Art in Transition: North in South

Carolina Apollo
Charlie DeSaussure

What came south as a result of the migration was a mixed bag of information. Some people came back disillusioned with the restictions imposed on them in the North. But there were many stories and pictures romanticizing the life of a cosmopolitan Northerner. In addition to the image of the North that many people embraced, there were also many artists who traveled north for academic training. One of the most prominent of these people is the Gullah artist Jonathan Green.

The facing picture of the "Carolina Apollo" is only one example of how the North has influenced southern artists. The artist, Charlie DeSaussure is an untrained artist from Charleston, S.C., who has never traveled to Harlem. Many of his paintings reflect an urban scene through a southern aesthetic. The vibrant yellows and blues are indictive of Carolina art, yet here the subject matter is a Northern attraction.

This portrayal of a northen city in such a local fashion has the same effect as William H. Johnson's "primitive" paintings. It invites outsiders into Harlem, presenting a comfortable and exciting version of an otherwise alien event. This painting expresses the wonder associated with the North and inspires the imagination.

The conversation with the North also brought about innovations in traditional arts. The art of Sea Grass Basket making has gone through many changes in the past 60 years. One aspect of change is the appearance of baskets who's form is not indigenous to the South. The one on the left is modeled after K-Mart laundry hamper. Others, such as this cocktail tray, are made to appeal to tourists.

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