Craig Crawford, “In The Wake”; Chotsani Elaine Dean, “Trading Post: Huys de Hope”; Antonio Modesto Milian, “Indestructible”

The Sumter County Gallery of Art presents

Craig Crawford, “In The Wake”

Chotsani Elaine Dean, “Trading Post: Huys de Hope”

Antonio Modesto Milian, “Indestructible”

October 22, 2020 – January 8, 2021

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is excited to present three artists working in different mediums:  Chotsani Elaine Dean, Craig Crawford and Antonio Modesto Milian.  Something we’re tapping into by pairing these artists together is the multi-faceted, complex relationship between landscape and identity.  Chotsani creates amazing ceramic works inspired by histories of slavery, plantation economics, and the experiences of Black women in the United States from the early colonial era through the antebellum period and beyond.  While not overtly connected to the land or representing the landscape, the work is created from clay, some of which was dug by the artist from deposits here in SC.  Her work, through its subject matter and its raw materiality, connects to the land by localizing the tensions between historic atrocity and revolutionary perseverance.  Crawford is a traditional, representational painter whose work depicts Southern landscapes and regional identity by utilizing the myths and stories the inhabitants of those spaces project onto the land filtered through scenes, which feel eerie, surreal, and almost post-apocalyptic.  Modesto Milian’s portraits of Black and Brown people of all ages convey a sense of regional identity that will give our viewers an updated, contemporary insight towards the complicated and beautiful intersectionality of identity as it relates to the lands and places of our region, and by extension, the country at large.  The Campesino Monetta series of farm workers provide much-needed enlightenment for viewers about just who are the essential workers in this new age, and who the individual people are that comprise these much-talked-about ‘supply chains’.

Craig Crawford was born in 1964 in Sacramento, CA. His father, a research meteorologist studying nuclear winter, was offered a job in Aiken, SC at the Savannah River Site. In 1972 the family left Livermore, CA and drove across the country arriving in Aiken at the end of the summer. He was eight years old and the arrival made a lasting psychological impression. Since that time he has been observing Southern culture and grappling with how to interpret it. Poverty, race relations, religion, and the brutal history have been at the forefront of his thoughts. Crawford attended Young Harris College in Georgia and the University of South Carolina where he graduated with a BFA. After college, wanting to learn more about materials and techniques in order to express himself more accurately in his painting, Crawford apprenticed with Olin Conservation, Inc. in Washington, DC in painting conservation beginning in 1989. Over those eight years he developed an eye for a particular aesthetic, which is present in his paintings.

The time studying painting conservation was invaluable to Crawford’s understanding of American painting both aesthetically and culturally. In 1999 he moved back to SC and started his own painting conservation practice, Crawford Conservation Inc, where he primarily treats paintings for museums, private collectors, and universities. Notable projects include the treatment of Thomas Sully’s copy of Gilbert Stuart’s Lansdowne portrait of George Washington for the North Carolina State Capitol, portrait by Francois Fleishbein titled “ Betsy” for the Historic New Orleans Collection, and ceiling paintings that are part of the Brumidi Corridors at the US Capitol in Washington DC. Between 1990 and 2008 he had numerous solo shows in commercial galleries in Charleston SC, Charlotte NC, and St Simons, GA. After the recession in 2008 many of the galleries closed or were struggling. At that time Crawford decided to change his focus and paint his surroundings in rural SC. Since that time he has had had two solo shows at the Greenville County Museum of Art, a solo show at the Campbell House, Southern Pines, NC, and inclusion in the show “Nature/Nurture” in Lake City, SC. He is in numerous private collections and the Greenville County Museum of Art.=

Artist Statement: I paint traditional oil paintings on wooden panels and canvas. Using different techniques such as glazing and scumbling I am able to create atmospheric effects that impart an emotion and mood. The sense of place is important in my paintings. I create a narrative that often includes the past, present and future. The narratives are pulled from my personal thoughts and experiences. I rarely paint directly from life, often I do use photographs for references. Over the course of my life I have seen places and experienced moments that trigger an understanding or thought process that is worked into a painting. Symbols are used to impart meaning. My paintings develop over time, often taking years to fully realize. I add and subtract detail until it works aesthetically and as a narrative. The spiral orientation and dark perimeter of the paintings has a way of privatising the image for the viewer. Framing is important to the presentation and I construct them from moldings bought at the hardware store. I try to use what is ready available, sometimes including recycled material. They are inspired by early American frames from the 18th century. The organic design of some of the frames is intended to add to the intimacy and impart a psychological effect. I hope the personal experiences and ideas brought forth in my paintings spark a conversation about our universal experience of living and how history and the passage of time impact our sense of place.


Click here to read a review of this exhibition from The Sumter Item written by Jane Collins.


Chotsani Elaine Dean is an Assistant Professor of Ceramics at the University of Minnesota. Born in Hartford, CT, Dean received her BFA in Ceramics from Hartford Art School and Master’s of Fine Arts from Sam Fox School of Art at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The many, complex layered realities of the history and visual archives of my communal ancestry form and impart creative purpose in my studio practice and research. Foremost in my research are quilts from Slavery (chattel enslavement) thru Antebellum periods, made on and off of cotton plantations by enslaved and free blacks, through mid-20th century, serve as the visual point of departure I use to explore and connect with this difficult and dreadful time in American history. The quilts of these periods are of particular interest to me for their uniqueness of origin, evolution, aesthetics and range of techniques and processes. Even more, I have a personal devotion and connection to the lives of the quilters, people and intersecting events of this time. Quilts from these time periods reveal a distinct historic blending of aesthetics, material culture, traditions and innovations of early America via the Atlantic Slave trade and effects of colonization.

The visual and historical synthesis of various craft traditions, historical events and commodities; quilts, the cotton trade, Civil Rights Movement and the vast realm of Textiles, inform and shape my visual ideas and approach to the spectrum of ceramic material. Experimentation in glaze chemistry is a primary focus of my studio practice. I am interested in creating, exploring and employing diverse ranges of glazes, firing temperature as well as various clay bodies and colored slips, allowing me to create formal visual dynamics that embody the myriad of visual elements and categories of quilts I have surveyed. It is intentional that the individual tiles and groupings are not repeated. I mix and compose the different tiles to express the various visual modes, traditions and language of quilts and greater realm of textiles.

Adaptation, resourcefulness, survival and triumph, are what I appreciate when I consider the fullness of these quilts, their makers and the history from which they emerge and have moved through time. Cotton, the commodity at the center of my ancestry, by way of its production and trade, lead me to the global history, trade and impact of textiles. Encountering the various cultures and time periods cotton has affected, influence my work, taking me on non-linear timeline journeys through history. Each unique tile within the quilts and various works I create are informed by the diverse and inter-connected visual history of quilting and textiles. My work begins with the realities of those who sewed and stitched more than quilts; those who stitched and sewed a resolute history and legacy that has gifted freedom, personhood and rich visual language to our world. It is the fullness of this important history to which I am indebted and has afforded me deep meaning as an artist. I strive to sustain and honor the many gifts of my personal and collective history embed in the visual chronicles of my communal ancestry.”

Antonio Modesto Milian is an independent Fine Art photographer and and photojournalist based in the Upstate of South Carolina. Modesto Milian is an Inaugural fellow at The Greenville Center for Creative Arts and a grant recipient with the Chapman Cultural Center. He has served on the creative team of TedX Greenville, and completed “Seeing Through Photographs” a program sponsored by P.S. 1 MoMa.

Modesto Milian explores the human experience through storytelling. His work is focused on the realities of Black and Latino lives with an emphasis on visually breaking racist stereotypes that are often ascribed to those groups. His work documents labor, familial bonds and love while also documenting contemporary themes of protest and the struggle to gain the American promise. Modesto Milian’s portraits of Black and Brown people of all ages convey a sense of regional identity that gives viewers an updated, contemporary insight into the complicated and beautiful intersectionality of identity as it relates to the lands and places of our region, and by extension, the country at large.  Recent events between African Americans and police have had an impact on more than just Modesto Milian’s art. He notes, “Anytime I come into contact with a police officer, regardless of whether they’re black or white, I think to myself, ‘Just don’t do anything to get killed’. Modesto Milian is inspired that “When people see my work something else happens. They become engaged which opens up a dialogue about Black Lives Matter, police brutality and community policing.”

Artist Statement The images I take are reflective of my reality as a Black and Latino man. As a Latino man going into Campesino Monetta and watching these men and women work and struggle for the American agricultural system was telling. After doing genealogy on my grandparents I discovered that my grandfather, before moving to NYC, worked on a Puerto Rican coffee plantation. I think about these men and women in the light of Covid-19 and its ravages on the Latino community and how Latino agricultural workers continue to go to work sick to avoid the stereotype of sloth and laziness. How our value as human beings is tied to what we produce, regardless of how we feel physically. I think about the lack of access to affordable medical care for those who are undocumented. I think about how privileged it is to sit at the dinner table enjoying the fruits of their labor and how easy it is to forget those who provide for us.

As a Black man I reflect on the disparity of what’s shown on TV vs the reality I live. The constant racist stereotypes of Black people being lazy, unappreciative, angry, and passive in the face of racial injustice was what I wanted to communicate through this body of work. I think about my mom in the 90s who took me to protests against the police killing of Amadou Diallo. I think about her working for the hospital workers union until she died. I think about my great grandparents and grand parents who left terrible situations in Third World countries to come to New York and struggle to put down payment on a home to raise their families. I think about my uncle who taught me how to ride my first bike, and my cousin who was so close to me after my mother died he called me his little brother. I think about how wonderful it is to call myself a minority, because there are few like me.

Click to read “On Honoring and Remembering”, a review of Trading Post and Indestructible by Dr. Napoleon Wells 

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