Sins & Virtues

West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg, SC will host this October what will undoubtedly be one its most extensive and thought-provoking exhibits in its history, the creations of two members, who based their 3-D and 2-D artwork on the Seven Deadly Sins and the corresponding Seven Virtues.

Co-op members Annette Giaco and Beth Regula will present their exhibit “Sins & Virtues,” a collection of eight sculptures and eight large canvases, Oct. 2-31, 2018. Giaco will depict the seven sins on large canvases and an eighth piece on board. In response, Regula will depict the corresponding virtues in mixed-media sculptures. At no charge, the public can view this exhibit Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public reception will be Saturday, Oct. 6, 6-8 p.m. The artists will host a discussion about their work at 7 p.m. Another reception will be held during the city’s monthly ArtWalk on Thursday, Oct. 18.
The Seven Deadly Sins -- lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride -- have long been used by the Christian church as the core sins to be avoided at all costs. Their history -- with some variations -- can be traced to ancient Greece and the philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). The current list was devised by Pope Gregory I in 590 AD. The list gained widespread acceptance at the hand of the Italian poet Dante (1265-1321 AD) in his literary work Purgatorio. Since then, it has withstood the test of time and has been the basis for many works of art and Christian teachings, including the popular horror/drama movie “Seven” (1995) and referenced by modern-day ministers, such as Billy Graham.

In contrast and in opposition to the Seven Deadly Sins are the Seven Virtues -- chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. These virtues also have their roots in ancient Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Plato, however, the original virtues and subsequent variations were slightly different with strong religious aspects. They gained widespread acceptance when Christian governor Aurelius Clemens Prudentius published his epic poem Psychomachia, prior to his death in 410 AD. After Pope Gregory established the Seven Deadly Sins, today’s version of the Seven Virtues was universally adopted.

As artists, Giaco and Regula were inspired by the book Tribe, by Sebastian Junger. “In his introduction, Junger talked about what we could learn from tribal societies about belonging, loyalty, and the meaning of our existence,” Giaco said. “He went on to say, ‘Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.’ The human need for more of everything at the expense of all that matters prompted me to use the deadly sins to illustrate the unraveling of common human decency and intelligence. The constant bombardment of opinions on Facebook about politics, religion, gun control, abortion, race, gender, whatever, also had a lot to do with the exhibition concept. Everyone has a right to an opinion on these important issues, but disagree with anyone, no matter how founded in fact, and out come the pitchforks and torches.

“My representations of the seven deadly sins are not meant to preach religious values,” Giaco continued. “The church used these symbols and the threat of hell to keep an illiterate and superstitious public under control. My version of the sins is a statement about the loss of intellectualism and the growth of ignorance fueled by our quest for excess in all things. Recent events have only thrown more fuel on that fire by granting a kind of ‘permission’ to vocalize hate or become violent. The best description of us that I have heard is a ‘culture of cruelty.’ We all have the capacity for goodness, but our tribal disconnect coupled with the immediacy of technology has created a monster feeding on misinformation. Everyone thinks their ‘side’ is the only ‘side.’ There isn’t enough civil dialog or exchange of facts with the hope that we may change the climate with more understanding and intelligent thought. We have become morally confused.”

Each of Giaco’s paintings represent one of the deadly sins. All of the oversize canvases are stained with a color that is associated with a sin. In keeping with her signature style of distortion, Giaco created message-based works of art that ignite the imagination, such as her take on greed, which is titled Never Enough. Here she divided her canvas horizontally, with an envious yellow over hellish red. In the depths of hell, pallid arms reach upward into the void, only to receive a fat bullfrog leaping stupidly to its doom. This body of work was done on raw canvas using acrylic stain.
“My reaction, as an artist when confronted with something I cannot understand is to express my thoughts about what I am feeling in a visual way,” Regula said. “The works in this exhibit are my personal attempt of understanding society and my place in it. Although I could despair about what I feel we are becoming and what the future generations will inherit, it is not a natural feeling for me but hope is. For every sin of man there can be a corresponding virtue. The virtues of kindness, chastity, temperance, diligence, forgiveness, humility and charity. Every generation has probably thought the same about what is happening to their world but those with vision and hope for the future are the ones to move it forward. We have to find the right balance. Our leaders of the future need to have a sense of virtues/sins as they guide the citizens of tomorrow. Whether we like it or not, we are on the planet together and for that reason alone we are a tribe that must learn to exist together. We have to talk with each other, listen to each other, care for each other, use technology as an aide, and take care of the planet, Earth. This exhibit is an exhibit of extremes. Mankind is not all bad or all good. My representations of virtues is an idealistic view. Somewhere in the middle is where I like to think most of us live.”
Regula is renowned for her mixed-media sculptures that tell complex stories. Characteristically, they are often lyrical, intricate, colorful, organic, and optimistic. To illustrate her counterpoint to lust, she created a large mixed media disk that is both worldly and intimate. In Forsaking All Others, a virginal bride and groom stand at an earthy altar, surrounded by blooming flowers and lush woodlands. The backdrop in the center is a never-ending road, lined with blue sky and budding trees. The betrothed are exchanging symbolic keys, and the entire work is pulled together by two green leaves at the top, as if the overall image is a piece of ripe fruit ready for picking.
“My need to do this body of work was inspired by my personal need to make sense of the world around me,” Regula said. “A world that is becoming alien to my nature. We are becoming polarized in our opinions: There is no allowance for a different point of view. We are letting technology feed our brains instead of using technology as a tool for creative thought. We are becoming more and more isolated from each other. We had rather talk via a device than face to face. Texting takes the voice away. No involvement required; quicker; easier. We are too often driven by the worst of man’s desires – lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth greed, vanity, and envy. We no longer have the feeling that we are in this together. It is all about me and what I need. They are not my problem.” Seven of Regula’s works are relief wall sculptures; one is a stand-alone sculpture.
Giaco was born in Alexandria, LA in 1956 and completed her bachelor’s degree at Louisiana Tech and post-graduate study at LSU-New Orleans in Urban Demographics. She studied art in California, Louisiana, and Rome, Italy with an emphasis on painting. Professionally, her career was in newspaper publishing as Director of Print Quality for Gannett Company. Her publishing background included the use of graphics software such as Photoshop. This tool plays a part in the method she uses to distort and prepare images during the planning stages of each painting and drawing. She's most known for her distorted figures. She is the Marketing Chair for the West Main Artists Co-op and is a member of Tryon Painters & Sculptors. Spartanburg Art Museum recently acquired one of her pieces into its permanent collection. She is one of the participating artists featured in Lighten Up Spartanburg. Her giant light bulb, Mawu Sun-Light, is installed on Main Street and Daniel Morgan Ave.
“I use the figure to explore human emotions and transitional states,” Giaco said. “The seven pieces depicting the deadly sins were a huge departure for me in terms of materials and techniques. Each raw sheet of canvas is stained with acrylic paint in the color that signifies a specific sin. In some instances animal symbolism associated with the deadly sins was also used. It required planning and fast application of paint and water to achieve the desired results. The edges are ragged and raw befitting bad behavior. My signature style of distortion is also evident in these compositions." For more details about Giaco and her art, please visit online aGiacoArt.com.
Regula is a South Carolina native and earned her college degree from Winthrop University. She has been an art educator in schools from the foothills of South Carolina to the coast, with a brief time in Atlanta designing computer based manuals and training programs. In 1983, she married her husband, Dennis, and has since pursued a career as a professional artist. Her work can be found in numerous private, corporate, and museum collections. The techniques used to create her works were self-taught through experimentation with numerous materials but all are based in a sound knowledge of traditional painting, drawing, and sculpting techniques. She is the Chair of West Main Artists Co-op’s Management Board.
“As I view the world around me, I see everything as moving lines,” Regula said. “The crossing, intersecting, and lyrical flow of the lines form the basis of my work. I rarely draw from real life. I use my impressions of life as the basis of my work. I constantly make pencil sketches that are inspired by nature, world events, life and death. As I sit with a pencil and paper, I interpret life as it occurs to me in line drawings. These are more mind drawings than life drawings. Quick line sketches are the beginning of each piece. How the work evolves from these sketches is determined by the materials used. I use wood, paper, fabric, string, clay, and paint, as I turn the pencil sketches into the work that I produce. In most cases, realistic images can be determined in the work but the recognition of what the viewer is seeing or not seeing is secondary to the overall image.”
West Main Artists Co-op is a membership-based non-profit arts agency, housed in an old Baptist church. It has more than 50 members of which about 30 have studio space at the 20,000-square-foot facility. Its members include a variety of artists, such as quilters, jewel makers, clay potters, painters, photographers, printers, videographers, and performers. Each month, the agency has three new art exhibits by its members and guest artists. It has the largest collection of local art that is readily available to the buying public. It is one of Spartanburg’s leading arts agencies, often drawing large crowds to the monthly ArtWalk.
For more information about “Sins & Virtues” and West Main Artists Co-op, please visit online WestMainArtists.org.

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