Thursday 20 September 2007

Vanished Coasts, part 1: Gulfport, Biloxi, and environs pre-Katrina

Throughout his life, Charles Ambrose kept an artistic record of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, capturing its ever-changing face from the 1950s to the 1990s, whether out painting or sketching by himself, or when conducting private workshops during the years he taught at The University of Southern Mississippi, running Elderhostel art workshops, or teaching at the art department he developed and chaired for William Carey College on the Coast.
The Southern coast was a region much-loved by my father. As a child, I accompanied him on many of his day-trips there to teach, or rambled with him around the boatyards and marinas when on vacation, and he always seemed most at peace near the sea – particularly on the Alabama Gulf Coast: another area that will shortly have its own gallery. Watercolors of this area are perhaps what he is best known for, but they are only one aspect of a multifaceted talent.
Future galleries will reveal the true scope of his work. Meanwhile, however, here are a few images of the Mississippi Coast as interpreted by one who loved it.
Apologies for any odd contrasts in terms of highlights; these are due to the paintings being photographed in non-studio conditions by me...
All images and content are copyright © 2009 by Jamie E. Ambrose

Gulfport. Watercolor, 1983-7. Signed; matted/framed. Unmatted dimensions: approx. 29 by 18inches/74cm x 46cm.

Coast Spanish (GC1). Watercolor, 1983. Signed; matted. Dimensions: 27.25 x 15.5 inches/69.2 x 39.4cm. The ‘wrinkles’ shown are due to the painting being wrapped in shrink-wrap for protection. 'Highlight' at top and reddish shadows are due to faulty photography; the painting itself is in excellent shape and has balanced tones.

Shrimp Dock (GC26) Watercolor and ink, 1982-8. Signed. 22 x 30 inches/56cm x 76cm. The black-ink background was not a technique much used by Ambrose; this is one of perhaps three such in J. Ambrose’s memory.

Live Oaks. (GC2/UK10). Watercolor, circa 1983. Signed. 27.25 x 15.5 inches/69.2cm x 39.4 cm. The live oaks of the Mississippi Gulf Coast held a particular fascination for the artist, who spent many hours observing and capturing their gnarled and twisted shapes. He loved these trees, and it shows in his work.

Three Boats (UK2). Watercolor, 1982-8. Unsigned. 30 x 22.25 inches/76.5cm x 56.5cm. Unfortunately, signing and dating works were not a priority for my father; once he had finished a particular painting or sketch, he moved on to creating a new one. This was partly to do with the fact that many of his works were created while teaching - he painted and sketched alongside his students to illustrate techniques. As a fellow creative, however, I understand the neglect of such details from another perspective. To an artist, especially an artist like my father, the work itself is what matters. While in the process of creation, it is in fact all that matters, to the exclusion of everything else. Yet once the work is complete, that intensity ends, and any dialogue with it is closed.

By the Tracks (UK9). Watercolor, 1982-8. Signed. 24 x 18 inches/61cm x 46cm. There isn't an overall 'blue' cast to the painting, but it's the best I've been able to reproduce thus far.

Do Not Remove This Boat (UK3). Ink, 1982-8. Unsigned. 24 x 18 inches/60.5 x 46cm. One of many unsigned sketches created while out with a student class from Wm Carey College on the Coast. Again, there is no blue/grey cast to this drawing; this is due to photographer error.

Tied Up (UK5). Watercolor, circa 1950s-60s. Unsigned. 22 x 31 inches/56 x 79cm. The older style and the colors used of this work indicate that it was probably created when Ambrose was teaching at USM. (The 'darkness' at the top is shadow.)

Old Courthouse, Gulfport (CH/GC27). Watercolour, 1982-88. Signed. 30 x 22.25 inches (76.5cm x 56.5cm).'Highlight' at top and reddish shadows are due to faulty photography; the painting itself is in excellent shape and has balanced tones.

Carey Campus Boats I (CH/GC007). Pencil, 1982-8. Signed. 16 x 11 inches (40cm x 28cm).