Macon artist Betty Bivins Edwards is a product of the 1960s, a time when the cocoon of Southern traditions was threatened by change.
Her experiences as an artist after years of teaching gave her a new awareness of her surroundings and contributed to her amusing and caustic commentary on time honored customs that were taken for granted for generations.
Edwards started painting in watercolor in the 1970s, producing classic landscapes, which were the norm for a refined Southern woman. Edwards also made craft items for friends, which were a fun distraction, but according to her biography, she did not expand her reach beyond watercolors until after a summer spent in Oxford, England, studying medieval art and literature, an experience she considers a seminal moment in defining her future as an artist.
The retrospective of more than four decades of Edwards’ work will be on display at the Museum of Arts and Sciences through April 26. Soft sculptures made from nylon stockings are part of the “Growing Up Southern” segment of the exhibition and are reminders of mild but silly prohibitions of the 1950s.
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“Eccentric Narratives: Looking Southern” is a collection of mixed media sculptures that tease the ridiculous conventions of living in a Southern home. “Food, Ritual and the Southern Experience” portrays in quilts iconic characters and figures that are figuratively knocked from their pedestals of self importance.
In “Cakes, Condiments and Casseroles,” the glut of food associated with the Southern buffet is pictured in monotypes, the colorful food competing for attention on the dessert table. Edwards’ large oils in the collection, “Gather Around the Table,” depict the ridiculous efforts to impress guests with too much food on a table that appears to groan under the weight of outdated tradition.
Take plenty of time to catch every subtle jab at sacred cows in Edwards’ works.
CANVASSING THE WORLD AROUND US
Visit the April exhibition at the gallery of Macon Arts Alliance to be transported from the beach to the mountains, from the hills of Italy to the French countryside.
Some members of the Ocmulgee Painters Society are featured in the gallery, among them Carol Griffin, a plein air (outdoor) painter and guest curator for the show. Her landscapes are vivid portrayals of the colors and textures one can see only in sunlight dancing on water or casting rosy hues on worn paths.
Warren Griffin accurately conveys the luminescence of limpid waters in the dark peat bottomed streams he finds in the forest.
According to Carol Griffin, Macon architect Daly Smith “pares down the essentials of a scene, one of the hallmarks of his style.” In the last few years, Smith has explored contemporary interpretations of his environment, which, like his architectural images, are succinct but colorful and dynamic.
Joy Stanley’s evolution from watercolors to oils gives her seascapes and still life paintings more freedom of expression that embraces all of her interests from traveling afar to exploring the back roads of Georgia. All of the landscape artists in the gallery chronicle their travels on memorable canvases to enhance the lives of those who would add one of these larger than life “post cards” to their personal collections.
Sydney Sams is another of the plein air painters whose memories of weekends on the marshes or sojourns to countries steeped in rich artistic history are recorded on canvases that “capture the essence” of significant places.
For Sheila Kelly Johnson, packing for a trip is not complete until the easel and paints find a place in her luggage. Painting is an essential part of her travels, whether surveying the coast or enjoying vistas across a mountain range.
Debbie Schuchmann’s exuberance for life is evident in paintings that she says memorialize beauty and great friendships.
Glenda Clance Coleman’s childhood on a farm instilled in her an ardent appreciation for the simplicity of rural living, which she interprets for others who may not have had the freedom to explore nature without boundaries.
ART ON VINEVILLE AVENUE
Lee Reeves, who enjoys painting her dogs on the beach, Lisa Bevill, who delights in painting flowers and fruits in their prime, and Bren Powell, who prefers encaustic painting, are some of the Ocmulgee Painters Society members whose works are hanging in the Macon Arts gallery and in the gallery at Vineville Methodist Church where Stanley, Sams and Carol Griffin also are included in the exhibition, joined by Mary Jo Plowden and Maureen Graves Persons.
Plowden’s works depict a different approach to beach scenes and other landscapes with more complex subject matter than the predictable sand dunes or distant mountains. Persons is painting portraits and landscapes, even incorporating one with the other for more visual interest.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or email@example.com.