by Dianne Owens
MURRELL’S INLET – “Gullah Culture … Remembering While Evolving,” an exhibit of visual art by Patricia Sabree, a native of Lake City, has opened at Brookgreen Gardens.
On display in Learning Lab I of the Wall Lowcountry Center from noon to 4:30 p.m. daily through March 13, Sabree’s art reflects her life growing up on a farm in the Roper community, near Lake City. She is owner and operator of Sabree's Authentic Gullah Art Gallery, Savannah; Sabree's Headquarters, Charlotte, NC; and an online gallery at www.sabreesgallery.com.
Patricia Elaine Sabree, whose maiden name is McFadden, said she and her 14 siblings spent most of their youth working on the farm where their parents were sharecroppers.
“My paintings are shaped by the stories I lived. Fishing off the river bank or swamp land, walking barefoot in the rain, running in the blazing sun, playing in a game of outdoor basketball, being whipped across the legs for not doing a chore, and even enjoying ice cream and cake on a sunny summer’s Sunday,” she said. Her art uses vibrant and vivid colors to depict energy, each painting telling a story about Gullah culture and lore. Now a resident of Bluffton, her work provides reminiscences of the deep south.
The farm featured hundreds of acres of tobacco, cucumbers, cotton, corn, string beans, watermelons, and a very large garden, she said. “Father, J.W. McFadden, used a mule and a hand-held plow to plant the garden, which was adjacent to the house. He often said it made better rows for planting. Mother, Elizabeth McFadden, trailed in behind digging holes for the seeds. The children would come along and throw the seeds in the hole and cover them with bare feet.”
Sabree obtained a bachelor's of arts degree from South Carolina State University, and a master's of education from Southern Wesleyan. Her art professors from S.C.S.U. influenced her greatly, especially Dr. Leo Twiggs, a Batik artist who most inspired her love for painting.
After teaching art for 22 years, Sabree said she heard a little voice telling her she needed a new challenge. In 2010, she left the teaching profession to work Monday through Fridays on her paintings. The artist still has family in the neighboring areas of Lake City, Conway, and Florence, she said, and “No. No one in the family took up farming.”
Sabree’s favorite thing to paint, she said, is anything to do with being raised on the farm. “By painting these cherished images, I keep the memories alive,” she said.
Next on her exhibit's list is "The Hilton Head Gullah Arts Exhibition" and "The Heritage Day Arts Festival" in Savannah.
“The Savannah's exhibition is a group exhibition featuring the works of Gullah-Geechee Artists Natalie Daise, Sonja Evans-Griffins, Jery Taylor, myself, and a few others.”
Anyone in Savannah area has a standing invitation to visit with her in her gallery, Sabree's Gullah Art Gallery, Savannah City Market, Studio 4/Second Floor, 309 West St. Julian St, Savannah, she said.
“I sincerely thank Ron and Natalie Daise for extending the offer to exhibit my works at Brookgreen. This past Saturday they went above and beyond the call of duty helping me and my daughter install the paintings and other artifacts akin to the Gullah-Geechee Culture. We will be forever indebted to them,” she said.
Dianne Owens is editor of the Weekly Observer newspaper that serves Hemingway, Johnsonville and their surrounding communities in South Carolina.