In celebration of Black History Month, the ARTworks gallery is featuring the work of acclaimed Gullah artist Johnnie Simmons. Simmons is a self-taught pyrography (wood burning) artist and painter who lives near Yemassee, SC. Aside from being an artist, Simmons is a Vietnam War vet, 2nd generation pastor, and retired school bus driver. All of these various facets of Rev. Simmons life are expressed in his work. He first began creating art as a form of therapy when he was suffering from PTSD as a result of his military service, and almost all of his works incorporate quotations from the Gullah Bible, making them expressions of his deep faith. In addition, Simmons has created a wholes series of pieces featuring the school bus that he used to drive as well as other cars and trucks that caught his attention. Although all of the pieces draw from Simmons’ Gullah heritage and traditions, deep faith, and pride in his community, some contain humorous depictions of chickens and other farm animals with captions that seem to be the thoughts of the creatures depicted. These colorful and quirky images are so engaging and full of energy that they almost jump off of the boards they are painted on. In fact, his work has become so recognizable and coveted that Simmons was one of only six self-taught artists featured in a 2012 ETV documentary, “Uncommon Folk,” which aired in conjunction with an exhibit of their work at the S.C. State Museum.
In addition to the exhibit, Rev. Simmons will teach a class, Creating Folk Art With Pyrography (wood burning) and Paint” at ARTworks on February 21st from 1 to 3:30 p.m.Through this class, Simmons says he hopes to inspire others to find joy by discovering their inner artist as well by using a wood burning tool and paint to create depictions of the people and places in their own lives.
If you go: The gallery exhibit runs from February 6th through March 7th at The Arts Council Of Beaufort County’s ARTworks Space, 2127 Boundary Street, in the Beaufort Town Center shopping plaza. Gallery hours are 11am to 6pm Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4pm on Saturday. An opening reception will be held on February 6th from 5:30 p.m. to7:30 p.m. The class is designed for ages 16 & up and will be held on February 21st from 1 p.m. to 3:30pm. The cost is $65 per student, which includes a wood burning tool, paint, and the choice of one wooden object to decorate. Advance registration is required through the ARTworks office at 843-379-2787.