MAY 1, 2013
Jo Carol Mitchell-Rogers. It's a long name to begin with, but add Dr. to the front or Ph.D. to the end, and you've really got a mouthful. "I'm not hung up on the Dr. thing," Mitchell-Rogers says, her face blushing slightly as she describes her education. Mitchell-Rogers holds three degrees, a BFA from the University of Georgia, an MFA from Clemson, both in painting and drawing, and a Ph.D. in art education from the University of Georgia. "It's an odd combo," she says. "I hold two terminal degrees—the MFA in painting and a Ph.D. in art education—which is a really geeky sum total of 12 years in college."
But we're not here to learn about Jo Carol Mitchell-Rogers, the student, or Dr. Mitchell-Rogers, the professor and chair of Anderson University's art department, we're here for Jo Carol, the artist. The painter and photographer whose two recent series Ordinary Icons and Sense of Place blur the lines between painting and photography, familiar and mysterious, ordinary and exquisite.
"I have a good friend who is also a photographer," Jo Carol says, "and when we have any spare time, we set out on what we call photo roams. There's no agenda, we don't know where we're going to end up." These "roams" have led Jo Carol throughout the Upstate. Past small towns and abandoned mills, hot-dog billboards, and yards populated with chained dogs and aluminum chairs. The typical scenery most of us overlook every day. "I'm attracted to the ordinary and the power and the beauty of what's right in front of us," says Jo Carol. "I've learned that our region alone is very rich, and the imagery are simply subject matters I happen upon."
Ordinary Icons, acrylic works on masonite, begin with a photograph which Jo Carol recreates in paint. "I love the process of painting," Jo Carol says. "I love the color interaction. I love getting lost in both the structure and color of a piece as it starts to evolve." The finished results are everyday settings elevated through light, color, and composition. The pieces feel familiar, almost nostalgic.
These feelings led Jo Carol to explore ways to better "marry" her photography and painting. Could her photo roams produce more than snapshots of scenes she would later commit to acrylic? If the painting was the photograph could the opposite also be true?
The Sense of Place photography series fools the eye. The large, soft-focus pieces appear at first to be paintings, which is good because that is Jo Carol's intention. And although photo manipulation is easier now than ever before, all of Jo Carol's photography work is done completely in camera. No Photoshop, no digital filtering, not even cropping. "The composition you see is exactly what I saw at the moment I shot it," says Jo Carol. "Philosophically that's important to me. That's a challenge that I set."
For Jim Gorman, the creation of art is a process of discovery. “I’ll add; I’ll subtract; I’ll scratch through things. And I’m usually surprised by what I find,” he says.
A ceramic artist, photographer, printmaker, jewelry maker, and painter, Gorman usually starts each piece with a general direction, but finds it confining to plan from stroke one to finish. “I find things along the way that are much better than my original thought,” he says—much like his path to full-time artist.
Gorman began his career in college for graphic design, but quickly discovered it wasn’t the perfect fit. After active duty in the Air Force, he found his essence in silversmithing and, then, ceramics, which he created, exhibited, and taught for more than 30 years.
A retired college and high school educator with national and international art exhibitions to his credit, now Gorman calls Greenville home. He follows the flow of his energy when creating each work and allows his emotions to determine his direction—whether they help him choose the medium of expression, the color palette, or the textures he ultimately creates.
Take, for instance, Gorman’s “scrape series.” These paintings involve covering a surface with white paint, then applying color, then taking Plexiglas and scraping down through those surfaces until the ghosts of lines peek from beneath.
Or, the “portal series” that, through layers upon layers of color, texture, and technique, Gorman creates a visual portal, or a way for the viewer’s eye to enter the painting.
“I approach painting in much the same way I approached clay. My work in clay was sometimes a very tight and controlled graphic treatment of the surfaces. Other times it would be loose, expressively handled. In all my work, I am very physical with surfaces—lots of manipulation, lots of scratching through,” he says.
The same individual processes define Gorman’s monoprints. The artist typically starts with an image built on glass or paper, which is transferred to another surface, then manipulated as his impulse dictates. To hear Gorman explain this process is akin to hearing a poet read: “Sometimes I push paper to paper. Sometimes I scrape, drizzle, or outline the forms.”
Step into Gorman’s studio and gallery at 12A Lois Avenue in the Pendleton Arts District (also known as West Greenville’s Arts District), and you will catch him doing a myriad of things—whether hammering silver or pulling brush across canvas. “People ask me how long it takes to create a work . . . and I tell them it has taken decades to realize these pieces through my life experience.”