Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Henrietta Kennerly is turning 92 in April and is the newest member at Karen's Corner. On April 10, the gallery will not only celebrate her birthday, but celebrate her works with the opening of her showing there.
Located in Mount Pleasant, the gallery will display all of her original Gullah/Geechee/Historical pieces that she has been working on for the last decade.
Her daughters, Bonnie and Angie, and her son, Rodger, have urged her to share her art with the community for years.
All three of her children are artists in their own right. The daughters paint water/acrylic/oil and Rodger welds iron gates and has extensive skills with massive/heavy floral arrangements.
Henrietta's works reflect her historical perspective of the Gullah/Geechee churches, homemakers, farmers, cotton fields, street markets, dances, social events, historical Charleston iron gates that she grew up around.
She was born in Orangeburg County around North and Swansea right after the Depression in 1922. She lived close to and grew up with people from the Gullah community and those memories are held close to her heart.
She paints everything from memory in her home studio at Somerby in Park West.
As she explains her work, she points to one of her favorites, which she calls “Aunt Bernice.”
“She loved her church hats and wore a hat even when she was working,” Henrietta explained. “She was a prissy woman and had a gold tooth,” which is prominently displayed in Henrietta's painting.
“I remember so much of my childhood. So I decided to start painting them. There's the wash woman we called Aunt Annie and paintings I did of our yards, which had no grass back then. We would sweep them with limbs,” she explained.
Henrietta uses bold-colored acrylics to reflect the rich history she remembers so vividly. It's symbolic of her own bold life as a home decorator and florist.
“I didn't ever think I would be interested in painting,” she explained.
“I visited Pawley's Island with my daughter. We stayed with my niece who is also a painter. While sitting in her studio at home, she asked me to paint her a flower, which of course I didn't think I could do.”
At first Henrietta refused them and finally, she gave in. She painted it to amuse the two and then threw the image away and didn't think another thing about it.
But when she got home that next day, her daughter and son-in-law presented her with a canvass of that flower she painted, paint, brushes and everything else she would need to paint.
From that day forward, at the young age of 81 years old, she had a new hobby.
“My eyesight is not great anymore, and I can't play cards or bingo because of it,' she said, “but I enjoy painting. The good Lord looks out for you, you know.”
She often stays up early into the morning, sometimes 2 a.m., working on her paintings. And now those works have been turned into giclees and will be on display. She's done several shows and sold several pieces. Her work has even hung in the Rice Museum. Her family displays her works in their homes across the country.
When she sits down to begin, she simply starts with what comes to mind and does not copy from photographic images of her past. “I just start and it comes out,” she said.
She started a painting of her family at a lake house they once frequented. But with six grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren she began to run out of room to include them all. She's getting creative in the way she will finish that painting now, so as to somehow include everyone. And of course many of the grandchildren have tried to stake claim to the finished product.
Henrietta can not pinpoint where she might have gotten her artistic talent from. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a school teacher. “But back then no one could really afford to have a hobby, much less purchase art from someone,” she said. “People didn't have hobbies. We couldn't afford it. You worked and raised your family.”
View Henrietta's works at Karen's Korner April 10 at 5 p.m., located at 1405 Ben Sawyer Blvd. Visit www.karenskornerframeandart.com for more information.