Review: Local artists’ work compelling

The work of two Lowcountry artists filled every corner at the cozy Four Corners Art Gallery & Fine Framing in Old Town Bluffton during the opening reception for the gallery’s latest show.

On Nov. 15, the enthusiastic crowd moved among the nearly 50 pieces of artwork created by Louanne La Roche and Martha Worthy. Most of the guests were themselves artists, gallery associates and art appreciators, but there were plenty of friends and neighbors, too. Attendees greeted one another, discussed the work and enjoyed refreshments while they took cover from the fine droplets of a fall mist under a festive blue tent.

La Roche’s “Water Lillies and Koi” stopped me in my tracks. The 4-foot-by-4-foot acrylic painting gives a bird’s eye view into a Koi pond. The piece is based on a pond LaRoche saw on a visit to the Asian Museum in Pasadena, Calif.

“I used my camera to hold that moment,” she said. “I knew as soon as I saw it. Though most of my work is based on Lowcountry images, I wanted that setting to be the subject of one of my paintings.”

I got a closer look at a cluster of pieces by Worthy. “Heron and Alligator” and “Pineapple/Birds” — both in acrylic and both 3 feet by 4 feet — are characteristically Worthy. She frequently uses a close-up look at unusual fruit, flowers or vines as backgrounds for humming birds, herons, kingfishers or doves. She plays frequently with proportion and perspective and features detailed features, eyes, beaks and reptilian skin.

A space opened up to a south wall, so I moved past the crowd in that direction. There, La Roche talked to attendees about her 4-foot-by-5-foot painting, “Bluffton Oysterman.” I found the color, size, composition, detail and, in places, lack of detail compelling.

As I slid through the main gallery, Worthy’s “Pelican with Morning Glory” caught my eye. So did La Roche’s charcoal pieces on heavy rag paper, particularly “Under the Old Oak Tree” and “Grits and Ham.”

La Roche has always been an artist. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 1977 and moved to Hilton Head Island. She purchased Red Piano Gallery, which she directed until 1995. Since then, she has remained involved in the arts.

Worthy’s story is quite similar. From her earliest years, she was interested in art. She graduated from the College of William & Mary, and throughout her life has maintained her fascination. Both women have a long list of workshops, collections, commissions, national media recognition and exhibitions.

They partnered up for the Four Corners Gallery show after several painting trips to Anderson Ranch in Colorado.

“We make it a priority in our schedules to set aside that time and drive up North for some designated painting time,” Worthy said. “I think the idea of pairing our work in a show kind of came out of that very special relationship.”

What a show Worthy, La Roche and gallery owner Charlene Gardner have created. It runs through Dec. 10 and is not one to miss.


“Bluffton Oyster Man,” painted by Louanne La Roche.

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BY NANCY K. WELLARD November 21, 2013