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Manning native artist showcases “Greatest Show” in Lake City


Renowned artist Tarleton Blackwell, a native of Manning, is currently featuring his latest exhibition, “Tarleton Blackwell’s Greatest Show,” at the TRAX Visual Art Center in Lake City. The exhibition runs from June 21 to August 17, with viewings available Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The exhibition, deeply rooted in Blackwell’s Southern heritage, presents a vibrant array of paintings inspired by his experiences growing up in rural South Carolina. “As a native of Manning, my visual world is populated with hog farms, opossums, foxes, roosters, wolves, pit bulls, and cats but also with images inspired by my experiences as an art instructor, embalmer, funeral director, and as a devoted fan of the seventeenth-century Spanish School of painting,” Blackwell shared.

A significant highlight of the exhibition is “The Hog Series,” where Blackwell draws inspiration from Diego Velasquez’s seventeenth century works. Velasquez depicted court jesters and dwarves with dignity and respect, a theme Blackwell extends to his portrayals of hogs. He aims to evoke a sense of dignity and respect for his subjects while integrating personal experiences and narratives into his work.

In a reflective conversation, Blackwell shared insights about his childhood. Raised in a family of educators, his mother was a second grade reading teacher and his father a brick masonry instructor at a technical school. “Brick masonry is its own kind of art,” Blackwell noted when asked about the portrayal and teaching of art in his home. Being the youngest of five children, he was heavily influenced by his older brother, a portrait artist, and a sister who also graduated from Benedict College with an art degree.

Blackwell, born in 1956, is a distinguished alumnus of Benedict College and the University of South Carolina, where he earned both his Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees. His multifaceted career includes a degree in Funeral Service from Gupton-Jones College and extensive experience as a funeral director and embalmer.

Throughout his career, Blackwell has garnered numerous accolades, including the prestigious “Teacher of the Year” award at Scott’s Branch High School and the South Carolina Arts Commission’s “Individual Artist Fellowship Award.” His artwork has been showcased in prominent exhibitions across the United States and internationally, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

One of his notable contributions to the art world includes a portrait of Sir William Osler, commissioned for Osler’s former residence in Oxford, England, and featured on the cover of “Sir William Osler An Encyclopedia.” Additionally, Blackwell’s life-size group portrait of the founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., permanently displayed at the sorority’s national headquarters, is acclaimed nationwide.

Blackwell’s influence extends beyond his artistic creations; his impact as an educator is significant. He has taught at various institutions, including South Carolina State University and the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts. In 2018, he retired from teaching at Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton.

For more information about the exhibition or to schedule a visit, contact the TRAX Visual Art Center at 843-374-0262. Tarleton Blackwell’s works promise an engaging and thought-provoking experience, reflecting his rich personal history and artistic journey.