In Working South, renowned watercolorist Mary Whyte captures the essence of vanishing blue-collar professions from across ten states in the American South. These are intimate portraits of workers left behind when jobs are outsourced or replaced by new technology, people who are more related to the “old economy” than the new. They are cotton pickers and textile mill workers, wooden boat builders, crabbers and shrimpers, and tobacco farmers, among many others.
Working South is the product of a three-year project by Charleston-based Mary Whyte, and consists of thirty major watercolors and twenty related watercolor sketches. The theme began to develop in 2007 when she was working on a commissioned portrait of a Greenville banker. While he was posing for sketches, Whyte commented on a newspaper headline about the closing of a textile mill. “In ten years,” said her subject, “all of those jobs may be gone.” That conversation inspired a journey through the South, as Whyte researched and interviewed subjects, developing the studies that would culminate in a series of paintings of hard-working Americans whose everyday labors have gone unheralded while keeping the South in business.
Born in Ohio in 1953, Mary Whyte graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia with a degree in fine arts and a teaching certificate. Whyte is also an avid teacher who conducts painting workshops at locations around the country and has written several instructional books and articles. Her portraits can be found in corporate, university, and private collections, and in museums including the Greenville County Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art. A catalogue, published by the University of South Carolina Press, containing Mary’s personal reflections and stories of her interactions with the various subjects she portrays in her work, will accompany the show.
Click here to view the CBS Sunday Morning feature on Mary Whyte >>
(Running time 7:08)
This exhibition is organized by the Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina.
Sponsored by Danyse and Julius Edel.
Lecture by Mary Whyte
October 4 / 6 pm
Join the artist for an overview of her work including the Working South series. Free to members or with museum admission.
Free Week at the
Invite your friends and enjoy the exhibitions Working South: Watercolor Portraits by Mary Whyte, Low Country Memories: Works by Preston Russell, and Telfair’s permanent collection with a week of free admission.
Sponsored by the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs.