Unveiling the Unspoken: Clemson University alumna’s artistic journey in “Where I’m From”

January 11, 2024

In the heart of Clemson, South Carolina, the Clemson Area African American Museum (CAAAM) showcases “Where I’m From,” an art exhibition that provokes thought and deep reflection by Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) alumna Felicia Gibbs Greenlee ’93. This compelling showcase offers a unique visual exploration of Southern upbringing, unveiling unnoticed aspects of life.

The Opening Reception on December 27 marked the commencement of the exhibition, inviting attendees to immerse themselves in Greenlee’s artwork that catalyzed her storytelling. The fusion of art and narrative layers reveals the South’s often-overlooked share of her unspoken truths.

Reflecting on her Southern roots, Greenlee said, “As I grew up here in the South, I noticed things that no one else seemed to notice and no one seemed to talk about. This feeling stayed with me throughout my life, and I felt compelled to share it in my work. The ‘Where I’m From’ Art Exhibition represents how I see America.”

Her wood collages pay homage to the resilience of the African American community, employing elements like chains and the American flag in abstract and figurative forms.

BFA Alumna, Felicia Gibbs Greenlee '93 describes her exhibition to a visitor
BFA alumna Felicia Gibbs Greenlee ’93 describes her exhibition to a visitor

Originally from Philadelphia, Greenlee’s relocation to Seneca, S.C., at the age of eight marked the beginning of her artistic journey. After earning her BFA in 1993 from Clemson University, she pursued a career as a textile designer while nurturing her unwavering passion for art.

Visitors are invited to explore the profound narrative within “Where I’m From,” providing a unique opportunity to engage with Greenlee’s observations and experiences. The exhibition runs until May 23, with gallery hours from Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and the first Saturday of the month, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., located at 214 Butler Street in Clemson. 

Greenlee’s interview with Clemson News has been edited for length and clarity.

Clemson News: What made you pursue a BFA degree at Clemson University?

Felicia Gibbs Greenlee: Several relatives worked at Clemson University, as well as my mother, now retired after 31 years. She would take my older brother and me to plays and other events on campus. My brother and I would explore the campus, and I put it out into the universe that I would attend Clemson University one day.

CN: When did you begin creating in wood?

FGG: In 1995, I received an opportunity to exhibit my work. All the pieces in the show were from my college years as a BFA student at Clemson University. During the show, I realized the few pieces I liked were those done in wood. After that show, I decided to focus on creating wood pieces. I took a departure from traditional canvas painting, but I continued drawing. 

CN: What is your inspiration for the exhibition?

Good Times inspired me to become an artist. The television program led me to believe that the world saw me. As I got older, I noticed that the world did not see me at all. My ancestors and culture are absent from the history books and museums. The world did not think I would notice.

FGG: As a young girl, I was first introduced to art on the 70’s television show Good Times. I only watched the closing credits to see the camera pan over the painting “Sugar Shack” by Ernie Barnes. The figures in his painting seemed to come alive and move to the sounds of the music. After a couple of episodes, I realized there were more paintings revealed, and I began watching the entire show. 

Clemson University Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) alumna, Felicia Gibbs Greenlee '93
Clemson University Bachelor of Fine Arts alumna Felicia Gibbs Greenlee ’93