The fascinating exhibit called “Working South”, currently at the Gibbes Art Museum in Charleston, SC, features watercolor paintings by Mary Whyte. In these compositions, she documents the stories of people in the South whose professions will one day no longer exist due to changes in the economy, the environment, industry, and technology. These obsolete professions include textile mill workers, oyster shuckers, ferry boat drivers, shoe shiners, drive-in movie operators, milliners, diner owners, hog farmers, beekeepers, elevator operators, cotton pickers…the list goes on.
I have to say, I love how she captures the essence of one industry’s struggle through a single person. She puts a face to the issue. I respect her even more for not stopping at the stage of documentary photography. Instead, she took her notes from interviews and photographs and then interpreted them into well-crafted, intentionally composed watercolor paintings. Her talent and attention to detail is absolutely incredible. I had no idea people could even do that with watercolor!
To see the entire series, four years in-the-making, check out her book.