Mardi Gras is only a short month away but at ACES Gallery, run by The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, on Front Street, one of Barton Hatcher’s vivid paintings seems perfectly suited to start the celebrations a little early. A sax melds into stand-up bass or guitar, as music notes jump and dance off the canvas in brightly colored hues. As part of “A Journey Between Paint and Fiber,” Hatcher will showcase nine pieces of art, as small as 24-by-36 inches and as large as 36-by-48 inches alongside the work of fiber artist Iris Simmons.
“I have been painting since I was a child,” Hatcher tells. Self-taught, he grew up in Bladen County watching his grandfather create magic out of mundane objects. Take, for example, the playhouse he constructed for the kids, entirely made from popsicle sticks.
“My grandfather was an artist, and I, along with others in my family, inherited the need to create from him,” Hatcher expresses. “At the time, using the materials he had to work with, I suppose what he did would have been called folk art.”
Though Hatcher refers to his work mostly as contemporary abstract, some of the same elements of folk art make their way onto his canvases, too. That he learned and was inspired from his own family tribe creates a sense of community and culture, often mandated from the genre.
Elements of nature show up in his work, as seen in the “The Gardener’s Dream.” It highlights all the musings from which a gardener garners inspiration. And it makes sense after learning Hatcher actually was a landscape designer for years (and a furniture designer!).
Though today Hatcher loves painting and working in vivid color palettes, he also does sculpture and mixed-media. A lot of his work uses pen and ink and pencils.
“I see most of my paintings as finished pieces before I even start painting,” he tells. “They often start with a small sketch and then I work from there.”
“The Real Cure for a Broken Heart” is rampant with symbolism through every brush stroke. A broken heart in the hour glass is indicative of time mending heartache before the organ can function at its fullest once again. “The main challenge is putting on canvas the images in my mind,” he tells. “I am always surprised at what people see in my paintings and how they relate to them.”
Though “Journey” is closing in two short weeks, 2019 is just kicking off for Hatcher. He has lined up nine shows already, from Columbia, MD, to Clarksville, TN, and of course, he will continue exhibiting locally. “Plus, I am working on an adult coloring book of sun faces, which I hope to publish this year,” he tells.
Rhonda Bellamy, who curated Hatcher with Simmons for “Journey,” found their work impeccably simpatico in November, after hosting a pop-up show at Wine and Design in Leland, with the help of the local Omega Psi Phi fraternity. “Their work paired so perfectly we decided to feature them at ACES,” she says. “I love Barton’s mix of bold color and organic/human forms to create visually interesting pieces, all with a touch of whimsy.”
Simmons is well-known locally for her fiber art, especially the quilt she designed for President Obama’s inauguration in 2008. She was one of 44 artists chosen to showcase a celebration of the first African-American president, curated by The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
“Iris is a past Regional Artist Project grant winner,” Bellamy tells. “Her use of fabric to tell stories has deservedly earned her national recognition.”
Simmons’ love of quilt-making came from a class she took more than two decades ago when she lived in Montclair, NJ. A NC native, she wasn’t in a field of artistry per se; she worked as a psychologist for a private school. Yet, her love for modern and abstract art, as well as color and fabric, transformed a simple hobby into a prolific talent. Simmons doesn’t merely patchwork a quilt; she creates art with the use of beads, mesh, mirrors, buttons, and the like, on a variety of fabrics she culls worldwide, from Bali to Finland. She told Star News in 2003:
“Sometimes, I just start throwing fabric on the floor and cutting amorphous shapes out to see what kind of quilt I can come up with by the end of the day.”
Prices of both Hatcher and Simmons works range from $500 to $2,800. Though there are no plans for a closing reception of “Journey,” folks can still see their talents on display Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through January 20.