Runaway Train

October 2023
Written By: 
Grand Strand Magazine Staff
Photographs by: 
courtesy of the Art Museum of Myrtle Beach

Richard Hagerty, 1976, watercolor on paper, 21 x 28 inches

Charleston surrealist artist Richard Hagerty has been painting his fantastic, visionary worlds for more than five decades. Often based on his dreams and fueled by intense curiosity, Hagerty’s paintings explore manifold realms, including mythology, astronomy, anatomy, botany, history, philosophy and world religions.

A retired plastic surgeon, Hagerty is formally trained in the rigors and discipline of science, which informs his artistic endeavors. His acute attention to detail, unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding of both concrete and abstract intellectual concepts and enthusiasm to share his thoughts and findings on canvas are what makes his art so compelling. His paintings are inviting and approachable by way of their whimsical imagery and happy color palettes and are brimming with repeating depictions of fantastical figures, dreamscapes, symbols and shapes that develop into a familiar visual language for the viewer. According to Hagerty, surrealism is a vehicle “to explore and express my obsessions with deep history, fascination with myth and symbol and inexhaustible curiosity about color and form.”

On exhibit September 12 through December 1 at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, The Big UnEasy is a retrospective exhibition of Hagerty’s work dating from 1976 to the present, following his artistic journey from mostly figural—albeit abstracted—work in watercolor to his more recent experimentation with geometry and oils.