Investing in emerging artists means finding hidden treasures while promoting a more culturally diverse community.
Of the 35 fine art galleries in the Charleston Gallery Association, only one represents a “select few” emerging artists. Many of these galleries represent national and international artists who are established, recognized or award-winning.
Charleston artists, and especially those who have yet to “establish” themselves, may wonder: “Where do we fit into this system?”
“Emerging artists add great value to our community in terms of accessibility, affordability and diversity,” said Ann Simmons, the deputy director of the North Charleston Cultural Arts Office. Simmons said her department found that providing emerging artists with exhibition opportunities is key in keeping its audiences and programming diverse and reflective of the community it serves.
“Reduced competition and lower price points (compared to more established artists) make it much easier for novice collectors and casual admirers to invest in their work,” Simmons said. “Which means more art for more people!”
Kate Ledbetter, executive director at Redux Contemporary Art Center, said that supporting emerging artists is “imperative” to maintaining a vibrant artistic community.
“When an emerging artist sells a piece of their work, or has their work in a gallery, the excitement is palpable. They are encouraged to dive deeper, developing their confidence, portfolio and ultimately their impact on their community,” Ledbetter said.
“It is only through valuing the infancy of an artist’s career that they may become established artists and the cycle continues. It’s riveting to see an emerging artist grow their career — to follow along with their successes, see their shows, invest in their work. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
Here are ten emerging artists in Charleston to look out for in 2023.
Adrian Lopez Rivera
Adrian Lopez Rivera has developed a powerful visual language focused on breaking down the human form. He was selected in July 2022 as one of the first resident artists in Redux Contemporary Art Center’s new Lightning Residency program.
“The figure is fascinating as a subject,” Rivera said. “It allows people to empathize with these humanoid figures of different backgrounds. My work strives to explore human relationships with the ‘other.’ ”
Rivera participated in The Patriot Group Show at O’Flaherty’s Gallery in New York City this past summer. The opening party was so popular, the NYPD had to shut down the event after thousands of art lovers showed up.
Rivera said his experience with growing up in different places in Mexico and eventually moving to the U.S. inspired his work’s themes of “setting vs. human” and “human vs. other.”
“During my formative years, I generated a strong sense of wonder for the relationships between bodies and the environments we place them under,” Rivera said.
Rivera began painting and drawing, but introduced digital media and video into his craft. Singer-songwriter Mia Gladstone recently commissioned him to create a painting for a music video.
“My goals include working with Charleston artists, starting a print shop and creating a short animated film.”
By focusing on identity, primarily through portraiture, photographer and poet Ana Rucker invites viewers to celebrate queerness, blackness and identity.
“I am a Black, queer, gender non-conforming person. My identity is rooted so much in the South, yet rejected by it at the same time, which creates this tension,” said Rucker, who grew up in Anderson. “In order to keep my sanity, I create my own representation for myself and people who look like me.”
Past photographic projects include Strange Fruit: An Active Deconstruction of the Colonization of Food, Tell Me I’m Pretty: Beauty in the Digital Age and Shades of Gender.
Before graduating from the College of Charleston in May 2022, Rucker presented an exhibition of their artwork at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, which they called the “biggest honor.”
Shelby Corso explores her relationship to mythmaking, fairytales and girlhood through paintings and soft-sculptures. She uses symbolism and imagery related to popular myths and idioms, and draws inspiration from magical realist literature and poetry.
Her work depicts figures, animals and natural forms, featuring bright color and atmosphere. Corso said her artwork is an exploration of how “mythmaking and fairytale intertwine with and diverge from girlhood experiences, and how fictional storytelling can speak to real lived experience.”
Corso, who graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2020, is now based in Charleston and works out of a studio at Redux Contemporary Art Center. She plans to work on larger sculptural works soon. “I am looking to combine all the different aspects of my practice, like sewing, painting, and working with wood, to make more structurally unique pieces that break the traditional rectangle,” she said.
Nathan Edwin McClements
Ten years ago, Nathan Edwin McClements was an art student intimated by the process of making art. He said that intimidation — and the eventual overcoming of it — is a driving factor of his figurative mixed media artwork.
“With a combination of apathy and insecurity, I put visual arts on the back burner for a while,” McClements said. “Eventually, I grew tired of creating excuses.”
McClements uses mixed media on a variety of textiles and found materials. He said that in the past, lack of professional materials was an excuse to procrastinate. Since working with mixed media, he said, “errors cease to exist.”
“With this transition into creative freedom comes unlimited explorations of color, texture and materials. … I’m currently allowing instinctual randomness to manipulate figurative expressions.”
Self-taught artist Jeremy Croft creates representational oil paintings, often based on personal photographs.
“I avoid escapism in my work,” Croft said. “I think isolating an assumed ‘meaningless’ real life moment, and turning that into a painting, can incarnate a significance that is not always accessible to us. This is my way of addressing how prolific our existence actually is, even though that fact can be often overlooked,” he said.
Croft presented “Domestic Captivity”, a solo show, at Park Circle’s Stems and Skins in August 2022. It featured images of lawn mowers, basketball hoops, first-person views of shadows and sneakers. All of the paintings seem to suggest that these scenes belong to both the viewer and Croft.
“When I’m painting, I always try to hold an idea or prompt in my mind,” he said, “as an attempt to put as much subliminal energy into the work as possible.”
Croft is working on new paintings to hang at the Last Saint on Meeting Street, with an opening party happening Feb. 3.
Caroline Herring is a fine art photographer who said her artmaking process was forever changed by quarantine at the height of the pandemic.
A portrait photographer with no subjects, Herring began creating and photographing elaborate compositions of household objects, quickly finding a new passion in this lane of expression.
Colorful, intricately designed still lives are now a staple in her work. She said it also serves as an avenue to “explore photography as a method of symbolism and storytelling.”
“I’m questioning how personal belongings play a role in preserving modern legacies,” Herring said.
Her most recent body of work, “Open Door,” explores the identities of eight women through their personal space and belongings.
“Everyday objects are transformed into altar-like formations, paying homage to the divinity, uniqueness and resiliency of each woman and their experiences. Even in physical absence, their presence is embodied by existential artifacts.”
Charleston native Caro Anderson works across many mediums, including oil paint, printmaking and sculpture. Their strong visual language always shines through, with recurring motifs of standing, squiggling, sometimes isolated and sometimes interconnected figures who morph in and out of shapes, houses, and crowds.
Anderson draws inspiration from their experience as a young trans person. “My art is always changing,” they said, “just like me.”
A recent sculpture is a collection of Anderson’s testosterone vials and syringes.
Anderson said they have always been drawn to the “absurd and unusual.” They said they are leaning into the fact that they have, especially in recent months, been approaching artmaking with excitement and joy, and that their work has since become more playful.
Anderson regularly shows with emerging artist collective Big Blade Press.
Riivo Kruuk said his artwork is about duality, and his material choices reflect that: Kruuk combines oil paint — a traditional, soft medium — with spray paint — which is rebellious and contemporary, he said. Much of his work explores the concept of toxic masculinity.
Kruuk presented a solo exhibition, “KALEVIPOEG,” in 2022 at the recently closed Julia Deckman Studio on James Island, which he said is an exploration of his American-Estonian heritage. At Redux last summer, he presented “IL CALCIO È GUERRA,” exploring the culture of soccer.
“Men fighting to be victorious, willing to draw blood from the other to gain the advantage, is reminiscent of ancient battles,” he said.
“My work fuses the gentle beauty and drama of classical oil painting with the colorful and gritty commentary of graffiti,” Kruuk said. “My goal is to capture a moment within chaos.”
Brandon A. Hicks
Brandon A. Hicks uses his paintings and drawings to tell stories with art history references and personal memories. He often collapses multiple timelines and narratives into figural scenes.
“My creative process can sometimes be a slow burn,” Hicks said. “I sit and fester with it for a while, depending on the sense of urgency I’m feeling. Music plays a huge part in my process as well.”
His most ambitious work to date, “Eden,” took a year and a half to create and is about new beginnings, Hicks said.
“I took a break to develop my painting language and figure myself out more during that painting,” Hicks said. “I think I’m still on that journey.”
For 2023, Hicks is hoping to make a solo exhibition happen.
Andie Carver, a Columbia native, explores humans’ complex relationship with animals and the natural world. She is currently pursuing a master’s in painting at Columbia University in New York after finishing College of Charleston’s undergraduate program in 2020.
Her impressionist paintings offer nuanced compositions and color relationships, which create a pulsating tension between positive and negative space — between human subjects and their natural surroundings.
“My work proposes a utopia where the fiction of human dominance has been played out,” Carver said. “The paintings project a unified world where the human hand is still, allowing previously tended gardens to sprawl without constraint and animals to explore without inhibition. … My work imagines an alternative where the relationship we hold with other species is without exploitation.”
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