Sunday, July 6, 2008

Statement on Painting: Laura Spong

I paint because I love the process of painting. To me, it’s exciting to throw a lot of paint on a clean canvas and then seek to solve the problem of creating order out of chaos. I like it that with non-objective work, nothing is decided for you – no color, no design, no subject matter; the search is wide open.

-Laura Spong

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Resume: Laura Spong

Karel's Green Apples I, 2007
Oil on canvas
12 x 12 in

Public Collections
Greenville County Museum of Art

Corporate Collections
Spring Mills, Lancaster, SC
Sowell, Gray, Stepp and Laffitte, Cola., SC
Prime South, Charleston, SC
The Schneider Company, Greenville, SC
Dunbar, Cola., SC
Womble, Carlysle, Sandridge and Rice, Greensboro,NC
Midlands Technical College, Cola., SC
State Bank & Trust, Cola., SC
Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

Solo Exhibitions
Laura Spong: The Early Works, if ART Gallery Exhibition, Columbia, SC

Laura Spong At 80: Warming the Chill Wind with Celebration, an if ART Exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, Columbia, SC
Carol Saunders Gallery, Columbia, SC
Laura Spong: 80th Year Celebration, Hampton III Gallery, Taylors, SC
In Retrospect: Laura Spong, 1950-2006, USC’s McMaster Gallery, Columbia, SC

Conn Gallery, Landrum, SC

Dream Fragment at Sarratt Gallery, Vanderbilt Univ.

USC at Sumter, Sumter, SC
Carol Saunders Gallery, Columbia, SC

USC at Lancaster, Lancaster, SC
Carol Saunders Gallery, Columbia, SC

Sumter Gallery of Art, Sumter, SC

Richland County Library, Columbia, SC

Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC

Bachman Gallery, Columbia, SC

Cumberland Art Center, Cookville, TN

Group Exhibitions
Abstracted In Nature: Mahrlein, Rudolph, Spong, if ART Gallery Exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, Columbia, SC

Abstract In Nature: Reed, Spong, Walker, Williams, if ART Gallery Exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, Columbia, SC
The Fame Factor, if ART Gallery Exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, Columbia, SC
Group 07, upstairs artspace, Tryon, SC

Ruth Franklin & Laura Spong: A Two Woman Show of Paintings, Vinson Gallery, Decatur, GA
Fish or Cut Bait Gallery, Edisto, SC

Papier – Paper – Papyrus, Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC

Fish or Cut Bait Gallery, Edisto, SC
Women in Black, Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC
8 at 80808, Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC
Against the Grain, Blue Pony Gallery, Charlotte, NC
3 x 6, Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC

Against the Grain
-USC at Lancaster, Lancaster, SC
- Francis Marion University, Florence, SC
- Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC
- USC at Aiken, Aiken, SC
- Women’s Views, Wake Forest University,Winston-Salem

Art for NOW, Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC

Women’s Commitment to Art, Columbia College, Columbia, SC
Six Women Beyond Tara, Gallery 80808, Columbia, SC

Juried Shows
2005 1st Place NBSC Oil Painters Invitational & Traveling Show
2004 NBSC Oil Painters Invitational Honorable Mention &Traveling Show
1987-2000 SC State Fair, Columbia, SC
1999-2000 State Fair Traveling Show
1994-2000 Southern National Florence, SC
1993-2004 NBSC Oil Painters Invitational, Sumter, SC
1994-1995 Hilton Head Art League Show, Hilton Head, SC
1994 Piccolo Spoleto Juried Show Charleston, SC

Gallery Representation
if ART Gallery, Columbia, SC

Karel's Green Apples II, 2007
Oil on canvas
12 x 12 in

Karel's Green Apples III, 2007
Oil on canvas
12 x 12 in

Friday, July 4, 2008

Artist's Statement: Laura Spong

Entry To The Unknown, 2008
Oil on canvas
40 x 50 in

I play.
I am like a child on the floor with blocks.
Arranging, rearranging,
Adding, subtracting,
Delighting in the shapes,
Until the components fall into place
And create a pleasing visual pattern.

I use ancient symbols and phosphenes
To connect with the world in time.
I use bits of forms and shapes I see around me
To connect with the world in space.
But, mostly I play with color.

First of all …

… I like to paint; it is my passion.

My goal …

… is to portray visually, in a non-objective manner, my own inner journey as I
search for meaning and purpose in life.

My hope …

… is through my work a connection will be made between me and those on a similar journey.

One of my tools …

… is the use of symbols because of their universality, both ancient and modern. I like to use them in an attempt to make “the unknown known.” Circles, triangles, spirals, crosses, Xs, and forms from nature have been in used for decorative and symbolic purposes since the earliest times of humankind.

My vision …

... is that everything is connected. All is part of the whole. From a magnificent landscape to a few blades of grass, each is part of the whole and is equally important. My artworks are fragments of that whole that catch my eye, emotions, or imagination.

Pan's Dance, 2007
Oil on canvas
20 x 20 in

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Essay: Laura Spong: The Making of An Artist

Countdown to 10, 2008
Oil on canvas
36 x 36 in

Laura Spong : The Making Of An Artist 

by Wim Roefs, 2006

“Here is a brief ‘catch-up’ on me,” Laura Spong wrote in 1990 to an old acquaintance in Nashville, Tenn., where Spong was born. “After graduating from Vanderbilt, I married Ernest Spong from Columbia, South Carolina, and moved here. We had six children, and I was a housewife and mother until Ernest died in 1973. I went to work as an arts and crafts instructor with the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department for ten years. Then the children grew up and left, the dog died, so I sold the house and resigned my job. I took several nice trips and looked around for what to do next.

“I teamed up with a friend, and she wrote and I illustrated a children’s activity book on South Carolina. Another friend and I tried the antique business. Neither venture proved to be very lucrative for me, so I decided that if I was going to starve, I would starve doing what I had always wanted to do. Be an artist! I went back to school and took some art classes and proceeded to paint full time.”

Spong’s own summary of her life until 1990 confirms the impression many have of her career as an artist – that she didn’t begin to paint until late in life, sometime in the 1980s, not long before she got a studio in 1991 at Vista Studios in downtown Columbia. But already in 1957, just after she had joined the Columbia Artists’ Guild, Spong won with J. Bardin and George W. Gunther the guild’s annual exhibition. As a novice painter in her early thirties, her lacquer-on-masonite painting Three Figures beat out the work of local, even regional mainstays such as Gil Petroff, Catherine Rembert, and Dorothy and Edmund Yaghjian. The prize was a three-person show with Bardin and Gunther at the Columbia Museum of Art. 

“I couldn’t believe that I was in the show, that I got recognition,” Spong says now, “but I didn’t realize, looking back, how unusual it would have been to be in a show like that with university professors and professional artists.” Spong also made juror Lamar Dodd’s cut for that year’s Guild of South Carolina Artists exhibition. There she was in more heady company that included Sigmund Abeles, Carl Blair, William Halsey, Willard Hirsch, David Van Hook, Nell Lafaye and Corrie McCallum. 

Three years later, she won an award at the state guild show, the Artists Guild of Columbia Award. Other winners were Bardin, Blair, Robert Courtright, Robert Hunter, Van Hook, John Waddill and Ed Yaghjian. In 1961, Spong was with Lafaye and George Horn once again a Columbia Artists’ Guild winner, this time with Composition No. 10, earning another Columbia Museum show. “But I didn’t know enough to be impressed with the company I was keeping,” she says. 

These early successes and Spong’s inability to recognize them as such are a telling part of her life long quest to become an artist, both as an occupation and a matter of identity. From the late 1940s, when she took a few art courses as an English major at Vanderbilt University, until the late 1980s, Spong’s art production came in fits and starts. Early on, the rigors of a family with eventually six young children prevented a consistent art career. She took classes at the Richland Art School at the Columbia Museum, mostly with Petroff, and at times entered competitions. But she primarily lived her life as a mother, wife, reluctant Junior Leaguer and “good little girl,” as she puts it.

During most of the 1960s, Spong didn’t paint much. She had teenage kids to take care of. Her decision in the early 1970s to make a go of it again as an artist led to a busy exhibition schedule in 1973, despite personal upheaval. In January of that year, her husband died. Several months later, Spong was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy that prevented a recurrence. “They might not have done a radical mastectomy today,” she says. “But what they did to my body was the least of my worries. I was wondering, what are my children going to do?” After her husband’s death, she had taken the Parks and Recreation job, which she would keep until 1983.

It wasn’t until 1978 that Spong exhibit again. In 1979 she had a solo exhibition at the Little Corner Gallery in Columbia. She also made the cut of a combined, juried exhibition of several Columbia area artists’ guilds. 

In 1983, Spong resigned from her job. She had gotten bored with it, didn’t see eye-to-eye with her new supervisor and thought she was going to get married. She had already sold her house, which had become big with the kids gone and a financial burden, and had planned to join the Peace Corps. Instead, she went to Vienna, Austria, were the man who had proposed lived. But the marriage never happened. “It was obviously not going to work,” she says. “I think he had no idea that I would actually come to Vienna. So I had a lovely European honeymoon all by myself.” 

Back in Columbia, Spong ventured out professionally – sort of. As a paint store clerk, figuring out how much wallpaper was needed for a certain size room was an obstacle. Her aversion against selling expensive clothes for small children didn’t help in a children’s clothing store. As an antique dealer, her inability to remember what she paid for things interfered with profits. Illustrating two activity books for kids didn’t bring in the big bucks, either. And so Spong decided to be a full-time artist.

But she didn’t really think of herself as an artist. “I can’t tell you how long it took me to fill out ‘artist’ on a form,” Spong says. “I just said I was a painter.” It was not just a reluctance to acknowledge that what she painted was art. “First I thought, ‘I am a housewife and mother’, and then perhaps that I was an artist, too. It took me years to say ‘Laura Spong’ instead of ‘Mrs. Ernest Spong Jr’. I don’t have another identity now but being an artist, except perhaps being a grandmother.”

Her initial participation in Columbia’s art scene had not forged an identity as an artist. For one, Spong didn’t hang with the other artists in town. “I didn’t even know any. I was busy. And what I liked was doing it.” 

She was and would be for decades between worlds, one the arts, the other, domestic, not a full or fully committed participant in either. “My place was made for me when Ernest brought me over here, but I just didn’t fit in well.” Raised a Methodist, Spong had become an Episcopalian to please the Spongs – she wasn’t planning to go to church a lot anyway, although she did “to take the kids, help them with their morals.” She joined the Junior League only at her mother’s and mother-in-law’s urging, leaving the organization in 1964, a month after the mothers died. “I don’t play bridge, I don’t play golf, I am not big on doing lunch, but it never bothered me that I didn’t fit in.”

Solitary life came natural. Spong, was shy and timid as a child. “Sixteen years through school without saying anything,” she says. And all her life she wondered about the world, the universe, and how things are connected, spiritually and otherwise. “Even as a child, when I scraped my knee, I would study my knee and thought that maybe in my knee cap there’s a little girl studying her knee, and I wondered whether we all were in a giant’s knee, thinking of those possible connections, how everything in life is connected.” 

In her late teens, Spong signed up with a Bahai’i group but didn’t participate in anything for fear her parents would find out. In college, she took courses in philosophy, religion, literature, Greek and Latin. She thought the one science course a dead end. “They were telling you how the leaves turn. Well, that doesn’t tell you anything.”

Spong’s art reflected her introspective and reflective nature from day one. At Vanderbilt, seeing images of Van Gogh’s and Gauguin’s work had gotten her fired up. In the early 1950s, a modern art exhibition at the Columbia Museum changed her life, she says. “It certainly seemed like the kind of work I wanted to do, and it came from all over the country. It was the most exciting thing I had ever seen.” 

Most of what she knew about modern art, though, including Abstract Expressionism, was by osmosis, and it wasn’t much. But she knew she had no interest in making representational art or communicating the literal. “I have always painted abstract. I have four flower paintings. But then, perhaps the way I paint was my way of staying hidden, of not letting people know what I was thinking.” 

“The three main forces in my life,” Spong says, “were my family, taking care of them, later in life my love for art, and all my life the search for God or a spiritual force, artistic energy.” In her early sixties, Spong at last managed to structure her life around making art and, consequently, pursuing existential questions through her art. She had been taking art classes again since the mid-1980s, ditched her pursuit of jobs she didn’t want, bought a house after renting for years, and began to paint. In 1989 and 1990 she had solo shows in Columbia and Tennessee. She married a man who was supportive of her art but not, it turned out, a good fit otherwise, and separated after a year. In 1991, she got a studio at Vista Studios, which for the first time put her in the thick of Columbia’s art scene.

“I was painting by myself in my house, and I felt that wasn’t all that good for me,” Spong says. “I needed interaction with people.” At Vista Studios, she found artists willing to share expertise. Mike Williams told her which brushes to use and introduced her to liquin, which decreases the drying time of oil paint. Bill Jackson showed her how to build good stretchers. Anne Bjork was helpful, too, Spong says, and Heidi Darr-Hope initiated her 1993 solo exhibition at Vista Studio’s gallery space, Gallery 80808. 

Getting the studio was a breakthrough. Being around other artists kept Spong informed about exhibition opportunities and led to group-show invitations. And simply being at an art hub gave her more exposure than ever. And so her life as a working artist, and an increasingly renowned one, took off. Spong became a regular at statewide and regional art exhibitions, frequently winning awards. Local media paid attention to her, favorably. She had solo exhibitions in Columbia and elsewhere in South Carolina and at Vanderbilt University. When a local artists’ group, Osmosis, asked her to join and exhibit with them, it gave Spong a real boost of confidence. So did Columbia’s Carol Saunders Gallery’s invitation to show there. Other galleries in South Carolina, Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta followed. 

Some thirty five years after her first successful but brief burst onto the Columbia art scene as a novice among some of the area’s most legendary artists, Spong’s halting career came to bloom among artists many decades younger than her. And life as an artist made Spong more at ease and fit in better. “I think that as I have grown older and have been willing to share more with people, I have felt more connected. I am not so worried anymore about what people think about what I think. Now I am older and I want to have a voice.” 

Wim Roefs is a free-lance writer, independent curator, and owner of if ART, International Fine Art Services, in Columbia, S.C.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chronology: Laura Spong

Antoni, 2007
Oil on canvas
24 x 24 in


Born in Nashville, Tenn., as Laura Miles on Feb. 20

Takes a studio art class at Vanderbilt University, audits another one, and takes an art history class

Graduates cum laude from Vanderbilt University as an English major.
Marries Ernest Maye Spong Jr., on June 4, 1948, and moves to his hometown, Columbia, S.C. Her husband was a general contractor, working first for his father’s company, then for another one.

Gives birth to twin sons Bennett Jared and Blakeney DuBose

Give birth to daughter Mary Katherine

Gives birth to son Ernest Maye III, “Trey”

Gives birth to son Thomas Miles

Takes art classes at the Richland Art School at the Columbia Museum of Art on and off until the early 1960s, primarily with Gilmer Petroff but also with J. Bardin and Jean McWorther 

Joins Columbia Artists’ Guild at Gil Petroff’s urging and will do three stints as the organization’s secretary

In May is with J. Bardin and George W. Gunther one of three award winners at the Columbia Artists’ Guild Spring Exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art. Spong’s winning painting is Three Figures, lacquer on masonite, priced at $75. 

Has one work selected for the Guild of S.C. Artists’ 7th Annual Jury Show in November at the Columbia Museum of Art, juried by Lamar Dodd. Among others included were Sigmund Abeles, J. Bardin, Carl Blair, William Halsey, Willard Hirsch, David Van Hook, Nell Lafaye, Corrie McCallum, Gil Petroff, Catherine Rembert, Dorothy Yaghjian and Edmund Yaghjian.

In February is in a three-person exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art with the two other 1957 Columbia Guild Exhibition winners. “Ms. Spong is the surprise member of the trio,” The State (Columbia, S.C.) wrote, “with remarkable paint and structural quality plus a sensitive palette of beautifully harmonious color appeal.” 

Has two pieces in a Columbia Artists’ Guild Spring Show at the Columbia Museum of Art: “Mobile Abstract,” priced at $100, and “Spring,” $75, both lacquer on masonite.

Exhibits with J. Bardin at the Nashville Centennial Club. Nashville reviewer Louise LeQuire wrote that Spong was developing a personal style, applying “a somber palette leaning toward grays in a way which adds a dimension of tautness and restraint” in contrast to Bardin’s “extensive use of blues and greens juxtaposed.” Spong’s “technique of lacquer on masonite adds an unifying textural effect to her work. There is a sameness in all the paintings which might become an inhibiting factor. The artist has completed all of her three paintings within the past year, so that perhaps a style has been completely exploited. It will be interesting to see further developments in her work.” 

Gives birth to son Joseph Kershaw, “Kerk”

Wins Artist Guild of Columbia Award with Abstract I, lacquer on masonite, priced at $100, at the Guild of S.C. Artists’ 10th Annual Juried Exhibition in November, juried by the former director of the Guggenheim Museum, James Johnson Sweeney. Also had Abstract III ($45) and Abstract VI ($75) in the show. Other prizewinners included J. Bardin (Alt-Lee and Blossom Shop Award), Carl Blair (Carolina Ceramics Award), Robert Courtright (Webb-Rawls Art Center Award), Robert Hunter (Windsor Newton Prize), Merida Frederick (Columbia College Purchase Prize), George Owen (Belk Department Store Award), David Van Hook (Columbia Museum Purchase Award), John M. Waddill (Clemson College Purchase Award) and Edmund Yaghjian (Rose Talbert Paint Company Award).

Wins with George Horn and Nell Lafaye the Columbia Artists’ Guild Spring exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art with Composition No. 10, lacquer on masonite, priced at $150 

In October has three-person show with the other two Columbia Guild winners at the Columbia Museum of Art 

Takes care of her family; is a club scout den mother; is a Sunday school and Christian education teacher at Columbia’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral; works most summers for two to eight weeks at Camp Country Lad for boys in Monterey, Tenn., mostly running errands, taking care of sick kids, supervising the dining hall and helping in the kitchen, which she runs in 1968 and 1972. She also volunteers as a docent at the Columbia Museum of Art.

In July takes a job at the S.C. Department of Archives and History, restoring and laminating old documents. Works there for 18 months

Has paintings accepted to the Springs Mills, Guild of S.C. Artists and Columbia Artists’ Guild exhibitions

In January her husband dies.

In February-March is part of exhibition of six Georgia and South Carolina artists at Bailie’s Gallery in Augusta, Ga. 

In March takes a job as a recreation specialist at the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, first part-time, then full-time. She’ll keep the job until 1983. She is responsible for arts and crafts programs in Columbia city parks, supervising two to four other recreation employees. She also produces special events such as the Earlewood Park Mini-Festival, Christmas Crafts Shows, Halloween Hullaboos and other park festivities and demonstrates crafts mediums at workshops and festivals such as May Fest, Hootenanny and City Fiesta. As a frequent guest for six years on “Columbia A.M.” a local television program, she demonstrates arts and crafts ideas to publicize her department’s programs. In 1979, as the city’s “Employee of the Month,” she receives two passes to the Irwin-Fuller Theatre of her choice and tickets to Hiers Dinner Theatre on Main Street. During her employment with Parks and Recreation, she occasionally takes art classes at the University of South Carolina, including an oil painting class with Jim Steven and ceramics with Bruce Schultze.

Enters painting in Springs Mills annual art competition 

In March-April has paintings in the Columbia Artists’ Guild Spring show with, among others, Roy Drasites, Mana Cochran Hewitt, Eva Carter, Suzy Farrell, Harry Hansen, Guy Lipscomb, Jean McWorther, Philip Mullen, John O’Neil, Boyd Saunders, Truman Teed, and Candy Yaghjian. Spong’s lacquer painting Yellow Suspended was priced at $150.

In May donates three paintings to a Heathwood Hall Guild fundraiser that she prices at $30, $100 and $150. She continues to contribute paintings to fundraisers throughout her career, not in the least because, she says, she would “feel so honored that they asked me.”

In July, two weeks after her job became full-time and health insurance kicked in, is diagnosed with breast cancer and has a radical mastectomy 

As a crafts specialist is involved with the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation’s easy-to-make Christmas decorations program

In November enters two paintings in the South Carolina National Bank’s oil painters’ competition

Has an exhibition at the Little Corner Gallery, Rose Talbert Paint Co., at Forest Drive in Columbia. Her 25 paintings ranged in price from $90 to $400, the majority being priced at less than $200. Sells five paintings for a total of $765, $255 of which goes to the gallery. Local reviewer Martha Beaver called the compositions “well thought-out and coordinated” and detected a pattern in one painting that kept her eye “moving from one point to another with excitement.” Spong, the reviewer wrote, “makes cubism easy to understand and a delight for everyone…” 

Is selected for the Columbia Museum of Art’s first Guilds Juried Exhibition that includes work from members of the Artists’ Guild of Columbia, the Trenholm Artists Guild, the Dutch Fork Art Association and the Artists Resource Forum. Juror Roy Slade, president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., was unimpressed with many of the submissions, which, he wrote, “showed lack of genuine ability and, too often, (were) derivative in subject matter, technique or style of expression.” He lamented the virtual lack of sculpture, ceramics, fiber and other media as well the many cases of “insensitive presentation” through “over-elaborate or overpowering” frames. Others who made the cut included Nancy Albertson, Angela Bradburn, Eleanor Brown, Eva Carter, Ray Davenport, Toni Elkins, Steve Hewitt, David Lackey, Nell Lafaye, Meg McClean and Wendyth Thomas. 

In a Dec. 17 article in The State newspaper, Spong and Rann Ackerman are featured as crafts teachers at the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation for making nativity scene figures from bottles, bowling pins and other discarded day-to-day items.

Creates an edible mosaic for the Artists’ Guild of Columbia’s supper party on Friday, Jan. 22, at the Columbia Museum of Art. Others creating food art included Mana Hewitt, who created two blue fish from pound-cake, and Meg McClean and Leslie Alexander, who created a food train of beef stick, olives, carrots, oranges, mushrooms, egg yokes and other food items that won best in show. 

Resigns from her job at the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation

Sells her house and rents living space until she buys a new house in 1989

Produces with Margaret Jones Gibbs an Educational Activities Book, a coloring book for children about South Carolina, published by The Greenville (S.C.) News-Piedmont. The next year, Spong and Gibbs produce a similar book for North Carolina, published by Unique Ideas, Inc., in Charlotte, N.C. In the 1980s, Spong also works in a paint store and has a short stint in antiques.

1980s, second half 
Takes drawing classes at Columbia College with Steve Nevitt and art classes at the University of South Carolina with Harry Hansen

Paints portraits to generate income, using photos and a projector.

Has an exhibition on the fourth floor of the Seibels Bruce building on Lady Street in Columbia that local reviewer Jeffrey Day said was “worth the trip.” The oil-on-canvas paintings in the show ranged in price from $150 to $850. 

In February marries David Johnson; separates from him the next year; divorces in 1993

In July has a solo exhibition at the Cookeville Art Gallery, Cookeville, Tenn., sponsored by the Cumberland Art Society. Prices for her oil-on-canvas paintings ranged from $200 to $800. 

Gets a studio at Vista Studios, which was established in 1990 in Columbia’s downtown Vista district. Others working there included Mike Williams, Heidi Darr-Hope, Frances Perkins, Lyn Bell Rose, Robert Kennedy and Anne Bjork.

In the summer returns to Camp Country Lad for boys in Monterey, Tenn., now to be the crafts supervisor. She continues to do so each summer throughout the 1990s.

In September, during Columbia’s Artista Vista art walk, is part of a group show at Vista Studios of artists associated with Trinity Cathedral’s Environmental Task Force. Others in the show included Jim Steven and Eleanor Byrne. Artists showing at other Vista venues, including Meteor Gallery on Lincoln Street, included J. Bardin, Edward Wimberly, Gunar Strazdins and Kim Keats.

Is selected for the annual NBSC Oil Painters’ Open Invitational Exhibition, which opened in March at the Sumter (S.C.) Gallery of Art. Others included were Stephen Chesley, Suzy Farrell and Mildred White.

Has a solo exhibition at Vista Studios during April’s Artista Vista. Her prices ranged from $125 to $900.

Has a solo exhibition of works on paper at the Beckman Art Gallery on Calhoun Street in Columbia

In October is included in the annual Springs Industries Art Show, held at the National Guard Armory in Lancaster. Best of show went to Mike Williams. Other artists included were Stephen Chesley, Jack Gerstner and Scott Hoffman.

Shows at Vista Studios during Vista Lights in November with other Vista Studio artists including Mike Williams, Carol Barks, Bill Jackson, Brent Wahl, Brooks Myers, Janette Grassi, Ruben Gambrell, Robert Kennedy and Brent Davenport

Is part of “Concepts of Drawing,” a January exhibition of Vista Studio artists at the venue’s Gallery 80808. Others in the show included Ethel Brody, Ruben Gambrell and Brent Wahl. 

In September–October has an exhibition at the main branch of the Richland County Public Library in Columbia. Prices for oils on canvas varied from $1,200 for a 36” x 36”painting to $450 for 16” x 20”; Spong sold one painting of 24” x 30” for $700.

In October is part of “Six Women Beyond Tara” at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios in Columbia with Carol Barks, Ethel Brody, Cindi Giddings, Janette Grassi and Frances Perkins 

In February has a solo show at the Sumter (S.C.) Gallery of Art. The 22 paintings ranged in price from $300 to $1,400

In March wins third place and $350 in the NBSC Annual Oil Painters Open Invitational Exhibition at the Sumter Gallery of Art, judged by Rick Gruber, then of the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Ga. Second place winner was Carol Jones White of Sumter, and first place, Lindsay O’Neil of Columbia. Others in the show included Aldwyth, Eva Carter, Stephen Chesley, Ray Davenport, West Fraser, Colin Quashie and Mike Williams. The Sumter Item reviewer called Spong’s awarded painting “clearly the work of a very talented artist.” Spong herself said the painting was “a testament to my willingness and desire to spend large amounts of time arranging the formal elements of painting into an engaging design.” 

Wins $75 and an honorable mention in the 19th BB&T–Florence (S.C.) Museum State-Wide Art Competition Exhibition in February. Others in the show included Marcelo Novo, Margaret Carter, Suzy Farrell, Al Beyer and Angela Bradburn.

In April–May has a solo show at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. Prices ranged from $700 to $1,500.

In April–May has an exhibition with Eddie Bryan at Carol Saunders Gallery in Columbia, which Spong had recently joined

The Schneider Company in Greenville, S.C., adds two of Spong’s paintings to its collection.

In January is included in the 20th BB&T–Florence Museum State-Wide Art Competition Exhibition, won by Mary Bentz Gilkerson. Others in the exhibition included Bryan Hiveley, Ethel Brody, Pat Callahan, Janette Grassi, Dee Hansen, Harry Hansen, Guy Lipscomb, Rose Metz, Marcelo Novo, Carol Pittman, Edward Shmunes and Mike Williams.

In February–March is in “Art for Now,” a group show at Vista Studios with seven other women, including Margaret Carter, Suzy Farrell and Angela Blackburn.

In February–March is part of “Woman Art: A Woman’s Commitment To Art,” a group show at Columbia College in Columbia that also included Cass Brucker, Deborah Lengel, Frances Perkins, Lindsay O’Neil and Janette Grassi.

In March wins third place and $350 in the NBSC 17th Annual Oil Painters’ Open Invitational Exhibition at the Sumter Gallery of Art. First place winner was Ann Anrrich. Other winners were Jennifer Lynn Smith, Stephen Chesley, James Innes and Frances Perkins. 

A March article in the Free Times weekly in Columbia by Teri Tynes calls Spong “one of the Midland’s hottest painters” because of the flurry of exhibitions she’s in. The exhibitions show Spong’s “numerous talents,” Tynes wrote. “In most of her work a family of colors dominates the canvas… The end result is a sophisticated and complicated visual image.”

In the spring joins Hodges-Taylor Gallery in Charlotte, N.C.

Forms the artists’ group Osmosis with Eileen Blyth, Michael Dickens, Jeff Donovan, J. Christopher MatyJasik and Tom Ogburn 


Is selected for the Florence Museum’s 21st State-Wide Art Competition Exhibition, won by Mary Bentz Gilkerson. Others in the show included Deane Ackerman, Pat Callahan, Tom Flowers, Janette Grassi, Steven Jordan, Rose Metz and Boyd Saunders.

Is part of “Ninefold Journey: Women’s Views – The Winter Exhibit” at Wake Forest University with Susan B. Bidwell, Carol Weisberg Burgess, Maggie Clark, Lynn B. Hutchins, Dottie Moore, Marianne Mylet, Elsie Dinsmore Popkin and B.F. Reed. Prices of Spong’s oil-on-canvas paintings ranged from $800 to $3,000.

In March has an exhibition with Osmosis at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios in Columbia. In “Against the Grain,” the group shows woodcut prints, a new medium to many of the participants, including Spong, who told reviewer Teri Tynes that at first “she fussed, kicked and screamed through the whole thing.” Tynes in Free Times wrote that Spong’s pieces “evoke the respect for the fragments found in nature and the imagination.” The exhibition traveled to the University of South Carolina Lancaster in September–October.

In October has one painting accepted for “Fall for the Arts,” an exhibition organized by the Sumter County (S.C.) Cultural Commission

Is selected for the juried traveling exhibition of the South Carolina State Fair Juried Art Exhibition, which traveled to six venues from November 1999 through August 2000.

In January–February has a solo show, “Fragments of the Whole,” at the University of South Carolina Sumter. The prices of her work range from $800 to $3,500.

In March is part of “Eight at 80808,” a group show of work by women artists, at Gallery 80808 in Columbia. Others in the show are Suzy Farrell, Angela Bradburn, Frances Nelson, Margaret Carter, Laura Dickson, Anna Kay Singley, and Bev. T. Williams. 

In February–March is selected for the Florence Museum of Art’s 22nd “State-Wide Art Competition Exhibition.” Others selected included Deanne Ackerman, Pat Callahan, Toni Elkins, Mary Gilkerson, Steven Jordan, Guy Lipscomb, Rose Metz, Alex Powers, Boyd Saunders and Edward Shmunes. 

In April–May shows with Osmosis in the Blue Pony Gallery in Charlotte, N.C., with the exhibition “Against the Grain”

In August–December is part of the “Expressions Art Exhibit” at Davidson County Community College in Lexington, N.C. Other artists in the show included Teresa Prater, Eileen Blyth, Eleanor Craig and Jeff Donovan.

In September–October has an exhibition with basketmaker Clay Burnette at Carol Saunders Gallery in Columbia

In October–November is part of Osmosis’ second group exhibition, “3 x 6”, a show of triptychs at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. The show traveled to Francis Marion University in Florence, SC, in August–October 2001.

Is selected for the juried traveling exhibition of the South Carolina State Fair Art Exhibition, which in December starts a tour of six venues. Others selected include Will Barnes, Betty Bramlett, Chris Robinson and Alvin Staley.

In May joins the new Fish or Cut Bait Gallery in Edisto, S.C.

In May–June has a solo exhibition in the Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., her alma mater. Prices for her oil on canvas ranged from $900 for 24” x 30” to $5,000 for 48” x 58”.

In September is the guest artist of the Guild of Charlotte (N.C.) artists, where she presents a slide presentation 

In the fall joins I. Pinckney Simons Gallery in Beaufort, S.C. 

In March is part of another “Eight at 80808” show of women artists at Gallery 80808 in Columbia

Is selected for the 21st NBSC Annual Oil Painters’ Open Invitational Exhibition, which opens in February at the Sumter Gallery of Art and travels to half a dozen other venues. First place winner was Alvin Staley. Others in show included Al Beyer, Ray Davenport, Colin Dodd, Jon Nelson and Kizzi Alicia Staley.

Is among the artists whose work is purchased for Midlands Technical College’s new Center of Excellence for Technology in Columbia. Phil Moody, Philip Mullen and Mike Williams were the others.

In September is part of an art sale benefit for the S.C. Philharmonic at Vista Studios in Columbia. Others artist involved included David Yaghjian, Liisa Salosaari Jasinski, Mike Williams and Susan Dingman.

In September is part of “Papier – Paper – Papyrus,” a group show at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios in Columbia with Lynne Burgess, Richard Conn, Jeff Donovan, Liis Salosaari Jasinski, Gene Speer and Mike Williams. 

Has a solo show at the Conn Gallery in Landrum, S.C., January through early March 

Wins $100 for an Honorable Mention in NBSC’s 22nd Annual Oil Painters’ Open Invitational Exhibition, which opens at the Sumter Gallery of Art in February and travels to four more venues. Other winners are Dennis Snell, Kaytee Esser, Nancy Davidson, Alvin Staley and John Nelson. Spong’s work is one of the few abstracts in the show.

Is among the artists whose work is acquired for the new Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Others artists included were Mike Williams, Virginia Scotchie, David J.P. Hooker, Peter Lenzo, Tyrone Geter, Jean McWorther, Blue Sky and the One Eared Cow glass blowers.

Wins first place and $800 in NBSC’s 23rd Annual Oil Painters’ Open Invitational Exhibition, which opens at the Sumter Gallery of Art in February and travels to four more venues. Other winners were Deborah Tidwell-Holzcheiter, Al Beyer, Jim Finch, Barbara Alston Yongue and Alvin Staley.

Is selected for the April exhibition “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a juried exhibition to raise funds for the S.C. Philharmonic, at Vista Studios in Columbia. Others in the show included Jason Amick, Jill Allen & Andrew Hayes, Stephen Chesley, Pat Gilmartin, Susan Lenz and David Yaghjian.

In October joins Gallery 5 in Rock Hill, S.C.

In February is in an exhibition with Ruth Franklin at Vinson Gallery in Decatur, Ga.

In February has her 80th birthday celebration exhibition at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, organized by if ART, International Fine Art Services of Columbia. Simultaneously, she has an exhibition at Carol Saunders Gallery in Columbia. 

In May–June is part of a group exhibition at Fish or Cut Bait Gallery in Edisto, S.C., with the group of women painters from Columbia that she has exhibited with regularly 

In July has a retrospective exhibition at the University of South Carolina’s McMaster Gallery, curated by gallery director Mana Hewitt

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Biography: Laura Spong

LAURA SPONG (American, b. 1926)

Laura Spong (American, b. 1926) is among South Carolina's best non-objective painters. Except for a few urban landscape scenes, still lifes and figurative paintings, mostly done as art-class assignments in the 1950s, Spong has always produced non-representational, Abstract Expressionist paintings. In the last few years, Spong has dramatically increased her reputation in her state and beyond with a series of solo exhibitions and several group shows, including a retrospective at the University of South Carolina’s McMaster Gallery. Her 80th-birthday exhibition in 2006, organized by if ART Gallery in Columbia, S.C., came with a 32-page catalogue, Laura Spong at 80: Warming the Chill Wind with Celebration. In 2007, a dozen of Spong’s paintings were in a group exhibition at the Greenville County (S.C.) Museum of Art, which bought one of her works. That same year, the South Carolina State Museum purchases two of Spong paintings, one recent and one from the 1950s In 2006, the South Carolina State Art Collection had also purchased two of her paintings, including one from the 1950s. Spong’s recent leap forward in acclaim has renewed interest in her work from the 1950s and 1960s both among private collectors and in the museum world. In 2007, if ART Gallery organized an exhibition of Spong's early works.