Lowcountry Originals 2023

Zenalisa0723July 2023 Issue
photography by Cassidy Dunn Photography

Art: Fabric Art; Mixed Medium
Career: Public School Transportation
Lives in: Greenville, SC (former resident of Beaufort)
Hometown: Marion, SC
Family: Three awe-inspiring daughters; One extraordinary grandson; and six remarkable granddaughters

When and how did you discover your artistic talent?
It was in the late 1980s when I first became aware of my talent to sculpt! I created a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for my daughter’s elementary school display in honor of Martin Luther King Day. According to all spectators, it was an astonishing likeness! I remember the rants and raves about how talented I was. Still, I didn’t get it yet! I couldn’t be an artist! So, I tucked it all away.

Sometime around the late 90s to early 2000s, I started creating more, mainly out of necessity! One example was the design on my daughter’s field day shirt. I couldn’t afford to buy the school shirts, so I drew and enhanced the design on some “value pack” white T-shirt! To my surprise, everyone spoke enthusiastically about my design, but I was ashamed I couldn’t afford the school shirts! After some time, I realized it was indeed a lot nicer. That’s when I finally admitted I had talent!

But Artist…? That came some years later! I discovered that right here in the Lowcountry. In 2021, I literally set out to “find my place on the planet!” In my desperate search, I drove to a town called Beaufort in consideration of a job! In just one visit, I knew this was it! The whispering artist in me, was now screaming to be discovered in Beaufort’s aesthetic atmosphere!

How did you choose this medium?
Choosing this medium goes back to the bust of Dr. King. It was a revelation of the gift inside me! My hands, my heart, my soul, and this block of clay, which didn’t seem worth much, formed the likeness of a beautiful human being that so many admired greatly! I accidentally entered the “Zone” back then. It has since become my comfort zone.

What do you hope people “get” or see when viewing your work?
Possibly, since the dawn of time, it has been declared: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I believe we each have an eye for what makes something beautiful, valuable, and even more worthwhile to us! I love my expression!

“It’s as if every single blade of grass has its own angel leaning over it, whispering grow, grow, grow, and that single blade of grass will break through concrete to reach a source of light.” This powerful quote from the Talmud reminds me to live from the light of my soul. My soul whispers one simple instruction: “Enhance!” To me that means always heighten in value; continue to increase in worth; and further improve in quality all that my hands, heart and soul are graced to touch.

The gift comes in understanding my WHY. I believe we all have something more to contribute to the beauty of all that already exists. We can heighten the value of a moment in time with those we love, we can increase in worth of genuine kindness to others, we can be more intentional about further improving the quality of life in our circle of influence. We all came here with gifts, and I believe our pieces somehow all come together to exhibit beauty beyond measure!

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome? Did your art help you through?
The greatest challenge I’ve had to overcome was a lack of self-confidence. I had situational confidence, but I often played small to others. My enhanced art is key to sustaining high levels of confidence. I create all my art in the “Zone!”  I live in the “Zone,” and there are no walls or ceilings there, only an air of confidence!

There’s something about the story of Michelangelo finding the perfect marble stone, and then “chipping away everything that wasn’t David.” In some ways, I see this as a metaphor both for my art and my life. I find the perfect piece of art, as I see the beauty it will become. I then enhance it to the perfect image I see. Likewise, I liken myself to the perfect marble stone; I chip away thoughts or mindsets daily that are not the Art of Me!

What’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t done yet?
I’ve always wanted to hike the terrains of Mount Kilimanjaro! Someday, I will! Care to join me?

What encouragement do you have for those who are just beginning to pursue their artistic selves?
In all honesty, I feel I’m just beginning to court my artistic nature. At this point on my journey, my advice is don’t play small! Art comes from the Art of You, rather it’s the beauty you behold and the beauty you create! It is the connector of all souls!

See her work at the Gullah Art Gallery/Museum at the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce, 711 Bladen St., Beaufort, SC.