The Return of the Wanderer

Posted On September 20, 2015

Believe you know Boyd Saunders and the award-winning art he has been creating in the Midlands for half a century? See this Indian Summer show and have your beliefs toppled.

By Rachel Haynie

Boyd Saunders

“The Return of the Wanderer” is the title of McMaster Gallery’s opening exhibition for Fall Semester 2015 and a prophetic label for a collection of 34 pieces that symbolize a visceral return to a piece of fictional real estate, staked out and settled in the mind of the artist.

According to Peter Chametzky, Professor of Art History and Director, USC School of Visual Arts and Design, “The School of Visual Art and Design is thrilled to be hosting this Boyd Saunders exhibition to kick off the fall semester. A pre-eminent printmaker, visual story-teller, and teacher, Boyd has made a profound contribution to art at USC, in South Carolina, and nationally. This promises to be an unforgettable show.”

The pieces Saunders hand-pulled from his aesthetic larder, including a few that usually grace the walls of his Hilton community home, are of myriad sizes and represent the combinations of media in which this retired art professor continues to serve as a benchmark.

Naturally, there are numerous lithographs – for which he is best known – as well as etchings, a watercolor, gouache and giclee, some mixed media and a few acrylic paintings (yes, of course he can paint. He has said painting is one of the fundamental skills that one learns on the way to becoming a printmaker.) Adding another dimension, there also is a bronze sculpture of multiple figures.

“I intended for works selected for this show to be new to the eyes of those who attend,” said the award-winning printmaker. The art community may recall collectively suites of work appearing over Saunders’ distinctive signature: Canyon Wall Suite, the Southern Cross Trilogy of etchings, and the fine art tome illustrating William Faulkner’s “Spotted Horses.” No, works for this show are different pieces.

“The Wanderer pieces were created over a span of time and signal the wanderer returning to a place once well-known, a place where he reflects on what time and distance have done – to both the wanderer and the place.” Saunders, whose work has been described by an art historian as having a “distinctly Southern sense of place,” described how place has informed the collection.

“Most of us have, at one time or another, experienced this sort of homecoming, whether for travel or school, or military service, or perhaps from just living a long life and returning to such a place of familiarity, either temporarily or permanently. I have attempted to explore that idea in art, and in the process I have managed to create my own piece of fictional real estate. Collectively, the works do seem to refer to a particular place or state of mind.” For the art to be called “narrative” does not bother this artist. “Each piece in this show represents an encounter which became part of me. Visual art is, first and foremost, a visual experience. I want to make art that is a feast for the eye, art that is visually enriching as well as intellectually and emotionally stimulating.” At this exhibition viewers will eat with their eyes.

Saunders notes “the oldest piece in the show was done about three decades ago, and the youngest is a lithograph print entitled “Rachel’s Olympia,” which my friends and I printed a few months ago.” This print-pulling exemplified a social aspect the medium affords. “From time to time, some artists who once were my students join me to pull an edition of prints. Everyone commits to a specific task. We work hard and fast, socialize extravagantly, then go and eat together. We have a great time. Over the years my studio has seen many of these happenings, and I cherish the memories of each of them.”

Saunders’ hope for this show, an exhibition for which he returns to the academic building where he taught art from 1965 through the beginning of this millennium? “That as you look carefully at the individual pieces, you will open yourself to whatever you may encounter, and, like the wanderer, return home enriched by the experience.”

“Return of the Wanderer”

McMaster Gallery, University of South Carolina

August 27 - October 9, 2015