graduated from SCAD.
After years of working in City Market Café, while simultaneously teaching jewelry-making classes at the City of Savannah’s Department of Cultural Affairs, she now makes a living on selling her art alone. Riechert says that she makes her pieces affordable so the joy they bring is easily widespread.
Riechert’s upbringing influences many of the pieces she makes today. Her “slight obsession,” as she says, with cats and chickens transfers to colorful, whimsical pieces, with occasional moving parts, that aim to put smiles on speculating faces. Hand-stamped lettering and messages can often be found on the jewelry, inspired by the artist’s daily walks, and messages from the news or radio that pull on her heart.
“My inspiration comes from everyday life, as I seek to transform the beauty I find into the permanence of metal and stone. My designs are often uplifting with positive messages in the hopes that they can make the world a little bit brighter.”
Riechert’s process involves creating enameled pieces by using powder glass fused to copper and kiln. The enamel is applied in layers and a variety of techniques is used to create the finished surfaces of the jewelry.
Occasionally, Riechert adds stones and pearls, which she regards simply as colors, and the thin silver linings of wire are her pencil, forming permanent drawings to be worn and enjoyed.
Sue Nichols has been studying art relentlessly since the age of 16. With no formal education in art, the natural talent spent decades studying everything, and became a full time artist in 2003. Nichols has been a resident of the Southeast, moving back and forth from North Georgia to Miami, for the last 37 years. During that time, Nichols has painted and sold many art pieces in galleries and shows. Her work has settled in galleries in Savannah’s City Market since 2005.
“As long I can recall, I have had artistic abilities. By world standards, I am a self-taught artist, by my standards, I have been blessed by God,” Nichols said.
Many of her pieces include the beautiful, raw landscapes of the Low Country, which are quite popular in Savannah. Other pieces also include butterflies or birds hidden amongst the wisteria and flowers. She is inspired by everything, she said.
“The light, the beauty of the objects— it’s [Savannah] is just a wonderful place to live. It’s a beautiful place, and there’s inspiration all around.”
Nichols detailed, textured pieces attract viewers, enticing them to touch (though they should resist the urge!). The artist said that her technique involves the use of a palette knife to create the raised texture. Nichols often works on multiple pieces at once, focusing on one particular piece until it is finished. A 16x20” piece is usually complete in about 10-16 hours, which she breaks roughly into three hour increments to avoid weariness and ensure quality art.
At times, Nichols does Plein air painting, deriving from the French word meaning “outside,” while creating her landscapes or other portraits. When Nichols is not painting on site, she paints in her studio, challenging herself to recall scenes from her memory. She also paints from reference photos when necessary.
Nichols said she appreciates Artists of the Month because it provides the artists the opportunity to display their varying art styles, as well as the opportunity for increased sale – a bonus for any full-time artist.
Both of November’s honorable Artists of the Month seek to spread joy in their works, making the world a better place, through art.
“Painting is spiritual to me, it touches my being, it brings me joy and my desire is to share this with the viewer. As your eyes view the delights of my heart, may you experience a positive response,” Nichols said.