Evaluation: At Charleston’s Corrigan Gallery, a stunner of a present is simply the ticket for at the moment | Charleston Scene
Arthur McDonald wants to show you the world.
This is no small task, mind you. The 88-year-old artist (whom I first met in his role as Dean of the School of the Arts at the College of Charleston) recently shared with me that he is now battling macular degeneration.
His mind’s eye remains sharp and clear, as evidenced in “Journey Around the World: September 1952 – July 1953”, his current exhibition at Corrigan Gallery, which runs through the rest of the month. To this end, the artist has also summarized facts and fictions in an accompanying book of the same name, which was published in the spring of this year and is to be experienced alongside the works.
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McDonald bills the book as a neurological treatise, stating that his work of art depicts his intuitive reactions to the events in each chapter, drawn from current memories of a gap year he traveled the world with an American fellow student while studying has spent.
“The Sensitive Hand of a Clairvoyant” by the artist Arthur McDonald is part of the new exhibition at the Corrigan Gallery entitled “Journey around the world: September 1952 – July 1953”. Corrigan Gallery / Provided
This intuitive setting is imbued with the elegance of a master craft and cleverly loaded with more than a few talismanic objects. With works arranged chronologically to reflect the journey, the exhibition finds a link in its ubiquitous hand-made paper, which is certainly a suitable medium for a distant view of civilization.
Framed in black and set deep in flawless shadow boxes, the works are reflected in small shades of color that reflect the places the artist has explored and the experiences that have been drawn from them.
A foray into London with a clairvoyant superimposed his expressive hand on a square patch of Moroccan drum. A trip in the south of France on a blue bike, worse for wear and tear, will result in an indigo-saturated swath. A walk in a deforested landscape in Greece interspersed a dandelion leaf and thorns with a delicate book made of handmade paper.
The work takes on a deeper spiritual aspect as the students travel on. A religious encounter with balls in an undetermined part of India reveals a mysterious clay object and ancient nails. Another contrasts thick threads in linear and circular configurations. Another adds parts of an astrology book.
I would recommend reading parts of the McDonald’s book together and, if possible, on the spot. The slim, beguiling chapters start with a picture of the work in question and offer fancy flights. In the Corrigan Gallery, the pieces that are part of “Journey Around the World” span the east and south walls.
“The Linear and the Circular in Endless Contrast” by the artist Arthur McDonald can now be seen as part of “Journey Around the World” in Corrigan Galllery. Maura Hogan / staff
While studying, when the artist and a fellow student left, they literally wanted to find world peace at a 1952 youth conference in Travancore, India. On the way they also found a lot more by subway, car, passenger ship, bicycle, trolley, rickshaw, elephant, etc., while hopping from London to southern France, from Greece to Egypt, from India to Japan.
They are flights of the imagination, with each short, socially searching chapter containing the potential to switch from the factual to the imaginary point of view, to switch from prose to poetry, from narration to song and thus to include what defines the artist as his neurological impulses . It is true that the works seem smarter than the pages that reflect young Arthur’s point of view, but these big-eyed writings add a poignant sweetness.
The arc and the final destination of the journey are set out in the opening round with a London fortune-teller who asks the young man to cultivate his given empathy on his journey. Just as the artist weaves objects into his works of art, the young man forges a worldview.
It should be noted that McDonald, known for his work with handmade paper, is also a former theater maker and puppet master. Therefore, it has long been in his wheelhouse to make magic out of everyday life.
Equally impressive are the works on the west and north walls of the gallery, many of which McDonald has created since the pandemic. “Transition with a dash of gold” offers Burma an allusion with a ceramic bowl with gold; “The Wind Horse of Luck” refers to China with a central block of wood; “A Book for Machiavelli” contains a miniature leather book from Italy.
Artist Arthur McDonalds “transition with a dash of gold” in paper, clay, gold leaf and sticks. Corrigan Gallery / Provided
Together, the resulting exhibit is just the ticket to those troubling times when we have all been asked to settle in and leave the hike for safer times. Anyone who ruins a fallen trip or a sentimental trip of any kind will reap a lot when the artist introduces us to the tones, textures, and narrative details that have so impressed him from past trips in nearly half a century.
The resulting experience, weaving stories into works and words, is so rich in mysticism and wonder that it often dates back to ancient times. The works can also be viewed in an online gallery on Corrigan’s website, but I urgently want to visit you in person to get a full taste of the raw materials used to make them – the course, the gorgeous paper, the organically shaped fossils, the sculptural clay .
It’s easy to do with the recently added hours of the gallery. And unlike some of the artist’s excursions during his adventurous year, not even an elephant is needed.
Follow Maura Hogan on Twitter @msmaurahogan.