Mary Edna Fraser: Lowcountry & Virginia Scotchie: Ways of Creation

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The Sumter County Gallery of Art is excited to present a major exhibition of two nationally known South Carolina artists, Mary Edna Fraser and Virginia Scotchie. Fraser explores coastal environments and the forces of nature as seen from a bird’s eye view. Scotchie explores the relationship between form and function and how memory gives meaning to objects.

Mary Edna Fraser is a Charleston-based artist who works primarily in batik and oils. Batik is a “dye-resist” process in which removable wax is applied to fabric, creating areas that will repel dye, while any unwaxed areas will absorb dye. This technique of dying textiles predates recorded history. Fraser combines modern dyes, beeswax, and paraffin on silk to express a sense of place inherent in each scene. Fraser graduated from East Carolina University in 1974 with a double major in Textiles and Interior Design. She creates large works with distinctly aerial perspectives, which she describes as a series of narrative landscapes “where realms of earth, sea, and sky converge” bringing a dramatic scale and complexity to her work. She researches the areas on foot, via boat and from an airplane. Working from her own aerial photographs and memories of flight, Fraser examines maps and charts, and paints on location to develop potential color palettes for her batiks. Satellite and space imagery have further expanded her range of content.
She has created works inspired not only by the coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina but also the canyons of northern New Mexico and the Appalachian Mountains that ramble from Alabama up to Newfoundland. Fraser’s continuing education includes studies with Dr. Orrin Pilkey, Professor Emeritus of Geology, Duke University, which are ongoing, as well as an apprenticeship with master batik artist Fred Andrade and graduate courses at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Her exhibition “Lowcountry” at the Sumter County Gallery of Art show will feature batiks and small oil paintings of the South Carolina coast.

Mary Edna Fraser’s swirling, colorful silk batik prints take their inspiration from life—specifically, life observed from 3,000 feet in her grandfather’s – now her family’s beloved 1946 Ercoupe 415C above the Georgia coast. The experience of flight from a young age showed Fraser the images that would become the foundation of her work. Flying with her brother, Claude Burkhead, over the Georgia barrier islands, Hilton Head, and Bluffton, S.C., Fraser pulled out her camera and began shooting the ribbons of earth and water beneath her. Fraser observes: “Photographing from the open cockpit of my family’s vintage plane, wind in my face translates to batiks on silk, distilling the adventure into a moment of visual poetry. From five-story draped sculptures to 14-inch wide Kimono Silks, memories flow like water with layers of wax and dye in the calm of an ancient art form. The expansive interplay of vistas offers intimate meditative prayers for the planet. Flying and photographing threatened regions is my passion.”

Fraser will give a gallery talk the night of the opening reception, February 23rd.

“Fraser Artist Statement”
My life’s work is from an aerial perspective, a view of the earth I choose to transcribe onto silk using dyes in the ancient medium of batik. The art comprises a series of narrative landscapes inspired by the terrestrial reaches of the continent, where realms of earth, sea and sky converge. Each area is carefully researched, often by hiking the terrain, exploring the waterways by boat, and painting studies on location. Geology, topography, maps, charts, and satellite images are studied to identify features of visual interest.
In my art, color is an emotional rather than realistic response, the design often abstracted. The slowness of the medium of batik gives me time to meditate on thoughts feeding into the artwork. The goal is to evoke a sense of place that differentiates locations. The exquisiteness of a fleeting moment is captured on silk with dyes, as I attempt to share with the viewer a moment of visual poetry. A Celebration of the World’s Barrier Islands has been my focus as I travel and photograph. Witnessing their vulnerability and noticeable changes from the aerial viewpoint brings subtle environmental messages through the individual batiks.

Virginia Scotchie is a ceramic artist and head of ceramics at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. She holds a B.F.A. in ceramics from UNC-Chapel Hill and in 1985 completed her Master of Fine Arts at Alfred University in New York. Scotchie’s work is in sculptural ceramics. The forms she creates are abstracted from everyday objects that allow the viewer to interpret their own connection and personal history to her work. Forms are created on the pottery wheel and assembled when leather hard. Each form is surfaced with a textured glaze using stains and oxides for vibrant color. The forms – bulbous, pointed, cylindrical, squat – are at times light and whimsical, or heavy and forboding. The exhibition in Sumter will feature recent work by Scotchie and USC ceramics instructor Bri Kinard, as well as additional work by several graduate and former students: Sylvia Ady-Potts, Jamie Berry, Jeremy Bickford, Nick Brutto, Carl Craighead, Jordan Fakoury, Leehee Falek, Marcella Kuykendall, Jane Lafferty, Ellie Rose, Earl Smith, Brittany Sparks and Alex Stasko. Scotchie takes a “hands on” approach to teaching and is known to include her students’ work along side her own, in exhibitions.

Scotchie exhibits her work extensively throughout the United States and abroad, and has received numerous awards including the Sydney Meyer Fund International Ceramics Premiere Award from the Shepparton Museum in Victoria, Australia. She has lectured internationally on her work and been an Artist in Residence in Taiwan, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands. Public commissions include the Trinity Building in downtown Charlotte next to the Mint Museum of Art. Her clay forms reside in many public and private collections and reviews about her work appear in prestigious ceramic publications.

Scotchie Artist Statement 
“The idea of taking from one object and connecting it to another through the dissection of parts and pieces is a foundation of my recent work in ceramic sculpture. Combined with this is my interest in the relation of whole forms to that of fragments. Exploration in the studio is and on-going visual investigation of man-made and natural objects. Usually these consist of small things; ordinary in many ways, but possessing an odd quirkiness that pulls me to them. In some cases I do not know the object’s particular purpose, function or where it may have originated. I feel this lack of knowledge allows me to see the object in a clearer light.
My work is as eccentric toward materials as it is open to different influences of time place and readily available sources. I have worked with the discarded cable reels of a corporate cable company while holding a job with them as a technician, and have pillaged old pallets for the hardwood found under layers of soot and dirt as a graduate student with easy access to a surplus yard. I have always been fascinated by how a material can be transformed within the natural restrictions of that material and have recently begun to juxtapose different materials together while being mindful of the differences in characterization of sometimes opposing materials. What started as a simple clean place to store projects that were finished became a way to exhibit art as I see it; a progression of creation dependant upon each individual piece, separate and together as a whole, to bring a viewer to a higher understanding of the artist and the artist’s working habits. This wall of shelves that includes many of my current pieces is the closest I can bring an audience into my studio, and into my way of working, while maintaining a professional setting. The obvious choice of transforming a place into my studio would result in too many liabilities due to the messiness of my workspaces.”

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