Pink and the color purple

Pink House 17 Chalmers StreetPink is big in Charleston. Think of Pinckney, as in Charles Cotesworth, or even better, his mother, Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) probably the first important agriculturalist in America, who has an amazing story that tells of her cultivation of Indigo, the color purple. Lots of people in the Carolina Lowcountry have the nickname Pink, not from the color, but the family, and they are proud of it. Pink, the color, is here in Charleston, too, the hue of many of her houses. It’s an island color, its message visually complementing the cerulean blue of the sky, and reminding us of the roots of many of Charleston’s original settlers who came from Barbardos.

Pink House at No. 17 Chalmers Street, is one of my favorites. It is a small and unassuming house, one that was built about 1712. It is said to have been tavern in the center of Charleston’s ‘red light’ district, and may have been used by “practitioners of the world’s oldest profession”. It is the oldest stone building in Charleston and some say, the oldest standing tavern in the whole South. For me, the little house has the quality the French call, une belle laide, a phrase that we do not have in English but one that means ugly beautiful. It’s a quality artist’s are attracted to, one that the painters, and the poets, found in the weathered and crumbling beauty that inspired the prolific work of Alfred Hutty, Josephine Pinckney, DuBose Heyward, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, Julia Peterkin, Edwin A. Harleston and many others during the Charleston Renaissance, the period between the World Wars.

For me, for an artist, color is a language in itself; my own work is expressive and vivid. For blues musicians, the color blue describes the flavor of the sound, their sorrow, the ‘blues’. Alice Walker in her book, The Color Purple, says in her own colorful way, that “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Somehow I think she might be right.

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in art, Charleston South Carolina
2 comments on “Pink and the color purple
  1. One of my favorite books, Seductresses, by Betsy Prioleau, says this about the belles-laides: “Despite the messianic cult of good looks, babes don’t have a corner on seduction. In fact, many of the most fascinating and successful seductresses in history were zeroes, with every defect from hooknoses, receding chins, and thin lips with overbites to big bottoms. Their cultures were not less beauty-fixated than our own, but they muscled out the pinups and won the choice men of their age. Although plain, there was nothing drab about them. The French call them belles laides, homely women whose charisma, fire, and charms of character transform them into beautiful sirens. They unsettle all our beauty dogmas and reveal an insidious truth: Love is nine-tenths imagination and has “no more to do with lovely than like with likely.”

    • Well, now, this is sweet serendipity! Prioleau is a French Huguenot name – Elie Prioleau was one of the first pastors of the Charleston (in 1684) French congregation. Your ancestor the Rev. William Hutson’s second wife was Mary Sarrazin Prioleau, the widow of Hugh Bryan, William’s friend, and himself a fascinating man, whose story I must tell on another day. Mary died in childbirth and is buried there beside William and Mary Woodward at the Circular Church on Meeting Street. The Prioleau name is interesting, and the family quite prominent in early Charleston history. One story is that Elie was “descended from Antonio Prioli or Priuli, a Venetian, possibly related to a doge, who settled in France, converted to Calvinism, and became the Duke of Rohan’s chaplin. Once in France, the family would have changed their name from Prioli to Prioleau, according to (Alexander) Crottet, to avoid the inappropriate joke pris au lit (caught in bed), which the Italian name evokes when pronounced in French.” – from Ruymbeke, From New Babylon to Eden, 2006.

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Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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