As we near the close of yet another year, the holiday season is a time for reflection and for giving thanks. There are many things to be grateful for in the art community of Savannah.
The continuous rise of art galleries alone throughout the city is enough to give thanks. They have housed exhibitions of upcoming and established artists who have chosen Savannah as their home and their place of inspiration.
Whether your preference lies in old masters or artists of the digital age, the art scene of Savannah has the uncanny ability to hold onto history while embracing the future.
At Kobo Gallery at 33 Barnard Street, I spoke at length with artist-on-duty David Kaminsky, who is a former professor of photography at SCAD. His photographic series "The Decisive Pixel" hung on the wall behind him as he described the uniqueness of Savannah that cannot be found in more metropolitan areas. He speaks of the landscape of the Lowcountry and how the pace of life contributes to the production of meaningful art.
But art isn't the only thing made in Savannah; friends are made as well. These are the people that you encounter at gallery openings and museum exhibitions that share your passion for art, both its creation and admiration. They are the ones who become our biggest fans and, with any luck, our staunchest critics
Artist and co-owner of the Non Fiction Gallery, Heather McRae-Trulson says, "I'm grateful for friends who are knowledgeable, interested in making and talking about art and the cold and rainy days that are few and far between that facilitate making."
Former Connect contributor Paula Fogarty shares McRae-Trulson's enthusiasm, adding, "I'm thankful for all the people I have met including galleries, artists, patrons, and hangers-on. This community is brimming with creativity, and I hope that more visionary entrepreneurs will see the opportunity to open new galleries that represent artists regularly."
Rihab Bagnole, professor of Art History at the Savannah College of Art and Design, has an even stronger take: "There's no Savannah without the art community. The whole lifestyle here will be tasteless and senseless without the Savannah art community."
Personally, I'm grateful for the freedom of Sunday afternoons and free weeks at the Jepson Center. There, Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain, an exhibition of 43 paintings from the American painter Robert Henri (1865-1929) is on display until March 9.
Throughout the exhibition flamenco dancers, gypsies and bullfighters are painted against dark backgrounds, highlighting the subjects' beauty, grace, dignity and pride. His passion for his subject matter is displayed on the walls and fortified with descriptions of his work.
Upon encountering his subjects, Henri declared, "my interest in awakened and my impulse immediately is to tell about them through my own language — drawing and painting in color."
This language is used throughout his Ingresesque portraits capturing each person in contrapposto poses, as if each portrait is inviting you into its Spanish world. The subjects he paints do not seem to be sitting for Henri but rather are waiting to return to their lives outside of the canvas, lives full of rich Spanish traditions that too captured the imagination of Robert Henri.
Whether he's painting a young dancer with the promise of life ahead of her or an old man ravaged by time, Henri's work exhibits their dignity of life.
Despite World War I, which separated his earlier works from his later paintings, his portrayal of the individual remains constant. Rich or poor, young or old, tame or savage, these portraits demonstrate Henri's ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary through his use of coloration and his dedication to the people of Spain.
It is afternoons such as these, spent in the solace of a museum that I'm most thankful for the art found in Savannah.
So whether you spend Thanksgiving in Savannah or you find yourself in the other places you call home remember upon your return that there is so much art here to be grateful for and even though the holiday is over you can still give thanks to the art community by visiting any and all of the galleries here.