FLORENCE — A one-man show featuring detailed nature paintings and distinctive native crafts is on display through Aug. 15 at the lobby gallery at the Hyman Fine Arts Center on the campus of Francis Marion University.
Dr. Greg Pryor, associate professor of biology at FMU, is the artist and craftsman behind the exhibit. The show includes Pryor’s work in a variety of mediums. Besides his paintings, there are examples of Pryor’s work as a flintknapper (a maker of arrowheads and other simple tools from stone and glass), creations made from animal skin, musical instruments made from reedy plants, artwork made from gourds and a variety of tools and other useful articles crafted from animal bone and sinew.
Pryor describes himself as a “nature freak.” He and his wife, Dr. Tamatha Barbeau, who’s also a member of the biology faculty at FMU, attempt to live off the land as much as possible at their 100-acre farm near Effingham.
All of Pryor’s craft work is created using ancient techniques that he’s learned through study, or through trial and error. Pryor chips away at pieces of stone or manmade materials (beer and wine bottles are a major modern source) using millennia-old flint striking techniques. He “brain tans” his animal hides through a laborious process that includes treating the hides with a slurry made – as the name suggests — from the animal’s brains.
“There is great wisdom in the native American proverb, ‘A man must make his own arrows.’ Beyond the metaphorical, making arrows in the modern world connects us to the primitive world of our ancestors,” said Pryor.
Pryor does make his own arrows. Entire arrows, bows and even an atlatl (a device used for slinging arrows in ancient times) are on display at the gallery. Pryor and his wife have shot the homemade arrows on numerous occasions.
“They fly pretty well,” says Pryor.
Also featured at the show are more traditional works by Pryor, but even in a traditional area Pryor’s art is uncommon. A favored subject in his paintings are unusual scenes from nature. One painting depicts a loggerhead shrike, a small bird, sitting atop a barbed-wire fence. Next to the shrike is an anole, a small lizard, impaled on one of the barbs. The anole is “on display” so potential mates of the shrike can see what a fine provider he – it’s the male shrike that does this — can be. It’s a documented natural phenomenon, one that Pryor himself has observed at his farm.
“Dr. Pryor’s primitive crafts give us insight into the interaction of early humans with the natural world in carving useful materials out of nature before the introduction of metal,” said Dr. Walter Sallenger, the gallery’s curator. “His crafts also give us an opportunity to consider how art crept into craft, as useful objects came to be decorated, placing the indelible stamp of the artisan on everyday objects”
The Hyman gallery is open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer. There is no admission charge.