One Hundred Miles 100:Artists
Honoring the creative artists whose work highlights the unique beauty and integral challenges of our Georgia coast
Gogo Ferguson knows every twist and turn, every live oak canopy, and every resurrection fern on the old maritime forest paths leading to the beach on Cumberland Island. Inspired by the wonders of Georgia’s coast, her eye catches the water glistening in the distance and a tangle of seaweed uncovered by the tide. It is here, on her daily walks, that she finds the source of her inspiration as a jewelry designer. Holding Gogo’s jewelry – featuring casts of barnacles, rattlesnake ribs, alligator scutes, and more – entwines the wearer with the spirit of Georgia’s landscape. Over millions of years, nature has perfected its designs, and Gogo transforms these beloved coastal treasures into wearable art for generations to come.
Mary Edna Fraser life’s work is best told from an aerial perspective. Using photographs taken from the open cockpit of an airplane, she captures some of the Atlantic seaboard’s most remote barrier islands onto silk using the ancient medium of batik. Her art tells the story of the special places of the Georgia and South Carolina coasts and the importance of their preservation. “Witnessing their vulnerability and noticeable changes from the aerial viewpoint brings subtle environmental messages,” she says. Mary Edna’s work has been exhibited across the country, including at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Duke University Museum of Art, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation. Along with renowned Duke University geologist Orrin Pilkey, Mary Edna published the beautiful A Celebration of the World’s Barrier Islands.
Allen Green (1907 – 1998) of Sapelo Island was one of the best-known craftsman practicing the African tradition of coiled-grass basketry. He learned this time-honored skill from his grandfather, a former slave. One of the last living craftsman of coiled-grass basketry, Allen worked to pass the skill onto others, including his wife Annie Mae and fellow Hog Hammock resident Yvonne Grovner, so that the tradition would continue past his own lifetime. Said Yvonne, “I learned to feel the straw like he did, what knots to use to start the spiral. Two years later, he passed, and this tradition was saved.” Today, Allen’s baskets made from sweet grass, sawtooth palmetto, and Spartina patterns can be found at the Smithsonian, helping to share the story of Sapelo Island and the beauty of our coast’s signature salt marsh across the country.
Elizabeth Halderson grew up on St. Catherines Island. At the dinner table, her family would share stories of the wonders of coastal Georgia, which later became the inspiration for her work as a ceramic artist. From honey bees to American oystercatchers and loggerhead sea turtles, she captures the fertile and threatened wildlife and ecosystems along our coast. Each of her creations are hand drawn, and all of the plants and animals on her work can be found nearby in local habitats. Elizabeth’s work inspires new conversations among families and friends, and drives support for the conservation of our sea turtles, shorebirds, and sand dollars. For all those who want their art to tell a story, her beautiful pottery is the answer. Elizabeth believes in our coast, and through her art, she shares its important message.
Jim Jinkins is the co-creator of Doug, an award-winning animated series which debuted on Nickelodeon. In 2010, Jim and his family moved south to become residents of Brunswick, Georgia. He soon partnered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on the illustrated ecology activity book, Catch the Excitement. Jim uses Georgia and the Golden Isles to explore the theme of Stop, Look, and See, a call to slow down and appreciate nature in our fast modern world. As Jim explains, “Nature isn’t just nice, it is essential. When nature goes we all go.” This deep appreciation and stewardship of the world around us is mirrored throughout Jim’s everyday life – he can often be spotted picking up litter during morning walks with his wife Lisa and their dog, Lulu.
Philip Juras, a native of Augusta, has pursued his lifelong passion for Georgia’s natural landscape through his artwork. He focuses primarily on the remaining undeveloped and pristine ecosystems along Georgia’s coast. As a result, his breathtaking paintings offer a rare glimpse into the Southeast before European settlement. In every image, Philip invites the viewer to step into the picture and reminds us all of Georgia’s fragile and threatened landscapes. His appreciation for the untouched wildness of our coast is perhaps best captured in his 2016 book, The Wild Treasury of Nature: A Portrait of Little St. Simons Island. As Wendy Paulson notes in the foreword to the collection, Philip’s collections “reveal the many dimensions of the island’s landscapes and character, especially for people who have not known the magic of the forests, marshes, and beaches of a Georgia barrier island.”
Jack Leigh (1948 – 2004), a native of Savannah, was an award-winning photographer and the author of six acclaimed books of photography. Best known for his iconic image gracing the cover of John Berendt’s bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Jack created thousands of photos chronicling life in the American South over the course of his career. He was the author of six highly acclaimed books of photography, including The Ogeechee: A River and its People, Ossabaw: Evocations of an Island, and the retrospective, The Land I’m Bound To. His photographs captured the heart of the places he loved, and through his dedication to the arts, his devotion to the natural world, and his awe of our coast’s history, marshlands and barrier islands, Jack shared this love with the rest of the world.
Located in the small community of Boldon/Briar Patch, Georgia, the McIntosh Shout Singers are a performance group preserving the ring shout in North America. Probably the oldest surviving African American performance tradition on the continent, the ring shout is a compelling fusion of counterclockwise dance-like movements, call-and-response singing, and percussion of hand clapping and rhythmic stick beating. It believed the ring shout had ceased to be practiced throughout the south until, in 1980, folklorists discovered it was still alive and well in Boldon/Briar Patch. The discovery of this unbroken chain of teaching the ring shout for over 300 years was celebrated worldwide. Just this past September, the Shouters performed for the Freedom Sounds Festival during the Grand Opening weekend of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Their new album, Spirituals and Shout Songs from the Georgia Coast, is forthcoming in February 2017.
Wayne Morgan’s photographs and stunning stills of local river and swamp life perfectly capture the spirit of the Satilla River and the Okefenokee Swamp. After several pivotal experiences—the death of his grandmother in the Satilla River, scattering his uncle Charlie’s ashes in the river’s water, and his own health troubles, he decided to teach himself how to photograph and capture the beauty of Georgia’ coast and share his discoveries with the rest of the world. Regarding his beloved Satilla, Wayne remarked, “The river is beautiful just the way it is… I just need to be in the right place at the right time and capture it.” His photographs can be found all over the country, including with former President Jimmy Carter. Meanwhile, Wayne’s books serve as an important reminder of the role we must all play in protecting the places we love. This is especially true in Kase for the Environment, a children’s story dedicated to his grandson and our region’s next generation.
Naturalist and artist Lydia Thompson lives on St. Simons Island. For decades, her tireless focus has been the preservation, conservation, and artistic representation of birds and bird habitats along Georgia’s coast. Lydia has combined her artistic endeavors and conservation ethic into a way of life. In addition to her art, she advocates for Georgia’s coast by leading community education programs such as the Plover Patrol outreach initiative on Jekyll and St. Simons Islands. Lydia wrote and illustrated the guide Bird Finding in Coastal Georgia’s Golden Isles; her first children book, Willa Gets Her Friendship Bands, will be available in January 2017. The engaging story follows a Wilson’s Plover chick as she gets her color bands and learns how they will help her species. Lydia’s art isn’t just beautiful: it helps to increase awareness about Georgia’s shorebirds far and wide.
Banner photo courtesy of Xada Rae Baxter