Upstairs Artspace opens its 44th season this month with three timely exhibits. Even When It’s Dark features paintings and photographs by Doug McAbee, most of them created during the early days of the COVID pandemic. In the Eyes of the Beholder, with Roscoe Conn (Rutherford County Schools, Rutherford County Visual Artists Guild) and Joseph Pearson (Sandhill Artists Collective, Pink Dog Creative), depicts African American lives through collage and painting, respectively. In Lasting Impressions, Addam Duncan reflects on loss using the avenue of black-and-white photography.
McAbee, a professor at Lander University in Greenwood, SC, recalls that “when we went to virtual learning and into our personal lockdown in March, 2020, I noticed immediately how the new situation was negatively impacting my children and my students. I was working hard on a new series of drawings [also in the Tryon exhibit], and I wanted to find ways to give people reasons to smile during a tough time.”
Major art venues were posting challenges asking patrons to recreate their favorite museum pieces or other fine-art works, “and because I’m a little ridiculous,” says McAbee, “I decided to start my own.” His goal was to finish one new “Art Remix” each day during quarantine, and he ended up with 57, using everyday household items for props and having his kids help by taking photos and playing roles in the vignettes. “ The project gave us something fun to do each day,” he says, “and the response I got online was overwhelming … eventually, I even made it onto the official Instagram of the museum that started the trend.”
Nancy Holmes, co-chair of the gallery’s exhibits committee, suggests that “the commonality of the three exhibits [is how] they respond in various ways to the nearly year-long pandemic — for which there’s no end in sight. Some work was created during public and personal quarantines. Other work responds to the difficulties of existing in a prejudiced, fractured, dysfunctional society.”
Holmes adds, “I hope visitors will feel exposed to aspects of other people’s lives that they hadn’t thought about or paid attention to before.”
An open house for the three exhibits happens Saturday, Feb. 6, 12–7pm. The gallery requests masks and social distancing. The exhibits run Feb. 6-March 15. 49 South Trade St, Tryon. Regular hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 12–5pm.