Some days I feel like an expat in my own country, especially during primary season in South Carolina. I weary of defending my choice to put down roots here, in the face of our governors and statistics. It’s tiring, remaining faithful. And then something comes along that lifts the burden of explanation.
It happened once before, when Joggling Board Press published “Transfer of Grace: Images of the Lowcountry.” Until that moment I was never sure that my husband could ever love this place as much as I do. I had dragged Gary, a Midwesterner, to meet Byrne Miller while he still could. The fact that a Jewish modern dance pioneer from Manhattan could survive in the Deep South helped, but didn’t convince him. When strangers on spring garden tours asked him what church we attend, I sensed his commitment wavering. That this town is still so divided: black and white, young and retired, uber-wealthy and just-scraping-by – didn’t sit well. But in the photographs on the pages of our first book together, I saw that he could put all that aside. I saw that it is possible to love a place in spite of itself. There is incomparable beauty in the Lowcountry, a value in any grace we leave behind.
If you go to the opening of “Organics: the Art of Nature” tomorrow night at USCB’s Center for the Arts Galley you will see even more evidence of my relief. It’s not just Gary’s work on display; he is showing with the fiber artist Kim Keats for the first time since they started collecting each other’s work. It makes sense – both artists use painstakingly intricate, even archaic techniques to make their one-of-a-kind creations. But the show is a continuum more than collaboration – on one end Kim constructs works of art from natural elements and on the other, Gary deconstructs nature into elemental shapes, tone and texture.
She calls her work salvaging nature; he calls his scavenging and simplifying. Together they elevate elements we normally overlook into objects to reconsider, and celebrate. It’s astonishing, the strength and resilience expressed in some of nature’s most delicate, even fragile parts – a robin’s egg in a tiny but protective nest, peels of bark lashed into sturdy crossings.
I take partial credit – after all I am the one who dragged him here. And I tolerate all the dead and decaying things he now drags into Byrne Miller’s house to photograph. It is proof, to me, that the Lowcountry is finally under his skin.