Gil Shuler charts 12 years of Barn Jam posters in new book


Gil Shuler’s book contains 180 of his favorite Barn Jam posters

Awendaw Green’s weekly Barn Jams always felt a little different from other shows, likely because of the remote venue and the Lowcountry scenery you pass on the way. Each week, before COVID-19 shifted the live music world, fans of Americana, folk, country, bluegrass and rock would head out to Awendaw Green. And every week for the past 12 years, visual artist Gil Shuler created a unique poster to compliment and promote the shows.

“It became my weekly workout if you will,” Shuler told the City Paper, adding that he has made roughly 650 barn jam posters.

Shuler collected 180 of his favorite images and displayed them in chronological order by year in his new book “Barn Jam Posters.” The majority of these posters have never been put in print before, often existing online. Shuler, the owner of Gil Shuler Graphic Design, puts his talents to work in these art pieces, using creative combinations of music and the natural world.

According to Shuler, each poster is made the night before the Barn Jam after he receives the list of performing artists from Awendaw Green owner Eddie White. “I would just start playing those [artists], listening to music and I might already have an idea in my head that had come up working on something else, or I had listened to music and something in the song gives me an idea,” Shuler said.

Provided

Making an individual art piece every Tuesday for 12 years may sound hectic and tedious, but Shuler said he always found it refreshing. “About the time I started doing this for Eddie was about the time the recession hit,” he said. “So, I wasn’t crazy busy for work and I wanted an outlet to really expand on my skills as a designer.”

In the book, White said there is no direction driving the posters, just his friendship with Shuler. “I give him a blank canvas every Tuesday, and he makes unguided, unfiltered, unforced art — and that is a beautiful thing. What we’ve built over time is this eclectic, organic momentum.”

“Barn Jam Posters” shows the progression of Shuler’s work and his portrayal of the Barn Jams. “I wanted folks to see where I started, with the idea of jam jars,” he said. “I exhausted it — I was like, ‘I have nothing else on that.’ That’s when I started playing around with the musical instruments.”

Although he did away with the “jam jar” theme eventually, Shuler’s posters have always made a motif out of nature and music: A rattlesnake is drawn with a guitar body on its tail, a horse eats a carrot held in a microphone stand, a robin sits on a branch with headphones around its head, a leaf sprouts from the stem of a quarter note.

The work is creative on its own, but the volume of work is impressive as well. Shuler enthusiastically admitted that he was surprised he pulled it off. “I’m a creature of habit,” he laughed. “I’m a somewhat traditional person in that I have a lot of traditions … It’s embedded in my family and my kids. We like doing traditions and doing stuff repeatedly, but this is almost obsessive.”

Shuler’s posters have garnered attention from the visual art community, as well. In the book’s forward, Halsey director Mark Sloan described Shuler’s work as “visual jujitsu.” 

“He tends to give himself certain restrictions and then works to reverse, subvert, tweak and unsettle those boundaries — and therein lies his genius,” Sloan wrote.

Support the Charleston City Paper

We’ve been covering Charleston since 1997 and plan to be here with the latest and Best of Charleston for many years to come. In a time where local journalism is struggling, the City Paper is investing in the future of Charleston as a place where diverse, engaging views can flourish. We can't do it without our readers. If you'd like to support local, independent journalism:

UP NEXT FROM

FEATURE

Marcus Amaker, Charlton Singleton talk justice in music in new series

Holly Malnati

Charleston poet laureate Marcus Amaker and Charlton Singleton of Gullah band Ranky Tanky will release the first three episodes of their new series “Raising the Volume” on Oct. 28.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Before You Go: New cranes in N. Charleston; Positive rate tops 15%

South Carolina health officials reported 636 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday and 32 additional confirmed deaths.

Marcus Amaker, Charlton Singleton talk justice in music in new series

Charleston poet laureate Marcus Amaker and Charlton Singleton of Gullah band Ranky Tanky will release the first three episodes of their new series “Raising the Volume” on Oct. 28.

More than 1 million SC voters have already cast ballots

South Carolina is approaching half the total record turnout it saw in 2016 from absentee ballots alone with a little less than a week until the polls close for good. In total, nearly a third of registered voters in the state have already cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election. In 2016, 2.1 million votes […]

10/28 COVID-19 update: 15.5% positive, 636 cases; 32 deaths

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 636 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, with 32 additional confirmed deaths. With 4,096 tests on Wednesday, 15.5 percent came back positive. As of 1:48 p.m. Oct. 28, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control:Confirmed cases in S.C.:  165,477 (+636)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 16,676 (+27)Negative tests in S.C.: 1,695,189Deaths in S.C. […]