SPARTANBURG — West Main Artists Co-Op will host a closing reception for its current exhibit on totems Thursday, Aug. 18, 5-9 p.m. as part of Spartanburg’s monthly ArtWalk. The event is free and open to the public and will give patrons the final opportunity to see totems made by local artists.
Traditionally, totems were three dimensional images of animals that were given symbolic and spiritual meaning to people in various cultures around the world. In North America, native Americans created totem poles that were tree trunks with symbolic carvings. In more recent years, totems have become popular art, especially for outdoor gardens, and the symbolic association with animals has often been replaced with purely aesthetic presentation. The totems at West Main Artists Co-Op are mostly made of clay and represent a wide range of artistic expression, including whimsical, religious, and naturalistic themes.
There are 17 totems in the exhibit, made by local experienced potters Heike Tonhaeuser, Athena Darby, Jill Dutton, Ellen Lassiter, Nancy Wall, and Nancy Williamson. Seven of the totems were created by workshop leader Gary Huntoon, a Texas studio artist and teacher who has recently relocated to Spartanburg. Originally, this totem exhibit was part of a Garden Party Show in June, but because of the totems’ popularity, their showing was extended to Aug. 18.
“This is one of the most unique and popular exhibits that the Co-Op has had in a long time,” artist and workshop organizer Williamson said. “People find them fascinating, and the art form is so creatively flexible. As an artist, you can choose to be traditional with symbolism or you can go simply pretty with abstract or non-objective images. The possibilities are endless. This has been a good learning experience for the local artists, and it has brought a new art form to Spartanburg.”
Huntoon has been a studio potter and teacher for nearly 50 years. “My Dad had an auto-body shop so I was always building something, soapbox derby cars, treehouses, model boats and planes,” he said. “I had the use of tools I used for doing things that the tools weren’t designed to do. From my Dad, I learned how important good craftsmanship was. I not only had to work properly but the final project had to look good. I was always building something, my hands were always busy. I was in pre-med at UCLA, took a ceramics class and was hooked. I knew I had to do this for the rest of my life.” For much of his career, his pottery has been functional. However, with his recent move from Texas to Spartanburg, his new focus will be on sculptural art. For more information on his work, please visit online: HuntoonPottery.com.
West Main Artists Co-op was organized in the fall of 2009 as a non-profit all-inclusive arts center dedicated to presenting quality exhibitions, performances, and educational programs in Spartanburg. Its mission is to provide affordable studio, working, and performance space for both professional and beginning artists in a variety of sizes and prices. It is located in a 20,000-square-foot former church at 578 West Main Street in downtown Spartanburg and now home to more than 60 artists. West Main Artists Co-op is funded in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information about the Co-Op, please visit online: WestMainArtists.org.
For more information about the totem exhibit, please call Williamson at (864) 621-2768.
This story courtesy of Chapman Cultural Center.