Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, and Yaghjian: Behind the Studio Walls for the 13th Exhibition

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.

Jeffrey Day Reviews Local Art Shows by Busby, Chesley, Williams, Yaghjian, Wimberly & Rego

It has been a busy few days on the visual arts scene in Columbia and since I found myself providing mini-reviews of one show while at another, it made sense to write it down.

James Busby rarely shows in Columbia, but he opened the doors to his new studio in Chapin and invited some folks to take a look at his new paintings, drawings, sculptures or whatever the hell they are before he loaded up the truck and drove them to New York for his show opening at Stux Gallery in Chelsea Feb. 9.

I’d been to the studio twice before during the past month, so I had seen many of the works, but he’d completed several large pieces and the studio was nice and tidy with the art hanging like it would for a show (although without the high ceiling and good lighting.)

Some of his art could be seen recently in Columbia. Half a dozen pieces were in the South Carolina Biennial at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. That was the first time many people in town had ever seen his art.

After doing all white paintings/sculptures for a couple of years, Busby moved on to black and is still doing these pieces that look more like metal than paint and graphite. Most were modestly sized, but not modest in execution. The big surprise in the Biennial was one bigger work, a 7-by-5-footer. He has completed half a dozen more, nearly all of them even larger and more resolved than that one. These newest works start with a base of gesso, which he manipulates while still wet to give it texture. He then sands and cuts into the surface then goes at it with graphite sticks. I’m still coming around to these works – probably because I so admire the smaller white and black pieces – but this is an exciting direction.

I just wish more people in the place he lives knew about him. (Hey I’ve done my part, having written about him several times for several publications.) Busby is one of the most important artists to come out of South Carolina in a long, long time. And he’s a nice guy too.

To see more of his work go to

Right before the long drive to Chapin, I ducked into the jam-packed opening reception for the 12th annual show the artists Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, David Yaghjian, all of Columbia, and Edward Wimberly, of St. Matthews. These are very talented artists, but artists have good years and not-so-good years. Too many of these annuals have felt perfunctory. This year is different.

During the past few years I’ve found Yaghjian’s work to be consistently inventive and well done. He’s continuing with his figurative pieces focuses on a middle aged man in theatrical settings. In the new work, the man has been replaced at times by an ape. A very well-drawn ape.

On the other end, Wimberly’s Southern gothic surrealism felt like it reached a dead end a long time ago. For this show though he’s come up with a wonderful group of small pastels faces with odd little characters (mice, gnomes and so on) occupying the picture as well. Some are more engaging than others, some better rendered than others, but these are something fresh.

Small still-life paintings of flowers and fruit. Who’d have through such subject matter would be some of the most wonderful work Chesley has ever done?

Williams is one of the most prolific artists around, well-known for his abstracted fish paintings and during the past few years expressionistic paintings of swamps and a smattering of steel sculptures. The big jolts this year are several nearly completely abstract paintings – the best ones covered with lots of gooey paint. A big blue and cream Motherwell-ish painting is a real grabber although there’s a bit more style than substance to it. Can’t wait to see more. His new small sculptures made of scraps of metal are delightful.

Through Feb. 6.

Over at City Art the day before, a show of new paintings by Brian Rego went up. Since I first saw Rego’s paintings – mostly landscapes – several years ago I was bowled over. This exhibition knocked me out as well. There are a lot of exciting paintings – some of the best bordering on total abstraction with big blocks of color, although it’s more complicated than that.

As his subject matter, Rego often picks ugly places like parking garages. He’s good enough to use ugly colors too. He’s working out enticing issues of space in these pieces. The 30-work show is dominated by small (12-by-12) painting, most bold shapes in subdued colors. On the other end are larger brighter pieces, such as a large painting in the center of the gallery of a sun-dabbled back yard with spring-bright foliage and white chairs.

At first I thought it was a show with many good paintings, but wasn’t really a good show. Another visit convinced me I wasn’t quite right about that, but I still don’t think the installation serves the paintings best. I do think these are the best paintings I’ve seen in a while.

Through March 17.

Jumping back a week “Faster Forward” at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art is easy enough to sum up – go see the show now. This is the biggest video art exhibition ever in Columbia – maybe the state. Not only is it big, it is good. The artists are from all over the world, the work varied in content and form, and all of it is engaging and beautiful and sometimes funny. (I’ll have a larger story about the show in next week’s Free Times.) Through March 4.


Jeffrey Day is the former arts editor for The State and a frequent contributor to

Jasper Magazine and

What Jasper Said.

Friendship, Menfolk & Art -- Chesley, Williams, Wimberly & Yaghjian

As much as Jasper loves the dynamic and innovative, he loves continuity and tradition as well -- especially when the  tradition being preserved is all about friendship, menfolk, and art. That's why we look forward every year to the Winter Exhibition at Vista Studios Gallery 80808 which features the work of Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, David Yaghjian, and Edward Wimberly -- four buddies, and four outstanding artists. In its 12th year, the Winter Exhibition will run from Friday, January 27th until Tuesday, February 7th -- the opening reception is Friday night from 6 until 9.



For more on what to expect this year, read the quartet’s statement below.

Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, Edward Wimberly, and David Yaghjian are friends and full-time artists living and working in South Carolina.  For the past 12 years they have convened at Gallery 80808 in January with a selection of work from the course of the past year to hang an exhibition.  This exhibition began as a holiday social where we would get together with our friends and collectors to catch up and look at examples of our production from the previous year.  Each of these artists have worked diligently throughout their careers to create artwork that is distinctively their own.

Hope to see you Friday night – Gallery 80808 – Lady Street – Columbia.




Jasper has been busy

Jasper has been busy and we'd like to take a moment to share what we've been up to with you, our loyal readers.

To start with, we released the inaugural issue of Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts in print form last Thursday night at a lovely party, hosted by one of our favorite places for imbibing, Speakeasy on Saluda Street in Five Points. It was a grand night, and we were overwhelmed by the kindness and support of the arts community. Thank you all so very much for your kind words and your presence at our birthday party for Jasper. Thanks also to Speakeasy for hosting us and Josh Roberts for entertaining us.

Local Gallery Owner Lynn Sky checks out centerfold artist, Michael Krajewski.

The Jasper staff and family has been busy distributing magazines throughout the city. But if we haven't gotten to you yet, not to worry -- we're diligent and we still have more than half of our inventory on hand. That said, we're happy to take your recommendations of spots where you would like to see Jasper distributed. By week's end, we should be all over the Columbia metropolitan area, including Camden, Chapin, Prosperity, and Newberry. And soon, you'll be able to find us in Greenville and Spartanburg, as well.

Lenza Jolley, our web maven, has also been hard at work building our brand new website. If  you haven't had a chance yet, please visit us at We hope to make an extension of the print version of Jasper Magazine. To that end, please find more music by Josh Roberts, more art by David Yaghjian, more poetry by all of our featured poets, well ... more of everything, we hope, at our new cyber home.



As you may know, Jasper comes out in print form once every other month on the 15th of the month. If the 15th falls on a weekend, then look for us on the Thursday prior to that date. Our next issue will release on Tuesday, November 15th, for example, but the following issue will release on Thursday, January 12th -- and yes, we plan to celebrate every single issue that hits the streets! But the reality is that Jasper wants to see his arts buddies more than just six times per year. That's just one of the reasons we will be coming to you on our off-print months with various projects and events.

  • On Wednesday, October 26th at 7 pm, please join us for our first ever Pint and Poem Walk. Look for more information on how to sign up for one of only 25 spaces on this one-of-a-kind walk in the coming week at
  • On Monday, October 31st, Jasper will host our first ever Ghost Story Salon as part of 701 CCA's Halloween Night Costume Bash. We're busy gathering all the great tellers of tales of ghosts and ghouls from around town to entertain you, via candlelight and creepy tunes, upstairs in the Olympia Room at 701 Whaley CCA.
  • The first stage of our first ever Coalescence Project is well underway as photographers throughout the midlands are submitting their work to Jasper Magazine Coalescence Series - Volume 1: Photography and the Word ( October 15th is the deadline for photography and which point local writers will be invited to come try their hands at creating 500 word or less stories to "illustrate" the photographic images. The completed project -- Photography and the Word -- will be unveiled in December.

Finally, we have moved into our studio office downstairs at the Tapp's Arts Center on Main Street and we are in the process of tidying up and making pretty. Please join us for a little open house on Thursday, October 6th as Jasper Magazine happily becomes a part of the First Thursday Arts Crawl community. We'll get back to you before then with more information on the treats we'll have in store as we welcome you to our new creative home.

Until then, thanks for reading Columbia. And thanks for giving us so many good works to write about.





(Photos courtesy of Jasper associate editor Kristine Hartvigsen)

David Yaghjian's Everyman Conjures a Connection


While gazing last night at repeated depictions of the central character in David Yaghjian’s wonderful new exhibit, “Everyman Turns Six,” I kept thinking that somehow I knew this bald, pot-bellied, middle-aged man who preferred being naked or wearing only his underwear. Everyman is a loose cannon, that’s for sure. He’s the scary neighbor who is sometimes funny, sometimes dangerous. The one you hear talking to himself while he’s unfolding cheap lawn furniture. Tom Waits’ “Buzz Fledderjohn.” Mike Cooley’s “Bob.” No, wait a second. I’ve got it: He’s Charles Bukowski.


Bukowski was the heavy-drinking, womanizing waster who scribbled poems between (and during) sessions in the seediest bars of Los Angeles. He lived in flophouses and flea-bit hotels. His best friends were winos and prostitutes. He was the Everyman of poets. Like Yaghjian’s creation, Bukowski could have easily fired up a leaf blower in the front yard while wearing nothing but his tighty-whiteys. I can hear him now, screaming a verse over the leaf blower to a passing girl on the sidewalk, “Your swagger breaks the Eiffel tower, turns the heads of old newsboys long ago gone sexually to pot; your caged malarky, your idiot’s dance, mugging it, delightful --- don’t ever wash stained underwear or chase your acts of love through neighborhood alleys!” (From “Plea to a Passing Maid,” 1969)



For years, academics have panned Bukowski’s work, but regular folks who like an occasional verse or two, have found his poems honest and refreshing, as well as disgusting and titillating. I’m no art critic, and my association of Bukowski with Everyman is certainly not derived from some deep understanding of Yaghjian’s thought-provoking paintings. The connection was simply triggered by physical similarity and a shared artistic weirdness I sensed from the paintings.


That’s one of the things great art can do: Dust out the back corners of your mind and help you make creative connections you might not have otherwise. “Everyman Turns Six” runs through Sept. 6 at 80808 Gallery in the Vista.


Here’s another (R-rated) Bukowski poem to be going on with, one called “Drunk, ol’ Bukowski, Drunk.”


I hold to the edge of the table with my belly dangling over my belt

and I glare at the lampshade the smoke clearing over North Hollywood

the boys put their muskets down lift high their fish-green beer

as I fall forward off the couch kiss rug hairs like cunt hairs

close as I’ve been in a

long time.


--Mike Miller

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