A Life in the Forest: The Paintings of Sallie Middleton


January 30, 2013

Media contact: Mary Lynn Norton

803.329.2121 ext 129                                                                                            



A Life in the Forest:  The Paintings of Sallie Middleton

February 2, 2013 through March 31, 2013

Museum of York County

Rock Hill, SC – When Sallie Ellington Middleton was a child, her father walked with her through the woods of Chunn’s Cove in Asheville, NC, telling her stories and creating a private world where myth met and mingled with reality.  According to Sallie, the late Kenneth Ellington “was very imaginative…an authority on fairies and elves.  He believed in the old tales and would tell them to us when we walked through the woods, pointing out the pine trees and creatures, and as a child, in looking for imaginary creatures, we would see more than others.”

Her father’s stories full of folklore and legend inspired Sallie to view the world around her with a creative curiosity and passion for nature.  The leaves that covered the forest floor were not just trampled over, but were explored in hopes of finding an elf, leprechaun or fairy among the snails, worms and soil.  Sallie’s search for creatures, both real and fictional – physical and imaginary, led her to discover the rich tapestry of life in the forest.

Sallie Middleton (1926-2009) had little formal training in art.  Her uncle Douglas Ellington, who studied art and architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was noted as a watercolor artist as well as an architect.  He taught Middleton about painting, and she also studied at the Plonk School of Creative Arts in Asheville, NC, and spent a few months at the Vesper-George Commercial Art School in Boston, MA.

During the 70’s and 80’s, Middleton was considered one of the top wildlife watercolor artists in the nation.  Her remarkable eye for detail made her work popular with art collectors.  Sallie Middleton originals hang in private collections across the United States including former president Gerald Ford and the Cecil Family of the Biltmore Estate.  They also hang in the Gibbes Art Gallery and Magnolia Gardens, (Charleston, SC), and in the Harry Dalton Collection in the Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC).

Over thirty of Middleton’s original transparent watercolor paintings will be on display in the Springs Gallery at the Museum of York County through March 31, 2013.  Her exquisitely detailed renderings of plants and animals offer authentic portrayals of the native wildlife of the Carolinas.  Her paintings required months to even years to complete.   In almost every one of Sallie Middleton’s paintings there is a signature trade mark – a blue feather.  Sometimes it is hidden and you have to search the painting to find it.  Viewers to the exhibit can also try to find three elusive fairies hidden within the paintings.

A Life in the Forest:  The Paintings of Sallie Middleton was organized by the Asheville Art Museum with support provided by the Frugal Framer, John Cram and Matt Chambers, Ray Griffin and Thom Robinson, www.salliemiddletonart.net, www.salliemiddleton.com, www.mansfieldplantation.com, Mikell Middleton Howington and an anonymous gift.

The Museum of York County is located at 4621 Mt. Gallant Road, Rock Hill.  Admission Cost:  Adults, $5; Seniors, $4; Youth, $3; Free for CHM members and children 3 and under.  Admission is FREE to the public on Sundays.  Museum hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00am until 5:00pm and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 pm.  www.chmuseums.org

Related to the exhibit:

The Museum Store will have assorted boxed notecards and decorator prints by Sallie Middleton for sale priced from $10 - $30.  The nature enthusiast can also find nature journals, field guides of wildflowers, spiders and birds, educational crossword puzzles, flower presses, butterfly nets, display cases for collectors and clear view nature houses that allow you to collect, observe, draw and then release your specimen. 

An Artful Weekend- March 9 & 10, 2013

In celebration of the exhibition, A Life in the Forest: Paintings by Sallie Middleton, a series of art-based programs has been planned for the weekend of Saturday, March 9 and Sunday, March 10, 2013.

Saturday, March 9; 10:30 am – Nature Journaling & Book Signing with Helen Correll

South Carolina illustrator and author Helen Correll will speak about nature journaling and her book, Middlewood Journal: Drawing Inspiration from Nature.  The book is an illustrated, full color journey into the Piedmont woods.  Following her 30-minute program, participants will have the opportunity to purchase and have her sign her illustrated book in the Museum Store ($19.95 plus tax) as well as sketch within the Museum galleries. To learn more about the book visit http://middlewoodjournalblogspot.com.

Free with Museum admission.

Saturday, March 9; 11:30 am – Sketching in the Galleries

Using Sallie Middleton’s works as an inspiration, several small nature-based still-life vignettes will be set up from which participants can sketch.  In addition, the dioramas and collections within the Naturalist Center will be available for observations and sketching.  Please bring your own art materials (dry medium, please).  Free with Museum admission.

Sunday, March 10; 3:00-4:00 pm – Gallery Talk

Asheville Art Museum's School & Family Program Manager, Erin Shope, will lead
a gallery talk through the Sallie Middleton exhibition.  FREE.