Penland: In It To Thin It

In It To Thin It with Chance Coalter

I never thought I’d find myself working in wood veneer until I applied to be an assistant for a few classes at Penland and it sparked my interest. Having built a few things in the woodshop for myself at the College of Charleston where I work like a bedside table, shelves, frames and a spice rack, I wanted to expand my knowledge in woodworking. I was denied for the assistantship but excited when I was notified I was a grant recipient and started saving.

I had heard good things, but I wasn’t expecting the pretty art utopia I’d found myself in. With a small room to myself, excellent food prepared in house, and exponential opportunities to learn, the time slipped by too quickly. The creativity and hard work I was surrounded by fueled my own enthusiasm in the middle of an artistic dry spell, from both the students and a great teacher in Chance.

Hello My Name Is

When Andrew King was graduating and I was a senior in college, we were talking about one day having a group show but I wasn’t sure it would ever happen. He got us together with Jonathan Rypkema and Anna Hopkins a few years later and we proposed Hello My Name Is as an introductory show for our new works at Redux Contemporary Art Center. Having all graduated within a few years of each other from the College of Charleston, it was exciting to compile the work we’d each come up with out of school. I’m really proud of these artists and was stoked to be in a show with such strong and passionate works.


Together we put an installation in the center of the gallery of hanging palm frond points painted and sealed, with funding from the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grant Program.

False Dichotomy

Building our first collaborative installation in a place as large as the Reynolds Avenue Firehouse was a bigger task than Sage and I expected. We’d been discussing ideas to work together for a few months, but the right opportunity only arose with the upcoming North Charleston Cultural Arts Festival. This not only gave us a space, but funding to create the project which was inspired by the two room structure of the firehouse itself. We decided on a concept based on the two hemispheres of the brain, one visually based on logic, the other on creativity.

After building a box with false walls on either side from 2x4s as the rear structure of the installation, we worked on cutting out figures and placing the “islands”. The figure was meant to emerge from this cutout we called portals, which were hollow boxes backed with mirror Mylar to cast a reflection of the viewer as they passed by. In their wake was left a trail of material seemingly made from them. We didn’t expect it, but I wound up putting together the geometric forms representing logic, while the fabric layers of creativity became Sage’s baby.

Thanks to Stephanie Stein Photography for these excellent images

The New Year

A friend asked if I was excited about the new year and I replied "Yes, there's a lot of positive energy and opportunity going around." This year is promising indeed, with another acceptance to Art Fields, a solo exhibition  at Beresford Studios, and a grant for an installation during the North Charleston Arts Fest. There's the potential to help a friend make her arts festival happen with Enough Pie, a work in a group show for Piccolo Spoleto, a zine fest in July, and a few alum proposing an exhibition for 2019 at Redux.

I'm so ready for 2018.

New Works: Collage

During my time attending Horry-Georgetown Technical College the library was clearing out the old issues of magazines from their stock. Three recycling cans and probably about 50+ magazines later, I was leaving with a few containers full of colorful pages in the back of my car. These would travel with me for years.

Come the winter break 2013 after transferring to the College of Charleston, I found myself in my parent's living room sick to death of video games. I started going through what old issues of magazines they had accumulated, and produced a collage working for the solid following week. The final product was a figure embracing the celestial silhouette of his lover on a black background, portraying the loss of a loved one to the cosmos.

Trying to decide on my next body of work, a comment from a friend on Instagram about the before mentioned work made me think seriously about making more collages. That is how 2017 ended up being committed to a collection of figurative collages addressing self image, sexual identity, and intimacy. The first and largest of the works, Missed Connections features two figures merging yet facing away from one another. The idea stemmed from the fear of bypassing an important relationship, whether it be friendship or partner, because of a difference in sexual identity. Later works which came together included a series of touching hands, figures impacted by themselves and others, and couples creating impressions on one another.

Art Fields

Introspection traveled to Lake City for this April's Art Fields 2017. Displaying in the ROB again this year, I thought it would be nice to see the work on a white wall.

The concept behind this painting went something like this: "the figure reaches out for his own reflection while the audience only gains a distorted image of his face. We spend our lives working out who we are, and yet sometimes there are facets of self we can never quite decipher. We suffer from distorted perceptions of our own bodies, while the interior thought process is riddled with self-doubt and how to better ourselves. Yet we persist, reaching out toward that reflection despite the difficulties and that is what makes us who we are."

The second great part of Art Fields is the portrait painting contest they do every year. I used the same style from the last year, a felt tip pen and watercolor pencil, but only made it to stage 2 this year. However, selling both works to the models helped cover the admission and travel costs.

Fulfilling the Void

November saw the opening of the solo exhibition of my work on the second floor of the Charleston Music Hall. The plan was for many of these works to address not only personal spirituality (as with the Matter of Perspective works) but also a deeper psychological factor. A man floating with a portal featuring his mirror image with a distorted reflection, a woman displayed as two versions of herself in one, another woman with delicate crystalline features, her body as a vessel for the tiny self she projected forward.

Each work was pretty light, being an oil painting on aluminum clad composite board that is about 1/4" thick. I adhered D rings to the backs of the surfaces, hung them from clear fishing line from the wood bars running through the brick wall, and suspended the works from the wall with 2-4" pieces of plastic tubing. The idea was to have the figures look more dimensional, cast their own shadows, and trick the eye into seeing a 3d form rather than a surface on a wall.

Process: Fulfilling the Void

When I was a teenager in high school I spent the summers out at my dad's sign shop, Thornton Signs, to help him build big projects. I gained a lot of experience and confidence working with vinyl and power tools during that time. More recently, I asked for access to his shop to work on my cutouts. The material I cut from was an old ice cream menu he remade for a shop, aluminum clad composite board, or basically a sheet of aluminum coated pvc plastic.

With the vinyl lettering still on the ice cream menu, it took some time with goof off, thinner, denatured alcohol and a paint scraper to get all of the lettering and adhesive off. Recycling the material which would have been thrown out was a wonderful opportunity. We created templates for from dad's vinyl cutter, I cut the shapes, sanded, primed and finally painted in the details with oils. I was very excited to get a body of work focusing so much on the individual and no surrounding surface.

Ideas: A New Body of Work

For a few months at the end of 2015 I played with the idea of painting on cutouts. This would eliminate the background for my paintings and just be a figure within which the celestial atmosphere would be painting. I drew up several miniatures and painted them with fluid acrylics to get an idea of the shapes I wanted to go with for the larger works.

Modifying glass from the dollar store, I built frames for each one which suspended almost an inch from the wall when hung to show a nice shadow. These were eventually hung for the Fulfilling the Void exhibition at Charleston Music Hall, November 2016, my first body of work following graduation from CofC. Fun fact, that one opened on Election Day this year.

Process: Reach

The work Reach started as a bit of an experiment, painted on a 24" wide wood door from Lowe's. Normally starting with just an outline drawing before painting, this time I played around with marking out values with acrylic before painting in oils. Though this process isn't archival since the wood panel isn't primed, I thought the result might be interesting.

Since I usually diluted my oils with Galkyd the previous paintings in this series turned out with a glossy sheen. This work, breaking down the paints with only Gamsol to allow the material to rest on the wood textured surface, turned out quite matte. I primarily used prussian blue and paynes grey, then finished it off with a gold enamel. 

Jail Break 2015

Featured in the Redux room of the Charleston Old City Jail were my works for the body Matter of Perspective. This was a bit of a rushed install, but was overall enjoyable thanks to the help of a hard working intern. In a room coated in sheet metal, we struggled to hang artwork since we could not put new holes in the wall. We spent some time securing lines of wire down from the rusted out holes of the metal walls near the ceiling. The metal was thankfully secure enough to stabilize the artwork and we spent the day hanging works from local Redux artists.

Matter of Perspective

This September is the solo exhibition for my recent body of painting exploring personal spirituality without conventional religion. The concept is finding solace in the knowledge that science has given us, and the likelihood that we even exist in the cosmos. Featured in the Saul Alexander gallery in the Charleston Public Library, I was very excited to have an open space to accumulate my first solo exhibition. Some works featured were older because the library had some issues with nudity, being a public space.

SURF Grant

The body of work later titled Matter of Perspective was created thanks to the generous Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty grant, funded by the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities department at the College of Charleston. Sara Frankel oversaw my grant and guided my work, and she is an excellent critic who really cares about the progression of her student's work. During that ten week period over the summer of 2015, and I was able to produce a body of work for the first time, and one which progressed my work significantly. Overall an amazing experience.

Process: To Contemplate The Universe

This work came about with the idea of a woman holding two galaxy globes in her hands. I wanted her to be portrayed as contemplative about the shrunken worlds she held.

Once my gridded figure drawing is complete, I transfer the outline to my prepared panel. I then outline the drawing in acid free markers, careful to also lock in some shapes to show color transitions.Her facial expression and the lighting on my model was important for me to capture, so I spent some time mixing up the paints as accurately as possible. I use one glass palette for mixing the oils, then I lay them out on another where I drew a rough outline of the face.