Somebody ‘arted’

It was a Saturday of obnoxious humidity. I decided I wanted to see some art and knew Savannah was home to SCAD: the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Opened in the late 1970s, SCAD has become a huge part of Savannah’s ‚Äčidentity – even going beyond the normal boundaries of a simple art college, SCAD provides security patrols around some neighbourhoods and attracts thousands of tourists every year.

The heat was oppressive and my GPS was having a bit of a crisis connecting to a satellite. It felt like time was frozen in amber or else just restricted by a very thick, sticky jam. Added to this, the streets were incredibly busy as it also happened to be the day that students were graduating from the college in question.

I gave up on GPS and decided to follow the crowds in hope that the graduation venue would be close to the museum.

I got lucky! Across Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard stood the museum. I opened the door and the relief was immediate. Cool air cascaded from above me, drying all perspiration, and giving me a chill. I paid entry fee to the lady behind the counter.

“There are docents in each room, if you have any questions or would like more information, be sure to ask.”

The first gallery was empty of people. Three docents stood talking to each other. I moved from picture to installation to sculpture to picture. There were very few traditional artworks – everything was very provocative and demanded that you try to find meaning.

As I passed from room to room, I realised that my appreciation of art was limited to the literal: show me a dramatic seascape, epic battle scene, or a detailed portrait, and I can understand with little prompting what’s going on.

Show me a dead flamingo on a bar stool with a ball and chain attached, and I’m as lost as a man whose GPS is on the blink. I can appreciate the work that goes into making something like that, but because further meaning is implied by the randomness of the piece itself, my mind gets lazy and switches off.

The meaning might be astounding but because I had to ask, it takes away from the impact. To put it bluntly: to me, sometimes art can seem like a bad joke, if you have to explain it, it loses all its power and the only reaction it can garner after being explained is “oh”.

But that’s genuinely my own ignorance when it comes to what constitutes art. I’m simple and just enjoy a pretty picture.

Later, I took a walk down to River Street where I browsed the smaller galleries. There I found the work of an artist called Chuck Hamilton, who seems to share my love of the film The Big Lebowski. A lot of his work depicts scenes or characters from the movie.

Now that’s art that I can abide.

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Solar Queen

I read the weather forecast in the morning. My host, Tycob, a Hawaiian displaced from his native islands by exorbitant property prices, was expecting rain. Rain meant the lower part of the street might flood and prohibit him going to work at either of his two driving jobs. He was both an Uber driver and a delivery driver for Domino’s pizza.

The rain never came but the kind of humidity that precluded a thunderstorm lingered all day. 

Expecting a wet afternoon, I spent a few hours wandering around The Gibbes Museum of Art. The museum specialises in artwork by southern artists with some works dating back to the 17th century.

Alongside the amazing paintings, photographs, illustrations, and sculptures (my favourite painting was the one above; even up close the child looks like a photograph – the whole picture was created using watercolours!) I found an interesting item in the museum gift shop.

At first I thought this quite random but then I realised why it was there amongst the history books and artist biographies. HRH Lizzie – our Liz – has donated numerous pieces of artwork to the museum for display including watercolour illustrations by artist and naturalist (not “naturist” as I first read it – that’s something completely different) Mark Catesby. These studies are from the Windsor Castle collection and show Catesby’s skill in painting studies of birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles – including a rattlesnake he found in his bed!

After almost 3 hours in the museum, I decided to head to a converted church on Market Street. It was now a restaurant but not much had changed about the buildings previous occupation – it still possessed the high ceilings of the main hall and stained glass windows. However, I didn’t quite make it there because I got pulled in by the allure of another menu, this time boasting southern fried chicken in a sweet tea glaze! The restaurant was called Toast!.

“I recommend the chicken,” my waitress, Vicki, said, “you get a choice of two sides, right here – Carolina red rice and coleslaw are good, I recommend that.”

Sat in a worn leather booth beside a cabinet filled with cakes of monstrous proportions, and to a soundtrack of horse-drawn carriages outside, I think I found my higher power.