Hilton Head Island Art Vibe

The Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort- A Beautiful Transformation

The Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort- A Beautiful Transformation

The Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, located in Palmetto Dunes, has undergone a $17 million renovation and I was lucky to be invited as their guest for a day! Walking into the new lobby felt like walking into a beautiful beach house. Colors of blue and orange are

The Omni's new Beach Chic Lobby

The Omni’s new Beach Chic Lobby

set against crisp white bead board and a soaring ceiling with white wood beams. Classic beach chic with a modern edge is what came to mind upon seeing the decor. It’s the kind of area that makes you want to stay and relax and sink into the comfy seating, while planning your stay on this beautiful island.

But the fabulous outside calls to you, which brings me to the “outdoor experience”, and I do mean experience. The newly renovated family and adult pools are just steps from the beach, as is the addition of the zero entry pool and kid-friendly “Splash Pad”. Also new is the large rustic fire pit for all to enjoy.

As part of my visit I was invited to experience a treatment at the luxurious Ocean Tides Spa. Before you even enter the spa building you are greeted by a wonderful outdoor seating area perfect for a little quiet time. It is the ultimate spa sanctuary. After I changed into my spa robe I was escorted to the relaxation area and offered champagne or fruit infused water as I reclined on a chaise lounge and the music put me into a calm state of

Relax before AND after your spa treatments

Relax before AND after your spa treatments

being. The spa now features a full-service salon for weddings, groups or single guests. Services include manicures, pedicures and hair.

Next, I was shown to my facial room for the Ocean Tides Signature Facial and Paraffin Treatment. Sitting on the spa bed was a pretty arrangement including shells and a starfish… loved the touch of the beach! The Signature Facial began with a deep cleansing exfoliation, followed by a soothing face and neck massage and a customized mask and moisturizing treatment. So many delicious smelling products were used! During my Paraffin Treatment the spa technician placed an eye mask on my eyes that smelled like cinnamon and pumpkin…ahhmazing! After I was able to peel myself off the spa bed I was escorted back to the relaxing room to rehydrate.

Next up, a visit to the Buoy Bar! I was treated to fresh shrimp, oysters and fish tacos that were oh so scrumptious and fresh! Did I mention fresh, like caught that day fresh. The

The Buoy Bar

The Buoy Bar

Buoy Bar also serves tropical drinks, sandwiches, salads and more. Conveniently located by both swimming pools.

Another dining choice includes HH Prime, an upscale open kitchen concept with the finest selection of steaks, seafood and a wine cabinet with over 100 selections.
After dinner the place to be is XO Lounge, a cosmopolitan night spot voted by Hilton Head Monthly as the Best Hotel Bar on Hilton Head which features an extensive drink menu including imported liquors from around the world.
Palmetto Market is a casual cafe with a general market for all of your needs. They also serve continental style breakfast, lunch and dinner and, for your convenience they have scrumptious to go items…perfect for a beach picnic!

I was able to see the model for the studio suites. All 323 studio suites, as well as the one

Beautiful new Guest Suites

Beautiful new Guest Suites

and two bedroom luxury suites are being renovated with the same casual beach chic as the lobby. Each suite has a kitchen with beautiful cabinets, countertops and my favorite…the wood like tile flooring.

After my visit came to an end I reluctantly joined the real world again, but can’t wait to come back! Omni Hotels & Resorts has done a fabulous job making the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort an exceptional destination for visitors and locals alike.

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort is located in Palmetto Dunes which includes 3 golf courses, 25 tennis courts and an 11-mile lagoon system for kayaking and canoeing.

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
23 Ocean Lane
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

The Holy Grail is just the beginning. Let go with Spamalot at the Arts Center.


Spamalot LogoIt’s not important to be a Monty Python fan.  Spamalot, at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, is for anyone who feels that a giggle is just not enough.  It’s the kind of humor that never aims for less than sidesplitting.  Farcical, physical, absurd, outrageous, this is a trip away from the middle ages (lower case) and back to the times of your life when you and your friends didn’t care if you acted silly as long as the others laughed.  This is the funny that forgets you grew up.

If you think Broadway is heaven, you’ll love Spamalot.  If you think Broadway is silly, you’ll love Spamalot.  If you just like Broadway enough to let it in on a really good joke, you’ll love Spamalot.  In addition to a faithful redux of Monty Python And The Holy Grail, this musical lampoons musical theatre relentlessly.

No cow is sacredWest Side Story, Cats, Phantom, Chorus Line are just a

Steve Blanchard and Meredith Inglesby – onstage and off

Steve Blanchard and Meredith Inglesby – onstage and off

few of the legends that end up en brochette on the Spamalot lance.  Even the ways of Broadway, from the casts to the audiences to the songs, get roasted deliciously.

And though it’s five-star, Monty Python’s Spamalot is also a home-cooked meal.  Hilton Head Island native Meredith Inglesby and her husband, Steve Blanchard play the leads, The Lady of the Lake and King Arthur.  Steve and Meredith met in the long-running Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, playing the Beast and Babette, respectively.  Meredith has returned to the Island to perform in last summer’s SHOUT! The Mod Musical and in this year’s Spring Gala at the Arts Center.

Jeffrey Jeffrey Watkins and Meredith Inglesby get medieval  on “The Song That Goes Like This.”

Jeffrey Watkins and Meredith Inglesby get medieval on “The Song That Goes Like This.”


Meredith is simply unique, a Hilton Head Prep graduate and a member of the original Broadway cast of The Little Mermaid.  Steve is a powerful presence, with swashbuckling Broadway credits in Camelot and The Three Musketeers among others.  The way they enjoy this comedy interlude is a big part of the feeling that envelops the Arts Center audiences.  They are evidently having the time of their lives.  Meredith’s versatility, in particular, is something to watch.

Jeffrey Watkins left me gasping for breath, he was so funny transforming

Steve Blanchard and Bill Bateman pioneer new transportation forms – including coconuts.

Steve Blanchard and Bill Bateman pioneer new transportation forms – including coconuts.

from the working class Dennis to Sir Galahad, then morphing into The Black Knight and Prince Herbert’s (tyrannical) Father.

If my friend Jacob Preston is “Bluffton’s tallest potter,” then Jeffrey Watkins is surely Bluffton’s only veteran of Les Miserable on Broadway.  He stunned audiences recently in South Carolina Rep’s production of Venus In Fur.  After such an intense, dramatic role it is doubly impressive to see how completely Jeffrey can let go with a highly skilled version of silly in Monty Python’s Spamalot.

“We're knights of the Round Table.  We dance when e’re we’re able.”

“We’re knights of the Round Table. We dance when e’re we’re able.”

Adopted Hilton Head Islanders are a big part of Spamalot, too.  Director Casey Colgan goes all the way back to Dunnegan’s Ally days, commuting from New York City.  The other day Casey mentioned how many shows he’s directed here, and I wasn’t in a place to write it down.  I think it was north of 40.  He’s our most productive New York connection, and somehow he still leaves Hilton Head Island audiences wanting more.

We can only hope that choreographer Nic Thompson becomes another

“Find Your Grail.”  Just in case the play – or life – needs a point

“Find Your Grail.” Just in case the play – or life – needs a point

Broadway pipeline.  Nic has performed at the Arts Center in Camelot, The Producers, Fiddler on the Roof and A Chorus Line.  On Broadway, Nic most recently danced in Mary Poppins.  His hand in the theatre is multitalented and his impact on a show grows in ways that are a pleasure to be around for.

Bill Bateman returns to the Arts Center in Spamalot, and what a welcome return!  At the Arts Center Bill has lit up Camelot, Damn Yankees, 42nd Street and Mame.  Stars from Carol Channing to Patti Lupone have wanted Bill around for the long haul in Broadway productions of Hello Dolly!, Peter Pan and Gypsy.  His bio in Playbill always concludes with, “Lucky is the man who loves his work,” and that’s what it’s like to work with Bill.

The photo isn't sideways.  But the famous “French taunts” certainly are.

The photo isn’t sideways. But the famous “French taunts” certainly are.





A prospective perennial for the Arts Center is Rich Binning, returning as a Knight and ensemble player in Spamalot.  Rich appeared here first in How To Succeed in Business, then in Anything Goes, where he understudied Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.  Rich is King Arthur’s understudy in Spamalot, and the natural way he delivers a first-class performance in the ensemble suggests there’s much more to come, here and in his home turf of New York.

And the new faces!  Spamalot is rich with talent.  The principals play multiple characters, and everyone has facets to flash, from the denizens of “a dark – and very expensive – forest” to the dancers of Vegas, baby.

So Spamalot is for a lot more than Python fans.  Although . . .

Monty Python might be described as sophomoric humor for smart people, and it became perhaps the biggest cult in comedy.  Twenty years ago, WNET Channel 13, the NYC public television station that broke Monty Python’s Flying Circus to its first U.S. audience, ran a 20th Anniversary show.  (Yes, 20 + 20.  It’s hardly an untested art form.)  In one of the 20th Anniversary bits, a hidden camera team accosted New Yorkers from every walk of life on the sidewalks and asked them if they knew “The Lumberjack Song.”

After 40 years in America - and nine on Broadway – Monty Python’s Spamalot is modestly optimistic.  Certainly “Not Dead Yet.”

After 40 years in America – and nine on Broadway – Monty Python’s Spamalot is modestly optimistic. Certainly “Not Dead Yet.”

Dozens and scores and crowds of people in suits, coveralls, jeans, shorts,

little black dresses, all chimed in with “I’m a lumberjack and I’m O.K. . . . “  Man and woman, young and old, rich and poor, they sang it as couples, as co-workers, as strangers.  They sang it solo.  It looked as if no one had stayed aloof from Monty Python.  (The carpenter shop backstage at the Arts Center has had a poster of the Ministry Of Silly Walks sketch on its door for years.)

But the Spamalot jokes are so very far from inside.  They are the outside-est, most inviting, most accessible kind of humor.  If you can let go at all, or if you just want to, this is the show.  You’ll laugh for two hours.

Tickets to Spamalot are going fast.  Get yours now at www.artshhi.com or call the box office 843-842-2787.

Nothing final about the Orchestra’s season finale.

Main Stage croppedThe Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra’s season finale will celebrate life, youth and a season well spent at 8 p.m. Monday, May 6, at First Presbyterian Church.  Joining music director and conductor John Morris Russell and the orchestra for a journey of the imagination that includes two rivers of Europe will be Charlie Albright (24), a Gilmore Young Artist, graduate of Harvard College and the New England Conservatory who has been called, “among the most gifted musicians of his generation” by the Washington Post.

John Morris Russell conducts HHSO.

John Morris Russell conducts HHSO.

Maestro Russell will offer a pre-talk about the selected music at 7 p.m. in the church.  European rivers are evoked by Bedrich Smetana’s symphonic poem, Vltava (The Moldau), inspired by the river that flows through the Bohemian plain and the city of Prague, and Robert Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony, with its sonic tour of the mighty Rhine.  And it was in Dusseldorf, on the Rhine, that Edvard Grieg composed the program’s third offering.

Charlie Albright will join the orchestra for Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Charlie Albright, “among the most gifted musicians of his generation.”

Charlie Albright, “among the most gifted musicians of his generation.”

This is our chance to enjoy the timelessness of classical music through Albright’s incredibly youthful mastery of it.  The New York Times has described his performance as “jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity enmeshed with a distinctive musicality.”  Like celebrated cellist Yo-Yo-Ma, with whom he has collaborated on five concerts, Albright has been artist in residence at Harvard’s Leverett House.  He is currently in the prestigious Artist Diploma program at the Juilliard School.

As an official Steinway Artist, Charlie Albright is related by choice of instrument to another very special guest of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra for this finale.

Peter Rosset, whose wish was a Steinway

Peter Rosset, whose wish was a Steinway

Peter Russet (12) of Greenville is a Make-A-Wish Foundation recipient.  His wish was for a Steinway baby grand piano like the one he plays at school.  Born with Down syndrome and diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, Peter has been performing Mozart and Bach, among the works of other composers, with teachers at Converse College, for over three years – - with no sheet music.

When Peter came onstage recently to play for the Greenville opening of Carolina Ballet Theatre’s performance of The Nutcracker, supporters of Make-A-Wish Foundation at TD Bank had a ribbon tied around the Steinway baby grand, and Peter was told he’d be taking it home.

Monday evening at First Presbyterian, Peter will perform a short musical

Flashback to season opener:  Ilya Finkelshteyn plays Dvorak’s Cello Sonata in B Minor, Op. 104

Flashback to season opener: Ilya Finkelshteyn plays Dvorak’s Cello Sonata in B Minor, Op. 104

program with four local artists before the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra concert begins.  Celebrating Hilton Head Island’s new designation as a Make-A-Wish destination, Peter’s parents and Make-A-Wish Foundation CFO Russell Smith will be there, as well as the Foundation’s local representative, Cindy Wood.

Meet everyone there at 7 p.m. Monday, May 6, at First Presbyterian Church for a curtain call you will surely never forget.  Tickets for the season finale of our treasure, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, are available from the box office at 843-842-2055, or online at www.hhso.org.

Next season, 2013-2014, the 32nd season of Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, will be the first season fully programmed under conductor and music director John Morris Russell.  Don’t miss the eclectic, passionate selections.  See the new dates and programs at www.hhso.org.

These guys are really good company. Four Corners Gallery rocked “The Man Show.”


Four Corners exterior

Four Corners Gallery, on May River Road in Bluffton

Four Corners founder Charlene Gardener says The Man Show started last year as a way to get attention.  It accomplished a lot more than that.  This month it put within the four walls of Four Corners Gallery a range of seven Lowcountry artists who reach all the way from tradition to the very edge of the envelope.  From pencil to oils.   From fatwood to bronze.  From the last unspoiled moments of old Pinkney Place to the bright, pure energy fields of a young Islander’s imagination.  You could see it all here.

Pinkney Place Barn by Doug Corkern

Pinkney Place Barn by Doug Corkern

It slowed you down to enjoy all this in one place.  The artists are such good company.  When they’re here to chat, yes, but also when just their work speaks for them.

Doug Corkern, our restless, romantic architect, chose sepia pen-and-ink to capture some of the weathered buildings of Pinkney Place before they are lost to history.  Amiri Farris shows here that success hasn’t frozen his style.  A wall full of small, square paintings shows that Amiri is still moving – even after redefining the bounds of “Gullah” art with textures, depth and multi-media expressions that are simultaneously fresh and faithful.

Wedgewood by Wayne Edwards

Wedgewood by Wayne Edwards

Wayne Edwards was here, too.  There is a stunning sense of realism in his oils.  Objects of palpable weight and familiar form.  And yet Wayne bends light to his will, giving light the presence of another object in these paintings.

Jack Anderson’s woodworking has long seemed almost human to me, with corners so finely fitted that a cheekbone in Victoria’s Secret couldn’t be smoother.  The new boxes and chests he brought to The Man Show have more texture and articulation.  His expert appetite for the smooth now shows up in translucent fatwood.  So rich and resinous it resists carving, and makes every completed bowl or vessel a token of dedication.

Richard Coyne’s skies and marshes pass through the frame and sit like

Summer Dress Summer Bonnet by James  Nelson Lewis

Summer Dress Summer Bonnet by James Nelson Lewis

serenity, with their calm, horizontal compositions.  Yet in their specificity they live the truth that although sunrises, sunsets and tides come every day, no two are ever the same.

The watercolors of Robert Highsmith here are clear-eyed, almost photographic.  Robert’s virtuosity takes watercolor out of the sentimental and stands it up beside nature, as if with a kind of quiet pride.

James Nelson Lewis is a welcome addition to the Lowcountry.  Although Jim’s work has been showing at Four Corners since 2008, he only just moved to Port Royal last year.  Jim’s approach to watercolor is to respond to the world, rather than depict it.  His impressions make an excellent point in The Man Show.

Cruise to “the main drag” in Bluffton and visit Four Corners Gallery at 1263-B May River Road in Old Town.  It’s a remarkable gallery at any time, founded on the inspiration that, as a fine-art framer, Charlene Gardner was seeing works that were not showing anywhere else.  That insight led to one of the really worthwhile galleries in the region.  Art and art lovers find good company here.


Taste and insight are longtime residents at Morris & Whiteside Galleries.

It’s pure Hilton Head Island, I guess, that our Big City art gallery is on a quiet road, sheathed in trees.  You might even miss the Morris & Whiteside Galleries sign on your right, the first time you head west on Cordillo Parkway.  Don’t fail to take that drive, though.

Morris & Whiteside Galleries, in the historic Red Piano building.

Quality and skill and heart are hanging here in such abundance, and to such a high standard, that it’s hard to describe.  “Big City” is a harsh way to say it.  It’s just that American art doesn’t look better anywhere else than here.  These are established artists with national reputations.

The paintings and etchings and sculpture selected by Morris & Whiteside reflect what’s best about the story of art in this country.  And yet not all of the subjects are American.  It’s just that a living artist’s etching that’s as good as a Whistler, and a Stephen Scott Young painting of Bahamian boys with a sailboat that’s lit like a kind of Wyeth gone to the tropics – multiplied by

Saturday Sail by Stephen Scott Young

dozens – has an effect on you that’s very much like awe.

The explanation has to be in the eye of the selector.  Founder Jack Morris studied drawing and painting at the University of South Carolina in a time when the University offered no graduate degrees in art.  Jack went to Harvard to study arts administration and did graduate work in art history.  Then he wrote Contemporary Artists of South Carolina, a seminal view of art and artists in the state, that’s been called, “A wonderful and important piece of southern cultural history.”

Camini Rooftops , a copper etching by Stephen Scott Young

This discerning eye served as executive director of the Greenville County Museum of Art, where the Andrew Wyeth collection grew to more than 30 paintings from every period of the artist’s career, and where the Jasper Johns collection is utterly unmatched thanks to Jack’s long acquaintance with the artist.  Although they met in New York in 1962 or 1963, they were already related through an important teacher at the University, Catharine Rembert, one of Jasper Johns’ early influences.  Jack’s book on the art of South Carolina is dedicated, “To Catharine Rembert, from one of her boys.”

Jack went on to open commercial galleries in Houston, Dallas, Santa Fe and Scottsdale, where his Scottsdale Art Auction is in its ninth year and has become a top auction of Western art.

The taste and insight that grew from this background shows up in Jack Morris’s ability to select the very finest.  And that ability certainly gets a workout.  For example, Jack selected 379 pieces from a field of over 3,000

Iron And Brick by Stephen Scott Young hangs above Jack Morris’s desk.

for the upcoming April 6 auction in Scottsdale.  And the 3,000 submissions were from top artists with whom Jack is already familiar, so there was no “excess” to trim.  It takes weeks of conference calls, some as long as five hours, with Jack’s associates in New York and Scottsdale to finalize the selection.

What does he look for?  The answer seems to start with knowing the process and the medium in which the artists are working.  So Jack can see

Amantha – Sea Breeze by Joe Bowler

the sheer skill.  Yes, the overall artistic effect is the life of the work, but the basic quality is best recognized by someone intimately familiar with what it takes to produce that effect.

That knowledge – and all that experience exercising it – shows up in the work on view here on Hilton Head Island at Morris & Whiteside Galleries.

Jack is moving the South Carolina Art Auction, in operation since 2000, back to Hilton Head Island this year from Charleston, where it had taken place since 2005.  Renamed the Hilton Head Art Auction, the event will take place October 5, 2013, coinciding with the first weekend of the Hilton Head Island Institute.

Jack Morris’s stake in Hilton Head Island began in 1958 as a regular visitor.  A property owner here since 1974, Jack and his wife moved here full-time in 2000.  And although most of the artists of national note at Morris & Whiteside Galleries are not “local,” a few are.  Joe Bowler is an example.  Joe is one of

Amantha – Little Ballerina by Joe Bowler

the original figures of Hilton Head Island’s art community.  A prominent illustrator in New York during the 1950’s and 60’s – when advertising and magazine publishing depended on illustrators – Joe Bowler moved to Hilton Head Island in the 1970’s, after photography and TV narrowed the field in New York.

The skill and the ability to “draw quickly and well” that the demands of illustration imbedded in Joe Bowler, and the versatility that it called for, came together with an artist’s heart.  You can see some of the results beginning May 10, when Morris and Whiteside Galleries will feature a special showing of Joe’s paintings.  The artist is capable in so many ways, and creates so many different moods, that it’s hard to pin down a single style.  But don’t miss his luminous “Ballerina” paintings.  Like the gallery in which they appear, they clearly are a labor of love.

Morris & Whiteside Galleries are housed in the historic Red Piano Gallery, site of South Carolina’s oldest professional art gallery, at 220 Cordillo Parkway on Hilton Head Island.  Partners Jack A. Morris, Jr., J. Ben Whiteside and David G. Leahy comprise more than 70 years of experience.

Unspoken – and inspired. See it now at the Walter Greer Gallery.

Unspoken Dialogue is a powerful, original concept.  Two fine-art photographers, Donna Varner and Jean-Marie Côte, created 60 striking visions in black-and-white.  Each one was inspired by the work of the other artist.  Nineteen of those calls and responses hang now in the Walter Greer Gallery at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.  The exhibit runs through March 30.

Donna Varner & Jean-Marie Cote, PhotographersThe impact is unforgettable.  Perhaps because Ms. Varner and Mr. Côte are a couple, partners in life as well as in art, the language on which this dialogue is based appears subtle but clear.  Their only ground rules were to work in black and white and to encompass strong design elements.

Beyond that, it is fascinating to ask ourselves what it is about one of these photos that inspired another.  Sometimes it was the play of light.  Sometimes it was the sense of line.  The inspiration is never obvious.

For example, in Vignette 6 Ms. Varner captures a complex arrangement of

Vinette 6 by Donna Varner

rectangular parking spaces, vertical pillars and a highway overpass that begins to curve in the distance like Einstein’s view of time.  Mr. Côte created Noir 480 in response.  What do martini glasses have to do with highways?  Pure design and the role of light.  Straight lines and curves.  Maybe more of what these photos have in common is really in the heart rather than in the print.  The devotion to art and the passion to create.  As I said, the language of Dialogue is subtle.

Noir 480 by Jean-Marie Côte

The artists’ faith in finding common ground is particularly remarkable when we consider their vastly different styles.  Ms. Varner sees things in life that the rest of us miss.  Or maybe we’re affected by it and don’t know why.  She has a poet’s capacity to take it in, and to present it to the rest of us so that then we can see.  Mr. Côte takes pains to construct meticulous arrangements of familiar objects, and place them in a different world, where light and dark are solid, palpable components.  A vase appears to sit in deep space, among the stars, where light is everything or nothing.

Together their works take on a third life, through contrast and the perspective they shed on each other.  So Unspoken Dialogue wraps us in a place that takes time to appreciate.  This is an exhibit for the slow stroll.  In fact, I’m going back.

Vignette 4 by Donna Varner

The Art League of Hilton Head Island offers a chance to hear the artists talk about their work and this exhibit at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 19, in the League’s Art Academy at 106 Cordillo Parkway in Hilton Head.  As part of the Art League’s series of Gallery Walks and Talks, this one is particularly inviting.

A sense of mystery stays with you after seeing the other-worldly compositions of Jean-Marie Côte, and the amazing discernment of art in life captured by Donna Varner.  We are in a sense left to make of it what we will.

Noir 482 by Jean-Marie Côte

Even the titles of the work are left open.  Each of Ms. Varner’s photos is a numbered “Vignette,” and each of Mr. Côte’s photos is “Noir,” followed by a number.  Without even so much as a title to define the photo for us, we are brought into the work as participants.

Unspoken Dialogue calls to mind what was until now the most unforgettable art exhibit for me.  Ten years ago a show called Matisse Picasso at the Tate Modern in London juxtaposed the works of these two influential artists. Matisse Picasso seemed to explain the course of modern art through the relationship between two apparently different approaches.  The one more cerebral and interior; the other more physical and sensational – the connection had never occurred to me until that exhibit, and I think I was not alone.

In the same way, Unspoken Dialogue empowers us to see more, to understand more, even if what we understand as a result is difficult to describe.  I personally urge you not to miss this remarkable exhibit, now through March 30 at the Walter Greer Gallery in the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

Paper Canvas at SOBA this month: An artist stretches the medium.

“Look at 100 different watercolorists and you’ll see 100 different styles.”  That’s what artist Mary Ann Putzier told me as her paintings went up at SOBA gallery in Bluffton, South Carolina for the exhibit, Paper Canvas, showing March 4 through 30.

Chief, by Mary Ann Putzier, one of the portraits in Paper Canvas at SOBA.

I think she’s being too modest.  I think her paintings are more declarative, more colorful, lifelike and emotional than what I usually expect to see in watercolor.  Stop in and have a look for yourself at the Society of Bluffton Artists’ gallery on the corner of Calhoun and Church Streets.

The Chief who greets you as you enter the exhibit is a good example, and more surprises wait within.  Mary Ann’s work seems to prove that watercolor does not have to be soft-focus or lyrical.  It can be forthright and colorful, with a strong sense of line.

Still, some suggestion of “impressionist” is there despite Mary Ann’s realistic style.  You can feel her fascination with architectural shapes, light and shadow.  You sense that you stole a real moment from the lifelike birds she

Sun and shadow open a closed door in Italy.

painted, because they seem to be caught in the act of living.  Even her flowers seem to live, rather than to pose, with Mary Ann’s clear-eyed treatment.

A special attraction in this show is “Il Camino,” a dozen paintings of centuries old Italian chimneys from the artist’s visit to Umbria.  In Todi, a small town of this mountainous region north of Rome, Mary Ann discovered chimneys that stand like personalities above the ancient streets.  Her paintings of them testify to the artist’s ability to see infinite specificity where many might generalize, or even overlook.

Florals and scenes get the Paper Canvas touch.

The paintings of Il Camino demonstrate the literal meaning of the show’s title, Paper Canvas.  Special grades of paper are stretched over a wooden frame – as a canvas would be – and then sealed with wax.

I find another meaning in the title, too.  Oil paints on canvas are sometimes thought to be the medium for power, intensity, vibrant saturation and dramatic line.  In the Society of Bluffton Artists’ show of Mary Ann Putzier paintings, we see that watercolors can communicate with that same power.  In the right hands, of course.

People, animals and birds get the Paper Canvas treatment. Including a young Redwings fan.

Make time to see this exceptional exhibit.  And meet the artist at a special reception, 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 10 at the SOBA Gallery, Calhoun Street at Church Street in Bluffton.  Call 757-6586 or visit sobagallery.com for more information.

Two-Octave span: Hilton Head Island hospitality reaches around the world.

The annual Hilton Head International Piano Competition, March 4 through 9 at First Presbyterian Church, is extraordinary in every way.  One of the leading classical piano events in the United States, the Competition reaches farther around the globe, and deeper into the homes of Hilton Head Island residents, than any other occasion.

For visitors and Hilton Head Island residents alike, it is an unmatched chance to enjoy virtuoso performances on the eve of the artists’ worldwide prominence.  The Competition prompts some of the finest young classical music talents in the world to do what smart visitors do every year – travel to Hilton Head Island for our unique blend of world-class resort and sincere personal welcome.  The way the Hilton Head International Piano Competition is organized exemplifies the best of what Hilton Head Island has to offer.

Now in it’s 18thyear, the competition advances the excellence and helps foster the future of classical performance by showcasing young musicians, and by creating a climate that motivates their best efforts.  Personal

The only ones who know what it is like, young piano virtuosos enjoy each other’s company.

coaching from the panel of first-class international judges, and the opportunity to move forward with additional performance opportunities are more reasons why a seat at the Steinway here is so sought-after.

Competition Director Mona Huff points out that these concert pianists from around the world are a lot like other young visitors to Hilton Head Island. They like to spend time with each other.  Classical piano turns out to be a

Fei-Fei Dong tests the keyboard. She likes it!

somewhat smaller world than one might expect, true of many elite circles.  And the up-and-coming talents know each other, or at least know about each other.  Inside the international gathering it is heartwarming to see how glad they are to meet, or reunite, and to help each other even as they compete, Ms. Huff says.  Sometimes competitors send their own students back to Hilton Head Island when their careers move them on into teaching.

The company of each other is a big attraction to these young, world-class musicians.  But it is the warmth of the Hilton Head Island families who host them that creates the deepest bonds.  These relationships live on and span the globe.  Hilton Head Island families pick competitors up at the airport, house them – and often become lasting friends with the young musicians and their families.  Host families have flown to Europe and beyond to meet the families of their guest competitors and to see them perform again.  Host Mike Kalody was invited to China to meet the family – - and he went!  The parents of competitor Arianna Körting came to Hilton Head Island – - and bought a home!

Action testing on the Steinway at First Presbyterian is an important – but informal – part of Competition week.

The depth of care and detail of arrangements that are made for each visiting competitor begins as soon as they are selected – from factoring for language proficiency to accommodating pet allergies.  As a result, competitors tell their friends in the classical music world about Hilton Head Island hospitality, and urge them to apply for the Hilton Head International Piano Competition.

Performing before top judges from as far away as Hungary, Columbia and Korea, as well as the United States, the young musicians vie for substantial cash prizes as well as distinction.  Twenty competitors and 10 alternates are

Zhu Wang, winner of the 2011 Young Artists Competition.

selected by a separate panel of judges from among the finest young talent from around the world.  The attractiveness of Hilton Head Island has been the spur for distinguished participants at every level – from selectors to participants to judges.

The jury this year is composed of distinguished teachers from as far as Shanghai Conservatory, as near as Northwestern University and as famous as The Julliard School.  Next year’s panel holds judges from Ireland, China, Columbia and Russia, as well as the U.S.

This is how Hilton Head Island is heard around the world.  This is how music overcomes boundaries in a moment and forges friendships for life.  The Hilton Head International Piano Competition is an exquisite example of the warmth, depth and excellence that await behind our beautiful beaches and beneath our graceful palm trees.


You’ll love I Hate Hamlet, now at the Arts Center.

I don’t remember when I laughed this loud, this long or this often.  I Hate Hamlet is so much fun – and so many different kinds of fun – that describing doesn’t do it justice.  You just have to see it, now through February 24 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.  Ticket are at 843-842-ARTS (2787) or http://www.artshhi.com.

Full-service real estate broker, Felicia Diantine, summons the ghost of John Barrymore.

With only six characters, distinctive and well selected, I Hate Hamlet seems to charm the heart and fascinate the mind every time one of these characters enters the stage.  The brash real estate broker, the bemused TV star, his celibate girlfriend, his astute and elegant agent, the boisterous Hollywood producer with the 3-million-dollar deal – - and the ghost of John Barrymore, fabled womanizer and “the definitive Hamlet.”

Barrymore teaches Rally to stop “acting” – at the point of a sword.

James Donadio is so utterly convincing as Barrymore that we follow him easily from the legend and lothario we expect, to an unforeseen man of parts, honest in his weaknesses and willing to share his gift with an unsteady, though successful, actor of today.

When Donaldo’s Barrymore counsels Ethan Saks’ Andrew Rally before he heads to the stage, Donaldo’s performance of Shakespeare’s admonition to “Speak the speech . . . ,” from Act III Scene 2 of Hamlet, is generous, warm, encouraging – and as real as if he were thinking of it for the first time.

Barrymore and Lefkowitz battle for Rally’s future.

Brad DePlanche, as producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz, bursts with energy as he tempts the young TV star, Andrew Rally, to turn away from Shakespeare and sell his soul to Hollywood.  The choice is such a no-brainer to Lefkowitz that we are swept up in his enthusiasm.

Marina Re, as real estate broker Felicia Dantine, is the first voice we hear, and she’s irresistible, selling Andrew Rally on Barrymore’s former apartment, and holding the séance that brings back Barrymore’s ghost.  Rally’s romantic, unicorn-chasing girlfriend, Deirdre McDavey, played by Ameila Mathews, transforms from dreamy to voluptuous under the influence of the Barrymore ghost she never sees.

Jane Ridley plays Andrew Rally’s agent, Lillian Troy.  She is wise enough to

A fling beyond the stars – Barrymore and Lillian Troy waltz again.

land Andrew the role of Hamlet, authoritative enough to persuade him to take the risk – and experienced enough to be a former fling of Barrymore’s.  Their reunion, when it finally arrives, is heartwarming.

Director Russell Treyz seems to hand-craft the show, with taste and spirit.  It moves fast and wastes not a single motion.  The superb cast, too, is a tribute to Treyz.  Each of them has worked with him before and was eager to do so again.  Treyz’s inspired relationships are the reason this production was able to attract leading stage combat director Rick Sordelet, to choreograph the swordplay.

Fight director Rick Sordelet choreographed rapiers – and Dom Perignon.

Treyz commented that the story of an actor choosing art over commerce is what makes I Hate Hamlet special to him.  It’s a funny journey, though, and this is the cast, crew and director to get the most from it.  You’ll be very glad you came.

Sets and costumes are exceptional, as we’ve come to expect at the Arts Center on Hilton Head Island.  Beyond even that high standard, the Barrymore apartment is just right for a sword fight or a seduction.  And Diana Griffin’s costumes are perfectly articulate.  They can be as in-your-face as the real estate broker or as subtle and gauzy as the dreamy girlfriend.  They can even distinguish between the classic Hamlet of an earlier generation and the aspiring Hamlet of today.

I Hate Hamlet is an excellent choice for the Arts Center season.  And good shows don’t get produced any better than this one, anywhere.  It’s a treat.  Don’t miss it.  Call 843-842-ARTS (2787) or click http://www.artshhi.com.

“The world has gone mad today . . .” Anything Goes at The Arts Center

Shannon Lee Jones stars as Reno Sweeny

Starting its third week at The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Cole Porter’s hilarious musical, Anything Goes, has played to standing ovations at every performance.  Come join the fun.  Anything Goes runs now through December 30, and tickets are at 843-842-ARTS (2787) or www.artshhi.com

Maybe it’s extra funny to see that we’re not the first generation to think that the world’s a little upside-down.  Maybe it’s the timeless talent of Cole Porter, who turned being naughty in polite society into a fine art.  Maybe it’s this cast of Broadway babies who can tap all the way to the stage light moon and back, or the lead actors who make us feel this hilarious tenderness as if it were new.

Jessica Moore makes bad look good as Erma

Whatever the reason, Anything Goes is a hit, and this is anything but the first time.  Originally produced in 1934, the year Cole Porter moved into the Waldorf Towers on the wave of his success and celebrity, Anything Goes almost defies the term “revival” because it has rarely been at rest.  The 1988 production at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center, staring Patti Lupone, won three Tony Awards, and the 2011 production, starring Sutton Foster, won two.

Jordon from Hilton Head Island emailed, “… the Arts Center and Casey Colgan have a holiday present for all to see.”

The Arts Center production stars Shannon Lee Jones as Reno Sweeny.  Shannon is a Broadway veteran and a Hilton Head Island favorite, having lit up Mame, Hairspray and The Drowsy Chaperone, among many others on the Arts Center stage.  William Joseph Lewis, as Billy Crocker, Sarah Claire Smith, as Hope Harcourt, Seth Golay as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, Jessica Moore as Erma and R. Bruce Connelly, as Moonface Martin (“Public enemy #13.  Help.  Police.”) are just a few more reasons this production is packed with what it takes to move an audience to its feet.

Director Casey Colgan took extra care to see that every theatre fan got a full fix of Cole Porter.  Two favorite songs that are not part of the Anything Goes “book” are included in the Arts Center production.  Finding that “Night And Day” is perhaps the most popular Cole Porter composition, Casey put it in the show.  Musical Director John Bell wrote an original arrangement to present “Night And Day” as a medley and descant with “All Through The Night” in the scene where “All Through The Night” usually appears alone.

R. Bruce Connelly’s “Take Me Back To Manhattan”

Casey also substituted the rousing “Take Me Back To Manhattan” and choreographed a dance around it, in place of the novelty song, “Be Like The Bluebird,” which Moonface normally sings in the second act.  The result is an even livelier Act II and a perfect showcase for Bruce Connelly’s hall-filling talent as singer, dancer and character actor.

Even starting with a proven winner, no stone was left unturned to make the Arts Center’s production of Anything Goes into an evening you just won’t forget.  Do put this special evening into your Holiday plans.  Yes, I’m biased, fortunate to be a small part of the cast.  But that just makes me all the more certain of this:  regardless of which side of the curtain you’re on,  Anything Goes will be one of your great Holiday memories.