Tamara Garvey’s “Let’s All Pause For A Moment And Take A Good Look” at Starland Café is an easy-to-enjoy collection of the artist’s whimsical pen and ink pieces, many of which explore nature. And for Garvey, when she says pen and ink, she means it.
“It’s that old fashioned pen that you dip into the ink jar,” she said, “just like Ben Franklin.” Adding that once she explains her process that way “then people have a real picture in their head of an old dude sitting at a wooden desk, dipping their little feather into a jar of ink.”
A number of things have changed in the two-hundred-plus years since Franklin’s death, of course. Garvey, for instance, has a wide-range of colors at her disposal, and I’m convinced that she uses most every one within each piece, including inks that twinkle in the gallery lighting placed throughout the space.
“Some of [the inks] are sparkly, which is a cool new technology that Ben Franklin did not have access to.” She cracked, “so a lot of my originals have elements of glitter in them for extra whimsy.”
In spite of her conceptually lighthearted approach, Garvey is very blue-collar in the way that she works. She’s a regular at arts and crafts shows both in Savannah and throughout the Southeast, selling originals, prints, and cards to earn a living, and is a member of the new Tybee Island Washed Ashore Collective, which includes other local favorites like Tate Ellington, Heather Young, and Tiffany O’Brien.
“It’s the effort.” Garvey commented, not an ounce of hubris in her voice, “I frequently have very dirty looking nails, ‘cause the ink just gets under your nails.”
That said, Garvey’s commitment to playfulness is pervasive, which is unsurprising given her jovial manner. I found myself smiling as I walked through the exhibit not only because of the vibrant compositions and the frequently funny and/or quirky text contained within, but also because she’s titled the pieces things like “Let’s Hug It Out” and “The Ends of the Tentacles Are Stingy.”
But she takes her work very seriously, investigating her subjects extensively and providing information to the viewer so that not only will they see something visually appealing, but also enlightening. In “The Highest-Flying Dragonfly,” for example, Garvey depicts Pantala flavescens, more commonly know as “the globe skimmer.” In addition to holding the distinction implied in the title, it’s also the most widespread dragonfly on earth, a fact which the artist has included in a passage inscribed in white on the piece itself.
She used a similar technique for “The World Champion for Migration,” which shows a flock of Arctic terns.
“I was doing research into animals that had a really unusual migration pattern.” Garvey explained, “One is this bird that migrates between the arctic and Antarctica. It’s the longest…migration of any animal.”
In many ways “Let’s All Pause For A Moment And Take A Good Look” is a bit of a reckoning for Garvey, who has recently transitioned into a full-time fine artist. It’s her largest show to date, and has some of the oldest work that she’s done in this style alongside brand new pieces. Visually, the combination is seamless.
“There’s one that I did when I was back in SCAD, but it’s the style that I do now,” said Garvey, referencing “Enchantment Under the Sea,” which illustrates a number of underwater creatures, including a prominent seahorse, on a dreamy blue color field, “It’s when I first stumbled on the style of doing little creatures.”
She went on to say that “some things are kind of old but a lot of it is very new, and so I haven’t shown it at all yet. And the thing I like about [seeing] things in person is that a lot of it is glittery, so it’s just a whole different effect than seeing it on a computer screen.”
Starland Café is located at 11 East 40th Street. The closing reception for Tamara Garvey’s “Let’s All Pause For A Moment And Take A Good Look” will take place as part of First Fridays in Starland on March 6th from 6-9pm. The exhibition runs through March 10th.