Space Ghost’s Visions: George Lowe

George Lowe bridges the worlds of folk/Outsider art and contemporary art as few other artists do.

Susan Mitchell Crawley, former Curator of Folk Art for the High Museum, Atlanta, writes: “He has collected art since he was very young, beginning with prints and drawings by prominent Modern and Contemporary artists and later developing an enthusiasm for vernacular art.” Lowe’s collection of the work of Georgia visionary folk artist Howard Finster is among the finest in the world, and he has lent many pieces from his personal collection to museum exhibitions.

Lunch on Staff Field orig email size (2)

Above: Lunch on Stagg Field.  This piece was included in “Lands Beyond,” an exhibition of visionary landscapes curated by author Tom Patterson, in Spring 2015 at the Bascom Center for the Visual Arts, Highlands, NC.

Crawley continues: “In the course of this collecting career he has seen and absorbed much. Despite his long involvement with [fine] art, Lowe shows more kinship with the self-taught artists…than with the mainstream artists he first collected, for his fabulous landscapes refer more to themselves and the territory inside his head than to the terrain of Western art. Lowe’s great discovery in his vernacular collection may have been how to explore his own imaginings freely and express them forcefully.”

George Lowe The FEMA Trailer of Forbidden Love (2)

Left: The FEMA Trailer of Forbidden Love (watercolor and ink on paper, 8″ x 5″)

Unlike the work of most other folk art enthusiasts-turned- artists, Lowe’s work is never imitative or derivative of the self-taught masters he admires. Instead, it is itself inimitable—futuristic, fantastical, funny, a touch manic and more than a bit obsessive, just like the artist himself. Fans of the cult 1990s absurdist animated/live-action late-night show Space Ghost: Coast to Coast might feel an uncanny kinship; the title character was played by Lowe, who also happens to be an accomplished humorist and voice actor. The Space Ghost: Coast to Coast DVDs are treasured by his fans (or, as he calls them, his “TV friends”), as are his recordings Space Ghost’s Musical Barbeque: Featuring 25 Hickory-Smoked Harmonies and Space Ghost’s Surf and Turf: With 22 Tiki-Torched Tunes.

Lowe’s work is included in the permanent collections of the High Museum of Art (Atlanta) and the St. Petersburg (FL) Museum, as well as the corporate collection of CNN/Turner Broadcasting.

The Road to the Zobanian Consulate at St Petersburg MFA (2)

The artist with The Road to the Zobanian Consulate, a piece in the permanent collection of the St. Petersburg (FL) Museum of Fine Art.

PRESS

Escape Into Life: Artist Watch

Rebecca Mahoney, “George Lowe.” The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), April 23, 2004.

James Casey, “Interview with the Ghost.” Arizona Daily Wildcat, November 20, 1997.

Catherine Fox, “Kaleidoscopic View of Imagination,” Atlanta-Journal Constitution, April 17, 2009

 

 

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Aaron Hequembourg

When I started my gallery, Chivaree Southern Art & Design, I was honored and thrilled that Aaron Hequembourg agreed to let me represent him.  Congratulations, Aaron, on making your third appearance at the Smithsonian Craft Show this year!

Hequembourg was formally trained in engraving and printmaking on a scholarship to the University of Iowa. Upon graduating, without a press, Aaron started to produce abstracted figurative paintings engraved into wood panels. In 1997 Aaron and his wife Hope were married in the front yard of a farm in middle Georgia that has been in her family since 1815. They proceeded to move into the farmhouse and have four children. At one point, a family member suggested he “get a permit and burn down those sharecropper houses” that were scattered over the farm. Aaron became the first person to step foot in many of these structures in nearly 80 years. He discovered that some began as slave quarters and still contained tools, artifacts and a host of printed materials from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fence websize

 

Fence, 2013.

Engraved painting on salvaged antique printed materials and wood.  The Hequembourgs’ daughter Sinclair looks over their farm’s horse paddock.

 

 

The artist was inspired to research photography from that period, which together with the houses and their contents provided inspiration and subject matter for a new body of work. Hequembourg laminates book and music pages onto panels framed by wood salvaged from the houses, and he then engraves his compositions through the paper into the work, sometimes enshrining artifacts from the houses into the surface plane. The work moved beyond repurposing materials to preserving 200 years of history that was once lost.

Aaron Hequembourg Slaveship Gown

 

Slaveship Gown. Wood from 19th century sharecropper houses; 1875 encyclopedia pages, book plates from 1836 & 1920’s.  Engraving, painting and wood-block printing.

For the pattern of the subject’s gown, Hequembourg created a woodblock of the well-known 18th-century diagram, known as the Brookes, of the hold of a slave ship.  The image first appeared in London as part of a report by slave-trade abolitionists.  The printed source Hequembourg used as a template for the woodblock appears in the lower right hand corner.

 

 

Since 2012, Hequembourg has shifted to producing subject-driven work, portraying his present-day neighbors in Monticello, many of whom can trace their roots in the town for generations. His combination of painting with direct engraving into the picture surface shows their faces and hands in naturalistic, powerful detail. He continues to incorporate antique printed materials and objects into his pieces, which places his subjects in a context fraught with ambivalence: a rural South that has been, by turns, idyllic and oppressive.

Aaron Hequembourg Josephine websize

 

 

Josephine, 2014.

Josephine is the artist’s neighbor, most frequent subject, and greatest inspiration.  The artists considers his subjects to be his collaborators and pays them 10% of the sales price of any piece they appear in.

 

 

 

 

 

The first year I was open, Aaron suggested an idea that became an annual event: a Thanksgiving tent show to benefit a local charity.  The Highlands-Cashiers Humane Society, a wonderful no-kill shelter and veterinary service organization, was our partner, and Aaron donated an original work of art every year with an animal theme to be raffled off to benefit HCCS.

Aaron Hequembourg Dachsund Girl 2014

 

Dachsund Girl, 2014. Engraved painting on antique printed materials.

This was one of the pieces Aaron created for Chivaree Gallery’s Thanksgiving raffle to benefit the Highlands-Cashiers Humane Society.  In addition to the proceeds from the raffle, we donated 10% of the sales proceeds from Aaron’s tent show to HCCS every year.

 

 

 

In 2016, 2013 and 2012, Hequembourg participated in the Smithsonian Craft Show, arguably the most prestigious national juried exhibition and sale of fine American craft. (View his 2016 Artist’s page here.)   Some of the “Best in Show” awards he has won since 2011 include the St. Louis Art Fair (2014), MMoCA Art Fair on the Square (Madison, WI, 2015 and 2014), Artisphere (Greenville, SC, May 2014), CottonSouth Fine Arts Festival (Madison, GA, September 2013), Cherry Creek Arts Festival (Denver, 2013), the Des Moines Arts Festival (2013), Pensacola’s Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival (2012), and the Columbus (OH) Arts Festival (2011). He now regularly serves as a juror at many of the fairs where he has previously won major prizes. He has received three Awards of Excellence from the American Crafts Council: two in Atlanta (2009 and 2007) and one in Charlotte (2007).

Chivaree Southern Art & Design

I opened Chivaree gallery in Cashiers, NC, in May of 2012.  My first ad appeared in the June 2012 issue of the Highlands-Cashiers Laurel and the 2012 Season Program for the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival.  Shown is the work of Winton and Rosa Eugene (pottery), Ab the Flagman (wooden eagle sculpture), Michael Hatch (glass “firewater jugs”), Mark Sillay (woodturning) and Kristi Hyde (jewelry). Photography and layout by Gil Stose.

Chivaree is also on Facebook.