By Margit Resch

Boneyard? What is a boneyard, you ask? Don’t feel bad that you don’t know. Most people I asked had no idea. No, no, don’t look up “boneyard” in the dictionary. Not only are the definitions depressing, they take you in the entirely wrong direction.

Instead, ask an old Beaufortonian, or a nature lover, or a beachcomber, or, even better, go to Hunting Island and actually experience a boneyard: walk along the beach to the southern end of the island and, there, ahead of you: a boneyard! A magical collection of expired trees. No leaves, no needles, no bark, some still standing, most of them totally uprooted, often intertwined in a close embrace, resting comfortably on the soft sand. Nature’s work of art, created by the encroaching ocean waters and winds, constantly changing. Gifts to those among the millions of visitors coming to Hunting Island every year, who can find beauty in this unusual display on our barrier islands, who can unhinge their imagination and imbue these intriguing arboreal exhibits with meaning. Some are even gifted with the ability to express their experience in works of art. Three of these artists will share their gorgeous renditions with you in the Maritime Center of the Port Royal Sound Foundation—an event called Gifts from the Boneyard, Art Inspired by the Landscapes of Hunting Island. 

‘Broken Heart’ by Barbara James

The exhibit is the brainchild of featured fiber artist Barbara James, President of Art Cloth Network, founded 25 years ago, whose members from the US and Canada are juried in. And she founded Fiber Artists of Beaufort. A fiber artist, you ask? Well, don’t feel bad. I had to ask, too. Basically, fiber art includes weaving, felting, basketry and surface design, among others. Fabric, so Barbara says in her Artist Statement, “is endlessly fascinating. It excites our senses as it moves and pushes the artist, and the collector, to fully embrace the sight, sound, touch and even smell of the cloth; it is not passive.” Barbara expresses her creative self on pure white silk. After clamping, stitching or folding the fabric, she immerses it in different colored dye baths to create, as she puts it, “depth and mystery. Then using any combinations of personally designed silk screens, rubber stamps, stencils, brushes, paint rollers… I press, paint or roll color onto the fabric adding multiple patterns of interest. I often incorporate hand-stitching, transfer from original photos and beading. The result is a vivid original piece of art that combines representational and abstract imagery.” Barbara’s passion for “cloth art” goes back to her childhood, when she designed and sewed her own clothes, and was scientifically substantiated when she studied textiles and earned a BA and MA. After her retirement from teaching at The Ohio State University, she succumbed to her passion and started to create fiber art. Her work is inspired by her travels, current events, and by “the lush and exotic landscapes“ of her home here in Beaufort. Nine of her unusual, gorgeous fiber art creations will be for sale at the exhibit.

The other two artists, also from the Lowcountry, are photographers Joan Eckhardt and Andy Stephens. They share with Barbara their love for and support of Hunting Island. Both have helped illustrate Carol Corbin’s fabulous book on the history, ecology and physical beauty of Hunting Island State Park, Wild Island Nature. Their pictures (in the exhibit on canvas, needless to say) capture the magic of the boneyard in so many unexpected and intriguing ways.

‘Carried Away’ by Barbara James

Joan Eckardt’s magical photographs reflect her passion for nature and creative portraiture. Her work has been juried into regional and national exhibits, including the South Carolina chapter of the National Association of Women Artists. She joined the Photography Club of Beaufort in 2007, was elected its president, and became involved in the book Beauty of Beaufort, the proceeds of which were donated to the Friends of Hunting Island, resulting in her intimate bond with the park. In her words: “I joyfully spend many hours every year exploring the ever changing, intriguing, mysterious boneyard on Hunting Island and walking the beaches looking for shorebirds. Additionally, I have recently contributed all the images for a book for new gardeners in the Lowcountry. I always seek to evoke an emotional response and connection with the viewer which will encourage them to linger a bit longer at the print or canvas.” So, when you come to see the exhibit, linger a while in front of Joan’s photographs and pay attention to your response. 

Andy Stephens, after retiring to the Beaufort area twelve years ago from a career in financial services and technology, rekindled his interest in nature photography, which had begun in high school. He loves to travel with his wife and dog throughout the southeast, photographing the natural beauty of the region. His pictures have been displayed and sold in local art and craft shows. He is passionate about Hunting Island and serves on the Friends of Hunting Island Board. “I guess my fascination with the boneyard is that it is ever changing,“ he says. “I have been visiting there since 2010 and have never found it to be the same.” To this day, he is wondering what it might become. “I like the fact that some trees are able to ‘hang on’ longer than others and remain standing even with the surf smashing around their trunk day in and day out. I remember my first visit. After crossing the bridge on the Nature Center Trail and walking a short distance through some trees, I reached the beach with maybe a 2-foot drop-off. Today the path stays flat to the waters edge with no elevation change. And the trees I previously walked through are now part of the boneyard.”

The Boneyard art exhibit will open March 2nd and run for a month at the Port Royal Sound Foundation’s Maritime Center,  310 Okatie Hwy, Okatie. It is open Tuesday – Friday from 10am – 5pm and on Saturday from 10am – 4pm. The opening reception is on Thursday, March 2nd from 4:00 – 6:00 pm.  Both, the exhibit and the reception, are open to the public.  Admission is free.

All exhibit pieces are for sale. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Maritime Center and the Friends of Hunting Island.