Open Studios is happening this weekend in Greenville and every year people always ask me, “Where should we go?” I always have answers, but this year is the easiest yet. You should go to 10 Central Ave Studios and see the Día de los Muertos show.
First, at 10 Central Ave Studios in Downtown Greenville, SC there are several artists in one spot showing their work and studio spaces, so you can kill six birds with one stone, so to speak. It’s a great collection of local artists including Laura Aiken, Georgia Pistolis, Julia Peters, and Jeanne Blinkoff.
But two of the artists at the studio, JJ Ohlinger and Kay Larch, are having a special showcase to kick off Open Studios, and the timing is perfect.
Friday, November 2nd is part of the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos. It’s also the first night of Greenville’s Open Studios and the opening night of Larch & Ohlinger’s new exhibit by the same name. And as far as art shows go, this one is pretty spectacular.
Día de los Muertos is a holiday that celebrates and honors the dead, similar to All Souls’ Day but the traditions are a bit more unique, especially artistically. One of the most important traditions is the building of special altars believed to help guide the dead and decorated with flowers, ornate skulls and possessions of the deceased. Kay Larch has built an incredible altar for the exhibit, featuring her own decorated skulls, bouquets of marigolds, and some of Larch’s unique paintings designed explicitly to remind the souls of who they were in life. Larch is an amazing painter, and has been creating designs based on the holiday for years now. It’s become almost a trademark (ask to see her tattoo created by Ohlinger that captures her devotion), but her work continues to evolve, and if you haven’t seen any of it yet this show will give you some of the best examples yet.
JJ Ohlinger on the other hand hasn’t done art specifically for the holiday before, although his pieces are outstanding, always technically masterful, and right on the edge of what some would call good taste. I call it, “elegant provocativeness.” If you haven’t heard of JJ Ohlinger by now you either haven’t lived in Greenville more than a month or you just aren’t into the arts at all. If you have heard of Ohlinger, you probably want his art career. That or you don’t like him, which means he’s doing something right as an artist.
If you ask me though, he’s the best working artist in Greenville, and that’s no exaggeration. Personally, no one has taught me more about painting, risk-taking, or the business of being an artist than JJ Ohlinger. Professionally, Ohlinger has won more awards in more categories than I care to mention, but needless to say his art has value beyond its design. He just doesn’t make predictable art, and this show is no exception.
Both Larch and Ohlinger have created some traditional oil and watercolor paintings for the show, although I don’t think anyone could call these pieces “traditional.” I love this stuff. It’s art for art’s sake, but with a purpose and meaning. Paintings of models with stenciled Mexican skull art and black ink tattoos (a main theme in Ohlinger’s portion of the exhibit), brightly colored stylized paintings of human skulls called “Calaveras” seem more elegant than fearsome, and picturesque doll faces painted to resemble the holiday’s enduring symbol make me understand why the holiday is such a celebration of life more than simply a celebration of death.
Ok, the doll faces might be a little creepy. But it’s fantastic art. That’s the point.
I said before people always ask me where to go for Open Studios. But most people want to see the next Thomas Kinkade or the guy who takes pictures of beaches and sunsets and puts them in calendars. If you like that kind of stuff, you’re not alone, but you’re still wrong. I don’t have it in me to tell you how to find those artists. I’m compelled to help people see real art for the sake of the art itself, done by some of Greenville’s own best artists. The easiest place to start this year is at 10 Central Ave Studios and the Día de los Muertos exhibit.
Open Studios runs all weekend including Friday night from 6 to 9 PM, Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday from noon to 6 PM. The Día de los Muertos opening reception is this Friday night, November 2nd from 6 to 9PM. ASADA will also be on site, and if you haven’t tried their tacos yet, read more about the Greenville food truck sensation here and take the plunge, a perfect way to celebrate a Mexican holiday.
JJ Ohlinger at www.ohlinger.com
Kay Larch at www.kaylarchstudios.com
10 Central Ave Studios at www.10centralave.com
ASADA at www.asadarestaurant.com
Join the Facebook Event for Dia de los Muertos
And don’t forget to visit www.greenvilleopenstudios.com for more information and maps to 2012’s Open Studios, brought to you by the Metropolitan Arts Council.