Special to The Sumter Item
Sumter County Gallery of Art's newest exhibits "EYES of Havana," by Terrell Clark, and Deane Ackerman's "Radiant Expressions" prove again how fortunate Sumterites are to have such a great venue as the gallery. Both exhibits reflect keen vision and technique to capture an emotion or story.
During his gallery talk, Clark emphasized his unique opportunity to visit Havana, his mother's gift of a camera - even though he didn't have the money for film or the printing - and the generosity of people who helped him in his decision in 2002 to pursue photography as a career. Although he worked as a wedding and special events photographer, he was drawn by the desire to record the story of people in the context of how they survive. His Havana pictures, many of which were taken with a no-frills 30 Hoya "toy" camera, manage to depict a cross section of 2016 Havana life.
The show itself is creatively displayed with his color photos mixed in with his black-and-white pictures. The result emphasizes the impact of both formats. Clark believes the no-frills camera helps recreate the essence of the people, the honest moment in their lifestyle. There are children at play as in "Anticipation," a man delivering bottles in a shopping cart, a young girl he named "London" because she reminded him of his niece, a snapshot that projects a girl not entirely sure of how to respond to this encounter. His "New Dawn, New Life Early Morning" focuses on a pregnant woman watching women getting their flowers ready for sale while two men watch. In "Lady and the Black Rooster," Clark's interesting perspective highlights the two living objects against the intricate detail of the buildings. His black-and-white photo of the man dressed in American stars and stripes captures an even more important aspect of the Havana culture: There is a distance between the onlooker and the more exclusive American dining area, unavailable to most Cubans because of the cost.
His color photographs are fabulous commentaries on the individuals and their possessions. The tale about Cubans' passion for American cars seems justified in pictures like "Red Chevrolet 2016" and "Marlboro Man," a shot that celebrates the driver, his hat and his great smile of satisfaction. "Gramma Newspaper" interestingly emphasizes the seller by placing him behind a bright red plant with walkers and buildings in the background - a story among the headlines. "Unlit" is a standout photograph on Plexiglas. The woman, whom he had heard about, was suddenly beside him - he captured her strong sense of self assurance, contrasting the orange, textured background with her brightly flowered headband, her dark-toned skin and the blatantly projected cigar.
Ackerman's colored pencil compositions are a marvel of color, made even stronger by her use of tiny dot-like colors that add depth and tone. Her 1990 graphite "Western Slope - Himalayas" is a result of a picture she took on a trip that traveled over that area. It serves as an example of her drawing skill and emphasizes the degree of artistic enhancement she achieves with colored pencil. Her subject matter is varied. She pictures people - "Simon 1998," the sun lighting him and surrounding the puddle and grass behind him, and "Simon Waiting 2011," growing more mature, and "Mermaid of Table Rock Lake" featuring her daughter at play in the lake, the sun adding life and texture to her, her hair and the turquoise, white and pink water eddying around her. Her landscapes like "Ganges Morning" become pastel like enhancements, and her interior "English Parlor" exudes an atmosphere created by her use of color and the filtering of light from the window and the lamp.
Her floral compositions emphasize Ackerman's technique of using the light and dark for drama, intensity and depth. In "Sun Glasses" 1985 there is a hint of color in the glass and window; in "Sun Glasses" 1987 her use of colored pencil enhances even more the delicate texture of sun on glass. In "Amaryllis" there is incredible definition of pink and green against the textured brownish background and vase. "Still Life With a Lemon" is like a projection from Tales of Sherazade - the colors a riot of pink, lavender, purple, yellow, blue - whatever. Her "Rose is a Rose" is a misnomer, for under Ackerman's skilled pencil it becomes layers of movement, color and life. Although her work is special on many levels - she gives her pictures to her family and many people never get to see them - she has been convinced to make prints of some of them. My favorite, but true story (only slightly exaggerated) occurred one year when my son came to visit for a few days. I had purchased and framed a rose print. Just before my son left, he went to the picture, took it from the wall and ran to the car with it and left. Someone asked me if it made me mad. I replied, "No, I was glad to learn he had such good taste in art!"
Both exhibits are on display at the Sumter County Gallery of Art from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.