Downtown Brunswick is where historic charm meets modern, funky flare. Antebellum homes and structures are situated near new construction like the Silver Bluff Brewing Co., currently being erected on Newcastle Street.
Those two periods are also colliding inside buildings nestled in the city’s historic district — just take a look at SoGlo Gallery/the Brunswick Actors Theatre.
The joint venue, located at 1413 Newcastle St., will host a stage show that visits an American classic, as well as a modern exhibit by Brunswick-based artist Motte Thomas.
First up, the art show. Thomas’ works will be displayed through July 2, including starting with an opening to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the gallery.
Titled “Lyrical Abstraction,” it will include 30 new paintings and drawings never before viewed.
“This is abstract work that comes from a place that is more conceptional based, he said. It works with abstract ideas. A lot of the forms I use come from real world but are altered into expressionist abstract ideas using all kinds of different forms.” The paintings often feature bright colors with geometric shapes that slip from Thomas’ subconscious. In fact, when creating the show, he simply put brush to canvas, rather than overthinking or embellishing his work. It’s a complete 180 from his previous local show, held in September at Glynn Visual Arts on St. Simons Island.
“That show had the encaustic works where I used the wax over the paint, and it took an extensive amount of time ... five years. This show is very different, I did 30 pieces in five months. It was very much the opposite,” he said.
“These were instinctive compositions. It was really spontaneous, like automatic writing. It was great to be able to unleash and just let it all come out.”
These types of modernist paintings are a bit of a rarity in the Isles. Thomas is hoping to offer something unique to intrigue those who stop in at the gallery.
“It is an interesting type of art, and it doesn’t get shown in this area very often. These are compositions that combine in a lyrical sense as the colors and shapes entwine. I didn’t question what I was doing, I just let it flow,” Thomas said.
“I think this is an artistic way of tapping into your personal space and connection with art. I think that is what functional art is today, basically, self creation. And I think that abstract expressionism is the pinnacle of that type of endeavor. At least, as a modernist, that’s how I see it.”
While the gallery will be filled with contemporary works, the theatre is taking a step back in time. This weekend, Kurt Sutton will share his stage interpretation of one of the greatest figures in American literary history — Mark Twain. The pen name has come to completely overshadow the author who claimed it — Samuel Clemens. Sutton will present “Mark Twain and Mr. Clemens, Tonight!” at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday. The cost is $20 per person with tickets available at www.soglogallery.com and at the door.
The 19th century humorist and novelist, Clemens — or rather Mark Twain — is well known for works like “Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” For Sutton, it’s both his imaginative wit as well as other aspect of Celmens’ life that was first intriguing.
“I’ve been a fan since college. I majored in history at the University of Georgia, and I started reading historical stuff about Samuel Clemens. I really learned a lot about him,” he said. “He is really interesting. He was a Renaissance man.”
In addition to being a well-known writer, Clemens was also a entrepreneur, lecturer — and a musician. That was something that connected for Sutton.
“Samuel Clemens was a good musician. He and I actually play the same instruments, he said. I was in a rock and roll band and toured all over the country for years so had that stage experience.”
Once things in his life began to settle down, Sutton decided to put that experience to good use.
“I decided to start doing a Mark Twain show, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to tell his stories but also share Samuel Clemens’ music,” he said.
It’s a different angle than the writer would have shared onstage himself. In fact, bringing music into Mark Twain’s tours would have lowered the perceived quality, Sutton noted.
“He would never have played music on stage during his time. He was going around doing lectures. He was on the circuit with writers like Emerson and Tennyson, he said. But he couldn’t play the banjo, harmonica or guitar on stage then because then it would become a minstrel show, which would be lowbrow.”
For his own shows, however, Sutton incorporates the songs Clemons would have sang during his lifetime. And they have been well-received, he has traveled throughout the country performing his routine with crowds appreciating the uniqueness and interactive nature of the program.
“We do folk songs like ‘A Bicycle Built for Two,’ ... those types of songs. The audience always starts singing too,” he said.
The musical element is a unique addition one that Sutton embraces. But he has also been credited for his physical likeness to the great writer, a complement he gladly accepts.
“I have been told that we look alike. I don’t have to use much make-up. I’m old and decrepit ... so I have that going for me,” he said with a laugh.