April 5, 2013

Displaying local talent

The seed to produce more art was accidentally planted in Thomas Crouch’s hand.

The seed to produce more art was accidentally planted in Thomas Crouch’s hand.

Almost three years ago Crouch, a local musician, visual artist and chef, was putting a century plant into dirt when one of the spiky leaves jabbed into his palm. The prick seemed innocuous, but in four months the fingers on his left swelled to where he couldn’t play guitar. He had surgery.

“They opened me up and found this infection in there,” Crouch said while rubbing his palm. “And what it was this bacterial infection from the plant. And it had poked my tendon sheath.”

It was because he couldn’t use his left hand that he started painting and drawing more often.

“It was one tiny prick,” he said.

Crouch is one of more than 30 artists who will participate in Saturday’s Art Bar Agora IV, a one-day outdoor art emporium. Musicians will perform on two stages (one indoors, the other outdoors) at Art Bar. Crouch and Marty Fort, who books the bar’s bands, organized the event.

Three years ago, the artistic medium Crouch was known for was music, and only a few knew he painted. He’s played guitar in bands such as Rockefeller Horsecollar, F-13, Sobriquet and The Mercy Shot. To some in the community, he’s now probably more often considered a painter and draftsman.

“I didn’t really tell people much about it, probably because I was too busy with music,” Crouch, 40, said.

Now that the hand is healed, creating visual art remains his artistic outlet.

“It’s easier to promote myself as a visual artist than as a band,” said Crouch, who has reduced his hours at Hunter-Gatherer to focus more time on art. “It’s hard getting paid for the art. So the more effort you put into it you’re more likely to get compensated.”

Crouch, who recently had an exhibition at Wine Down on Main, has been frequently showing his work. He’s exhibited at the Michael Parkes Gallery in Charleston, and he’s also shown at Tapp’s Art Center and the hallway:community art at 701 Whaley.

One notices immediately the depiction of animals in Crouch’s work. He’s drawn wolves, elephants and baboons with admiration.

“I think in animals we see something that we either desire or envy. Or respect,” Crouch said. “The types of animals that I do are very intuitive. They’re very intelligent and I personally admire them because, partly, I don’t understand them, the nature of animals.”

Crouch’s series of statuesque ravens are appropriate images for football fans to view given that the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl. But the ravens collect from Edgar Allan Poe, the poet who wrote “The Raven,” and the city where he died: Baltimore.

“It’s the only literary mascot for an NFL team,” Crouch pointed out.

On a recent Thursday evening, Crouch, a 1997 University of South Carolina graduate, did a live art demonstration at Wine Down. He drew a raven on a blueprint. He salvaged the blueprint rolls he uses for many of his drawings. The blueprints are of the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, a building designed by The Boudreaux Group.

“It was on the side of the road, three rolls of paper,” Crouch said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I can probably use this for something.’ I’ve just been lugging them around.”

This is the third year of the Art Bar Agora, but the fourth installment. There were two in 2011, the year it began. Agora is a Greek word that means meeting or gathering place. Crouch, who said ABA will be an annual event, wants to get himself and other artists more exposure. And some money, too.

“Whatever the artists make, they take home,” he said.

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