It's time again for the annual Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, Yaghjian exhibit at Gallery 80808 and, as for as Jasper is concerned, it couldn't have come soon enough. We need a nice bath of good art after the holidays to cleanse away all the ticky and the tacky that inundated our senses over the last three holiday-driven months of 2012. Like a bracing breath of cold clean air, it jolts our systems; resets our standards; makes us see things more clearly. It centers us. It reminds us of what to expect from professional artists who continually hone their skills and not only challenge themselves, but challenge one another.
That's why we've become accustomed to the annual Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, Yaghjian exhibition of art because the four artists -- the four friends -- have been doing this for us for thirteen years now. We aren't just accustomed to it -- we're spoiled.
And while most of us will be making our pilgrimages to Vista Studios at 808 Lady Street today to offer some small genuflection at what promises to be an excellent exhibition, Jasper thought it also might be fun to get a glimpse of the other side of the studio wall. We wanted to know how these artists got together, what they think of one another, and why this exhibition -- and these friendships -- continue.
To that end we sent a number of questions out to the four gents. These are some of their answers.
Jasper: We know it was more than a dozen years ago, but how did this group show get started?
Williams: The group, minus David the first year, originally came together for a holiday art event to share with our collectors and friends special selections of our work that we would curate from the past year. The fact that we were friends sharing many of the same collectors combined with mutual admiration for one another's work made this exhibition an instant annual tradition. David joined in the second year, he was always a friend, even before he moved back to Columbia.
Jasper: Why do you think it works so well?
Yaghjian: It works because we are relatively mature adults who have done what we do for decades and want to put up a decent show.
Chesley: We have all been friends over many years ... and the time train moves on ... this exhibition allows us and our patrons to gather and start a new year ... with art ... The disparate arts groups that are aware of each other are afforded a moment to recognize each other as friends each January.
Williams: We were all friends in many former lives apparently.
Jasper: How far back do your friendships go?
Yaghjian: I met Steve in 1984 through some friends of my wife, Ellen. Mike, I met in the early 1990's. Edward, I'm not certain when I met him, he's almost an archetype. It is as though he's been hovering a long time in another dimension.
Chesley: We all met at various times, Mike in the 80's, the time of great headway in the arts in Columbia and David later … the earliest was when I was in graduate school in the School of Architecture in Urban Planning at Clemson, 1978. I would often go downstairs to the small space they deemed a gallery in Lee Hall. One time I went down to visit and there was a small pastel work entitled "Escaping Fruit." I was mesmerized by the whimsical depiction of a bowl of fruit escaping through an open country window as it brushed a lightly blown lace curtain. It was actually the highlight memory of my graduate work at Clemson. Only years later at an opening for a single portrait in St. Matthews did I learn it was done by Edward Wimberly who was in graduate school at the same time … a whimsical lasting memory to this day.
Jasper: What do you admire most about one another, either individually or as a group?
Yaghjian: Mike is a really interesting mix of Southern boy and sophisticate. He is very funny and has a great laugh when you prod him past his initial grumpiness. Stephen is astonishing in his appetite for knowledge and understanding of a wide variety of subjects from pigments to high finance. He is more than willing to share that knowledge with any and all. Both Stephen and Mike are extremely capable in all matters technical and mechanical. Edward can not only recount a good southern tale, he is one.
Williams: Not only can Edward Wimberly really draw and paint, he defines the word raconteur. He can spin the yarn. I can't tell a joke or dance. Stephen is very poetic and dependable.
Jasper: Who is the troublemaker or comedian in the group? Who is the workhorse?
Yaghjian: Steve and I mess with Mike's paranoia around computers and the Internet, feeding his fears that all his information is being stolen RIGHT NOW as a result of the latest situation that has arisen with his virus protection or some news story about scams or hacking. Edward is unintentionally a troublemaker in his annual tardy arrival for the hanging of the show -- or, in the past, borrowing duct tape or tacks to hold work in frames or to hold the frames together. (Last year his wife, Amanda McNulty, demanded he act his age and have his work framed before the afternoon of the hanging. We were flabbergasted.) (editor's note: Edward did not provide answers to Jasper's questions and was therefore unable to defend himself.)
For the show, Mike is the youngest and therefore it's only right that he be the workhorse. He has the temperament as well; there is the aspect of the worrier in the boy.
Edward's lethal fishwife's punch requires a fair amount of effort with both its ingredients and incantations.
Jasper: Do you get to see each other enough when you aren't hanging a show?
Williams: We don't necessarily see that much of one another because we're all busy and caught up in our respective daily routines. I don't hesitate to call on them if needed and hopefully they feel the same; they are my absolutely reliable friends and respond when they're called into action or to mount this exhibition. Everyone knows the drill and looks forward to returning annually to Vista Studios, where it all began, and to hosting this event. We take this time every year to share in our work and catch up on a year's worth of news.
Jasper: Anything else to add?
Chesley: 2013 another year ahead. Let it begin.