Kristofer Neely's guardian angel artwork, painted during the Republican presidential candidates debate held at Wofford in November, caught the eye of party leadership and now will be exhibited at the SCGOP Experience Weekend in Myrtle Beach Jan. 14 through 16.
– Kristofer Neely, assistant dean and coordinator for studio art at Wofford, has been named the featured artist for the SCGOP Experience Weekend in Myrtle Beach, S.C., this weekend, Jan. 14 through 16. His paintings will be featured at the SCGOP Experience during the weekend leading up to the South Carolina Republican Party presidential candidates debate on Monday, Jan. 16. The debate also is sponsored by Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal.
Kris Neely / SCGOP Experience
During the Nov. 12, 2011, Republican presidential candidates debate held at Wofford, Neely painted a series of pieces he calls “Prayers for My Country, Prayers for The Candidates, Prayers for Our World,” which drew the attention of area party leadership. He painted the pieces at his easel just steps away from the crowd that was gathering for the national event outside of his Wofford campus studio art classroom. The paintings feature his guardian angels, which have become a recurring theme of his work.
While Neely considers himself an independent voter, he embraced the opportunity to share his work with a wider audience that the SCGOP Experience provides. Steven Blanton, a 2004 Wofford graduate and chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party, contacted Chad Connelly, chair of the state GOP, on Neely’s behalf. Connelly suggested that Neely take his work to the Myrtle Beach weekend to make the series a prominent part of the event.
“When I paint, I often find myself processing significant experiences through my brush,” Neely says. “I have come to think of these artistic moments as manual acts of contemplative prayer.
While the attention of the nation was focused on the “Commander-in-Chief Debate” sponsored by CBS and the National Journal and moderated by Scott Pelley and Major Garrett, Neely says he was “perched on hill about 100 yards away outside of the DuPre Art Studio.”
“Seated outside on this chilly November evening, I began to paint and pray at what seemed to be only steps away from the center of the political universe for a few hours,” he continues. “With helicopters and media trucks humming, the crowd poured in to listen to the responses from the hopefuls vying for a chance ‘to lead the Free World,’ as one candidate remarked.”
As he continued to paint, Neely says, “the accumulating pieces took on a special significance for me. I soon realized these were not my customary guardian angel images in the works. They were prayers amid the hopes and fears I feel for my country and our important role in the world.”
Neely notes that he does not intend for the art to be “particularly political.” “Rather, I offer them as prayers in a time of uncertainty both at home and abroad. I hope that in some way, they will remind us all to consider the power of our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.”
Neely wants to find opportunities to share the works with others who also are praying for the United States, “especially those who would seek to lead our nation as commander-in-chief. As voters, our decisions will have a significant impact on the world.”
In addition to his positions at Wofford, Neely owns a professional art studio, Wet Paint Syndrome LLC, in Hillcrest Specialty Row on Spartanburg’s east side. He has painted more than 6,000 of his guardian angel images on found wood. These images have been installed in church sanctuaries, college campuses, public parks, homeless shelters, cemeteries, and refuges for people who have been abused or neglected. They also have been welcomed gifts for expectant mothers, new drivers, recent graduates and retiring clergy. He has exhibited his work in commercial and institutional galleries throughout the Southeast.
Events for the SCGOP Experience Weekend in Myrtle Beach: All day Sunday and Monday
Free SCGOP Experience, an exhibition with vendors, food and entertainment, Broadway at the Beach Saturday, Jan. 14
7 p.m. – Free kickoff concert featuring The Fantastic Shakers, Broadway at the Beach Sunday, Jan. 15
8:30 a.m. – Free South Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition Prayer Breakfast, featuring Rick Santorum, Ralph Reed, Jay Sekulow and author Eric Metaxas
2 p.m. – Women’s “Tea,” featuring prominent Republican women and spouses of the 2012 candidates
7 p.m. – Free 7th Congressional District Candidate Forum, Broadway at the Beach (Event is free and will be live-streamed via the Internet) Monday, Jan. 16
8 a.m. – State of American Energy Breakfast Forum, moderated by elected leaders
Noon – SCGOP Chairman’s Luncheon honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
6 p.m. – Pre-Debate Reception
9 p.m. – “First in the South” President Debate, presented by the SCGOP, Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal
11 p.m. – Post-Debate Sponsor Reception