50 Portraits of Charleston exhibit was created to get to know the community

Kyle Stuckey had a goal in mind when he decided to paint 50 portraits of people in Charleston. The Lowcountry transplant wanted to become familiar with the community he had just joined. What better way to get to know the place than to meet 50 people — some strangers, some acquaintances — and learn their stories? 

Stuckey teamed up with his fiancee Taylor Duvall for the yearlong enterprise that was funded and hosted by the Principle Gallery. 

Duvall, a freelance writer, served up the words portion of the art project by interviewing participants while Stuckey took note of their personalities, physical attributes and quirks. During each interview, there was a photo shoot. Stuckey then selected a favorite from 60 to 100 photos each for his oil painting, which was paired with Duvall’s written bio. 

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Taylor Duvall and fiance Kyle Stuckey worked together to create the “50 Portraits of Charleston” exhibit. 

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“When I first got into art, portraiture was why I fell in love with it,” says Stuckey. “I loved painting people. It’s like a little window into someone’s story of their life. We’re all so different or unique and have different backgrounds, and I wanted to showcase that with this project.” 

When selecting candidates for the 50 portraits, Duvall really only had one criterion: that these individuals did some sort of good for the community. 

Among those who made the list: Mayor John Tecklenburg, state trooper Bob Beres, retired principal Yvonne Orr, news anchor Carolyn Murray, watercolorist Mary Whyte and conductor Ken Lam. Other featured Charlestonians range from fishermen and firefighters to models and chefs. 

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Stuckey reveals a few pieces of his portrait collection, like this image of Mayor John Tecklenburg. 

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He wanted to paint people from all walks of life who each have contributed to the flourishing city that is Charleston. 

“For me, it was all about capturing what is a community and what makes up a community,” Stuckey says. 

But it was more about the journey than the end result, he said. 

Stuckey says he knew he was going to be getting to know members of the community though this project but he didn’t know quite how in-depth and pleasantly surprising some of the interviews would be. One that stuck out to him was his meeting with Beres (“Trooper Bob”). 

“At 6-foot-7, he’s a massive man. Given, I’m 5-foot-7, to be generous,” Stuckey says. “He came in the studio in his full uniform. He just walks in the door, so impressive, and commands so much authority. But the minute I started talking to him, I realized he’s one of the kindest and gentlest people I’ve ever met. He’s the perfect example of ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.'” 

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Stuckey reveals a few pieces of his portrait collection, like this one of firefighter Christan Rainey.

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Retired school principal Yvonne Orr was another interview that stuck out to Stuckey. 

“She told us her incredible life story as an educator and really an advocate for humankind,” he says. “The amount of compassion and strength that she has is so impressive to me. Taylor and I could have listened to her for hours.” 

Stuckey said he hopes he has captured in these 11×17-inch portraits some of the soul of each of his subjects. 

“As a portrait artist, it’s my job to capture their essence, not just their likeness,” he says. 

The “50 Portraits of Charleston: The Heartbeat of the Holy City” exhibit will be on display through October at the Principle Gallery, 125 Meeting St. Opening night is 5-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds of work sold will be donated to local charity Teachers’ Supply Closet.

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.