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One-Eighty 360
Works by CMS Keith Tolen on display at Columbia gallery
Tolen - 2 Paintings Web
One of Tolens pieces (far left) is one he calls Thinker. I hope the imagery helps people to almost visualize what shes thinking, he said.


Artwork created by Camden Middle School (CMS) art teacher Keith Tolen are on display at Columbia’s 701 Whaley Street in its community gallery.

An opening wine and cheese reception was held July 8.

Tolen’s artwork will be on display until the end of August.

“I’ve shown my work at other venues within the last five years,” he said. “This show is called ‘One-Eighty 360.’ It’s about circles as symbols for life, like the circle of life in ‘The Lion King.’ I’m using it to tell part of my story.”

Tolen said the pieces at the community gallery depict “our connection nature and to life” and that each piece has “mysterious quality” to them.

For example, the circular painting has a particular meaning to Tolen.

“It says to me -- it could say other things to other people; I’m a naturalist, I like being out in nature -- that there are simple things in life. That there’s a direct connection between the human in that circle and that bird. They communicate with one another, like the teacher/student relationship,” Tolen said.

Several of the One-Eighty 360 pieces, he said, deal with human relationships. A trio of pieces depict a mother-son relationship. In two of the pieces, the child looks at the viewer. In the third piece, shown below, it’s the mother that is looking at the viewer.

“It deals with the whole idea of how we relate to others. There is no direct eye contact between them,” Tolen noted. “The male is looking at the woman in the corner of his eye. It’s strained (the relationship), but that’s important to the whole idea of our journey in life.”

Bird and man come together again in “Birdman” (the right hand painting in the photograph at bottom left). Tolen said the bird on the hat symbolizes the connection with nature.

“I was out cutting the grass one day and an oriole was there just as involved with what I was doing as I was,” he said. “Again, ‘Birdman’ is symbolic -- a way to help make that direct connection ... the harmony between us and the natural elements. The circle of life.”

Tolen said art allows the artist to have an experience and bring it to people who view that art. It’s also fun, he said.

“If it’s not fun, it’s just something else to do. Life’s too short, it’s just too short.”

--Martin L. Cahn