Spoleto 2016 » Visual Arts

Tim Hussey's latest exhibition, Listing, uses found words as inspiration

Ordinary Made Extraordinary

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"This is it," says contemporary artist Tim Hussey of his current exhibition, sweeping his hands from one side of his studio to the other. "Unless I freak out right before the show," he adds. By freak out, Hussey means that he may alter some of his paintings, large canvases featuring dark shades of blue and green, pops of orange and red, and handwritten text.

"I've been here since 5 a.m.," he says of his new studio, located at 1102 King St., a former grocery store. "I'm like a kid before Christmas." Hussey generally gets excited about his work, but Listing presents a new reason for celebration — it's the first art show being held in his studio. He opened this past February, when he announced that he would no longer show in galleries. Hussey tells me that he thought it was time for him to creatively move forward on his own, and also, he simply didn't want to give a percentage of his earnings to galleries any longer.

This is also the first show where Hussey has employed someone else to paint with him, James A. Greene, a hand-drawn letterer based in North Charleston. Hussey emphasizes that he and Greene are not collaborating on this project, but rather he is integrating Greene's hand-written lettering into his paintings. Greene came to Hussey's studio and painted words on canvas for a day, and since then Hussey has painted over the words, leaving some fully exposed, allowing a few to peek out, and completely covering others.

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Hussey grew up seeing Greene's hand lettering all over Charleston, and it currently graces the outside of his studio with the phrase, "Fabulous ELLEN BRIGHT Hall," marking the building's former use as a reception hall. He knew he wanted to use a local artist's lettering in this project, so he asked Greene to help him out. "We were super honest with each other," says Hussey of his work with Greene.

"I don't expect anyone to be able to read that," says Hussey of a canvas that originally had visible words like "legs" and "descent" painted by Greene. Hussey shows me the pages of a textbook where the words come from — they describe a landing on Mars — along with seven other snippets of old books. These found items, or, found words, are the inspiration for Listing. Hussey compiled a list of compelling words by listing ones that seemed to make sense together, then toying around with how they sounded. Hence, Listing.

And it doesn't matter if you can see the words that Hussey has chosen — he believes that the energy that goes into the written word is still present in each painting. "These books are unknowingly contributing to something about life. It's letting life talk to you," he says.

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