The Lowcountry Collection: How it Began

"I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina Lowcountry is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the Lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Carolina and her marshes."

-Pat Conroy

I was born in Beaufort, South Carolina and spent my early childhood exploring the beaches and lighthouses of Hilton Head Island. We moved away when I started school but returned to the Carolina coastline most summers- Myrtle Beach, Pawley's Island, Isle of Palms and Edisto among others. Still, I didn't really know what Lowcountry meant until I was in college.

I graduated high school from an Atlanta suburb and chose a women's college in Spartanburg, SC that I knew very little about, only that it was small and had an equestrian team. The girls I met (many of which became lifelong friends) came from little towns with names like Indiantown, Walterboro, Kingstree and Stuckeyville. They talked about taking john boats out on rivers with Gullah - Geechee names and oyster roasts at their Daddy's hunt camps. Their boyfriends went to Wofford or the Citadel. Their parents had family homes on Pawley's Island, Isle of Palms or Debordieu (pronounced DEB-UH-DOO). 

I added new words to my vocabulary- pileau and pluff mud- and the girls taught me to shag, which meant something entirely different there than it did in Georgia. I learned the difference between the Upstate, the Piedmont and the Lowcountry. I realized that even though I was technically born in the Lowcountry, I could never claim it. I observed the pride that people from the Lowcountry felt about their region and their way of life. And on weekend trips home with friends that were more like sisters, I saw firsthand how beautiful and raw much of that Lowcountry was.

 

This past summer, some of those best college girlfriends and I met up with our kids for a weekend in Pawley's Island. As I was driving that stretch of road between Lake City and Georgetown, I was overcome with memories. I had driven that route so much but not in 18 years, and yet it looked exactly the same. Same giant aged oak trees dripping in moss, same weathered old farmhouses. Fields and fields of soybean rows, peanuts and cotton. And as I got closer to Georgetown and Pawley's, palmetto trees and swampy marshes and humidity so thick you can taste the salt in the back of your throat. 

I knew right then I would paint the Lowcountry when the trip was over. I took some photos to use as reference when I got back to my studio- of marshes and beaches and wildlife- but mostly I just focused on how the place feels- warm and wild and safe all at once. I hope to bring a sense of that raw beauty to this body of work, and to the walls where these paintings find homes.

 

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