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The Arts > Visual > SEWE



by Allyson Sutton

For the Traditionalist: Vivian Boswell

For three days each February, downtown Charleston is filled with hunting dogs, birds of prey, and outdoorsy types decked out in leather boots and Barbour jackets. And while it might look like they’re filming a remake of Jumanji, these crowds fly south each year for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, or SEWE, a weekend celebration of wildlife, nature, and conservation. The largest event of its kind in the nation, SEWE welcomes nearly 40,000 attendees each year, eager to learn from wildlife experts, enjoy gourmet culinary experiences, and see highly-trained pups show off their skills.

But SEWE isn’t just fly fishing demos, oyster roasts, and dock dogs. Launched in 1983 as solely a wildlife art show, the Expo is now one of the largest wildlife art events in the country, and an international destination for collectors and creators of the genre. This year, over 125 distinguished wildlife artists will travel to Charleston to show their works, including renowned rock artist Stephen Townley Bassett and fine art painter Michelle Decker, both from South Africa.

For the Dog-lover: 2019 Featured Artist Lou Pasqua

“Even as the event has grown, we’ve always remained steadfast to our roots,” says Natalie Henderson, SEWE Art Curator. “Art is the heart and soul of SEWE.”

During the Expo, visitors can peruse hundreds of original works in a range of mediums, spanning from pastel and oil paintings to intricate wood carvings and sturdy steel sculptures.

“When we’re curating the show, we make sure all the art is nature-inspired,” says Henderson. “Within that, we’re able to get a pretty vast range of styles and subject matter.”

For the Safari Collector: Grant Hacking

This year’s schedule includes an array of ticketed and public art events, including an opening night party at the Gibbes Museum featuring works by master sporting arts painter Ogden Pleissner. Dealers and collectors can vie for antique decoys and 19th-century wildlife paintings during private auctions led by Boston-based Copley Fine Art Auctions, the world’s premier sporting art auction company. And art enthusiasts can browse works for sale in the Fine Art Gallery at Belmond Charleston Place or the SEWE marketplace at the Gaillard Center.

Each year, SEWE also chooses a featured artist through a juried selection process, a unique honor and a chance to earn international acclaim.

“We know about two years out who’s coming down the pipeline,” says Henderson. “We always want to make sure that the work is distinctive each year.”

For the Traditional Sculpture Collector : Stefan Savides

Previous featured artists have included Kathryn Turner, whose watercolor and oil paintings capture the wild spirit of the West, EzraTucker, a Colorado artist who creates old-world portraitures of animals, and Grant Hacking, a South Africa native who paints vivid depictions of American and African big game. This year, the selection committee chose Pittsburgh-based painter Lou Pasqua.

“Lou is a brilliant sporting artist,” says Henderson. “As an avid outdoorsman, he’s spent a ton of time with and has very intimate knowledge of sporting dogs. We haven’t had a dog as the featured work since the ‘80s, so it’s fun to go back.”

Pasqua’s featured painting, “Little Havoc,” will be auctioned off at the signature gala.

SEWE 2019 Featured Artist Lou Pasqua, ‘Little Havoc’

February’s event also highlights two guest artists, Maryland-based bronze sculptor Walter Matia and Wyoming-based bronze sculptor Sandy Scott.

“The artists we work with are passionately involved with their subject matter. If you see work by a sporting artist, chances are they are a hunter or fly-fisher,” says Henderson. “So many of them are conservationists, so there’s a mission behind what they’re doing, too. It’s very rewarding to be able to promote their work.”

As SEWE continues to grow both in attendance and notoriety, the programming has evolved beyond traditional art shows and auctions, making wildlife art—and SEWE’s larger mission of preservation and conservation—accessible and relevant to new audiences.

“We’ve started incorporating more contemporary wildlife artists,” says Henderson. “Patricia Griffin’s work has a major ‘wow factor’ and Carrie Wild has a fantastic, vibrant style. Larry Moore painted an amazing series called ‘Intrusion’ which brings a really fresh perspective to wildlife art. It’s been fun to incorporate these new interpretations of the genre.”

For the Contemporary Collector: Larry Moore

Attendees looking to experience wildlife art beyond the gallery walls can check out high energy events like the Quick Draw and Speed Sculpt, a fast-paced competition that gives artists one hour to paint or sculpt an original piece, or the Live Action Auction with YETI, an exciting live-painting event featuring artists Ryan Kirby and Chad Poppleton painting epic outdoor scenery on the brand’s signature coolers.

Another major arts component of SEWE is the “Host an Artist” program, a donor opportunity that helps provide hotel stipends for visiting artists.

“This was the brainchild of our Executive Director and it’s been really successful,” says Henderson. “So many of our artists come from across the country and the costs can add up. Hyatt has been a great partner to make the trip more accessible.”

For the Contemporary Sculpture Collector: Eric Tardif

Beyond the three-day event, SEWE organizes several arts-education programs, including Junior Duck Stamp, which integrates wildlife and nature education with a visual arts curriculum, Kids for Conservation, a Tri-County student art competition, and Artists in Schools, a unique opportunity to bring the wildlife artwork of SEWE into the classroom.

“These programs are such a great way to spread this movement of wildlife art education outside of the event,” says Henderson. “Artists in Schools has even grown internationally, with some of our South African artists working with schools in their local communities.”

To learn more about the 2019 Southeastern Wildlife Exposition or SEWE’s year-long arts education programs, visit:

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Posted in Visual on January 28, 2019 (Winter 2019) by Matt Mill.

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