Eva Carter has eclectic tastes. Her downtown gallery has exhibited a wide range of different artworks, from Maria White's porcelain pots to William Halsey's dark abstracts. Then there's the music she listens to, switching from rock 'n' roll hits to orchestral symphonies.
She has a good excuse for such fickle behavior. She's simultaneously put two shows together, working on them in parallel to create The Rock 'n' Roll Show for her own gallery and Songs of the Earth for the City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre.
Of the small handful of gallery owners who've earned a second, parallel show in a City space (William McCullough is the other), Carter's a prime candidate. Melding representational blocks of color with sharp, emotive lines, she's adept at balancing the vague and the distinct. Her large-scale oils have been exhibited across the country, with a milestone solo stint at the Gibbes (1993's Eva Carter: Paintings and Monotypes). Most importantly, her pieces have a uniqueness and accessibility that make it worth giving her a little extra space to strut her stuff.
While Rock 'n' Roll's six mixed-media pieces are full of strong compositions and deep colors, the Dock Street Theatre show is more ambitious yet less frantic and eager to please. It's calmer, more wide-ranging, and carefully complements Piccolo's Spotlight Concert Series — specifically a June 4 event at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner — for which she created this year's official poster image.
Instead of solely using the music as her reference point, Carter has also incorporated some familiar local landmarks, capturing the forms she has seen around her as well as the emotions those places bring to mind. If a walk on the Cooper Bridge makes you giddy or you're a fan of that downtown breathing space called Marion Square, you'll find yourself responding to her paintings.
For Carter, "Mepkin Abbey really defines the Lowcountry. I went there, and to all the locations where the concerts are being performed." The artist also listened to the music in preparation for her work, but she admits that, "it may be that people perceive the locations as the subject matter. The music part of it is not as obvious; it set a tone for the series, and the concerts gave me a broad subject to fit all the other things under."
This approach enables Carter to paint her takes on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, set to receive a lively ballet and orchestral performance at Angel Oak on June 3, and the Hampton Park Finale on the 10th, using a crescendo of differing hues. Her "Angel Oak" paintings don't capture just the arching, crisscrossed branches of the Johns Island tree. There are earthy colors too, muted greens to suggest the canopied shade around the trunk and patches of orange like emerging sunlight.
"Cooper River" uses vivid blue to depict the water in what seems like a bird's eye view of the peninsula. But busy black and red curves also add a sense of the imposing Ravenel Bridge, and its importance to the area. "Waterfront Park" is more geometric, successfully conveying movement along a path. The crazy-paved "Mepkin Abbey" contains an array of soft greens and yellows, representing the structure and the Mahler movement that will be played there, "The Song of the Earth."
EVA CARTER INVITATIONAL: SONGS OF THE EARTH • Piccolo Spoleto • FREE • On view through June 11. Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and during performances • City Gallery at Dock St. Theatre, 135 Church St. • 724-7305