Toi et Moi happened almost accidentally. Back in 2021 I decided that I wanted to do a series of character studies but couldn’t get family and friends to sit for me. (Been there, done that.) My nephew is a hip-hop artist and needed some promotional pictures. While working with him it occurred to me that all artists should have a good, current portrait. I approached several old friends, Elizabeth Moretz Britt, Lillie Hardy Morris and Ed Rice. I made my pitch: headshots for free and they can use the images as they like. It’s a fair trade. Skills for services.
It has been said that good portrait is given, not taken. A session begins with a conversation and if successful, continues throughout. If truly successful, an image is made that might interest a viewer to take part in the conversation. It’s what all artists desire. That desire to connect; to communicate.
The initial sessions went well. I learned how to tune the light and talk folks down from the “having your picture taken” fence. I was more nervous than they were. I wanted to do right by their commitment and plus get my portraiture chops up. It had been a while since I had dedicated my time towards making photographs.
During the sessions I asked for recommendations of others who might want / need a good portrait.
This proved to be the right strategy. Inevitably, folks started asking what I’m going to do with the pictures. “I don’t know. Have a show?” Pairing an artist’s work with their portrait seemed like a natural and interesting way to present the portraits.
Earlier in 2022 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funded a grant program to be managed and distributed by the Greater Augusta Arts Council. My proposal to produce an exhibit celebrating artists that live and work in the Augusta River Region was accepted. Ok, cool. I knew why to have the exhibit. What about the how, when, where part? That was the hard part. There were lots of plates in the air. I made a couple of messes. I consider them lessons learned, though.
There was an appetite for all these folks to be in the same room. I am told that the last time anything like that occurred was 20 years ago.
Because of the continuing conversation with the people represented in the exhibit and the very positive response from the public, Amy Donaldson (owner of The Augusta Candle Co.) and I are going to manage a new gallery: the CANDL Fine Art gallery at 1128 Broad Street. It’s the former Pontone Gallery. The space is move-in-ready and will be at the core of a long-term effort to empower artists. It is only right to announce the launch of this new arts initiative in the Arts Council website/newsletter. It wouldn’t have happened without the grant funds from the NEA. Leveraging the good work and wonderful relationships that have been re-kindled and/or made is just a smart and worthy thing to do.
This is all very new. Like the show, I’m winging it. Professional managers would call this our discovery phase.
There is much to do with more details coming as they are finalized. Multiple artists have already agreed to exhibit in the coming year. We’re off to a good start. I am so grateful.
The Toi et Moi exhibition featured works by local artists: Mark Albertin, Martha Arrington, Judy Averett, Elizabeth Moretz Britt, Jim Brownlow, Jack Cheatum, Brent Cline, Jason Craig, Thomas Crowther, Franklin Delgado, Jacki Mayo Van Dyke, Tina Goldsmith, Leslie Hamrick, Jay Jacobs, Keller Jones, Chase Lanier, Devin Lovett, Ashton Maya, Lillie Hardy Morris, Gerry O’Meara, Randy Pace, Aort Reed, Edward Rice, Brian Rust, Katie Scarborough, Peter C. Stitt, Staci Swider, Lisa Ann Tindal, Chadwick Tolley, Baruti Tucker, Lucy Weigle, Henry Wynn, Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman and LouAnn Zimmerman. Artworks ranged from paintings, illustrations, sculpture, pottery, photography, mixed media, print making, and more. All artists’ works were displayed alongside a very special portrait taken by photographer and exhibition curator, Drake White. A reception was held on First Friday, December 2nd. More than 150 arts lovers, supporters, friends and family were in attendance.
In addition to Toi et Moi, some of Drake White’s photographic artworks can also be found in the Westobou Gallery as part of the 2022 Seeds exhibition. Which, this year, was juried by artist: Andrea Clark. If you would like to learn more about Drake White’s work, the Artist(s) As Muse series, or the Toi et Moi exhibition, please visit https://www.drakewhite.studio/ .
Photos by Rhian Swain of Redwolf Adverstising