Charleston Style and Design Summer 2013

Charleston Style and Design Summer 2013

Artists in the Wild


Local artists take it outside during Piccolo Spoleto



Remember the days when you could visit the cockpit of an airplane and talk to the pilot? Remember when the ferryboat captain would let you steer? Remember the days before security would tackle you when you ran on stage at a Kenny G concert? Those were good times. Today the world is on lockdown; it's all “No, you can't push that button,” “No, you can't prank the Coast Guard” and “No, you can't play my tenor sax.” Our chances to get sneak peeks into the lives of people with cool jobs are dwindling.


The annual Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibition remedies that horrible trend by giving us access to artists, the coolest of the cool people, in the wild. During the festival, Marion Square is brimming with artists painting, hanging out, chatting amiably with new folks and catching up with old friends.


Today I've come to see two local legends: Rick Reinert and Kevin LePrince.


Though they have separate tents for the seventeen days of Piccolo Spoleto, the rest of the year they share space in their gallery, Reinert LePrince Fine Art, on King Street. “In the air conditioning,” they want me to point out.


Now, if I were an artist, I would be surly and distant. I would shout a lot, and I'd have minions to pick out the brown M&Ms. Kevin and Rick went a different route. When you visit Reinert LePrince gallery you don't have to whisper or point with your elbow. Rick and Kevin will not only let you watch them paint, but they'll answer any question you ask. “Any question?” I ask.


“Any question,” they assure me. Game on. “What you are working on? Where do you get inspiration? What kind of paint is that? Does it bother you when people interrupt you? Are you going to do this forever? What kind of dog is that? Where should I have dinner? Can I help you paint? “Neither bats an eye.


“A painting from a photograph. Everywhere. Oil. No. Yes. A bichon mix. The rooftop at Stars. No.” Wow they're good. Rick shrugs. “We really like interacting with people and we enjoy getting to know them,” he says. I ask how in the world they can make art with people looking over their shoulders.


“You have to have a certain amount of confidence to let people see your work in all stages, especially when you're experimenting. But people like to see the process and ask questions. Some of them get really excited, and we try to encourage them you really can make a living as an artist,” Rick says.


“And experimentation leads to creativity.” Kevin says. There us a crowd circling his recent experiments: Lowcountry-inspired wildlife and landscape paintings, serene fishing boats, marshes and street scenes. Kevin has also been experimenting with monotone and black and white. The result is powerful- an urban bridge tells its long history in a glance, a tug boat reveals a stoic personality and shore birds are captured as the quirky, slightly manic creatures that we love.


Meanwhile, Rick has been experimenting with bold strokes that border on expressionism. His vibrant landscapes, cityscapes and still lifes are set somewhere, but not anywhere specific, so viewers can project their own experience and the place becomes “theirs.” To wit: I'm standing in front of a painting that reminds me of a sun-soaked morning in Italy when the women next to me sighs, “That reminds me of old Florida. The way it used to be.”


If you missed your chance to a behind-the-scenes look at cool people doing cool jobs during Piccolo Spoleto, don;t worry. You can find Rick and Kevin the rest of the year in their friendly, welcoming gallery on King, In the air conditioning.


Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer based in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhoward