During a recent visit to Greenville, temperatures soared into the high 90s. As I entered the Greenville County Museum of Art
, I immediately felt my body temperature plummet.
It wasn’t just the air-conditioning. As I walked into the soaring lobby, I was drawn to a gallery that contained the museum’s collection of Andrew Wyeth watercolors. The stark, beautifully desolate paintings, mostly winter scenes of Wyeth’s native New England, seemed to transport me from the heat of a S.C. summer to a wintery landscape in Maine.
Wyeth’s watercolors capture the rugged, mysterious, and at times lonely spirit of the region. The artist himself called the Greenville Collection, "the very best collection of my watercolors in any public museum in this country."
Exploring the rest of the museum I discovered other treasures: works by Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keefe and Jasper Johns. What began in the 1930s as a small, regional gallery has grown into one of the nation’s premier art museums. The museum’s collection surveys American art from Colonial Times to present with a special emphasis on work by Southern artists or on Southern themes.
The museum’s focus on regional art is on perfect display in its current exhibit A Portrait of Greenville, running now through Sept. 26. The exhibit draws together works of art commissioned by the museum over the last 25 years and tells the story both of the county’s history and its people. The works range from New York-based sculptor John Ahearn’s eerily lifelike plaster-cast sculptures of Greenville residents to paintings of local churches by North Augusta artist Ed Rice.
I’m planning another trip to Greenville this summer as two new exhibitions will be opening at the museum. The first is a display of recent work by painter Jill Hooper. Known for her portraits, her work combines classical realism with a viewpoint and energy that is distinctly modern. Also, there will be a sampling of William Lumpkins’ watercolors. Lumpkins was a fascinating man. He was a modernist painter, but also an architect, author, political activist, solar energy pioneer and a student of Zen Buddhism. His work will be exhibited in Greenville through August 15th.
The museum is open Tuesday–Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings. On Sundays, hours are 1 to 5 p.m.
A trip to this wonderful museum is the ultimate bargain. Admission is always free. For more information visit www.greenvillemuseum.org