We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 22nd in our series on Supper Table Artists!
Althea Gibson was the first black athlete to break racial barriers of international tennis, specifically when she became the first black American to win a Grand Slam title. Additionally, Gibson was a golfer, a singer, and a black woman trying to have access to the same rights and activities as everyone around her, through doing what she did best – playing tennis.
Eileen Blyth is the visual artist who created a place-setting for Gibson. Blyth is a Columbia artist known for her paintings and found art sculptures. Originally from Charleston, Eileen has always thought of herself as a painter. She earned her BA from the College of Charleston and studied graphic design at the University of South Carolina. She is inspired by the moment of creation when there is a sudden shift into a space of knowing and composition falls into place. Blyth’s studio is located at Stormwater Studios in Columbia, and her work is represented by Carol Saunders Gallery in Columbia, Camilla Art Gallery in Hilton Head, and Art & Light Gallery in Greenville.
Blyth’s place-setting is heavily inspired by Gibson’s tennis career, which is what brought her to fame, but also contains elements of Gibson’s other achievements. For example, the background of Blyth’s place-setting is modeled after a tennis court, and both the frame on her platter as well as the handle of her goblet come from disassembled found tennis rackets.
Blyth said that she “liked the metaphor for serving and service both on the court and at the clubs she was allowed to play in but not go in” that is represented by the frame on the platter as well as the glove holding the golf club.
The platter itself is engraved with Gibson’s name and the quote: “She was born too soon”.
Turning Gibson’s full life into a short film is Katly Hong. She is an interdisciplinary artist who regularly pivots between visual, media, and performance art. For the Supper Table, Hong was enthralled by the challenge of honoring Gibson’s incredible athleticism and her determination to be somebody in a time of segregation and open discrimination.
Hong’s film uses animation and music to honor Gibson’s life. While the film’s animation mainly focuses on Gibson’s tennis accomplishments and accolades, the music in the background is Gibson’s own from the music career she embarked on later in life.