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Oct 29, 2021

The Art of the Matter: Meet the Lowcountry locals who are keeping life colorful for the rest of us

Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine

Photography By

M.KAT Photography
Art is everywhere. And if you know where to find it, you will.

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The act of creation manifests itself in thousands upon thousands of ways, in every imaginable context. It’s in the stroke of a brush, the cadence of a poem, or the rhythm of a song. For some of us, it’s an outlet. This stretching of the creative muscles is a way to break free from the monotony of day-to-day life, if only for a moment.

For a select few, however, this creativity is a calling. Rather than a respite from the norm, creativity is the norm and art their bread and butter. Our little slice of paradise would not be the same without their inspiration and brilliance, and for making our lives a little brighter we salute them here.

Amos Hummell

Did you always know/think you were going to be an artist, or is this a new venture?
My inner caveman was expressing itself on the playroom walls by age five. So, it was evident the DNA was primed and glazed.

Where do you personally find inspiration?
Points of light glint off just about everything. Some beam into the brainium itself, and those become the aha moments, big and small.

What role do you think artists play in society?
Artists exude the essence of cosmic backpacker, and that serves as a muse for others who should go exploring, too. Artwork serves as an inspirational totem.

Where can we find your artwork locally?
Hilton Head Art League, and in Old Town Bluffton at La Petite Gallerie.

Who is your favorite local artist?
Of all time, that artist would be the girl I married, Lynne.

Amiri Geuka Farris

Did you always know/think you were going to be an artist, or is this a new venture?
I always knew I was going to be an artist and have been a Professional artist for 30 years. I received my Master of Arts degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design and consider myself a multi-disciplinary artist I have shown and galleries and museums locally and internationally, and I also have shown my large scale public art works and murals internationally.

Where do you personally find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the everyday. I find it best to get out of my element or comfort zone, take a walk and ride a bike, and get inspired by nature, sounds, people, etc. I also try to check out new exhibits and museums.

What role do you think artists play in society?
Art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences, visual and creative. Art, in this sense, is a communication tool we can all use in our daily lives. Art is everything, and I believe art and creativity can be found in everything we do and see. Everyone is creative in something; even an accountant has to be creative with numbers.

Where can we find your artwork locally?
You can find my work at The Red Piano Art Gallery on Calhoun Street, the upcoming Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival, the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island, and the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah.

Who is your favorite local artist?
Some of my favorite local and international artists include Jonathan Green, Hung Liu, Robert Rauschenberg, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Keith Haring, Basquiat, and Mr. Brainwash.

Greg John

Did you always know/think you were going to be an artist, or is this a new venture?
I always wanted to be a musician. Guitar mainly, but despite massive effort, I was never really good enough to play in public. Then I picked up the harmonica and that came more naturally. I was able to play in bands and jump in with other real musicians.
Music is art, and it lit a desire to explore more physical art, which led to driftwood when I lived on a salt marsh, and I would go for hikes with my wife and kids. We started collecting cool driftwood pieces that we lugged back to the house. We ended up with so many that we created a “driftwood garden.” Then, one of them looked like it would make a cool lamp. I made the lamp, showed it to a Hilton Head interior designer, and she wrote me a check on the spot! I thought hmmm, this is pretty cool. That’s when I really started to look for unique pieces and make items to sell and place in our home about four to five years ago. The oyster crosses are a newer endeavor I started with my daughter within past year.

Where do you personally find inspiration?
God. His creation is mind-blowing to me! The “natural world” is incredible, bizarre, beautiful, intense, exciting, and just unbelievably magnificent. Physically, the tidal creeks and salt marshes are my favorite places.

What role do you think artists play in society?
Artists, depending on their craft, create, enhance, or transform a part of the world in a way that gives society a new or different way of seeing or experiencing that particular medium. So, artists do a lot for society. They spark curiosity, ignite wonder, transform living and workspaces, provide entertainment, offer solutions to problems, pull us away from the mundane, open our minds, and promote creativity.

Where can we find your artwork locally?
Instagram and Facebook @saltycoastdesign. Sometimes the Bluffton General Store. Usually, I do commission pieces that go straight to the client.

Who is your favorite local artist?
Bluffton is full of many incredible artists so this is tough, but I will say there are two that I have been influenced by the most: Amos Hummell and Roberto Rodriguez at Wildwood Rescue.

Margaret Pearman

Did you always know/think you were going to be an artist, or is this a new venture?
I have always been artistic and felt the need to create. I regret not pursuing art in college. Sometime during the 2007/08 economic crisis, my mom told me to paint a crab on an old canvas. It sold the same week. I was hooked: the act of painting made me feel good; it made another person feel good; and I even made a little money. It’s become my therapy. One day, I hope to paint full time.

Where do you personally find inspiration?
Most of my art is related to the Lowcountry where I grew up. When I look at oyster shells, I see a myriad of colors. Crabs, shrimp, heron, and lots of other animals become my subjects, as well as the Lowcountry landscape. Since I do not have a lot of time to photograph, I do use friend’s Instagram feeds for a lot of inspiration along with other open source sites. Once I have an image, I rearrange colors inspired by interior design.

What role do you think artists play in society?
Artists are crucial in making society aware of our feelings. Art is an experience, even if it is just because it goes on a living room wall. Simple or complex doesn’t matter. It is about having a moment of awareness.

Where can we find your artwork locally?
My work can be found at Eggs ’n’ trinities in Bluffton, and Merchants on Bee in Savannah. I do not have a website … I am just too busy running a restaurant and being a mom these days.

Who is your favorite local artist?
This is hard, but for me, it is Louanne Laroche. Her work is a testimony to the many Lowcountry people who were not seen in the past. Working in mixed media, her art is layered, complex, and full of color. It definitely evokes emotion.

Debi West

Did you always know/think you were going to be an artist, or is this a new venture?
I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember! I was the little girl who was leaving her marks everywhere … from the steam on the shower walls, to the dust on the car, to picking up sticks and “drawing” in the dirt, to finding the crayons and using the dining room walls for my creations! Needless to say, I was often in trouble for my mark-making excursions.

It wasn’t until we moved from KC to Philly in 1975 that I was applauded for my marks because that was when I had my first public school art class experience. It was life changing to nine-year-old me because it was when I realized that I might have some talent, and this new knowledge literally shaped my life.

I ended up studying studio art at USC, and after receiving my BFA, I worked as a graphic designer for a few years until I realized I was meant to be in the art room.

When I moved to Atlanta in 1992, I started my art ed career, and art education became my passion. I was an art teacher and art department chair for 25 years in Gwinnett County, Ga. and worked hard to earn my M.A.Ed., EdS and my “almost” Ph.D. I’m also nationally board certified, so I sort of take this teaching thing a little seriously, lol!

I still teach classes out of the Art League and the Arts Center, but I retired from the classroom in 2017. My educational consulting company is thriving, so my new passion is in mentoring teachers. Check out my website: WESTpectations.com.
To answer the initial question, I’ve always been an artist and art has fueled me on every level.

Where do you personally find inspiration?
I think I find inspiration in the everyday happenings that surround me. Every day is a gift, and so I embrace moments. I had a one-woman art show at the Hilton Head Library two years ago where I exhibited 52 works and called the show “Recycled Memories.” My paintings, drawings, photos and jewelry were all works that I’ve created over the past 50 years, and they came to fruition during this exhibit. Through mixed media and collage, my show shared visual snippets of my life.

From here I began focusing more on my custom, hand-stamped jewelry and found that by merging text into my work, I could tell my story as well as my customers’ stories via this wearable art form.

My company, Crystal Collage ART Wears, has taken off, and I’ve been blessed to take my jewelry-making skills on the road, working at juried art festivals across the country. I’m inspired by my customers and love seeing their joy when I create a custom piece specifically for them!

What role do you think artists play in society?
Art is everywhere! It’s the house we live in, the bed we sleep in, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the chair we sit in, and the utensils we use to eat our food. Without it, we’re literally naked on a beach. I said that to a class of students one day, and one of my kiddos said, “Well I don’t like the beach.” So, evidently without art, he’s naked in the woods! The point is art is what documents our history. Art is an expression of oneself; so, as an artist, you tell your story with every mark you make. To create is what defines the human race.

I think it’s safe to say that art can be the most important subject taught in schools (especially when it’s taught correctly). Art teaches creative and divergent thinking and problem solving, and students learn that hard work pays off! Students explore and achieve through trial and error. There is never just one “right” answer, and students are encouraged to think outside of the box. And when we consider that 85 percent of our current job force is seeking creative thinkers, then how can we ever think it would be okay to dismiss the arts from any child’s education?

Forgive me; I just went on one of my rants about the necessities of art, so I guess it’s obvious that I think art is extremely important and plays a huge part in society; in all forms, art is life! Art is definitely my life!

Where can we find your artwork locally?
I exhibit at the Art League of Hilton Head monthly (I’m a board member), and I currently have work in their gallery as well as in our current members’ exhibit at the library. And I just created a cool pair of mixed media custom art boots for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina for their upcoming auction supporting the Kinky Boots production!

And if you look at the wrists, arms, fingers, ears and necks of many locals, chances are you’ll see some of my jewelry adorning these limbs. My goal is to create a unique piece of “art wear” for every local on the island! Go big or go home!

And if you really want to see my work, come and visit me in my studio/garage!

Who is your favorite local artist?
I have several favorite local artists, so this is a tough question for me. Being an ALHH member I’m blessed with seeing the work of over 100 phenomenal artisans on a monthly basis: Judy Blahut, Dennis Lake, Alex Sharma, Joan Moreau McKeever, and Jami Wright are the first to come to mind, but the list is long! We have such a thriving vibrant artist community here on the island, so I highly recommend that everyone go check out all our galleries. You won’t be disappointed!

Colin Noonan

Did you always know/think you were going to be an artist, or is this a new venture?
Art has always been a big part of my life. I have over 20 years of painting experience, but I have started tattooing.

Where do you personally find inspiration?
I love being able to go down to the beach.

What role do you think artists play in society?
Artists reveal new worlds and connect us to old worlds.

Where can we find your artwork locally?
The Sugar Shack Canvas and Ink Tattoo in Bluffton.

Who is your favorite local artist?
I’m lucky to call several very talented people my friends.

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