by Cindy Reid photos by Paul Nurnberg
One of the last remaining undeveloped Sea Islands in Lowcountry, Hunting Island is a 5000-acre; semitropical barrier island located 15 miles east of Beaufort, South Carolina. It is part of the ACE Basin estuarine reserve area and the most visited park in South Carolina. www.friendsofhuntingisland.org
On October 7, 2016, nature called on Hunting Island in the form of Hurricane Matthew and South Carolina’s beloved state park was forever changed. Massive trees were downed throughout the island, the campgrounds were decimated, the fishing pier was partially destroyed and the park was officially closed until further notice. After much effort, the park reopened in August 2017 . But then came Tropical Storm Irma, and the park suffered another blow when the storm left considerable flooding in its wake.
But all was not lost as many hands, from the park service , Friends of Hunting Island and other volunteers, worked diligently to get their beloved Hunting Island open again, which it did in January 2018. But much work remains, and on January 22, the South Carolina Department of Parks and Tourism released a proposal to restore Hunting Island.
Artist Robert Hild had an epiphany soon after reading that report. As he writes in “The Project: Epiphany-a moment of a sudden revelation or insight”…. “ For the time prior to Matthew, this place was a regular low tide walk for my dog Patrick and me. That place became a very special visual ever-changing feast for the eyes. It was a beautiful constant changing huge game of ‘pickup sticks’ that you could walk through with darting sanderlings and play of light, sand, water and tree limbs. Some folks see erosion. I see nature at work, a surreal visual festival.”
As a response to the damage done to the island and the need for funding to truly restore it, Hild is contributing in his way – as an artist. He decided to return to his painting after a seventeen year hiatus and donate his watercolor impressions of the pre-hurricane island to help with the reconstruction after it. In these works he …”felt the connection of the basic elements of the coast, water and wood, the sea and this boneyard. “Truly the watercolors and handmade paper are blended into timeless works of art by a master watercolorist.
Hild is a painter, printmaker and an art educator, and has worked and taught in Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. He is a member of the American Watercolor Society and received a Doctorate of Arts from Carnegie Mellon University in Screen Printmaking. His work has appeared in more than 155 juried and invited exhibitions, including eight American Watercolor Society shows at the National Galleries in New York, National Academies of Design, and two Butler Institute Mid Year Annuals in Youngstown, Ohio and state wide water color exhibitions in Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.
Hild lived a full year in Beaufort sixteen years ago. He says, “I returned to stay four years ago. During my 16 year ago stay, I visited Hunting Island at least once a week that resulted in a body of work. Also during that year, I taught art courses at USCB, TCL and had an art exhibit at the Beaufort Library in January 2000.” His exhibit of screen prints illustrated the ebb and flow of the environment, and upon his return to the lowcountry, the park has been a major element in Hild’s life. He says, “Since my return I have visited the north end of Hunting Island at least every week to walk and look.” Fascinated particularly by the “boneyard” north of the lighthouse, Hild made a series of photographs of this land/seascape between 2013 -2016. Little of what Hild captured in photographs is still there. He painted the body of work for the upcoming exhibit and sale from a selection of these images, so that others could see ‘what is no more’. He says, “This is for me to give back something that Hunting Island has given me. Not erosion but a festival of Nature at work.”
Hild’s studies in art are neither limited to the physical world or the abstract. He says, “The more I consider all of my works, I realize that they all feature strong aspects of light and its effects.”
Nature’s Shifting Scenes @ Hunting Island (2013-2016)
Hild has donated thirty new watercolor works to be exhibited at the University South Carolina Center for the Arts May 3-31, 2018 with all proceeds from the sale of the art going to the Friends of Hunting Island in support of the continuing recovery efforts needed at the park. The opening reception will be Thursday, May 3 at 5:30 PM. Original watercolors, note cards and posters will be on sale beginning April 1 at www.friendsofhuntingisland.org
Hild says, “Everyone has a point of view. We see differently. We come from near and far. Hunting Island Nature Preserve is for us to see. It is a unique place. My reason to see is nature in action, a constant changing kaleidoscope. This is my vision to share. What is there today is different, what I saw is gone. I invite you to see what I saw.”