January 27, 2020

Coulter Fussell
The Raw Materials of Escape
Butch Anthony

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, School of the Arts at the College of Charleston

Views of left: Inside/Out, and right: The Raw Materials of Escape.

Coulter Fussell and Butch Anthony work in traditional mediums to examine modern issues.

Opening: January 17, 6:30–8pm
Artist talk with Coulter Fussell: January 18, 2pm
Naked Lady Society clothing swap: January 23, 5–7pm
Halsey Talks: Arts & Craft: January 28, 6:30pm
Family Day!: February 9, 12–4pm
Film screening—The Quilts of Gee's Bend: February 20, 7pm, Q&A with filmmaker Matt Artnett to follow
CofC School of Sciences and Mathematics, 202 Calhoun Street
Curator-led exhibitions tour: February 27, 6pm
Artist talk with Butch Anthony: February 29, 2pm

Inside/Out is an exhibition of work by Butch Anthony of Seale, Alabama, consisting of new images, assemblages, and installations created specifically for our galleries. As a multi-faceted self-taught artist, Anthony creates works that investigate and appropriate images from the American vernacular. Inside/Out brings together several of Anthony’s creative explorations over the past few years. Singular portraits, assemblage objects, and installations combine to create a working model of the inside of Anthony’s mind.

Though Anthony’s work emanates from the folk art or vernacular idiom, his works are unmistakably original in concept and execution. The term “folk art” is generally applied to traditional media such as wood carving, quilt-making, functional pottery, weaving–items that are passed down from generation to generation. Anthony’s work often has a charming immediacy because of the familiarity of the selected materials, yet this surface appeal is often undermined by the conceptual premise. Some images evince a biting sarcasm or ironic wit, while others poke fun at our consumerist society.

Quilter Coulter Fussell’s early-developed artsview perceives craft and other arts as indistinguishable from one another. Painting, sculpture, and textile work are one solitary entity in her mind. From youth, the combination developed into an unintentional mash-up, resulting in quilts and textile works that defy expectations of the medium. Fussell relies on the no-holds-barred nature of contemporary painting rules to free her compositions from the constraints of pattern. In turn, she simultaneously relies on the strict discipline of traditional craftwork to act as a self-editing tool.

Fussell learned to sew by watching her mother, Cathy Fussell, who is herself a renowned quiltmaker. She was determined to be an artist, which—in her young mind—meant that she should be a painter. All through her twenties, Fussell’s focus was painting. However, in a series of firsts, this focus shifted when the birth of her first child prompted her to create her first quilt. Fussell found the issues she had attempted to explore through painting were better addressed with fabric. For Fussell, fabric’s limitations in palette and material offered an infinite amount of freedom in their strictures. Fussell’s work, unlike traditional quilts, does not adhere to a predetermined pattern. Instead, her work retains the wholeness of a quilt while utilizing techniques one would expect to find in painting. For instance, foreground and background are established with the purposeful balance of light and dark materials. In this way, Fussell’s work blurs the lines between art and craft, positing that both practices have an element of functionality and non-functionality.

Conventional quilts are anchored by their wholeness, most often achieved through geometric pattern. Fussell’s work breaks with this traditional fabrication to instead produce quilts that are painterly in composition while retaining the conceptual wholeness of a quilt. Fussell follows no patterns and does not sketch before she begins composing her work. She paints in textiles, positioning small squares of silk and bolts of antique fabrics on the floor of her studio, moving and layering pieces until she is satisfied with their relationship. The result is an object that reverently heeds the quilting process that has been passed down from generation to generation in Fussell’s family and in families across the globe. The result is also an object that confronts this tradition, challenging the viewer to find room for quilts that are paintings and paintings that are quilts.

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