November 1994

Leo F. Twiggs, EdD

Artist and Educator

Leo F. Twiggs, EdD

As a child, Leo Twiggs wanted to get a job in which he could wear a collar and tie–a modest goal perhaps, but an extremely unlikely one for a poor, sickly 14-year-old boy who attended a badly equipped segregated school, and who had to look after his sister and five younger brothers after the death of his father. With hard work and persistence, Twiggs handled every obstacle to attain his goal. Today, he is acknowledged as one of South Carolina’s foremost artists. And, every day, he wears a collar and tie to work. “My mother and grandmother always wanted me to get an education and to them, wearing a tie signified success,” Twiggs said, “They always believed that I could do it.” Once he graduated from high school, a local pastor introduced him to the president of Claflin College who helped arrange for Twiggs to afford to go to college. Twiggs graduated summa cum laude from Claflin College and went on to earn a master’s degree in art from New York University and became the first African-American to earn a doctorate in art education and criticism from the University of Georgia. Twiggs is nationally known for his unique batik painting process that he developed through innovative manipulation of the traditional technique. Batik is an ancient wax resist and dye process, which can be traced back to fifth and sixth century Egypt. His work has won international recognition and numerous awards. Several of his paintings have been selected by the U.S. State Department to hang in American Embassies in Rome, Togoland, and Dacca, among other places. Many of the images in his batiks focus on mother images, bird images and children, “I suppose that living in the low country with my grandmother, mother, sister, brother, uncles and aunts has acted to shape what I explore in my work,” Twiggs said. “The people I knew were folks who lived, loved and died in their meager environment. However, there was a dignity about that existence, an existence not unlike that of many other people in the world.” East Wind Suite was a series Twiggs produced after Hurricane Hugo hit the coast of South Carolina. His mother and family lived through the storm, and Twiggs was overwhelmed by the destruction the hurricane inflicted. “To me, the hurricane series is a coming together of all the images I had produced over the years–mother, family, and people I know,” Twiggs said. “The hurricane series shows people in a dire situation. They are in the wind and they are unyielding, just like the people I know.” Among Twiggs’ more recognized and discussed art works are his Commemoration Series. The works have received critical national and international attention. They were the subject of an international presentation at a conference in Tours France and SCETV explored them in a recent documentary. Twiggs has had over 60 one-man shows and his works are represented in numerous public and private collections. Ebony Magazine featured an article about his work, and he was the first visual artist to receive the Verner Award (Governor’s Trophy) for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. In 1998, he was inducted into the Black Hall of Fame. Art Connections, an art text book for elementary and middle school students, features one of his paintings in an accompanying portfolio. Uncommon Beauty from Common Objects, a national traveling exhibit featured his work on a 1995-96 national tour and he was one of five artists commissioned to design two works for Winston-Salem State University. In 2001 and 2008, he was selected to design an ornament for the White House Christmas tree. Twiggs has served on the State Arts Commission, the State Museum Commission, the Southern Arts Federation and the Guild of SC Artists boards. He is a member of the boards of the SC Arts Foundation and the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, and the Chair of the Board for the SC Hall of Fame. Formerly a distinguished professor of art and Executive Director of the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium at SC State University, Twiggs is Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at Claflin University in Orangeburg. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Black College Hall of Fame in Atlanta and he received the Medal of Honor in the Arts from Winthrop University in 2004. The Georgia Museum of Art organized a Retrospective exhibit of his work titled “Myths and Metaphors: The Art of Leo Twiggs” that toured the Southeast from 2004-2006. Messages from Home, a book featuring a career retrospective of his unique batik paintings will be published in December, 2010. Twiggs tells students, “I believe in the importance of the arts. I believe that they are repositories for the hopes and aspirations of a people, of a culture, that they can combat discrimination and bring us closer together as human beings. For to come to love, appreciate and respect the arts of a people is to come to love, appreciate and respect the people themselves. You must give love and respect to get love and respect.” Learn more about Leo F. Twiggs,EdD on his website: www.leotwiggs.com