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Working South

Paintings and Sketches by Mary Whyte

Mary Whyte

Publication Year: 2012

In Working South, renowned watercolorist Mary Whyte captures in exquisite detail the essence of vanishing blue-collar professions from across ten states in the American South with sensitivity and reverence for her subjects. From the textile mill worker and tobacco farmer to the sponge diver and elevator operator, Whyte has sought out some of the last remnants of rural and industrial workforces declining or altogether lost through changes in our economy, environment, technology, and fashion. She shows us a shoeshine man, a hat maker, an oysterman, a shrimper, a ferryman, a funeral band, and others to document that these workers existed and in a bygone era were once ubiquitous across the region. "When a person works with little audience and few accolades, a truer portrait of character is revealed," explains Whyte in her introduction. As a genre painter with skills and intuition honed through years of practice and toil, she shares much in common with the dedication and character of her subjects. Her vibrant paintings are populated by men and women, young and old, black and white to document the range Southerners whose everyday labors go unheralded while keeping the South in business. By rendering these workers amid scenes of their rough-hewn lives, Whyte shares stories of the grace, strength, and dignity exemplified in these images of fading southern ways of life and livelihood. Working South includes a foreword by Martha Severens, curator of the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Working South is not only the title of a recent body of work by Mary Whyte, but also a metaphor for her personal transition from the North to the South. Through her art and sincere personality, she has worked her way into the hearts and minds of southerners, whether natives or recent arrivals. ...

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pp. xv-xvi

Every day I thank God for blessing me with the ability to paint. Painting is a solitary business and, for many artists, including myself, there are always numerous people behind the scenes, doing everything except hold the brush. My husband, Smith Coleman, has been and continues to be alongside me every step of the way and is my greatest source of encouragement. ...

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pp. 1-9

It started with a news paper article. I had driven to Greenville, South Carolina to paint a portrait of a bank president and was staying in one of the large hotels in town. The portrait would require a couple of painting sessions, but the bulk of the work would be done back home in my Seabrook Island studio. ...

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The Paintings

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pp. 10-83

There are two hog farms left in Laurens County, South Carolina. Locals swear that the Bobo family’s pork chops are the best in the state. The Bobo farm is spread wide, over a series of soft hills that join together and slope down to a pond ringed by tall trees. ...

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The Studies

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pp. 84-108

At night Georgia state highway 96 is blacker than the inside of a boot. Along its many miles there are a few sporadic street lights, and, on the left and right, there is nary the tiniest yellow dot of a house window. I am heading home, with my leather bag next to me on the front seat, containing my paints, camera, and sketchbook. ...


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pp. 109-110

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172010
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039676

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2012