Pursuits on Paper

TJC Gallery, Spartanburg, South Carolina
July 29, 2020 – October 3, 2020

Two characteristics intersect in this exhibition. Each object is a work on paper, executed in a variety of media including watercolor, pencil, pastel, and various forms of printmaking. The second commonality is that all the pieces were created by female artists with ties to the South, a characteristic consistent with TJC Gallery’s Year of the Woman initiative. Whether native-born, permanent resident, seasonal visitor, or tourist, each artist represented was influenced, to varying degrees, by her time in the South. Some of these women chose to depict subjects that are quintessentially regional—such as the city of Charleston—while others explored more universal themes, and a few embraced abstraction. Spanning the years 1900–2007, this selection—featuring works by Anni Albers, Sarah Blakeslee, Beverly Buchanan, Margaret Burroughs, Caroline Durieux, Minnie Evans, Edna Hopkins, Anita Jordan, Gwendolyn Knight, Samella Lewis, Corrie McCallum, Clara Parrish, Nellie Mae Rowe, Rosina Sherwood, Alice Smith, Anna Taylor, Grace Taylor, Alma Thomas, Elizabeth Verner, Amelia Watson, and Mary Whyte—underscores the evolution of creative, critical, and commercial opportunities increasingly available to women artists in the twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. In earlier years, women’s artmaking was often seen as more pastime than profession, a hobby explored in shared rooms during fragments of time between domestic duties. Working on small-scale sheets of paper required little physical space, the cost of watercolors and pastel crayons was modest, and their application less messy than oils. In contrast, printmaking, in all its forms, requires a variety of tools and surfaces—metal, wood, or stones—along with a press, a complexity rewarded in multiple copies.

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, Southern manufacture of pulpwood and paper began a steady ascent to national significance. Benjamin Waring of Columbia, South Carolina, wrote to a friend in 1806, “I suppose you have heard of my erecting a Papermill,” the first mention of the industry in the state. By the early twentieth century, diminishing natural resources in the North propelled the growth and success of Southern production, Southern market share rose from one percent circa 1900 to a height of approximately fifty percent in the 1950s, making paper an economic engine for a New South.

This exhibition is guest curated by independent art historian and author Martha Severens. She has served as curator of the Greenville County (South Carolina) Museum of Art; the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina; and the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art.