After several years in Boston, Jena Thomas returned to south Florida for graduate school. She realized how much color had left her life when she moved north.
An appreciation for the pinks, teals and art deco aesthetic of the region in which she grew up suffuses the work now on display at Arts Center of Greenwood. Liminal Spaces, an exhibit showcasing the art of Thomas and Alyssa Reiser Prince, opened Friday night at the Arts Center.
On view through Aug. 31, the exhibit “explores the fragmentary nature of (the artists’) environment as it is often experienced or idealized,” its promotional material says.
Prince, an assistant professor of art at Hartsville’s Coker University, paints memories — not of places, things, or moments but of the feelings those memories evoke.
“I’m remembering the sensation of something. How it feels, tastes,” she said. “I’m not trying to paint a picture of a perfect space.”
When people remember something, they often idealize it, Prince continued. Focusing less on image than sensation can be truer to the moment she recalls in her paintings.
Haley Floyd, an art teacher at Lander University, comes to most of the Art Center’s opening receptions.
Floyd said that abstract art like Prince’s can be collaborative, in that it invites the viewer to finish it with his or her own interpretation.
As for exhibits which feature artists with distinct styles who are nevertheless thematically linked, “I think of it as a combination of all the different voices participating in a larger conversation” with each other and the artists whom they reference, pay homage to or, in some cases, rebuke.
Thomas’s work at the Arts Center depicts dreamscapes populated by gas stations, palmetto trees and ghostly, featureless humans, places in which “manmade and natural elements collide,” she said.
Thomas, who teaches at Spartanburg’s Converse College, said much of her art is about how the built environment is often an idealization of nature, an “artificial oasis,” something she first thought about while lounging in a swimming pool in Florida and listening to the sound of the ocean nearby.