Can't Stand Still: Archive reflects Tim Hussey's past and future

click to enlarge Tim Hussey left Charleston and eventually returned with eliza (left) and visitor 2
  • Tim Hussey left Charleston and eventually returned with eliza (left) and visitor 2

Old paintings, new photography by Tim Hussey
On view through Aug. 13
The Trusted Palate
563 King St.
(843) 577-7271

My mother used to spend entire days developing black -and-white photographs in her darkroom outside of our house in Boston. One day, after completing a fresh batch, she hung them from a clothesline in the garage. My brother and I arrived and clutched our chins like little critics. When we turned to share our thoughts, we saw our mother had disappeared.

She had abandoned us. Not for good, anyway, but for the sake of photography. Within minutes of developing her new pictures, she was back on the prowl, looking for newer pictures.

She returned hours later with a satisfied gleam in her eye. My brother complained that she'd barely looked at her old photos before going out to shoot new ones. "If you take pictures," she said, "you can't stand still."

I was reminded of that philosophy when I visited the Trusted Palate for Tim Hussey's Archive, a collection of paintings and photographs that reveals nearly a decade's worth of creative endeavors.

Hussey is a Charleston-born multimedia artist who has achieved a level of professional success. His illustrative work has been featured in numerous national magazines, and he has shown in galleries across the country. He has the portfolio, the connections, the malleability of a talented professional, and yet here he is in Charleston, shooting photographs and exhibiting art for the hometown crowd.

"I don't show very often in Charleston," Hussey says. "So this is a collection of some things I've been doing over the years."

Hussey's artistic reputation was borne out of his successful illustrative work, which he created for magazines and media companies like GQ, Rolling Stone, MTV, and The New York Times.

Over time, he began to re-explore a medium that, he says, is the real point of this show.

"I also wanted to do this as a way to introduce my photography, and to get people together," Hussey says.

Last Wednesday's opening featured scores of hipsters, artists, and out-on-the-town types ambling through the wine bar's accommodating venue. The scene was an enthusiastic atmosphere of art, indulgence, and community. After grabbing a chilly glass of white wine, I joined the crowd in a collective shuffle that moved along in a kind of clumsy, art-opening jig.

That dual, fun-yet-serious type of environment is reminiscent of Hussey's paintings. His work takes itself seriously, but it also makes fun of itself before anyone else has the chance to. It's appealing to a general audience, but also to someone with a discerning eye. It's disenchanted and fully engaged, ambitious without letting on, a hybrid of popular and fine art that combines casual cynicism and delicate brushstrokes, scratchy, misshapen figures and dutifully rendered blotches of paint.

An overall balance permeates the paintings. There are no dramatic shifts in approach or technique, no seismic shakedowns that announce a change in direction or a specific creative period in which Hussey's work becomes heavily influenced. As Hussey ventured from place to place, searching for new artistic challenges and opportunities, his paintings remained consistent and found a place of their own.

Filling three long walls in the newly renovated space in the back room of the Trusted Palate, dozens of crisp, bright photographs generate a saucy, localized buzz. Most feature young women whose poses, if examined collectively, can be seen to reflect the ubiquity of the many thousands of similar images of attractive women in the media.

Hussey's photographs are ripe with the whiff of risk, the scent of rebellion, and the rush of temptation. But they are more successful as traditional portraits that capture a certain sense of longing and isolation. Here, originality trumps replication, but the influence of modern media is not far behind. Yes, the females are attractive, the photos sexy. Yet the real treat lies in the manipulation of strength and vulnerability found in the models and in the photographer.

Most of Hussey's models live in Charleston, and his shooting locations range from familiar downtown streets to North Charleston's Old Navy Yard. The combination of local spaces and local faces works well, especially in a show like Archive, where the attendees are predominantly local.

But a familiar face to one person is a face in the crowd to the next. For now, Hussey is comfortable forgoing broader opportunities afforded by a larger city. But even if his restless ways have settled, this artist-cum-photographer hasn't begun to stand still.

"The real reason for all of this is to impress my family and friends," Hussey says. "Seriously, I could be back in New York, wondering about what my audience is looking for. But I really don't care about that anymore. I just want to make my art and have fun."


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