With West Fraser being our home town hero, he gets two months as our featured artist! During July and August we will be featuring his latest works as well as participating in the August 1st Charleston Gallery Association First Friday Artwalk. Welcome to the Summer of West!
Before we dive in to West beyond his CV, let’s recap all the things you most likely already know about West.
West Fraser was born in Savannah, Ga. and spent his first decade in Hinesville, Ga. When he was about ten years old his family–three brothers, mother and father–moved to Hilton Head Island, S.C. where they would stay. Growing up watching the changes that development made in an environment helped to shape how West would look at and navigate the world. His love of history was nurtured first by his father, Joe Fraser, and later by his uncle, Charles Fraser. As he says in the dedication of his second book, Painting the Southern Coast, “My uncle, Charles E. Fraser shared his intellectual curiosity and showed me how to ‘think outside the box.’ My father, Joseph Bacon Fraser, Jr., shared his passion for the outdoors and taught me about a good work ethic, humility, and strength of resolve. … Most important he helped me believe in myself.”
From a young age, West knew he loved to paint and was fortunate in that there were a few people who chose to live in Hilton Head who could mentor him in how to make it as an artist. Celebrity illustrator, Coby Whitmore, just happened to live down the street and the families became fast friends. It was due to Whitmore’s influence that West’s parents came to realize that there were ways for their artistic son to earn a living and survive in a very difficult career. And survive he did.
West’s work can be found in many prominent museum collections including The Gibbes Museum, Spartanburg Museum, The Johnson Collection, Morris Museum of Art, and Laguna Art Musuem. He has been honored with nine solo museum exhibitions, the most recent was in conjunction with his second book published by the University of South Carolina press, Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser. The exhibit was held at The Gibbes Museum and featured work from the book as well as personal sketch books and several studies of larger pieces.
After Hurrican Hugo devestated Charleston and the surrounding area, West left the studio and took to painting en plein aire. “I was starting to be dissatisfied with working in the studio, I was anxious to be outdoors…I started painting on location from life. I first went ona short journey with a friend on his sailing vessel: I wanted to determine if AI could travel on a journey, make paintings, and have a marketable product. It worked, and I never looked back.” For almost thirty years he spent most of his time painting outside–in all kinds of weather, in all kinds of places. Although he is still called to the marshes and streets of different cities, most of his work now is completed in the studio allowing him to create larger pieces and add more details, but it all has its roots in the years spent wandering through the land with his easel on his back.
Part II of the Summer of West coming soon! Stay tuned and learn a little more about West Fraser beyond the CV.