In 1916, painter Georgia O’Keeffe wrote to photographer Alfred Stieglitz, “I’m getting to like you so tremendously that it some times scares me ... Having told you so much of me – more than anyone else I know – could anything else follow but that I should want you – ”
The two major 20th-century artists wrote thousands of letters to each other throughout their passionate and complicated relationship. It began while O’Keeffe was teaching at Columbia College and a friend sent some of O’Keeffe’s drawings to Stieglitz in New York, who admired them greatly and displayed them in his famous gallery. O’Keeffe eventually moved to New York to be with Stieglitz, becoming his muse, and later, his wife.
Inspired by the relationship of O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, the Goodall Gallery at Columbia College opens an exhibition called “Creative Couples” on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, Feb. 14. The exhibition will be up until March 27 and is a collection of work from eight South Carolina couples and one North Carolina couple who are all professional artists.
“Creative Couples” is a continuation of the centennial celebration of O’Keeffe’s time in Columbia.
There will be a reception recognizing the artists at Goodall Gallery from 5:30-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26.
Before you go, get to know the artists here. We asked the nine couples to share their ideas on creativity, romance and sharing life with a fellow artist.
Scotty and Sally Peek
Occupations: He paints and teaches art at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School; she makes handbags and accessories.
How they met: At a student art show at the University of South Carolina. Sally met up with several other art students afterward at Hunter-Gatherer, where “luckily, Scotty came and he and I hit if off!” she said. “We still have the drawing of his that was in that show. It is displayed in one of our favorite sitting rooms, and I refuse to have Scotty ever sell it or trade it off.”
He says: “Romance is humor and ice cream. Creativity is essential.”
She says: “Romance is raw. Creativity is release.”
Bretta and Alvin Staley
Occupations: He is a painter; she makes 3-D constructions.
How they met: As freshmen their very first day on Claflin University’s campus. “I noticed Bretta across campus and immediately fell in love with her,” Alvin said.
Go-to date spot: Good Life Café on Main Street
They say: “Romance is the God-given desire to fulfill the needs and aspirations of the one you love. Creativity is the ability to bring the existence of the nonexistent into fruition.”
Kristy Higby and Mark Flowers
From: Asheville, N.C.
Occupations: She is a documentary filmmaker; he is a painter.
How they met: At the University of South Carolina in 1973.
Favorite quality about each other: “Kristy has always been my partner. She is the order to my chaos,” Mark said. “She has always been able to see things clearer than I. Where I tend to gloss over, she has the ability to see the nuances.”
Kristy said, “Mark is open-minded, good-hearted and abundantly talented.”
He says: “Romance is about the small things. Creativity is the freest thing anyone can do.”
She says: “Romance revolves around someone else. Creativity revolves around yourself.”
Ellen and David Yaghjian
Occupations: She sculpts; he paints.
Her studio: Close to home, Ellen’s studio workshop is lined with hanging tools, work gloves and curlicues of copper. There, she creates models of her fountains with cardboard or draws her more figurative works directly on copper.
His studio: David’s studio is farther away and is chock-full of books, which serve as inspiration. In the past few years, as a break from painting, he’s used cardboard as a new medium to express ideas. As a result, cardboard set pieces hang from the studio ceiling.
Side interests: Ellen is a certified yoga teacher. David works at the main public library downtown.
Enid Williams and Paul Yanko
Occupations: She teaches art at Greenville Technical College in Greer; he teaches art at South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities.
Go-to date spot: The TV room. “We are avid movie buffs. We are constantly exchanging notes with friends on what we saw in the theater and on Netflix,” Paul said.
Favorite quality about each other: “She’s very dedicated,” Paul said. “She’s always had a really disciplined work ethic, and she has a great way with animals. Veterinary medicine could have been her second vocation.”
“I would say his individualism,” Enid said. “His self-reliance and focus are traits I recognized immediately when we met and got to know one another, and something I continue to think of as his strongest characteristic trait.”
He says: “Romance is underrated. Creativity is overrated.”
Betsy Havens and Jim Calk
Go-to date spot: “We love any great restaurant and the studio we share together,” Jim said. “Every day we paint in our studio 15 feet away from each other.”
They say: “Romance is ongoing and everlasting. Creativity is our daily nourishment and recreation.”
Sharon and Jim Campbell
Occupations: She scupts; he paints.
On pieces in show: “The painting in this exhibit is part of a series of works that explore the changing patterns and colors of shadows on the floor in our house,” Jim said.
Sharon’s sculptures “were begun formally when I visited New Mexico in 2011,” she said. “At the beginning of this exhibition process, it seemed to me that there was little or no relationship between O’Keeffe and me. On the other hand, when choosing a piece to send, a possible relationship between my New Mexican landscape sculptures and O’Keeffe’s concerns came to mind.”
On living with an artist: “For me, the most important part of being part of an artistic alliance is living with my best friend, in an ongoing atmosphere of interaction and creativity,” Sharon said.
Jim added, “Having a trusted, kind, honest critic with exceptional curatorial skills is a boon to any artist. Having one as a wife and friend is truly a gift.”
Terry Jarrard-Dimond and Tom Dimond
Occupations: She is a textile artist; he is a mixed-media artist and painter.
How they met: Tom was a visiting art instructor at Winthrop College in 1968 working on his MFA degree. He hired three students from the Winthrop art department to help complete his thesis exhibition. Terry was one of the students. “(She) was the most talented and helpful and soon won a place in my heart,” Tom said.
Go-to date spot: “There was a fantastic fish camp on Lake Wylie that was our favorite place to eat, and we really enjoyed feeding the ducks our remaining hush puppies after dinner,” Tom said.
Favorite qualities about each other: “Tom has a great sense of humor with lots of things to say and a unique way of expressing them,” Terry said.
“I have always admired Terry for her diverse way of expressing herself artistically; she is always exploring new techniques and is steadfast in finding the ultimate solution that works for her,” Tom said.
Lindsay Wiggins and Nathan Fiveash
Occupations: She is a photographer and painter; he is a painter.
Artist statements: “Making art will always be a pursuit enriched by our own life experiences as well as a direct reflection of the people to whom we are the closest. There are a lot of interesting things that happen when two creative and emotionally involved people share a working space,” the couple said. “Because making art is usually a quiet, thoughtful and meditative process where the artist speaks to the canvas in order to accomplish a desired result, in a shared space that conversation becomes much more complex. The work develops into a direct exchange between two people, which gives us a wider perspective over everything we do. Not only do we share reference material, canvas and paint, we also share ideas and emotional influences to our narratives. As we continue to learn from one another our work benefits, and in this closely shared process, we feel less isolated from the rest of the world.”
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, March 27. There will be a reception recognizing the artists from 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, February 26. After the reception, Sharmon Hilfinger’s stage play “Hanging Georgia” also will be presented for free at 7:30 p.m. in nearby Cottingham Theatre on campus
WHERE: Goodall Gallery at Columbia College, 1301 Columbia College Drive