Saturday, August 08, 2009

Asheville, First Friday Art Walk

(Above: Architectural frieze on one of Asheville's downtown buildings. Click on image to enlarge.)

One of my goals for 2009 is to find proper gallery representation. So far, the quest hasn't produced the desired relationship....and it's already AUGUST.

Earlier in the week I received a colorful art walk/gallery guide for Asheville, North Carolina...a mecca of arts and crafts with a "First Friday" event every other month during the summer. Yesterday was the night; twenty-four listed locations would greet locals and tourists from 5 - 8. Special exhibits would open. I just had to make the two-and-a-half hour drive.

(Art Deco masterpiece in downtown Asheville: The S & W cafeteria. Click on image to enlarge.)

Well, the art scene is certainly alive and well in Asheville. The evening was a total visual feast. Hundreds of people came; talented street musicians and food vendors made the short distances between galleries a delight. Dozens of other businesses stayed open too. There was something for every taste and budget.

(Above: Woolworth Walk....old-fashion diner and dozens of artist booths on two levels.)

Quite affordable work was on display in both the refurbished Woolworth and Kress buildings. These old structures were subdivided into individual artists booths. Though the quality varied, the creativity was remarkable. Recycled materials stood beer carton books (from $6.50) and the soft sculpture toys at Canoo (made from socks and sweaters, each individually names, and none over $37).

(Above: Beer cartons recycled into the covers of very affordable, handmade books.)

Several very talented artists had work in both these locations; but for real, top-notch quality art in fabulously upscale spaces, Blue Spiral 1, 16 Patton, Bender Gallery, and Ariel Gallery were hands down impressive.

Alice Ballard Munn's ceramic sculptures (Blue Spiral 1) based on natural foliage deserved more time than I could spend. Carole Perry's "glass tapestries (Bender Gallery) honestly looked woven. In fact, each piece has at least nine layers of glass threads....often 5000 threads in all!

Richard Oversmith was demonstrating still life painting at 16 Patton Gallery while the staff made available his recently released book. But, it was Jane Jaskevich's three part figurative sculptures that caught my eye. Each piece combined very different materials: alabaster, red oak, found brass objects, marble, and limestone.

What impressed me most about the art on display was its diversity and such unique combinations of materials. At Ariel Gallery this extended to fibers. Bark, acorns, twigs, grape vines, beads, assorted fabrics, paint, leather, roots, lace, and very fine stitching became the most exquisite "dolls" I've ever seen. They were made by Akira and Larry Blount. (They have an amazing website.)

Laura Sims' textiles (also at Ariel Gallery) included scarves, ties, and incredible wall hangings/silk paintings. (Her website includes a page for low water immersion, vat dying, and marbling.)

Of course, I was on the look out for exquisite fibers arts, and I found plenty more! The Asheville Area Arts Council was hosting an exhibition opening for Cynthia hall's mostly traditional quilts paired with Dawson Fogg's large-scale oil painting. It was a uniquely complimentary combination. At the Asheville Gallery of Art I found Chad Alice Hagen's beautiful hand felted and stitched pieces, including Between the Lines of Leaves (below). Eucalyptus Memory used ochre clay directly on the felt. Other works included puzzle pieces, chips of gourds, natural beads and tiny back-stitched words. Each was great!

I never expected, however, to be inspired by photography....but Brie Castell's new gallery sure did the trick. This young artist is a master of 19th century photographic techniques and uses them for 21st century expression. The results are stunning. The space is incredible. I bought a small, very affordable piece...from her "performance series" ($20 !!!) Just off Biltmore Street, this is a gallery NOT TO BE MISSED.

So....did I find a place to which to submit my own work? YES! I even got up enough nerve to introduce myself to the owner. A CD of available art will head back to Asheville on Monday. It's going to Aesthetics Gallery. The space was professional, well lit, and included great work, especially fibers. The attention to cultural diversity, especially African influences, impressed me. The interest in using photography in new ways for fiber were obvious and hand stitching was totally understood. My fingers and toes are crossed.


Magpie's Mumblings said...

Good luck with the gallery! Keeping fingers crossed for you!!

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Good luck with the gallery! Keeping fingers crossed for you!!

Magpie's Mumblings said...

oops...don't know how that posted twice. Oh well, just means I'm sending you double the luck!

Wanda said...

Oh wow...this sounds GREAT!!! My fingers are crossed (in English) and I'm holding my thumbs (in German)!!!

Julie said...

A great post and I've got everything crossed! Good luck!