Arts, Day in the life

Desirable Dark Art

I know this might be an odd item to post for Easter, but the last thing I expected to get out of a writing program was the discovery of a haunting painter. (Silly, as I ignored the fact that the class was in the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC)

Behind the lecturer was this painting entitled The Gathering.

Intense, no? I’ve seen a few graveyards like this, but not in this kind of light.

As great as the lecture was, I found myself studying this painting more than paying attention to the speaker. And I wasn’t alone. A couple of us took photos and one woman had already looked up the artist online at:

barn owl barn swallow

He explores the delicate polarity of life by showcasing nature before a backdrop of mist and manufactured landscapes.


This Asheville artist has me inspired.

Go to his site and check out more.

Oh, and . . .

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What Inspires You?

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Ward Nichols, in WNC Magazine

Once upon a time I wanted to be a painter. But well-meaning folks (or perhaps fearful) instilled in me the idea of the “starving artist.”

I heard things like, “You’ll starve to death.”

“Who would you run to when the rent came due?”

“It takes years to become good enough to make money with art.”

“Artists are born, not taught. You would have to have displayed an aptitude before you could walk.”

When I was very young, my grandmother rented a room in her house to a painter, whose work never showed in big galleries. I don’t even know how she made her living. I know she passed away before I graduated high school. And until I’d lost everything in a fire, I had the most exquisite realist painting of a fawn lying in tall grass that she had painted for me. I wanted to be like her and paint nature as she had. Joan Wilson was the first artist to make an impression on me. To this day, my cousin haunts garage sales and thrift stores in the hopes of discovering a piece of her lost work.

Realism done well astounds me. This weekend I walked into a small local gallery to the works of Ward Nichols, clutched my chest and gasped. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am not easy to impress. I was on a cloud, which happened to be one of his favorite subjects. This is one of the few artists who makes his living from his art. At 86, he’s now celebrating 50 years as an artist and keeps a vulture near his easel to remind him to not waste a moment.  His biography said that he knew he was born to be an artist because his name is Draw spelled backwards.

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Cohesive, on display at the Wilkes Art Gallery

The detail in tiny blades of grass and bare tree branches, blemishes in the wood planks of dilapidated barns, tire treads in snow, and the bolts on each component of a steam locomotive took my breath away. His still life metal work is so flawless that I had to study each piece to be sure it was not a photograph. This artist understands light, use of negative space, and color restraint. He documents places that no longer stand and handles nostalgia like a historian.

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Scissor table with pot

When I see work this elevated, I know in my heart that had I pursued that path I probably would never have achieved such success. So many don’t.

What made him such a stand-out?

Discipline, which is something I struggle with daily, and am intensely inspired by.

What or who inspires you?


Arts, Beliefs

Be Responsible for the Energy You Create

A sign hangs in my friend’s shop that says something like “Be Responsible for the Energy You Bring With You.”

Yesterday, I attended a theatrical production at an inaugural art festival showcasing female artists. I went without expectations and had not yet carefully perused the descriptions of the presentations before show time. Now, being all female creations, I expected some anger and rebellion in the performances. What I had not anticipated was a presentation making me physically ill.

I work with energy on a daily basis and am usually able to deflect unwanted ones. I use various techniques, but in the case of theatrical performance, folding my arms in front of my stomach usually does the trick. As well as reminding myself that I am witnessing an artistic expression and not an actual event.

Art is all in “the eye of the beholder” and consumed through the perception of the individual. Part of that process as a consumer is trying to interpret the artist’s intent. But when you imagine that the intention was to turn a subject completely around for the sake of being different or provoking, the disturbing content takes on a whole new level of outrage.

The subject was child molestation, from the perspective of the predator believing the child enjoyed what adult was doing to him.

I don’t make a habit of rudely exiting in the middle of an actor’s performance, but I couldn’t sit through it. Even after enduring it for only a few minutes, the pain in my stomach felt as if I’d been sucker punched. I kept asking myself, how was that art? Why would any female artist choose to present such a topic from a male perspective?

I realize horrifying subjects are presented in a variety of artistic mediums – war, murder, rape, etc. But as a consumer, I have the right to decide how I feel about it, whether to continue to allow myself exposure to it and if I would recommend it to others or not. The energy hit me like a vicious slap from someone who was smiling at me. Yes, the actor was smiling as she described molesting a child. I felt like I had been assaulted and was totally unprepared for the stabbing pain that stuck with me for several hours afterward.  I could only imagine what it might have done to someone in the audience who had experienced such an atrocity as a child.

Be mindful of the energy you put out into the world, even as an artist performing to a captive audience. Energy doesn’t die and can penetrate whomever it touches like smoke absorbs into fabric. I like my art like I like my food, with enough familiarity to identify with it while presenting something new and intriguing to make me think. I don’t believe either should cause physical pain.



Meta Stuff, Non Para Things

Art Extends Life

view of venice

As if we needed a study to tell us that! It seems viewing beauty nurtures the body, mind, and spirit. Studies have shown that experiencing art, nature, and creativity improve emotional, mental, heart, and joint health.

Check out the article from the Huffington Post.

Day in the life

Guitar Builder’s Shop Burns

Steves fire

This is Steve Wishnevsky’s guitar shop. He took this photo himself while watching it burn early yesterday morning.

And I know how this feels.

In 2000, I lost my apartment building and everything I owned to fire. I was only thirty miles away, pet-sitting for a friend. Thankfully, I had my own dog with me. A friend who lived around the corner called to tell me not to come and watch, it was as good as gone. Instead of watching live, I saw it on the news a couple hours later as firemen were going in my front door. The loss was devastating, even life-altering, but survivable.

I had no money to replace things and no insurance. And neither does Steve.

I’ll always remember that smell of charred – everything. It’s very different than the scent of a fire fueled solely by wood, coal, rubber, or other flammable materials. And it’s one ‘ll never forget.

The next day I stepped through the rubble and ash in the same manner I would a decrepit burial ground, with reverence. I now store irreplaceable items in a fire safe because gone is gone. Physical things can be replaced, but intellectual property and paper cannot.

I’m acquainted with Steve as a member of Winston Salem Writers. He’s a history buff and great writer. His loss hurts my heart, not just out of empathy, but because my soon-to-be-released book is about guitar players. His guitars and other stringed instruments are pure works of art, created with deep love and appreciation. He will continue, as best he can. Because when a creative spirit is fueled by passion, no matter what obstacles may slow them down, nothing stops them.


You can help Steve at:


Big Eyes A Big Change for Burton

big eyes

I loved the cast, the director, and the triumphant story. Generally speaking, I tend to love bio-pics, and I wanted to love this film. But collectively Big Eyes left me with unanswered questions.

The opening scene shows Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, packing frantically to flee an unhappy marriage. We follow her and her daughter to her new home, new job, and painting big-eyed waifs that were not taken seriously as art.

Even though her paintings were labeled as kitschy as The Velvet Elvis, she meets a fellow artist who lavishes nothing but praise on her work. And she appeared to see the red flag waving strongly over his con-artist head, but Walter was such a smooth-talker, she married him.

The film went on to suggest that Walter pioneered the concept of renting wall space to set up a gallery inside a night club, to sell both of their works, then discovered how bad press drew public attention. This reminded me a little of Forrest Gump’s antics triggering iconic slogans, and made me suspect the employment of creative license over actual events.

Margaret fell into the trap of going along with her husband claiming to be the real artist to keep the income flowing and peace in the house. I found it hard to believe that she managed to hide her truth from her own daughter who had been her only subject for years. She’s quickly dismissed when she suggests that the paintings looked like her mothers.

Walter seemingly pioneered poster and postcard prints in an age before the copy machine. Like any con artist, he easily manipulated Margaret, even after she discovered that he’d lied to her about his personal history early in their relationship. And even though it wasn’t shown in the film, it did not escape me that in the late fifties, the home and finances were governed by the man of house. Most women didn’t have access to the checkbook, much less their own money, even if they did work.

SPOILERS from here on. If you haven’t seen the film, you might want to stop reading.

Margaret finally came to her senses and took Walter to court to prove that she was the true artist. I truly hope the case was resolved as portrayed. I found it difficult to believe that the question of money never became a bone of contention.

I wanted to know how Margaret left Walter for a fresh start with no money, managing to live in a lovely home in Hawaii for a year before contacting him about legal separation. I wanted to know how he ended up dying penniless when he had control of her empire for years. I wanted to know how her career fared after the dust from the trial settled.  All told, this film seemed a little too “on the nose” for Tim Burton whose comfort zone is creating his world. Or perhaps his vision was far grander than the truth.