Beautiful, beautiful day here in Charleston! There is an unmistakable feel and smell of Fall. The humidity is hardly there anymore,and the breeze is blowing off the water with an autumnal grace.
I admit, I woke with my normal propensity for bossiness. It was just getting light outside, and I knew if we didn’t act on it fast, we would miss that magical time in Charleston. Early in the morning, on Murray Blvd there is a stillness left over from the night. Its a clean start… no noise from cars, no wake from boats, no trash from tourists. You are experiencing a fresh day in Charleston.
So Rocky, Crew, and I took Brumby and Stetson out to greet the day. I normally handle the dogs and Crew by myself as we walk along. This completely stressed Rock out though… with me, the dogs, and Crew, he probably felt we looked like a caravan of gypsies. Just another normal/unusual part of my day.
After hurrying to get ready, we walked all the way up Rutledge to Hominy Grill. They have the best “High Rise” biscuits, stone ground, grits, and fresh coffee ever. I love breakfast, and this just suits my love affair perfectly. After getting our fill of goat cheese, spinach and tomato omletes with grits and biscuit, we sluggishly exited.
We had planned for Saturday to be an art walk day. We love art and have had a goal of starting a collection from travels. Charleston is known for pristine art galleries full of the finest art in the world. We started out on Broad Street and walked East. I love seeing the different styles jumping off of the canvases. The artists are not there, but you can get a sense of them and their personalities through the brushstrokes. You can tell if they are controlled or abstract and where they like to travel and what they like to study. The first gallery we went into, we fell in love with a very colorful and abstract oil painting of the marsh. We took a mental picture of it knowing that we could not have found one so quickly. So, we spent the rest of our day meandering through these fine galleries discussing what we liked most. Its nice to discuss that with each other to see what grabs you in the way of art. We found out through the art walk that Rocky is inclined to like impressionistic art, but it still needs to have a certain realism. I have always gravitated to impressionism yet find that I can tolerate very abstract takes on nature.
Many years ago when I was in Charleston for an extended time working on the Charleston Designer show house, I went into a gallery where I was first introduced to the work of West Fraser. I was instantly in love with his work and all that it represented. It embodied a loose yet realistic approach to capturing the light and the energy of the low country. Unspoiled landscapes such as marshes and grasslands along with very quirky takes on the Skyline of Charleston. I left that gallery an unwavering fan of West Fraser.
Fast forward a couple of years later, I was staying with a “client” of sorts here in Charleston who lives on Murray Blvd overlooking the Ashley in a house from the 1800s. We were visiting her next door neighbor one evening and there on the wall was an original West Fraser. I was floored. These paintings are like fine estate jewelry and I was in the presence of someone who had one in their private collection. It was one more layer to add to my West Fraser experiences.
Then, fast forward another couple of years from that, Rocky and I were in the middle of the Caribbean on the island of Nevis at the most removed and isolated inn you could imagine. We were sitting in the open air patio/lobby of the Montpelier Inn when I happened to look at the coffee table. On the table was a huge book on West Fraser and his collections. In the middle of nowhere in the least touristy place ever was a book on a Charlestonian artist??? How was this possible? I sat there and looked through the entire book. One of the images was the painting from the private collection of the house I was visiting in Charleston. I had actually seen in person this painting that was in the book in the middle of an inn built in 1687 in the middle of the Caribbean. What are the odds?
Now, flash forward to this very Saturday. I happened to walk into a gallery and the first thing I see is a West Fraser painting. I look around and there are West Fraser paintings everywhere! I start to remind Rocky about my odyssey with West Fraser artwork when the gallery attendent came out from the back. I started to tell her about serendipitous experiences with the artist West Fraser and realized that this must have been the same gallery I went in years ago yet it wasn’t the same building or location. She confirmed that her gallery had been in another building and had moved here a couple of years ago. She asked me to hold on a second and then she came out with a copy of the book from Nevis! It was still in the wrapper. She handed it to me and said, “Here, I want you to have this.” I was in awe and thanked her profusely. We continued to talk and I asked her where West Fraser resides. She said that he lives right here in Charleston. She told me that he was born right outside Savannah but had spent his youth in Hilton Head Island. I spent all of my summers going to Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island as my great grandmother, grandmother,and great aunt lived there. It has always been such a special place to me and a huge influence on my infatuation with the low country, its marshes and the culture. Since I knew the history of Sea Pines I said, ” A man by the name of Fraser developed Sea Pines.” She said, ” You are right. His father and uncle are the Frasers that developed Sea Pines.” Another “layer” to my series of coincidences with West Fraser. When I told her how much Sea Pines meant to me and how serendipitous I thought it was that I had all of these dots connecting she said, “I am West Frasers wife.” I am sure I looked like a third grader meeting Justin Beiber for the first time. I had to reign myself back in to a sophisticated excitement before I embarrassed myself. We had already discussed our mutual love for organic farming and food, traveling to unfamiliar places, and an overall love of art. But now, I was able to ask her specific quesitons about how West Fraser painted. She told me that he wakes up everyday to paint. That is his life. It isn’t “when he has time” like I paint. He puts his waders on and takes his oil paints and his easel out to the marshes. She told me that you can’t take painting lightly… she said I just need to get out there and paint paint paint. That has been the push I have been missing. I must not save it for a time of idleness because that will never happen. I explained to her how painting was my first love yet I didnt feel that it was the responsible choice. She told me that life is about layers and experiences and you have to do what makes you happy. You cant do the expected because you think that is what is “expected” of you. You have to go to the ends of the earth to experience things and add dimension to your life. She said that there have been times where she thought through having children, running a gallery, owning a farm in Costa Rica, and being a wife that she was going to lose her mind. She told me though, that pushing herself to the edges of her world were really what made her look back with a fullness and fondess for all she had done and been through.
After being completely fulfilled through this conversation, I left there on cloud 9. I made a promise to myself to take her words to heart and not sink back into a feeling of mediocracy and settling for normal. What a wonderful lesson in life.
At the end of the day, we realized we really wanted the original painting we saw in the first gallery. So with an anxious anticipation, we walked to the gallery and purchased our first piece of art together. What a great thing to do!