Selections from Mary Gilkerson’s 300 Daily Paintings
Nearly every day, artist Mary Gilkerson drives to a rural area in Lower Richland County to ride or take care of her horse. On many of those days, she also stops to do a painting of fields, edges of swamps, barns, the remaining walls of an old country store. She’ll pull off the side of the road, set up and paint for an hour or so.
She’s ended up with hundreds of these paintings, which make up From the Edge of the Highway: 300 Daily Paintings, on view at if ART Gallery in the Vista through Jan. 4. (Full disclosure: Gilkerson was for many years the freelance art critic for Free Times.) On Saturday, Dec. 21 at 11 a.m., she'll be at if ART to demonstrate her process.
Her paintings of this landscape, mixed in with some images from the Congaree National Park and Edisto Island, fill several walls in the recently opened exhibition. The pieces, most 4 by 6 inches, were all done during the past two years — including a stretch of a painting a day (at least) for 150 days. About half were painted on site, with the rest done in her studio based on sketches or photographs.
Some places, she’s a bit obsessed with.
“There’s this little dip in the road,” she says, pointing out several paintings. “I’ve painted it at every time of the year and every time of the day, just about.”
It is the same spot, the same pavement, the same trees, but it’s a different spot each time.
These paintings are mostly of places many would see as flat, either green or brown, and mostly uninteresting. But for Gilkerson, the more time she spends the more interesting the places become — and the richer with artistic possibility.
Sometimes the differences are obvious — the bright green flush of early spring versus the grays and purples of the winter twilight. Some, especially those from Edisto, are more traditionally pretty paintings of marshes, a scattering of palmetto trees or puffy clouds in blue skies. More common, though, are flat fields, sides of a barn, a chunk of curved country road, a line of power poles.
Many of her paintings can be seen as more than one thing. What looks at first like a bridge is what’s left of an old country store. The bare cypress trees could be utility poles drooping with tangles of wires. Two fence posts might be distant smoke stacks. Many border on pure abstraction.
Gilkerson grew up in Columbia. As a child, she played on family land about 10 miles south as the crow flies from the places she now frequently paints. She earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of South Carolina and has been an art professor at Columbia College for 23 years.
When she was younger, she distanced herself from the Southern landscape tradition and traditional Southern values — especially those involving the role of women. In graduate school, she developed dark and mysterious works that meshed painting and photographic collage. The pieces often had landscape as part of the background, but never as the main focus. She did these works for about a decade, during which time the landscape became more and more important.
“I realized it was more interesting than what else was going on,” she says.
From the Edge of the Highway runs through Jan. 4. at if ART Gallery, 1223 Lincoln St. For details, visit ifartgallery.blogspot.com or call 256-0068.
Relaxation, Pain Management, and Stress Relief
Licensed massage therapist Allison Morris of AMR Massage offers 50% off your first session and every 5th session free of charge. Click here for location, hours, and more information.
Ice Skate on Main Street
Columbia’s famously hot skating rink is now open! Additional information and discounts can be found here.
Great Gifts for the Whole Family
Don’t miss Half Moon Outfitters’ holiday sale! Up to 30% off Prana, Patagonia, The North Face, and other great brands. Location and hours here.
Hickory Tavern Is Now Open!
Find us on Facebook, Twitter (@TheHickoryTav), Instagram (@HickoryTavern), and visit our website for more info. 907 Senate Street in the Vista!
A Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve Carnival
From 6-11 PM on December 31st on Main Street, enjoy rides, games, karaoke, food, drinks and more! More information here.
New Year’s Eve at Social
Don’t miss this Black and White Affair featuring Kap Slap. Tickets available online!
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Holiday Wish ListWhere to shop for gift ideas in Columbia this season:
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
F/T and P/T avail. Must have a clean driving record, organized and have a prof appearance. Please call for an interview or email resume to Kerry@crystalpool.com. Must bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Call 803-865-1200
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com
Capital Kitchen & Bath One stop solution for all your remodeling & new construction needs. CAPITALKB.COM
CoMar Products Inc. Manufacturing quality surfaces for kitchens & baths since 1965. www.comarproducts.com