Currently hanging and on view until September 23 at the Edisto Island Museum is an exhibit that I put together with Museum Director Gretchen Smith of paintings by three generations of women in my family. As well as the artistic value of the art, the exhibit has historical significance as my maternal family has lived on Edisto since the 1770s.
My grandmother, Faith Cornish Murray, (1897-1984) was born in Charleston and after marrying my grandfather discovered that their families were connected a few generations back, as many Edisto families are. While they lived in Charleston, she was a member of the art community during the “Charleston Renaissance,” a period of cultural renewal (1915-1940). She was one of the artists who were interested in and promoted exhibits of progressive and abstract art. Her own work was influenced by Cezanne, while still inspired by the landscape and people of the area. She was included in several exhibitions, including the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Her work remains in the South Carolina State Museum, the Greenville (SC) Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston.
My mother, Faith Murray Britton, grew up on Edisto in the old house my grandfather and his father grew up in. She attended the innovative school Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she studied with influential teachers such as Joseph Albers. She remained experimental in her approach to art all her life, and valued the use of imagination in creativity, a tool she needed growing up on a rural island with few other children or resources. Along with painting and sculpting, she wrote plays and made puppets, an activity she started as a child along with her sister, Jane Murray McCollum.
My Aunt Jane was a nurse and had little formal training in art. She loved doing crafts and sewing, and later in life she devoted herself to watercolor painting. After she and her husband retired back to the old house on Edisto, she was active in volunteering in the local school, church and community while painting her beloved pets and scenes of Island life.
With limited space and many of the older paintings in fragile shape, we weren’t able to display the full scope of the careers of my admirable foremothers, but I was able to obtain some wonderful examples. I included a few of my own pieces that I hope relate in subject if not style.
Art—A Family Tradition is at the Edisto Museum, 8123 Chisolm Plantation Road, Edisto Island, SC 29438, until September 23, 2023. Museum hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 12 to 5 p.m. Call 843-869-1954 for more information.
Here I will keep you up to date on my exhibits and other artistic endeavors.