“FIRST LIGHT ON HONEY’S” depicts a swirling, fiery Peace, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas. Stranded, 36 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas. july 2016 50 WBM sunrise over Garland’s Fresh Seafood, fondly called “Honey’s Place” in remembrance of its founder Wesley Garland Varnam’s famous favor-ite greeting for everyone who came through the doors: “Hello, Honey.” Though the artist works primarily in acrylics now, his talent with watercolors is evident in the subtle layers of color and delicate brushstrokes of this and other works in the series. In the American South in particular, art, cultural preservation and activism have long gone hand-in-hand. Artists and writers have created myriad works to record threatened and unique communities and to educate larger audiences on the battles for existence happening in small towns. Visual artists like Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), whose works often feature the everyday lives of black Americans as com-mentary on social inequality, and Winslow Homer (1836-1910), who documented the stoicism and strength of coastal communi-ties, have sought to reveal the beauty in the diversity of the United States and to generate broader appreciation for this variation. Alderman builds on the traditions of both of these artists by depicting everyday scenes with a delicate and deeply felt sense of intimacy. The artist explains that a primary goal for all of his paint-ings is not just to replicate a scene, but to convey the feeling of a particular moment. “It’s a sharing thing — I want it to be seen and I want people to experience what I was experiencing,” he says. This is especially evident in works like “Peace,” which captures a calm, misty afternoon on the marsh, and “Lockwood Folly Mist,” a dock scene that invites the viewer to imagine and appreciate the men and women who will shortly arrive to begin a long day of fishing. Many of these paintings reveal Alderman’s growing personal connection to the place and its people. Indeed, he explains that the “Varnamtown: An Aging Life” project became a collaborative process as he became acquainted with more of the locals and heard their stories. In some cases, this familiarity seems to have indirectly inspired images, as with “Brunswick County Wingtips.” This 18-inch by 24-inch canvas pays homage to the men and women working in North Carolina waterways through an interior boat scene, closely framing the white rubber boots that are the hallmark of the Southern fisherman. This image interestingly recalls Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 painting “Les Souliers” (which translates to “A Pair of Boots”). Philosopher and art theorist Martin Heidegger famously described this painting of a well-worn pair of work boots as not only convey-ing a sense of their owner and his profession, but also revealing a “truth” about them both. That is, demonstrating the beauty of the often backbreaking work they perform, and the social and histori-cal importance of the men who wear them. Up on Robinson’s Railway, 18 x 23 inches, acrylic on canvas.
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