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).

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http://www.algarnto.com

On our way from Atlanta back to Highlands, Gil and I stopped to visit Al Garnto at his studio/home/sculpture garden in Blairsville, GA.  Al is a North Georgia mountain guy, born and bred, and he is also an alumnus of the Atlanta College of Art (now part of SCAD).  I was first introduced to him at Steve Slotin’s FolkFest by a fellow art collector, John Denton.  His specialty is outdoor sculpture, but he also does beautiful work in collage, incorporating architectural remnants from old buildings and found objects from the buildings’ environs.  They are meditations on place and memory in the rural South.

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A collage of the Union County (GA) Courthouse, incorporating tile discarded when the building was renovated.
another collage--Al says this one is about his dyslexia.

Al has small versions of some of his outdoor kinetic sculptures in his yard, but the biggest display of them can be found at Meeks park, just a couple miles from his house in Blairsville.  Here’s my favorite one, Country Calder.  It’s all made of reclaimed materials like barn wood and rusted sheet metal.

Al and Gil standing in front of "Country Calder," with Al's highly decorated studio in the background

He uses mostly recycled materials in his sculptures.  His latest project involves salvaging bicycles from anywhere he can find them and creating sculptures out of them.  Some of them are inspired by taxidermy:

Some are just inspired by bicycles:

More indoor sculptures:

All the plaques in the background here are probably from Al’s illustrious athletic past.  He is a former tennis pro, and he ran track at the intercollegiate level.  His studio is full of trophies.  I think he also may have been a competitive swimmer?  He and Gil were talking about swimming a lot.  How I ended up surrounded by jocks like this, I will never know.

Al Garnto sculpture Zen Piece
"This is just a Zen piece. The owner can rearrange the rocks any way he likes

I wanted to buy this little one off of him, but he wouldn’t part with it:

Al Garnto small sculpture

He did let me buy this one, to which my mom instantly took a liking, having no idea who made it or where it came from.  She just walked over to it, picked it up and said “What’s this?”  I told her Al Garnto made it and she held onto it. “It’s intriguing.”  That is always a good sign.

Here’s another little gem in his studio, a mock-up for one of his large outdoor pieces:

There.  I have maxed out on blogging.  I have about one hour before my patience for uploading photos runs out.  I am hoping to get two of Al’s big outdoor kinetic sculptures, including Country Calder, installed outside my gallery in Cashiers.  Al’s advice on dealing with the authorities on this issue: “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

Tommye McClure Scanlin: Dahlonega, GA

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A teeny tiny handwoven Appalachian landscape.  I love these little miniatures!  I will be selling them at my gallery.

Here is one of Tommye’s larger looms with a work in progress:

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It’s a “stream of consciousness” piece.  The first row of squares was done entirely without a pattern or cartoon.  The second row was done based on a loose drawing that Tommye rotated as she went along.  “I started doing this after I had an impalement on my hand and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to weave again” using her usual techniques.  Wait, an impalement?  Like she impaled her hand?  Yes.  On what?  The 1″ wide metal bar on the side of this loom:

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Yes, THAT metal bar went completely through her hand.  The loom fell apart, collapsed, and the bar went through her hand and pinned her to the floor.  Panicked phone calls to husband and 911 followed.  Luckily, the hand healed and there was no damage to nerves or major tendons.  Jeez!  Now she is thinking of using the rows of squares she has completed as a border, and weaving a landscape from this cartoon.  The piece will be made entirely of scraps, as the first two rows have been.  The basket of scraps is pictured here with the proposed cartoon.

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I love Tommye’s drawings/cartoons almost as much as her weavings, and I might be offering those for sale, too.  Her pastels remind me of Bonnard, the way she uses crazy, unexpected colors, but in a naturalistic way.