It’s been two weeks since the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and since then, the alleged killer’s face has been plastered across newspapers, magazines and television screens.
But as the community begins to bury the victims, a local Savannah artist has instead shifted the spotlight on those who lost their lives.
Scott Stanton, better known by his pseudonym, Panhandle Slim, has a unique style. His portraiture paintings are peppered with quotes or poems that often humanize his subjects.
THE MOTHER EMANUEL HOPE FUND
This fund will provide direct financial support for the funeral and burial expenses of the nine victims. Any funds remaining will be donated directly to Emanuel AME Church. Donations are not tax-deductible. Donations can be made by sending a check to Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, c/o City of Charleston, P.O. Box 304, Charleston, SC 29402; by stopping by any Wells Fargo Bank nationwide and making a donation to the fund; by texting prayforcharleston to 843-606-5995 or going to www.bidr.co/prayforcharleston. For information, email email@example.com.
His work is considered folk art, which is appropriate as the artist says his art is for the folks.
And his latest project was a labor of love for the Charleston community.
“I was watching the news, and I was mourning and I thought, ‘What can I do?’” Slim said. “I wanted to help and, well, I can paint.”
So Slim used his talents to create portraits of the nine victims, along with small details about their lives to better understand who they were.
In turn, he learned Cynthia Hurd was a librarian who dedicated her life to helping people; that the Rev. Deparne Middleton-Doctor had the voice of an angel; and Myra Thompson was a revered educator.
He discovered the Rev. Daniel L. Simmons was a Vietman veteran; Ethel Lance took pride in her job as custodian of the church; and that the Rev. Sen. Clementa Pinckney stood at the pulpit and thanked God for all the people who came to Emanuel AME Church seeking to expand their horizons.
He painted to understand the situation. He painted to heal.
“Art has always been a coping mechanism,” Slim said. “It’s a way to express yourself and work through your own feelings.”
But Slim’s work has gone beyond his own feelings. He recently delivered the paintings to the church, adding to the memorial of flowers, candles and plaques dedicated to the deceased. There has since been an outpouring of gratitude.
“When I arrived, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was welcomed,” Slim said. “It was so overwhelming and the tribute was beautiful. You could see the love through this horrible, horrible thing that happened.”
He hopes his one act will reverberate into bigger things.
“I’m not a trained artist. There is a power pushing me and it means a great deal to the families and that’s all that matters,” Slim said.
“They know what my intentions were and I hope the paintings find their way to them.”
The project was a heavy one for the artist and he said the transition back to social painting will be tough.
Before letting go, though, he captured President Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace” during Pinckney’s funeral, a painting that sold for more than $900 at an auction benefiting the church and the victims’ families.
Slim said he’ll continue to use art as a way to stress the importance of community.
“Art to me is in everything. The people at the church, the way they reacted to this tragedy, was art. The public speakers, preachers, singers — to me, it’s all art,” Slim said.
“I feel like this latest project was a group project, that we did it together. The energy and love felt from the congregation, the families and the community was my inspiration.”