In keeping with annual tradition, the SC Office of Rural Health commissioned a rural artist to create a unique piece of art to be used as this year’s annual awards. Newberry artist Robert Matheson, a recent transplant to South Carolina, traveled the state to create an image that reflected the place and the work of each winner. All are 8”x10” mixed media acrylic paintings on masonite panels.

This is his artist’s statement:

The 2020 Office of Rural Health Award paintings were inspired by my recent work with the Art of Community Rural SC Mavens program. I am a Creative Connector in Newberry County working to identify, support and promote local artists and makers.. Through this network of Mavens throughout rural SC, I’ve learned invaluable lessons about community development and documentation through art. Painting the awards presented an opportunity to explore and document some of South Carolina’s rural gems.

My art is inspired by people and places of Newberry County. I suspect each awardee also feels this connection to the communities they serve. I wanted this feeling of connectedness to be felt each time the recipient viewed their award. My wish for the families receiving posthumous awards is to see beauty in what their loved ones contributed to these communities. Health and well-being is perhaps the most important thing to focus on in life, aside from that which is paramount – love. Life is a struggle. Those who dedicate themselves to improving the health of others and relieving suffering are the greatest among us. These awards are well-deserved and I congratulate and thank them all for their service to rural communities in South Carolina.

For those interested, my process for painting each award began with researching the geography and history of each area. This included Union, Clarendon, Richland, Fairfield and Sumter counties. In the case of FoodShareSC, it involved many areas of the state, hence the painting of the Palmetto Tree. I added texture to each painting panel using torn up maps meant to symbolize connectedness and add texture. Yellow Ochre was used to tone each panel, giving them that Carolina golden glow. I then travelled to each area. I wandered main streets and back alleys searching for my own connection. Each place has its own personality and charm. In almost every town there was beautiful architecture, often featuring a historic courthouse or some type of clock tower soaring above beautifully decorated storefronts. My paintings are a loose interpretation of these architectural icons including the Clarendon County Courthouse, the USC Medical Center (steeple), Union County Courthouse, Sumter Opera House and the Winnsboro Town Clock.

Thank you to the Office of Rural Health for the opportunity. Thank you also to the South Carolina Arts Commission: Art of Community Rural SC program and to each award recipient for their inspiration. #keepcreating

Find Robert on Facebook and Instagram (@robertmathesonart).