In our technology-ruled era, it is all too easy to get sucked into cyber space through the screens of our smartphones, tablets and computers. Teenagers and adults are often found with their heads tilted downward, focused on their tiny electronic devices. Even small children are quickly becoming tech-savvy as the world turns increasingly digitized. While technology has helped the human race progress tremendously within the last two decades, it is also making people oblivious to happenings in their surrounding environment.
Artist Janette Hopper and her husband, photographer Charles Kernan, hope to remind others to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature with landscapes and scenery captured in their artwork. Their exhibit, “Visible Spectra,” hangs on the walls of Art in Bloom in downtown Wilmington.
“I’ve been interested in art ever since I was a preschooler and told my mother I wanted to make murals,” Hopper states. “She went to the local newspaper office and got some news print rolls for me. She loved keeping me busy making murals with my crayons.”
Hopper is a multimedia artist from Idaho, who paints landscapes and sceneries on location. She served for two years in the Peace Corps in La Baja, Colombia, before receiving her MFA from University of Oregon. She has gone on to teach at University of Oregon, Boise State University, Columbia Basin College in Washington, Central Michigan University, as well as serve as chair of the art department at UNC at Pembroke. She also taught in Germany and Denmark.
Currently on display at Art in Bloom are drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings. “Between Charles and myself, there are 75 pieces of art in total at the exhibit,” Hopper tells. Her work has been featured and collected in a number of exhibits in museums, public and private venues, universities, and colleges throughout the U.S., as well as Germany, France, The Netherlands, Canada, Bulgaria, Italy, Denmark, and New Zealand. She was even a member of Paleur International in Denmark.
Along with watercolors and oil paintings, Hopper also does sumi ink paintings. She uses bamboo brushes specific to the art. “It’s an Asian-inspired media, and I work on rice paper,” she explains. “The ink is very thin and difficult to control, probably even more so than water color.”
Though Hopper travels throughout the country and Europe to paint, much of her work in the exhibit is of the Cape Fear area. In addition to showcasing several pieces of the Cape Fear River, 10 percent of exhibit proceeds are going toward the Cape Fear River Watch, which ensures the upkeep and environmental protection of our local waterway.
Though the magnitude of a landscape often proves breathtaking while seeing it in person, in a painting, the viewer depends on nostalgia from having visited a particular place or scene. Or at least they must depend on conjuring the nostalgic feelings of seeing something as brilliant as the vast horizon of a sea amidst marshy waters.
“I don’t think you can really capture any particular place,” Hopper notes. “However, I do like that people often look at my art and tell me that they feel like they have been there.”
While Hopper paints the nature around her, Kernan is by her side seizing the imagery with his camera. The walk, hike, bike, kayak, or find other ways to scoop up adventure outdoors. “We’re always looking at nature,” Kernan says. “What we both try to do is point out what we think is beautiful to us.”
A retired chemical engineer, and now emerging artist, Kernan’s interest in photography started when he was a small child. Inspired by his father, who always took many pictures outdoors during vacations, Kernan eventually got a camera of his own.
“When I first got a camera, I started taking pictures of scenery on vacations and trips,” he says, “or anywhere around that looked beautiful, whether it was the trees, sky or sunset.”
Although Kernan has been taking photos for much of his life, this is the first public exhibit featuring his work. He has focused on showcasing various areas across the globe with different lighting and views.
“We’ve been to many national parks,” Kernan says. “Part of the reason for that is we enjoy the beauty of the unspoiled wilderness of the national parks. We have a lot of family that live in the Pacific Northwest, so we travel there a lot. Our family tries to get together every year at a national park to go camping.”
Kernan has traveled to the Northeast to trace the steps made by the Hudson River School, which was a movement created by a group of painters in the mid-19th century, roughly between 1825 and 1870. Many members of the group captured the Catskills in New York. Included in the exhibit are two limited-edition fine-art photographs, one of which inspired members of the Hudson River School.
“One is a photograph of a small waterfall in the North Cascades National Park in Washington,” Kernan says. “The other one is of Kaaterskill Falls in New York. It has been painted by many artists at the Hudson River School art movement.”
Hopper and Kernan both plan to continue to paint and photograph many more beautiful scenes from around the world, especially national parks. Not only does their artwork evoke feelings of peace and serenity, much like nature itself, but it also serves to remind how our tangible world is delicate and immersive, especially as technology continues to progress. “We really have to protect places like this for our future generations,” Hopper states.
“Visible Spectra” will hang at Art in Bloom until January 20, 2017. A closing reception will take place on the 20 from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.