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Pye Pond—A Memoir

Greenville Artist To Tell Southern Story Through Encaustics at Spartanburg Co-op

Danielle Fontaine will be a guest artist at West Main Artists Co-op March 5-31, exhibiting her encaustic work “Pye Pond -- A Memoir” and metaphorically asking the question: Why do we choose to keep or discard certain things in our lives? Her explorations take the form of a pictorial memoir focused on a small family farm in South Georgia. The exhibit of a few dozen works will be open for free public viewing Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A free public reception for this exhibit will be Thursday, March 21, 5-9 p.m., during the city’s monthly ArtWalk, when most of the art museums and galleries in Spartanburg stay open late to showcase their newest exhibitions.

“I would like my visitors to spend a little time considering the enduring question of what we elect to keep or preserve and the reasons why, and reflect on what, or whom, we discard along the way. I hope people get an appreciation for the power of storytelling in visual arts, and for the little-known medium of encaustics, and for the beauty of family history in all its entanglements,” the Canadian native said.

“I have been collecting images since 2010, amassing more photos every time we visit the family farm on the pond in South Georgia,” she said. “I began doing the encaustic work based on this series of photographs when the Greenville Center for Creative Arts opened in 2015. The realization that I was creating a pictorial memoir came gradually as the work evolved. The story, in the studio as in life, is a work in progress.”

West Main Artist Co-op’s Venue curator Dwight Rose recruited Fontaine to exhibit in Spartanburg. “Danielle is an exceptional artist, and her exhibit is very storytelling about the South, which will appeal to a great many people. However, another reason I wanted to bring her work to Spartanburg was to give people another version of what it means to work in encaustics. So much of that work in general is very abstract and nonrepresentational. With Danielle, the patron can more easily see the representational images that are being used.”

Most of her work will be for sale, ranging in price from $120 to $5,200.

Fontaine came to Upstate South Carolina in 1999 and has been a thought leader on the regional art scene ever since. She holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from McGill University in Canada, a master’s degree in economics and politics from Oxford University, and a master’s degree in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte (NC). In 2015 she joined the Greenville Center for Creative Art as one of its inaugural studio artists. While being a producing artist in Greenville, she branched out. “I initiated the pilot program for The Warehouse Theatre’s This Wooden O educational outreach and mentored the first Greenville County High Schools Art Exhibit during the inaugural year of Artisphere,” she said. “I am the co-founder and curator of the SeasonArt Series, a happy marriage of visual arts and literature at The Warehouse Theatre. With my husband Bill McLendon I founded the Brandon Fellowship at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts. I currently serve on the Urban Panel of the City of Greenville’s Design Review Board.”

Additionally, she is the recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation, an organization that internationally supports emerging artists working in a representational style, as well as two grants from the Greenville Metropolitan Arts Council.

“I am humbled to exhibit at West Main,” Fontaine said. “When Dwight invited me, I eagerly accepted even though I was not familiar with the Venue. I always trust Dwight implicitly – he is a fantastic person! I went to visit soon afterwards and the exhibit at the time was a retrospective of Mayo Mac Boggs – such a distinguished artist and a Verner Award winner! A very tough act to follow, but also an inspiration and a great motivation. I will work hard to make Dwight, WMAC, and the memory of Mayo Mac Boggs very proud.

“WMAC is a treasure for members and patrons, a haven for artists, and a shining example of the power of the arts to both document and benefit the communities the Co-op serves, not only in Spartanburg or next door in Greenville, but throughout the state of South Carolina.” she said.

It wasn’t until her mid-50s that Fontaine began using encaustics in her art. “I am not only a visual artist but a memoirist who at this juncture is plying her craft in the language of encaustics. I believe we are all artists and storytellers and that our perfect medium is out there waiting for us to find it. A good place to start looking for it is at the local art center.”

In her artist’s statement, Fontaine explains: “My encaustic work considers the enduring question of what we elect to keep or preserve and the reasons why, and invites reflection on what, or whom, we discard along the way. Still Time on Pye Pond, my original and ongoing encaustic narrative, dwells in a family farm in South Georgia, where an odd collection of potentially fixable or reusable items await their fate in a randomly ordered fashion. I find much poetry, at once beautiful and sad, in their uncertain future. It is this conflicted beauty, this southern family portrait that I seek to recreate in my studio.

“Objects stand in for people, for kinships tangled like Spanish moss, for ideas as deeply anchored as the roots that drain the soil, for time as still as the water on the sheltered pond. For things that could be fixed. Pye Pond used to be home to all of us; not anymore. There is waywardness. Unspoken absences. When I visit occasionally – these are our roots, this is family – I escape the silence and find solace in the fields and barns around the pond, in patient mounds of old familiar things. I collect images.

“This narrative, began as small photo transfer works and then works based on photo grisailles, evolved into larger works still inspired by my photography but now interpreted freehand, or in the case of buildings, drafted the old fashion way with my trusted old mechanical pencil from my architecture school days. The stories fully emerge with the application of encaustic colors. (I also occasionally choose to simply preserve my photos under a clear coat of encaustic medium.)

“With its essential process of fusing after application, encaustic painting does not lend itself easily to straight line work. Learning to control this process in my unconventional encaustic work is a challenge I relish. It is a conscious attempt at harnessing wandering thoughts and reframing unspoken absences.”

West Main Artists Co-op is one of Spartanburg’s leading arts agencies. It is a nonprofit and membership-based grassroots institution, housed in a converted church. It has more than 50 members, about 30 working studios, three galleries, two stages, a printery, and a ceramics studio. Normally, it has three exhibits each month: two by members; one by a guest artist. Nearly 10 years old, the Co-op has the largest collection of locally made and for-sale art in the city and the county. To know more, please visit online WestMainArtists.com.

To preview Fontaine’s work, visit online: DanielleFontaineArtist.com.