Michael Mitchell artists fill the gallery with affordable gifts 

Piece Offering

Although there wasn't a bough of holly in sight as of press time, Michael Mitchell Gallery's Pieces for Peace exhibit was curated with the upcoming holidays in mind. The show will feature Mitchell's stable of South Carolina artists, highlighting works that are under $300 — a price point set to encourage the giving of art this season.

As the story goes, the art portion of Mitchell's design business began as a philanthropic pop-up event that was so successful it became a permanent, yet mutable, part of his space. When I was there, he and Kate Wichlinski, the show's co-curator, discussed how some of the gallery's larger (read: more expensive) pieces would be taken down to make room for ones with price tags that fit the bill.

Little River, S.C.-based sculptor Terry Brennan is featured in the exhibit and will be at the opening reception. His mixed-media works inspired the show's name. "He's really into recycling and repurposing," says Wichlinski, as the three of us peer at the menagerie Brennan crafted, picking out the everyday, and sometimes offbeat, items he's included. It becomes a de facto game of I Spy: the wheel of a Tonka truck, a circular object we believe to be a cheese grater, and, more obviously, a guitar.

"I'm trying to make these pieces where all the different, broken 'whatevers' in it are thought out," Brennan says. "It's not just decoupage on top of a fish shape. I want the viewer to notice I didn't just stick it on there."

The dorsal fin on one of his fish may be comprised of a wide-tooth comb, but the brightly-colored markings on the pectoral fin echo the pattern the same comb might leave in wet hair, hinting at the amount of thought that goes into creating a comprehensive work out of such disparate parts.

J.K. Crum, whose whimsical art features ships and islands perched high in the air, is easy to envision on the walls of a playroom. One of Crum's paintings, two boats with billowing sails cruising in the same direction, is called "Double D's." This one is perhaps best left outside the nursery.

Karen Keene Day, who also plans to stop in for the opening, is showing paintings inspired by a vastly different region of the country, the West, which she's visited regularly over the past 12 years in a dual role as a horse advocate and artist. Day uses acrylics to capture the wild horses on canvas and often adds in other elements, like words, sketches, or snapshots, to tell a mustang's story. Some of her paintings have a glossy finish, which makes the colors pop on Mitchell's white walls.

"I use the gel gloss to move the paint more easily across the canvas," Day explains of the effect, which goes on after the traditional paint. "I apply it to help produce the flow of energy of the horse and its muscles and its curves."

Both Day and Brennan mention energy when talking about their work, and Mitchell's space reflects the notion. Mitchell and Wichlinski add to the liveliness, with music playing in the background and the two alternately talking over each other or deferring to the other's expertise. The gallery currently draws a mix of tourists and residents, but events like this opening might tip the scales in favor of locals and first-time art buyers.


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