The morning that artist Alex Waggoner and I speak, I’m thinking about traffic.
Before our conversation and like many other Charlestonians, I’ve spent an hour and a half inside my vehicle, desperately inching forward to my destination. But the slowness, the limited, crawling speed of the highway, is an experience I’ve grown accustomed to. And on some mornings, even come to enjoy. It’s an experience, Waggoner agrees, that can force reflection.
“I think if people would just stroll a little more, it would slow (us) down and we can appreciate things,” she says before noting, “You see funny things in traffic, things that will be gone at any minute,” she says. Then she pauses for a beat, as if taking her own advice, before adding: “Just slow, in every way.”
The word “slow” comes out like a mantra when Waggoner speaks. Appropriate given that Waggoner’s latest exhibit at Beresford Studios shares the same name: "Slow."
Her exhibit is a vivid, multilayered meditation in paintings that delves into a theme that works on several levels. Like her previous paintings, a series documenting Spruill Avenue, "Slow" explores the landscape and architecture of Charleston with an explorer’s eye and a penchant for detail.
“The work in the past, Spruill, was focused on that area that I was obsessed with,” Waggoner says. "With this show, I couldn’t stop seeing all of those road barriers. And the more I looked at them, the more I looked at the things that were across the street from them. And usually they were The Read building or The Post and Courier building or that beautiful pink and white laundromat on Meeting Street. And how important those are."
Waggoner’s distinctive style makes use of “that beautiful pink and white” color palette, with the addition of plenty more exaggerated colors to paint the town in. Imagine the colors of Rainbow Row stretched to the edge of the color spectrum and you’re close to the realm of vibrancy with which Waggoner saturates her paintings.
"In college, I would use only black and white or choose colors from a color fan for walls just because I didn’t want the colors to be very intentional, I didn’t want them to matter,” she says. "But here in Charleston, all the colors are just exaggerated Charleston colors.”
A graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, Waggoner began as a graphic designer before moving to process-based painting. But it was a block she encountered, a literal wall, that began to help her find her artist’s voice.
“The first place I sublet in Charleston was on Line and Ashley,” she says. "And there was this gigantic cement wall between my house and all the houses around it. So I was focusing on that barrier in between and feeling a lot of artist block in myself, too. I didn’t know what to do after finishing school.”
But Charleston’s architecture offered the catalyst for her way forward. But it also was the rapid change of the neighborhood’s that spurred her along.
"I cherish so much of the 'old' in Charleston,” Waggoner says. "I’ve been to Rome twice and I think Rome and Charleston have the same feeling for me. You can tell how old it is. And I want to kindly beat it into people that we should appreciate that.”
Any traces of blockage have crumbled, it seems.
Waggoner celebrates the opening of "Slow" from 4-7 p.m. March 30 at Beresford Studios, 20 Fulton St. And for a follow-up, she will be an artist-in-residence at The Gibbes Museum of Art this summer.
For more information, go to beresfordstudios.com/alexwaggoner.
Alex Waggoner can be found online at: alexwaggoner.com.
Reach Scott Elingburg at email@example.com.