If you tell someone who is unfamiliar with South Carolina's Savannah River region that you are going to Denmark for the day, you will likely get a funny look. We are not talking about the country that was the setting for Hamlet, but rather the small, picturesque town about 30 minutes from Orangeburg. As you pull into the center of town you will come to a crossroads that holds an ice cream shop, a slightly famous antique store, and Jim Harrison Gallery. Recently I had the chance to drive down and sit down with Harrison for lunch and a chat at his space at One South Main Street (and delicious sandwiches from that ice cream shop, aptly named Freezie Breezie).
Harrison is an institution in South Carolina. His gallery is a welcoming place with pieces representing the breadth of his career, which started out when he began painting Coca-Cola signs. The signs began to be included in paintings, and as time went on the paintings became their own stories -- barns, pastures, the rolling hills of the upstate -- there isn't a South Carolina landscape that fails to stir the artist's heart. He started his commercial career traveling from town to town, showing his work to the printmakers of the state and selling limited editions through them. The prints that were once sold for $40 can now be found for upwards of $4,000, he says.
The gallery is a landmark of the town that brings people together, whether they are members of the local community or tourists who drive in from the Charleston beaches to peruse his works and do a little antiquing across the street. During the holidays he has been known to have customer appreciation days, where people can gather for a little food and possibly receive a free print from the gallery. It is all very warm and convivial in a way that makes one want to continue his or her relationship with the gallery long after a purchase has been made, even if the specials on his works have been taken advantage of via the Internet, as can be the case on these appreciation days.
During this visit I felt especially privileged to view what is an unusual painting for Harrison. Typically known for the intricate detail of his landscapes and seascapes, he is best known for his smaller paintings. On this hot day at the end of August, Harrison was working on a large work of the lowcountry marsh at sunset. It will be available for purchase through his gallery and would make a beautiful reminder of South Carolina summers for a home.
For more information about Jim Harrison and his art, please visit the gallery website at www.jimharrison.com.