Eat local – Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Immediately adjacent to the pier where our ship was docked for three days was Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar.  We had an excellent late luncheon there with friends after the Charleston Harbor boat tour (see our previous blog post).

Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar "logo" on benches, adapted from US Navy's former ownership of the facility, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar “logo” on benches, adapted from US Navy’s former ownership of the facility, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The restaurant describes itself as “Charleston’s Best Waterfront Restaurant [with] a view that is a distinctive destination unto itself.  Housed in a 1940s retired naval building on the east side of the Charleston peninsula, Fleet Landing Restaurant features Chef Drew Hedlund’s classic and contemporary Southern seafood fare in a setting that celebrates the area’s waterfront heritage.  The restaurant’s ‘maritime chic interior’ caught the eye of Food & Wine Magazine which featured Fleet Landing in their trend spotting ‘Where to Go Next’ column. 

“Encased in a hurricane proof, 6,000 square foot concrete maritime structure, Fleet Landing juts out over the marsh on a reinforced pier and boasts oversized windows that offer an unobstructed view of the Charleston harbor.  Built in 1942 by the US Navy as a debarkation point for sailors, the building lay vacant after World War II until it was acquired by the South Carolina Port Authority in the 1960s and used for storage.  In 1988, when a 21-year-old Tradd Newton pointed out the unique building to his mother and made the prediction ‘One day, I’m going to put something in that building,’ the structure was in disrepair.  Fast forward 16 years and Newton, with the guiding vision of Charleston architect Reggie Gibson and Newton’s wife/business partner Weesie, is seeing his dream realized…”

She Crab Soup, Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

She Crab Soup, Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Our lunch consisted of local favorites (and staples of Charleston seafood cuisine):  She Crab Soup, Shrimp and Grits (with Andouille sausage and tasso gravy), and Crab Cakes.  Everything was delicious.  I’m getting hungry now, looking at these images!

Shrimp and Grits (with Andouille sausage and tasso gravy), Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Shrimp and Grits (with Andouille sausage and tasso gravy), Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

[Notes:  Andouille is a smoked sausage made using pork, originating in France. It was brought to Louisiana by the French immigrants and Acadian exiles that would merge to create much of Louisiana Creole culture…  Tasso ham is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine. In this case “ham” is a misnomer since tasso is not made from the hind leg of a hog, but rather the hog’s shoulder.  This cut is typically fatty, and because the muscle is constantly used by the animal, has a great deal of flavor…Though tasso may be eaten on its own, it is more often used as part of a flavor base for stews or braised vegetables. It is used in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes to soup and gravy.  Appropriate to its roots, tasso is most often found in recipes of southern or Creole origin, such as jambalaya. — Wikipedia]

Crab Cakes, Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Crab Cakes, Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Before we sailed that evening, the sunset and new moon caught my eye:

Sunset and new moon, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Sunset and new moon, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

 

Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

18th and 19th century "houses" on East Battery Street overlooking Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

18th and 19th century “houses” on East Battery Street overlooking Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

One of the great ways to see Charleston is aboard one of the harbor tour boats that sail from Wharfside piers along the Charleston Harbor near the South Carolina Aquarium and the National Park Service Fort Sumter visitors’ center and museum.

Downtown viewed from Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Downtown viewed from Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“Fort Sumter is a sea fort located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, and notable for two historic battles of the American Civil War.  It was one of a number of special forts planned after the War of 1812, combining high walls and heavy masonry… Work started in 1829, but was incomplete by 1860, when South Carolina seceded from the Union. It is open for public tours as part of the Fort Sumter National Monument operated by the National Park Servicc.  “

The First Battle of Fort Sumter opened on 12 April 1861, when Confederate artillery fired on the Union garrison.  These were the first shots of the [American Civil] war, and continued all day, watched by many civilians in a celebratory spirit.  The fort had been cut off from its supply line, and surrendered next day.  The Second Battle of Fort Sumter (8 September 1863) was a failed attempt by the Union to re-take the fort, dogged by rivalry between army and navy commanders.  Although the fort was reduced to rubble, it remained in Confederate hands until it was evacuated as Sherman marched through South Carolina in February 1865″. — Wikipedia

Fort Sumter (partially rebuilt after the Civil War) in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Fort Sumter (partially rebuilt after the Civil War) in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Mount Pleasant lies to the east of downtown Charleston  — the two cities are connected by the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge opened in 2005 (see photographs, below).

Waterfront homes in Mount Pleasant viewed from Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Waterfront homes in Mount Pleasant viewed from Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper River in South Carolina, connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. The eight lane bridge satisfied the capacity of U.S. Route 17 when it opened in 2005 to replace two obsolete cantilever truss bridges. The bridge has a main span of 1,546 feet (471 m), the third longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere…the bridge over the Cooper River is a cable-stayed suspension design with two diamond-shaped towers, each 575 feet (175 m) high.  The total length of the structure is 13,200 feet (4.0 km), with the main span stretching 1,546 feet (471 m) between the towers.  128 individual cables anchored to the inside of the diamond towers suspend the deck 186 feet (57 m) above the river.” — Wikipedia

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and Mount Pleasant Yacht Harbor viewed from Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and Mount Pleasant Yacht Harbor viewed from Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum (in Mount Pleasant on the Charelston Harbor) includes attractions such as the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and war planes from World War II and Korea, the Cold War Submarine Memorial, and an Apollo 8 Mission Exhibit.

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum on Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum on Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Sailing under the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Sailing under the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“The [Ravenel] Bridge superstructure is designed to withstand shipping accidents and the natural disasters that have plagued Charleston’s history.  The span is designed to endure wind gusts in excess of 300 mph (480 km/h), far stronger than those of the worst storm in Charleston’s history, Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  Engineers also considered the 1886 earthquake that nearly leveled Charleston.  The Ravenel Bridge is designed to withstand an earthquake of approximately 7.4 on the Richter scale without total failure.  To protect the bridge from errant ships, the towers are flanked by one-acre rock islands. Ships will run aground on the islands before colliding with the towers”. — Wikipedia

Cables of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Cables of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Diamond-shaped tower of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Diamond-shaped tower of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

 

Eat local — Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The main dining room at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The main dining room at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Centrally located in historic downtown Charleston, Husk, the newest offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group, transforms the essence of Southern food. Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston. In September 2011 Bon Appétit magazine named Husk “Best New Restaurant in America”.  Chef Brock’s abilities have resulted in a number of awards and accolades, both locally and nationally. In 2008 and 2009 he was a finalist for the James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award and in 2010 he took home the James Beard award for “Best Chef Southeast”.  Most recently, he was a finalist for the James Beard “Outstanding Chef” award for 2013, 2014, and 2015. 

Grimes grew up in the Lowcountry and knows Charleston well. He worked his way up through local restaurants before attending Johnson and Wales University. When Brock took the helm at McCrady’s he stayed on to help transform the kitchen into the most innovative in the city and now takes on the day-to-day operations at Husk. His philosophy on food closely mirrors that of his mentor, Brock, focusing on preservation techniques and the recovery of lost flavors, especially heirloom varieties of pork. Both men bring a love for the area and its history to creating the restaurant’s concept.

Entry hall list of local purveyors at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Entry hall list of local purveyors at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Diners at Husk view an open, collaborative kitchen, where chefs freely interact with their guests, and personally deliver food to tables, but the work begins well before a pan begins to heat. Brock and Grimes exhaustively research Southern food—its history and provenance—and in the process reconstitute flavors and ingredients lost to time. They grow much of their own produce on the restaurant’s garden, and concentrate on heirloom grains and vegetables that once flourished in the region, but were lost to 20th-century industrial agriculture. Then they take what is fresh and available today, or even this hour, and transform it into an evolving menu. Seasonal bounty comes in waves, however, and what they can’t use immediately is preserved, pickled, smoked, and saved. 

Starting with a larder of ingredients indigenous to the South, and set within a building complex dating to the late 19th century, Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment. The entrance beckons with a rustic wall of firewood to fuel the wood-fired oven and a large chalkboard listing artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen [see photograph, above], but like the décor that inhabits the historic building, the food is modern in style and interpretation.

(First) Arugula Salad, Glazed Beets, Asher Blue, Candied VA Peanuts, Sweet Potato-Honey Vinagrette at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

(First) Arugula Salad, Glazed Beets, Asher Blue, Candied VA Peanuts, Sweet Potato-Honey Vinagrette at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

At Husk there are some rules about what can go on the plate. “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Brock, who has even stricken olive oil from the kitchen. As he explains, the resulting cuisine “is not about rediscovering Southern cooking, but exploring the reality of Southern food.” This modern approach results in playful dishes such as Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra and Trout Roe, and new classics like South Carolina Shrimp and Choppee Okra Stew with Carolina Gold Rice and Flowering Basil.

(First) Slow Smoked TN Pork Ribs, Bourbon Apple BBQ, Spiced Pecans, Puffed Pork Skins at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

(First) Slow Smoked TN Pork Ribs, Bourbon Apple BBQ, Spiced Pecans, Puffed Pork Skins at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

(First) Kentuckyaki Glazed Pig's Ear Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Marinated Cucumber, Red Onion, Sea Island Benne at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

(First) Kentuckyaki Glazed Pig’s Ear Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Marinated Cucumber, Red Onion, Sea Island Benne at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The Glazed Pigs’s Ear Lettuce Wraps (which taste great, not withstanding the description/ingredients!) — pictured above — are a signature dish at Husk.

(Supper) NC Snapper, Carolina Gold Rice Purloo, LA Shrimp, Sweet Corn, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

(Supper) NC Snapper, Carolina Gold Rice Purloo, LA Shrimp, Sweet Corn, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

(Supper) GA Chicken, Anson Mills Farro Verde, NC Apple, Roasted Brussels, Butternut Squash, Cider Jus at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, Couth Carolina, USA

(Supper) GA Chicken, Anson Mills Farro Verde, NC Apple, Roasted Brussels, Butternut Squash, Cider Jus at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, Couth Carolina, USA

Seed-saving, heirloom husbandry, and in-house pickling and charcuterie efforts by the culinary team are the basis of the cuisine at Husk. The restaurant is as casual as it is chic, evoking a way of life centered on seasonality and the grand traditions of Charleston life — one lived at a slower pace, preferably with a cocktail and a wide porch in the late afternoon. It is a neighborhood gathering place for friends, and a destination dining spot for travelers, with a little bite of the South for everyone’s palates.

(Supper) TN Heritage Pork Chop, Pan Fried Cabbage, Field Peas and Butterbeans, Smoked Tomato, Pot Likker at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

(Supper) TN Heritage Pork Chop, Pan Fried Cabbage, Field Peas and Butterbeans, Smoked Tomato, Pot Likker at Husk (restaurant), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

We thoroughly enjoyed our return visit to Husk and were glad to have some family and friends with us so that we could sample a variety of dishes (many pictured above, thanks to my old iPhone!).  For an authentic, contemporary Southern dining experience, we high recommend Husk when in Charleston (or Nashville, TN — home of a sister Husk restaurant).

Slavery at Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, Charleston, South Carolina, US

One of many slave cabins remaining at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

One of many slave cabins remaining at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Boone Hall Plantation dates back to at least 1681 when a land grant of 470 acres (1.9 square kilometers) was given by Theophilus Patey as a wedding present to his daughter, Elizabeth, and Major John Boone.  The economic success of such a large working plantation (which eventually grew to over 1,000 acres) depended on the widespread use of African slaves for labor — initially cultivating rice, then indigo, cotton, and pecans. Presently, one of America’s oldest still working plantations — continually growing crops for over 320 years — Boone Hall is open to the public with an excellent “museum” of slavery presented in the eight restored slave cabins on the property adjacent to the mansion house.  The following discussions of plantation crops and the life of the slaves on the plantation are from materials presented in the slave cabins.

“The successful cultivation of rice in the United States is thought by historians to have occurred in the South Carolina Sea Islands when an enslaved African woman taught her white owner how to grow the crop.  The first rice seeds used in rice farming may have been imported directly from the Island of Madagascar in 1685, and historians generally believe that enslaved Africans familiar with growing rice in West Africa supplied the expertise for its production in North America.  No matter who first introduced African rice to the Americans, by 1750 some of the largest slave owners in the South cultivated rice in the coastal regions of the Carolinas [on those plantations with access to fresh water, as opposed to those on the coast and nearby with access only to sea (salt) water] in ways similar to how it had been grown by Africans for hundreds of years.”

Sweetgrass basket made by a slave at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Sweetgrass basket made by a slave at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“Brought to the area by slaves who were transported from West Africa to labor on rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia, the art of sweetgrass basket making has been a part of the Lowcountry for more than 300 years.  It is a traditional art form which has been passed on from generation to generation, and today, it is one of the oldest art forms of African origin the United States.  Baskets were an agricultural necessity on Lowcountry plantations, and in the 19th century, large, coiled work baskets, traditionally made by men using a marsh grass called ‘bulrush’, were used in the planting and harvesting of crops and in the collection and storage of vegetables, grain, cotton, fish and shellfish.  After the Civil War, coiled baskets evolved from their purely agricultural purpose to a more household use.  Baskets primarily made by women were used for carrying produce to the market and storing household goods.  Instead of using only bulrush, the women also used a softer more pliable grass commonly called ‘sweetgrass’ (Muhlenbergia filipes) because of its more pleasant, hay-like aroma.

“During the decades before the Civil War, slave grown cotton accounted for over half the value of all United States exports, and provided virtually all the cotton used in the northern textile industry and 70 percent of the cotton used in British mills.  The South failed to establish commercial, financial or manufacturing companies on the same scale as the North.”

Historic circular advertising slave sale, now in in a slave cabin museum at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Historic circular advertising slave sale, now in in a slave cabin museum at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“In the mid 19th century, over 90% of American slaves lived in rural areas and urban slaves made up at least 20% of the populations of most Southern cities.  In Charleston, slaves and free blacks outnumbered whites.  Many urban slaves worked as domestics, but others worked as blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, bakers, or other tradespeople.  Urban slaves had more freedom of movement than plantation slaves and generally had greater opportunities for learning.  They also had increased contact with free black people, who often expanded their ways of thinking about slavery.”

Glass bottles and pottery fragments found under floorboards in slave cabins at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Glass bottles and pottery fragments found under floorboards in slave cabins at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“Serena Jefferson Spann (18?? – 1936) was born in Virginia, the youngest of 18 children.  She was brought to Boone Hall in 1864 and remained here as the cook until her death in 1936.  She lived in the first slave cabin [closest to the mansion house] and was a pillar of the community.  Serena, affectionately called Dah Rena by family members, was noted for delicious biscuits, cinnamon rolls, boiled ham, shrimp fired rice topped with eggs and bacon, layer lemon cakes, potato pones, and pig in the bag.  There wasn’t anything Dah Rena couldn’t cook. 

“Serena still has descendants living in Mt. Pleasant.  Her granddaughter, Martha ‘Mattie’ Gaillard, also known as one of the greatest cooks around, was born in cabin one [the slave cabin closest to the Boone Hall Plantation mansion] and is still living today. 

“The following was written by Robert Coleman who spent his summers at Boone Hall in the early 1900’s:  The food at Boone Hall was the world’s best!  Serena Jefferson Spann was head cook and the world’s best.  Refrigeration in those days was quite a problem.  Ice was the only coolant and the ice house was 10 miles away.  Everything possible was put on top of the ice.  Our food was mostly prepared on a day to day basis.  Serena has muscovy ducks, guineas, turkeys, chickens and squabs.  Boone Hall Creek had fish, crabs, shrimp, and oysters.  Serena’s kitchen had a great big cast iron wood stove with double doors and a warmer on top.  Around the base of the stove on the floor was a narrow frame of wood filled with white sand.  This was to keep the drippings from the sweet potatoes that would ooze out the oven door, on the floor. 

“On Sunday, I would milk the cow and Serena would make the best Curds you ever tasted.  She would put the milk in pans in the safe on the back porch to turn to clabber [milk that has naturally clotted on souring], then place the clabber in a curd press, put the cover on and then flat iron on top of a press all the whey out.  When it was ready she would serve it covered with sweet cream and grated nutmeg.  Delicious! 

The historic transportation

The historic transportation “road” into and out of Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“Another thing that was great was her baked ham.  Mr. Clute would buy a large Virginia Smithfield Ham.  Serena would put it in a ham boiler and boil it.  Hot grits, a hunk of butter, ham gravy and several slices of ham was next to going to heaven.  Mr. Clute kept several row boats at the dock [see photograph, below] and cast nets on the back porch.  Serena would send one of the young men to the creek [see photograph, above] to catch a peck of shrimp.  On returning she would boil them, pick them and then grind them in an old fashioned hand cranked meat chopper.  What she mixed with I do not know, but she would make them into shrimp patties and then fry.  They were served with hot grits and would make your hair curl.”

Reconstructed historic dock at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Reconstructed historic dock at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

 “The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia, which includes both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands.  Historically, the Gullah region once extended north to the Cape Fear area on the coast of North Carolina and south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on the coast of Florida; but today the Gullah area is confined to the South Carolina and Georgia Low Country [including Savannah].  The Gullah people are also called Geechee, especially in Georgia.

Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens, Mount Pleasant, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Carriage entrance to Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens (dating back to 1681) in Mount Pleasant, adjacent to Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Carriage entrance to Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens (dating back to 1681) in Mount Pleasant, adjacent to Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens is an antebellum era plantation located in Mount Pleasant, Charleston County, South Carolina, U.S.A., and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A sole butterfly leading the way to the mansion at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

A sole butterfly leading the way to the mansion at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The plantation includes a large Colonial Revival plantation house (1933–35) that replaces the lost original house on the site, a number of slave cabins or cottages (which were occupied by sharecroppers well into the 20th century), several flower gardens, and the historic “Avenue of Oaks” (pictured above), a nearly one-mile (1.6 km) drive up to the house with southern live oaks on either side, originally planted in 1743.

Boone Hall Plantation antibellum style mansion (1936), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Boone Hall Plantation antibellum style mansion (1936), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Spanish moss is a flowering plant that grows upon larger trees, commonly the Southern Live Oak or Bald Cypress in the southeastern United States from Texas and Florida north to southern Arkansas and Virginia. 

Spanish moss on trees at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Spanish moss on trees at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Boone Hall Plantation is one of America’s oldest still working plantations, continually growing crops for over 320 years.  Boone Hall Farms is the present day agricultural arm that operates this part of the plantation.  April to June, strawberries are the centerpiece at Boone Hall Farms.  The annual Lowcountry Strawberry Festival caps off the peak of each season and thousands of pounds of strawberries are picked from Boone Hall Farms U-Pick fields.

Old farm equipment at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Old farm equipment at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

On the grounds today, besides the house, sit nine of the original slave cabins which date back to 1790-1810, a smoke house dating back to 1750, the Cotton Gin house (1853) and the grand Avenue of Oaks that was created in 1743 and completed in 1843.  Boone Hall Plantation today spans 738 acres of lively, Lowcountry landscape that also includes seasonal crop fields, naturally preserved wetlands, creeks, and ponds.

Horse corral at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Horse corral at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The plantation originally grew rice (a crop the early slaves brought over to the Colonies from Africa) and then cotton (devastated in the late 1800s by the boll weevil bug) before switching to pecan trees (the plantation had the largest pecan tree farm in the US just over one hundred years ago).

Migrating geese in front of remaining pecan trees at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Migrating geese in front of remaining pecan trees at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Currently, the plantation’s spring planting annually includes tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, sweet corn, and other produce that is part of the Boone Hall Farms farm-to-table program that is featured in over 35 Lowcountry businesses and restaurants.  These crops are harvested throughout the summer months during the peak of the South Carolina growing season.

Cornfield at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Cornfield at Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA


Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Charleston cookbooks (on sale in Charleston City Market), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Charleston cookbooks (on sale in Charleston City Market), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Located midway on the South Carolina coast of the Atlantic Ocean where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers merge, Charleston is a quintessential “Southern” city, with a lot of early American history and the Caribbean flair of palm trees, breezy patios, wrought-iron balconies and lush gardens.  The city was founded by English aristocrats in 1670 as a money making venture.  Then named Charles Town (after the then King of England), Charleston went from a booming port for rice and cotton plantations to the city where the American Civil War began at Fort Sumter (1861).

Charleston City Market, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Charleston City Market, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Highlights of any visit, besides the fabulous Southern cooking and cuisine — there are many excellent restaurants, ranging from bars with bar food to haute cuisine establishments — include: the city’s cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel pre-Civil-War-era houses, particularly in the bustling French Quarter and Battery areas. The Battery promenade and Waterfront Park both overlook Charleston Harbor, while Fort Sumter, a Federal stronghold where the first shots of the Civil War rang out, lies across the water on the outskirts of Charleston Harbor (see an upcoming blog post).  Pictured above is the entrance to the enclosed portion of the three-block-long Charleston City Market (which originally was where the city’s slave auctions were held).  This was one of the USA’s earliest public markets and remains a vibrant shopping destination in the heart of Charleston.

Entrance to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the oldest Synagogue in continuous use in the US, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Entrance to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the oldest Synagogue in continuous use in the US, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

As noted above, Charleston was established in 1670; the earliest known reference to a Jew in the English settlement was in 1695. Soon other Jews followed, attracted by the civil and religious liberty of South Carolina.  By 1749, these pioneers were sufficiently numerous to orgnanize Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (translated from the Hebrew to English as “Holy Congregation, House of God”).  Fifteen years later, they also established the now historic Coming Street Cemetery, the South’s oldest remaining Jewish burial site. 

At first congregants worshiped in private homes; in 1780 they used an improvised synagogue adjacent to the present temple grounds.  In 1794 they dedicated a new synagogue building described then as the largest in the United States, “spacious and elegant”.  This handsome, cupolated Georgian synagogue was destroyed in the great Charleston fire of 1838 and replaced in 1840 on the same Hassell Street site by the present imposing structure.  The colonnaded temple, dedicated in early 1841, is renowned as one of the country’s finest examples of Greek Revival architecture.

Synagogue interior (sanctuary) of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the oldest Synagogue in continuous use in the US, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Synagogue interior (sanctuary) of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the oldest Synagogue in continuous use in the US, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The KKBE sanctuary is today the second oldest synagogue building in the United States and the oldest in continuous use.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1980. 

Charleston is acknowledged as the birthplace of Reform Judaism in the U.S.  Fourteen years after the first Reform Jewish congregation was started in Germany in 1810, forty-seven KKBE congregants petitioned the trustees to change the Sephardic Orthodox liturgy.  Turned down, they started a new congregation, which merged back with KKBE in 1840 when the new temple was built.  An organ was also added to the synagogue, making that the first time that a synagogue introduced instrumental music into its worship.

King Street Church, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

King Street Church, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

The British capture of Charleston in May 1780 was one of the worst American defeats of the Revolution.  On March 30 – 31, General Henry Clinton’s British, Hessian and Loyalist force crossed the Ashley River north of Charleston.  On 1 April Clinton advanced against the American defenses near the site of the plaque below (at Marion Square, in the heart of downtown Charleston today), held by General Benjamin Lincoln’s Continentals and militia.  The 42-day siege would be the longest of the war.

Plaque commemorating the capture of Charleston in 1780 by the British, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Plaque commemorating the capture of Charleston in 1780 by the British, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

As General Charles Cornwallis closed off Lincoln’s escape routes on the Cooper River, Clinton advanced his siege lines and bombarded Charleston.  On 12 May 1780, in front of the American works near the above plaque, Lincoln surrendered the city and his force of 6,000 men, after what one British officer called “a gallant defense”.  The British occupied Charleston for more than 2.5 years, evacuating on 14 December 1782.

Marion Square, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Marion Square, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

It seemed rather ironic to be walking through the Charleston City Market later on in the afternoon and to come across contemporary paintings of plantation slavery scenes — being sold where 250 years ago slaves themselves were being sold off incoming boats or by slave holders.

Contemporary paintings of plantation slavery scenes (on sale in Charleston City Market), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Contemporary paintings of plantation slavery scenes (on sale in Charleston City Market), Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Our ship was docked on the waterfront piers at Fleet Landing (a former U.S. Navy site), immediately behind the United States Customs House — construction began in 1853, was interrupted by the American Civil War and was completed in 1879 — one of the most imposing historical buildings in Charleston.

United States Custom House on the waterfront in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

United States Custom House on the waterfront in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

We arrived on the pier at sunset to catch the image below — two sailboats in Charleston harbor framed by the front hull and mooring lines of our ship.

Sailboats in the harbor at sunset, framed by our ship at the pier in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Sailboats in the harbor at sunset, framed by our ship at the pier in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

 

“Picasso Sculpture” (exhibition), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, USA

"Still life with Guitar". Variant state.  Paris, 1913.  Paperboard, paper, thread  string, twine, and coated wire. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Still life with Guitar”. Variant state. Paris, 1913. Paperboard, paper, thread string, twine, and coated wire. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

We visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to enjoy the widely acclaimed exhibition Picasso Sculpture.  And yes, it was as good, or better than the buildup in the New York Times review by critic Roberta Smith on 10 Sept. 2015: “Many exhibitions are good, some are great and a very few are tantamount to works of art in their own right — for their clarity, lyricism and accumulative wisdom.  The Museum of Modern Art’s staggering Picasso Sculpture is in the third category.  Large, ambitious and unavoidably, dizzyingly peripatetic, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.  It sustains its vision through a ring of 11 grand spaces on the museum’s fourth floor, tracing the serial genre-bending forays into three dimensions wrought by this 20th-century titan of painting.  Each bout lasted a few years and was different from the one before, and each has been given its own gallery, more or less.”  [Note to our readers:  MOMA’s gallery guide notes are the basis for the descriptions that follow.]

Picasso Sculpture is a sweeping survey of Pablo Picasso’s innovative and influential work in three dimensions. This [is] the first such museum exhibition in the United States in nearly half a century.

Over the course of his long career, Picasso devoted himself to sculpture wholeheartedly, if episodically, using both traditional and unconventional materials and techniques. Unlike painting, in which he was formally trained and through which he made his living, sculpture occupied a uniquely personal and experimental status for Picasso. He approached the medium with the freedom of a self-taught artist, ready to break all the rules. This attitude led him to develop a deep fondness for his sculptures, to which the many photographs of his studios and homes bear witness. Treating them almost as members of his household, he cherished the sculptures’ company and enjoyed re-creating them in a variety of materials and situations. Picasso kept the majority in his private possession during his lifetime. It was only in 1966, through the large Paris retrospective Hommage à Picasso, that the public became fully aware of this side of his work. Following that exhibition, in 1967 The Museum of Modern Art organized The Sculpture of Picasso, which until now was the first and only exhibition on this continent to display a large number of the artist’s sculptures.

Picasso Sculpture focuses on the artist’s lifelong work with sculpture, with a particular focus on his use of materials and processes. The exhibition, which features more than 100 sculptures, complemented by selected works on paper and photographs, aims to advance the understanding of what sculpture was for Picasso, and of how he revolutionized its history through a lifelong commitment to constant reinvention. The exhibition is organized in chapters corresponding to the distinct periods during which Picasso devoted himself to sculpture, each time exploring with fresh intensity the modern possibilities of this ancient art form. Organized by The Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with the Musée national Picasso – Paris.

THE CUBIST YEARS, 1912 – 1915.  During the fall of 1912, Picasso returned to making sculpture after a hiatus of three years.  Among the first works he realized was a cardboard Guitar [pictured at the top of this blog post], whose open structure allowed him to introduce negative space into the solid forms customary for sculpture at that time.  Its humble still-life subject was also a first, as was Picasso’s decision to employ simple craft processes like cutting, folding and threading.  In early 1914, Picasso reiterated his Guitar in sheet metal…The hybrid character of Picasso’s Guitar is typical of the works in this gallery.  Picasso’s ongoing project during these years was to upend categorical distinctions:  Things that hang on the wall nevertheless incorporate space, along with a dazzling range of found materials…

In spring 1914 Picasso created an edition of six unique versions of the sculpture Glass of AbsintheThese are reunited here for the first time since they were in the artist’s studio.  Conventionally, works within a bronze edition look the same.  Working against tradition, Picasso decorated the surface of each of his six small sculptures differently.  Each incorporates a store-bought absinthe spoon, which holds a painted bronze depiction of the sugar cube over which the liquer would be poured into the glass.

"Glass of Absinthe". Paris, 1914.  Painted bronze with absinthe spoon.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Glass of Absinthe”. Paris, 1914. Painted bronze with absinthe spoon. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

THE MONUMENT TO APOLLINAIRE, 1927 – 1931

Picasso’s reengagement with sculpture at the end of the 1920s had roots in a commission to create a monument for the tomb of the poet and critic Guilluame Apollinaire [a close friend], who had died in 1918 and was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris…Despite several rounds of effort, none of the multiple ideas that Picasso offered the memorial committee were accepted.  Picasso’s monumental Woman in the Garden was his final and most ambitious effort to create a memorial sculpture for Apollinaire.  It is composed from a large number of salvaged metal elements, welded together and unified by an overall coating of white paint…it reflects in form and spirit Picasso’s admiration for the African and Oceanic figures he avidly collected.

"Woman in the Garden". Paris, 1929-30.  Welded and painted iron.  Musee national Picasso-Paris. Dation Pablo Picasso   In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Woman in the Garden”. Paris, 1929-30. Welded and painted iron. Musee national Picasso-Paris. Dation Pablo Picasso In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

THE BOISGELOUP SCULPTURE STUDIO, 1930 – 1932

In June 1930 Picasso purchased the Château de Boisgeloup, a property forty-five miles (72 kilometers) northwest of Paris.  There, for the first time, he had enough space to set up his own sculpture studio, converting the horse stables for this purpose….His signature Boisgeloup material…was luminous white plaster, which was relatively easy to obtain, dried quickly, and could be modeled, incised, carved, and added to over time.  Working intensively with plaster… Picasso commenced an entirely new phase of sculpture making that would last for about four years. 

It was in Boisgeloup that Picasso produced his first truly monumental figures in the round, including an imposing series of simultaneously female and phallic heads.  There is a pronounced resemblance between the features of these works and those of Marie-Thérèse Walter, who was his lover during this period.  They are hardly, however, literal depictions.  Their extraordinary forms provide a vivid parallel to the Surrealist movement’s contemporaneous embrace of overtly erotic, metamorphic imagery.  Noses, mouths, and eyes double as male and female sexual organs, and the sculptures’ surfaces conjure both the softness of flesh and the unforgiving hardness of bone.  Picasso’s love of visual punning, along with his ability to render the familiar deeply strange, is prominently on display in these works.

"Head of a Woman". Boisgeloup, 1932.  Plaster.  The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Gift of Jacqueline Picasso in honor of the Museum's continuous commitment to Pablo Picasso's art.   In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Head of a Woman”. Boisgeloup, 1932. Plaster. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jacqueline Picasso in honor of the Museum’s continuous commitment to Pablo Picasso’s art. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

THE WAR YEARS, 1939 – 1945

Picasso was one of the few artists condemned by the Germans as “degenerate” to remain in occupied Paris during World War II.  Having declined many offers of emigration, he lived and worked at 7, rue des Grands-Augustines, on the Left Bank…Picasso again began modeling, somehow managing to obtain enough clay and plaster to produce an imposing population of human and animal figures for his crowded spaces.  All bronze casting was prohibited, as precious metal was reserved for wartime purposes.  But Picasso had his sculptures secretly transported to and from the foundry by night;  in this dangerous context, the traditional practice of bronze casting became a bold act of defiance…

The largest work of this period is the seven-foot-tall Man with a Lamb, modeled in clay in early 1943.  Although this sculpture was made in one day, frantically assembled on an armature that was too weak for the quantities of clay Picasso piled upon it, it was the product of months of reflection and sketches dating back to the previous summer.

"Man with a Lamb". Paris, 1943.  Bronze.  Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Man with a Lamb”. Paris, 1943. Bronze. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

Picasso’s fondness for witty assemblage did not altogether disappear during these somber times.  Bull’s Head is simply a strategic pairing of a leather bicycle seat and a pair of metal handlebars, later cast in bronze.  [Like the guitar, the bull is a recurring subject of Picasso’s sculptures over the years, particularly as he changes media.]

"Bull's Head". Paris, 1942.  Bronze.  Private colleciton.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Bull’s Head”. Paris, 1942. Bronze. Private colleciton. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

VALLAURIS CERAMICS AND ASSEMBLAGES, 1945 – 1953

Paris was liberated in August 1944, and the following summer Picasso visited the French Riviera for the first time in many years.  This renewed contact with the Mediterranean’s sun, sand, and light, along with its deep connections to classical Greek and Roman culture, brought about a new phase in Picasso’s sculpture.  During the summer of 1946 he visited the ceramics workshop of George and Suzanne Ramie in the town of Vallauris and began to experiment in a medium that dated back to ancient times but was new to him.  Over the course of the next few years, his enthusiasm for ceramics led him to make the town of Vallauris his primary residence, and to produce ceramics works in great numbers.

"Vase -- Woman". Vallauris, c. 1948. White earthenware.  Musee national Picasso-Paris. Dation Pablo Picasso and "Standing Bull (Vase)". Vallauris, 1947 or 1948.  White earthenware.  Musee Picasso, Antibes

“Vase — Woman”. Vallauris, c. 1948. White earthenware. Musee national Picasso-Paris. Dation Pablo Picasso and “Standing Bull (Vase)”. Vallauris, 1947 or 1948. White earthenware. Musee Picasso, Antibes

VALLAURIS AND CANNES ASSEMBLAGES, 1952 – 1958

Picasso’s work in assemblage intensified throughout the early 1950’s, as he produced larger and ever more complex sculptures constructed from everyday objects…No matter how improbably the sculpture’s components were, or how whimsical their subjects, naturalism was always Picasso’s goal.  Little Girl Jumping Rope seems to defy gravity as much as does a real child in midair.

"Little Girl Jumping Rope". Vallauris, 1950-54.  Bronze.  Musee national Picasso-Paris.  Dation Pablo Picasso.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Little Girl Jumping Rope”. Vallauris, 1950-54. Bronze. Musee national Picasso-Paris. Dation Pablo Picasso. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

The next chapter of Picasso’s sculptural work took an unpredictable turn away from the robustly modeled forms of the Vallauris ceramics and assemblages toward constructions that were decidedly planar and frontal in nature.  In 1955, the artist moved with his partner Jacqueline Roque to the villa La Californie, outside Cannes.  This elegant residential neighborhood had no junkyard readily at hand, as in Vallauris, but the artist found new ways to satisfy his passion for scavenging.  Wood sculptures made from lumber scraps and other salvaged items took center stage in the years 1956 – 58.  Bits of old furniture, crates, and tree branches from Picasso’s garden now formed the basis for his playful transformations.  A commanding troupe of six charismatic Bathers materialized from a variety of wooden planks and found objects, including painting stretchers from his studio.  Arranged in a sequence devised by the artist, it is the only multi-figured sculptural ensemble of Picasso’s career.

"The Bathers...". Vallauris, 1956.  Wood.  Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“The Bathers…”. Vallauris, 1956. Wood. Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

The bull reemerges in this phase as a wood construct:

"Bull". Cannes, 1958.  Blockboard, palm frond, and various other found objects.  The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Gift of Jacqueline Picasso.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Bull”. Cannes, 1958. Blockboard, palm frond, and various other found objects. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jacqueline Picasso. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

SHEET METAL SCULPTURES, 1954 – 1964

Picasso’s final phase of making sculpture centered on sheet metal, a popular material for design objects as well as for utilitarian purposes.  In 1954 he became acquainted with the products of a commercial sheet metal workshop in the town of Vallauris, where he was living.  That year, and again in 1957, he created a number of heads in cut and folded paper or cardboard and had these templates fabricated as sheet metal sculptures at 1:1 scale.  Picasso played with the possibilities of multiple perspectives through both the contours of the metal planes and the painted details he applied after the sculpture was assembled.

"Head of a Woman". Mougins, 1962.  Painted sheet metal and iron wire.  Musee national Picasso-Paris.  Dation Pablo Picasso.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Head of a Woman”. Mougins, 1962. Painted sheet metal and iron wire. Musee national Picasso-Paris. Dation Pablo Picasso. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

"Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture". 1964.  Simulated and oxidized welded steel.  The Art Institute of Chicago.  Gift of Pablo Picasso.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture”. 1964. Simulated and oxidized welded steel. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Pablo Picasso. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

"Woman with Hat". Cannes, 1961-Mopugins, 1963.  Painted sheet metal.  Fondation Beyeler, Riehen-Basel, Beyeler Collection.  In "Picasso Sculpture", MOMA, New York, NY, USA

“Woman with Hat”. Cannes, 1961-Mopugins, 1963. Painted sheet metal. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen-Basel, Beyeler Collection. In “Picasso Sculpture”, MOMA, New York, NY, USA

Roberta Smith continues her critical analysis of the exhibition: “Like its predecessor, this exhibition raises the question of whether Picasso was a better sculptor or painter. It’s a tough call. In each medium, he disrupted art with a track-switching masterpiece: In painting there is the vehement Demoiselles d’Avignon of 1907, on view in the fifth-floor galleries, one of the central pylons on which he and Braque erected Cubism. And he did art perhaps an even greater favor with the boxy constructed wall piece Guitar — a 1914 work that initiates modern sculpture by establishing space itself — hollowness, volume, weightlessness — as one of its primary materials.

Picasso was more completely himself in three dimensions: a magician, a magpie genius, a comedic entertainer and a tinkerer with superb reflexes. His many gifts — versatility, voraciousness, a need for constant reinvention — are more sharply apparent in real space and tangible materials. We can’t miss his consummate grasp of tactility and form or of the potential for found objects and materials to lead double lives. Screws could be legs of a girl reading a book. A spigot could be the crest of a crane whose body and tail feathers were once the head of a shovel. A small flat-faced deity carved from a scrap of wood is reddened and rubbed until it looks like ancient terra cotta”.