I am fortunate to belong to a group of a half-dozen volunteers who give tours of contemporary art exhibits at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston. In November and December 2013, the Halsey hosted “Tales of the Conjur Woman” by Washington D.C.-based artist Renee Stout. Stout is an accomplished contemporary realist and narrative artist who has spent decades studying the African roots of African-American practices like hoodoo. http://halsey.cofc.edu/exhibitions/renee-stout/
Learning about her work sparked my interest in Lowcountry lore, in particular Gullah Geechee ghost stories.
One story grabbed my attention—the tale of the boo hag.
According to Gullah tradition, the boo hag is a tortured spirit that sucks the life force from a sleeping person in the middle of the night and uses it to build herself a shell of a body covered with skin.
I had an idea for how the sleeper, the hag, and an old hound dog might interact one night, and this became the subject of a new art project I have in mind, a narrative in 6 or 8 panels. I figure the way that night goes down could be a lot different with a canine in the mix.
The original impetus for this project was a competition in which artists’ proposals were requested for a new venture, “Charleston Supported Arts.” http://charlestonsupportedart.com/about/
Modeled after the popular community supported agriculture movement, this initiative matches art collectors, who purchase “shares,” with selected artists who agree to produce an original piece of art for each share holder. While my submission was not selected this inaugural year, there will be other opportunities, and the program will expand if local art lovers embrace it. More and more cities are trying this grass roots approach to connecting artists and collectors. In the meantime, I am so taken with Old Blue and the Boo Hag, that I will complete the series and I may try auctioning it a panel at a time on Ebay, something I’ve been wanting to try.
The boo hag offer lots of artistic possibilities, sometimes utilitarian ones. Here is a red headed variation, the Appalachian granny witch. She has rhododendron sticks for fingers; actually her hand is a wall hook for hanging jackets and so forth. She lives up at our place in the mountains, next to the back door.