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Celebrating the Life & Legacy of Guy Lipscomb

By Lori Kornegay, curator of art

Art Day at the State Museum on March 4, 2017 featured the opening of an exhibition Guy Lipscomb: A Centennial Celebration, in the Community Gallery on the 2nd floor of the museum. This exhibition, which runs through May 29, 2017 highlights Guy Lipscomb’s work in the museum’s collection from the 1990s through 2009, as well as material from his archive and celebrates the unique contributions of this artist in the 100th anniversary year of his birth.

Guy Fleming Lipscomb Jr. was born in 1917 in Clemson, S.C. In 1938, he received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Carolina, where he took art classes from Katherine Heyward and Catherine Rembert. His love and appreciation of art resurfaced in the 1950s and by 1967 he began to study art seriously. He defined his major interest in the 1970s with watercolor and in 1978 he studied at the Art Students League in New York City. Lipscomb soon realized, “The more I work, the more I study and understand, the more I realize the difficulty and magnitude of the task at hand.”

During his lifetime, Lipscomb had more than 35 one-person exhibitions and received the prestigious American Watercolor Society Award. He was selected as the 1982 recipient for the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner award, the highest honor for art in the state. He co-founded the South Carolina Watercolor Society and from 1974-1994 served as the first chairman of the South Carolina Museum Commission, which built the South Carolina State Museum. John Bryan, author of The South Carolina State Museum: A History and Highlights of the Collection, notes, “Everyone involved with the creation and management of the museum is quick to point out that ‘Guy Lipscomb’s sustained commitment, more than anything else, is what made it (the Museum’s formation) happen.’”

This year marks the centennial anniversary of Lipscomb’s birth on April 11, 1917, providing an opportunity to highlight his tremendous contributions to the State Museum. The artist’s spirit of creativity, curiosity and openness to experimentation is evident in the works featured in this exhibition, many of which were produced in the years just before his death in 2009 at the age of 92. Lipscomb’s enthusiastic approach to art-making, mirrored in the active and engaged role he played in the arts community, continues to serve as an inspiration for artists and arts supporters throughout South Carolina.