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Gallery 120 | July Featured Artist
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Gallery 120 presents J. Michael Simpson’s “Moving in Place: No Place in Time” Art Exhibit. Public reception Friday, July 7th.
J. Michael Simpson will be exhibiting his paintings of white-water rivers at Gallery 120 in Clover, South Carolina from July 3rd through the 31st.  Simpson, originally from Illinois, lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  

He recalls as a child growing up in the flat farm lands of Illinois where he felt free to roam the fields and woods near in his rural home.  As it is with many of us, it took him a lot of growing up to realize how important experiencing that kind of freedom and wonder is.  Only after finishing his M.F.A from Illinois State University did he realize how deeply his search for an artistic identity was embedded in those sublime moments of childhood curiosity and discovery.  He believes that “those experiences moved him to pursue the Sublime as an aesthetic.” 

During the late 1980s, Simpson taught at Auburn University in Alabama.  During that time he explored the inherent sublime qualities of various white-water rivers across the country.  The artist points out what he believes makes his work successful, “To me, my fascination with the downstream movement of the rivers is what moves me and captivates my audience.” By 1988, his paintings of the rivers began to receive notice:  an Alabama State Grant in Painting, a residency at the Millay Colony of the Arts, and visiting artist at the Arrowmont School for the Arts.  His work was placed in the collections of such corporations as IBM, Tropicana, and First Union Bank (Wells Fargo).  Career opportunities led him to the Ann Arbor-area of Michigan where he taught at Eastern Michigan University.  Eventually, the snow got the best him.  He moved to Rock Hill, South Carolina where he taught at Winthrop University and, more recently, at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  According to Simpson, “As luck would have it, I fell in love with a nearby river.  It has suited my painterly needs for the past decade.”

Simpson’s early work used memory and photography to recall information from various rivers to form his paintings. He tells the story of how he switched from film cameras to digital video to collect images to make his paintings. “During a 2005 residency at the McColl Center for the Visual Arts, I asked to borrow the center’s digital camera to photograph the Saluda for paintings at the Center. A digital camera was not available, so I was loaned a digital video camera.  The use of their camcorder changed everything. With a film camera I typically would take 72 photos each time I visited the river.  Since digital video records 30 images per second, 72 images is just over two seconds of video. So, instead of bringing back 72 images, I could, using a camcorder and an editing program, bring back 25 minutes of video for a total of 495,000 images. That visualizing potential was as sublime as the river. More, it was if I could re-live those original moments on the river in split second intervals. ”  

The work in his exhibition “Moving In Place: No Place in Time” is a product of his use of video as a source for his work.  Simpson takes video of the white-water turbulence, brings it to the studio and selects one-second portions from the raw footage.  There are nearly 30 still images in every second of video.  He chooses 4 or 5 of those images that, in his mind, suggest a sublime moment.  Those images are then projected on canvases and painted.  

Simpson admits the process of obtaining the images is somewhat mechanical yet it serves to connect him to his childhood explorations and love of the out of doors. However, his painterly intentions are very poetic.  For him, “The paintings are metaphors for those sublime moments that press our understanding of the brevity of human existence against the incessant flow time.”    

A reception will be held for the artist on July 7th from 6:00 till 8:00 p.m. at Gallery 120 in the Clover Community Center, 120 Bethel St., Clover, South Carolina.  To learn more about the artist, visit


Town of Clover    |   116 Bethel Street    |   Clover, SC 29710    |   Phone: 803.222.9495    |   Fax: 803.222.6955
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