Carol Joy Shannon’s paintings are about cities. At least that’s the most immediately apparent impression. The lines and angles and colors conjure up a world created by human hands, a contrast to the softer forms of nature.
But Shannon’s paintings are much more than just a collection of buildings or, at their most abstract, an arrangement of forms. They’re a natural transition from wildlife painting to what Shannon calls “structured abstract.”
“I found that I loved painting abstracts because they really let our imaginations free,” explained Shannon. “But I also found that I needed focal points and some structure – so I started adding blocks and outlines, and the response was instant – the pieces won prizes and went onto walls.”
Inspired by the “hard-edged color” of mid-century modern aesthetics, the shift to painting cities was as pragmatic as it was a conscious artistic choice.
“The prevailing wisdom for writers is ‘write what you know,’” said Shannon. “What did I know? I knew cities. I’d lived in some splendid ones: London, Monte Carlo, Venice, Paris, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas – why not paint them?”
To date, she’s painted at least 100 cities.
But in the Lowcountry, it’s impossible not to be awed by the landscape. When Shannon moved back to South Carolina in 2014, her work started incorporating more marsh and less concrete.
“A year or so ago I had a really nice, large scale landscape that looked like Lowcountry saltmarsh, but just needed something. It hung in my living room for several weeks (I always do this) and one day I saw a heron in it. When I painted it in, it just worked,” she said.
Shannon also paints a series of small pieces that celebrate military and public safety veterans. She said the paintings bring in something more valuable than money – the stories. A portion of each sale benefits charity.
But even with her steadily evolving styles and inspirations, Shannon says she wants to make sure that her art is challenging but accessible.
“As a self-taught artist who has painted 6 days a week for the last 17 years, I realized early on that my chances of being in MOMA or on the cover of “Artist” Magazine were small. But what I could do is paint what pleases me and might please other people,” she explained.
“I just want to bring color and light into people’s homes.”
Check out more of Shannon’s work at Art Mecca of Charleston.
Brigitte Pirlot spent 33 years in Africa, often far from sources of more traditional art supplies. So she learned to use what was on hand to feed her creative instinct.
“We used to spare an old screw, a piece of fabric, a second-hand cloth to build myself things if I wanted something, because there was barely anything around, no shops,” explained Pirlot.
But even now with anything and everything close at hand, Pirlot still keeps an eye out for unique, otherwise overlooked pieces to incorporate into her work.
“I still have this habit, to keep everything in case I needed it,” she said. So now, when I can use or recycle that screw or scrap of any kind, I’m happy.”
Her works, which incorporate mixed media, have that scrappy sensibility. They are deeply personal but also fully open to interpretation. After all, seemingly random odds and ends can carry tremendous emotion and bring back powerful memories.
“I’ve had a lot of people cry at some of my pieces, reminding them of some memories. I’ve had wonderful stories from wonderful customers,” she said. “Each interpretation is a good one.”
Of course Pirlot’s art is also simply beautiful to look at, full of textures and colors.
“I think the tactile sense is not used enough,” she said. “I love to touch everything. Before buying, I have to touch, so it’s hard for me to buy online. I love nature and there are so many things to touch.”
Pirlot focuses on earth tones and turquoise because those are her favorite colors, and because they carry a “vintage” look. They also tend to connect her work back to nature, which is one of her biggest inspirations.
“I don’t call myself an artist,” she points out. “Just some lady who loves to play. We can’t imitate nature – it’s too beautiful. But we can incorporate the idea of it or use a piece of it, which I try to do.”
But if Pirlot doesn’t consider herself an artist, she clearly has a powerful eye for the beautiful and fascinating things around her, particularly the things that others might not consider special. She hopes that people notice the littler things too.
“I would like to inspire people to look around themselves, to experience their senses more, to look at the beauty of nature, of the earth, of other people, of art,” she said. “Everybody has talent, and I would like them to have fun.”
See more of Brigitte Pirlot’s work at Art Mecca of Charleston.