Written by Pressly Giltner
ay is the month we celebrate Mother’s Day, so I asked our featured artist, Introducing D. Pierce Giltner, if I could ask his absolutely adorable wife, Pressly, and mother of his equally adorable daughter, Pearl, to interview him for the Breeze. He agreed and I think you will find this fun and a bit different. So let’s get up close and personal with Introducing D. Pierce Giltner.
What brought us to Bluffton?
A new chapter in life . . . and Babbie Guscio. We decided that life was too short not to live in a great place, especially when you have a beautiful daughter like Pearl. It is a shock being here and we’re stunned at how awesome everyone is in Bluffton. Sorry we’re not local, but we’re grateful to be here. Good Karma and good people are in Bluffton.
You have a different background than others, can you explain?
Well, I came from a broken home with no direction in mind. After graduating, the only thing I had was a good work ethic. So, I immediately picked up a hammer and started working with a contractor who became my mentor and I learned the carpentry trade. Learning the right way, not the wrong way. I worked with him for about 15 years and in the last five years we’d begun timber framing. I quit in March of 2007 to work on my businesses full time. So my educational background is BYU, “back yard university.”
You have changed and progressed quickly in so many positive ways since we met as adults six years ago. What are some of the catalysts for these leaps in learning?
Yes, one of the biggest changes was when I met Tom Hall. He opened my eyes to a different meaning in life and he is one of my greatest inspirations. We opened a bluegrass venue in Chester County, one of the best venues in the southeast and that is when I was introduced to Panther’s Breath (moonshine). Near the closing of the venue, I met his sister and my biggest inspiration, Pressly. It was the night of Acoustic Syndicate and we had a half gallon bottle of Panther’s Breath. It all went on from there. We were in love, deep love. We were immediately inseparable and started our life together living in a cedar structure on the South Fork of Fishing Creek in the middle of nowhere in the woods. The structure had no walls, only a roof. It was like a house because we had the kitchen, dining room, living room, and a loft as a bedroom. It was great! We took baths in the creek; enjoyed mother nature. I had no job at that time and Pressly would drive to New York City to work on photo shoots for a week at a time and drive right back to the shelter by the creek. We were in love and we didn’t care about a thing. Because things must come to an end, even really good things, the rain drove us out of there. We kept getting stuck driving in and out.
Thank you, love. You inspire me daily. When we moved to the Ponderosa that was wonderful too.
Oh God...that place was magical! We moved out there when Pressly and I eloped on top of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Like Fishing Creek, it was very secluded, but the Ponderosa did have running water (you run outside and get it), walls and an outhouse. It was 576 square feet with a wood stove. The house was too small, so I built an outdoor studio behind the house. We lived there for about 3 years and they were the best years of our life. We had to move because Pep was pregnant with Pearl and a pregnant wife with an outhouse does not combine well.
True. Let’s get on the subject of art. I refer to you often as a gifted child of art. You received no formal training, except one year of after school art class when you were twelve taught by my Mom. You are the most creative person I’ve ever met, and you are making a career as an artist. Tell how your career began.
I remember I was so broke at one time that I started off with renderings of people’s homes in Rock Hill, going from door to door to sell. Didn’t sell one. Then when we were living at Fishing Creek, there was a show in Columbia, so I sat by a lantern and created three watercolors and two pen and inks. Didn’t sell those either. A year later when we were living at the Ponderosa, I made an outdoor studio and created 5 paintings of 3 blues musicians, a slave lady and Curtis Cherry painted on old wood with house paint for the same show in Columbia and sold out. That’s where it all began.
You always seem to come across luck, especially when you met Pat Kabore.
Yes, She is a wonderful lady, a well-known black printmaker in the U.S. I was lucky to meet her and absorb all of the energy and knowledge she has. She’s about 70 years old and grew up across the street from Miles Davis, and the list goes on.
That was wild, eh?
Yes, I met her at my first outdoor festival and that’s when our relationship began. She introduced me to the so-called “Art World,” teaching me how to run a business as an artist, the dos and the don’ts. She was a mentor and more of a mother figure to me and very strict. She would call me up on Sunday while Pep and I were watching a movie and ask “Whatcha doin?” I would say, “Watching a movie.” “WELL GIT UP AND START PAINTIN’ NOW!!!!”
Not knowing any better, I had been painting with house paint on old tenant house wood and then she introduced me to the fundamentals of art, and what paint to use, such as golden acrylic. She knew everything, because she had already “been there and done that.”
Around this same time, you were painting blues musicians, but then you started on a new subject. What made you switch subject matters?
I was painting nothing but blues musicians. Though I always wanted to paint something that was relative to the tenant houses where I got the wood to paint on and that’s when the series of paintings “Life of a Tenant Farmer” started.
You’ve been to festivals and shows where black people walk up and connect that it’s a white artist creating black art. Then they’ve asked what do you know as a young white artist about slaves and tenant houses that lived in that period. What is your reply?
It’s pretty bizarre, but there is a connection. Hopefully the people who read this can come to my show at Shell Hall Plantation and hear about it and see the series. To sum it up, I save the wood from derelict structures, document and record the history, and paint on the wood. I’m preserving the past to present to the present.
Joe Adams called you a visionary artist. People call you an outsider artist, and still more call you a folk artist. Which label is most accurate to you? Visionary, folk or outsider?
Well, on my first interview when Dan Huntley asked me if I’m an outsider artist, I said, “Yeah, I paint outside. I have an outdoor studio behind my house.” I didn’t know what the real definition was at the time.
What is this talk about a gallery without walls on Calhoun Street?
Over the years the prices of the “Life of a Tenant Farmer” series have increased highly due to obvious reasons. That series is targeted to private investors and collectors. On the other hand, I began my career as a folk artist creating the blues so I’m going to head back in that direction.
So what will you sell in the gallery without walls on Calhoun Street if not the “Life of a Tenant Farmer”?
The Gallery is called “Bluffton Blues, Folk Art and Fishing Lures” or “Lures and Landmarks”. I’m going to start painting Bluffton landmarks.
Tell me more about these fishing lures.
We’ll see you on May 10th.
www.dpiercegiltner.com is the website for his art. www.cedarstacker.com is the website for the rustic installation business called Cedarstacker. Please look up these websites to learn more about Pierce’s art and life and wood works of art.
Introducing D. Pierce Giltner
May Art Schedule
May 10, 2008 - Village Art Festival, Bluffton
May 23-25, 2008 - Piccolo Spoleto, Charleston
May 30, 2008 - One Man Show Artist’s Reception,
The Club At Shell Hall, Bluffton