D. Pierce Giltner is an outsider artist, with no formal training in art. With his raw talent, folk artist Giltner has created southern art using a variety of mediums. His early works were painted on salvaged wood and tin from derelict tenant houses around the small southern town, Chester, S.C., where he grew up. He reclaimed wood, roofing tin, and old house paint, to use as his art career began.
Since then, he has added canvas and artboard to his repertoire.
In the early part of his career, displaying in shows and festivals in the Southeast, his first collection depicted the hard life of black tenant farmers working in the South in the 1900's. With this body of art titled “The Life of a Tennant Farmer” two paintings won best of show, and another painting remains in a permanent collection in a Folk Art Museum in Florida.
Around 2007, Giltner moved to the Lowcountry in Bluffton, S.C, and opened the "Gallery without Walls" an open air art gallery and studio. Here he began his second subject and body of art, "The Oysterman of the Lowcountry". This subject, on wood and tin, showed a 3rd generation oysterman at work. In 2009, he released the body of art in several solo shows, Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, and the Telfair Artfair in Savannah.
In January 2019, inspired by a commission, he revisited the subject using canvas and oils. Here, he profoundly depicts the hard life of an oysterman with new eyes after he himself has lived as a local in the small southern town, even navigating the river himself. Each painting is based on the hardship of an oysterman on a cold winter's day, as the sun beams down on razor sharp oyster beds while he painstakingly harvests the world's finest oyster from the pristine May River.
Giltner now resides in his atelier, in Bluffton, S.C.
Get off the beaten path and head to the South's Lowcountry
The laid-back charm of the South's Lowcountry
Author: Brian Barth (USA TODAY Go Escape magazine)
Published: 7:00 AM CST November 12, 2017
Updated: 7:00 AM CST November 12, 2017
After dinner, and a bit more lolling on one of the restaurant’s porch swings, we were drawn across the street by the glow of candelabra lights in the trees. Here, we saw Cedarstacker (formerly the Gallery Without Walls), an assemblage of rustic trinkets and fine art that looks as though it more or less exploded out of a small shack hidden in the foliage. Adding to the eclectic vibe was that the gallery appeared abandoned, inhabited only by the ghostly portraits that hung from the trees. We later learned this was the work of D. Pierce Giltner, a local carpenter-turned-artist, who had apparently been across the street having a beer at the restaurant we’d just left.
When I caught up with him later, Giltner explained that he sometimes relies on the honor system for sales and has an arrangement where people who wanted a painting can purchase it from the store next door. (The store next door, by the way, is called The Store; it sells a variety of antiques and eccentricities, and is well worth a visit.) The self-trained artist paints on scraps of tin roofing and old planks scavenged from job sites — typically former sharecroppers’ cabins that are undergoing renovation in what has become a minor real-estate boom around Bluffton. He had little money for supplies when he started, so leftover quarts of house paint became his medium of choice. He soon acquired an agent and is now a fixture on the South Carolina art scene.
Bluffton has many galleries and artists’ studios, but none has a personality quite like Giltner (he recently relocated next to Cahill’s Market — look for his shack next to the chicken coop). He is known for his heartfelt depiction of African-American culture.
“My art is about preserving the past and bringing it into the present,” says Giltner. That about sums up how I’d begun to feel about the area: moving slowly enough to not lose sight of what’s important.
Artist discussion: The biography of Southern artist D.Pierce Giltner