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“I’ve reached the end of my rope” is an often-used idiom for a place where hope has run out. The rope is symbolic of a situation of tension and frailty, of strength unraveling. Huguette Despault May, in her exhibition on display at the Curtis R. Harley Gallery at the University of South Carolina Upstate from March 7-29, examines that rope literally and metaphorically.

Amazingly intricate in detail, May’s charcoal drawings in the Hawser Series are a close-up study of knotted, twisted and fraying ropes. The artist discovered an abandoned ship’s hawser (a rope used for mooring or towing a ship) while on a trip to Bedford, Mass. The rope’s heft and tattered state immediately suggested an exciting series of drawing investigations. Beyond its former utility at sea, this industrial-strength tether served as an elegant model for graphical musings on the strands of human strengths and frailties. Metaphorically, the renderings represent the overwhelming feelings of tension, frayed nerves and daily entanglements.

“In the drawing I encountered abundant physicality: ‘muscle,’ ‘hairy-ness,’ and ‘sinew’ which lead to meditating on the many evocative rope-derived idioms and aphorisms embedded in the English language. These often referred colorfully and metaphorically to the human condition: ‘end of one’s tether,’ ‘at loose ends’ and ‘all strung out’ being but a few examples,” said May.

The gallery is located on the first floor of the Humanities and Performing Arts Center and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about the showing, contact Jane Nodine, gallery director, at (864) 503-5838 or jnodine@uscupstate.edu, or Michael Dickins, gallery manager, at (864) 503-5848 or mdickins@uscupstate.edu.

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