EARTH UNLEASHED: Wabi Sabi Warehouse hosts ‘Flou(we)r: Find Us Here’ exhibit, featuring four local artists
What would happen if the four elements of the Earth unleashed their powers onto one area? Aside from seeming a little apocalyptic, it would be an incredible contrast to see fire, water, earth, and air fuse into one glorious explosion. Conveying a similar effect, without the imminent threat of destruction, are four local artists with radically different styles merging into one exhibit. Kristen Crouch, Candy Pegram, Alexandra Morse, and Norm Robinson have integrated their work in “Flou(we)r: Find Us Here,” now on display at the Wabi Sabi Warehouse in downtown Wilmington.
“The name of the show is a play on words for the Azalea Festival, which happened during the opening reception,” Crouch says. “But it’s really about collaborating all of our different, signature styles under one roof, to reintroduce the Wabi Sabi Warehouse to the community.”
For the last few years, Wabi Sabi was on somewhat of a hiatus from exhibitions. “Flou(we)r: Find Us Here” marks their return. As the warehouse’s newest member, Crouch works in digital abstration. “My medium is a little hard to explain because there’s a lot that goes into the process,” she says. Crouch prints her work on sheet metal. Her mixed-media art combines photography and digital manipulation, to achieve the warped imagery of a faded memory or dream.
“All of my pieces and concepts are based on nostalgia, family history and memories,” she explains. “I’ll start with an image that’s from a photo album, or even an image from a Facebook or Instagram, and upload it into Photoshop to distort it.”
Crouch adjusts the number values of the image’s size, scaling and color within Photoshop to completely change the original subject matter. Oftentimes, she will incorporate numbers to signify the birth or death dates of a loved one—or a particular past event before printing it onto sheet metal.
“I have an Epson printer that accepts the sheet metal as if it were a piece of paper,” Crouch explains. “The metal is coated with a solution that accepts the ink from the printer, which is how the ink is able to stick. Afterward, I allow the ink to dry and then go over the piece with a few coats of finishing solution.”
Crouch will alter sheet metal as well, to further distort the image. She prints it by using a grinder tool to create highlights of different textures in certain areas. Other times, she will sand the metal to give the final product a matte look. By the end, the abstract image may channel glitch art or give the impression of a painting.
Also new to Wabi Sabi, Candy Pegram’s contribution to the group exhibit consists of both her signature and new techniques. Pegram is known throughout Wilmington’s art community for her retro, Southern-folk art paintings on wood. Taking advantage of discarded wood and paint from various hardware stores allows Pegram to create her beloved donkeys, desert and woodland “critters.” The old, nostalgic look has turned into somewhat of a brand. Recently, however, she went back to her roots in photography. “I have some mixed-media photograph pieces that are taken with an instant camera and digitally printed onto wood,” Pegram tells.
One piece in particular was created using a photograph Pegram took of Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington. “I purchased the wood for the piece from old houses and buildings from the nonprofit sect of the Historic Wilmington Foundation,” she tells. “I’ve also layered the picture behind the wood, grate and other objects.”
Pegram also has her well-known works on wood and loose canvas in the exhibit. “I’ll always continue to do the folk-art style,” she says. “But doing the same things over and over again can be taxing on the creativity for an artist.”
Discovery of new materials and ways of expression feeds many artists who look at discarded goods with a transformative eye. Take Morse, for example. She retrieves materials from the ocean.
“I use a lot of non-recyclable plastic I find in the ocean while scuba diving,” she says. “I create mixed-media paintings, usually 3-D papier-mâché on canvas, of mostly underwater scenes.”
While working on a boat, Morse became inspired to create art for a living after she found an abundance of shark teeth. She later converted them into jewelry. Her new craft eventually led her to her mixed-media underwater paintings.
“There’s one 3-D papier-mâché piece in the exhibit of a mother whale and her baby,” Morse divulges. “The whales are made of plastic bags, and the mother whale has a marble for her eye.”
Along with plastic materials and acrylic paint, Morse uses black light paint to achieve bioluminescence seen in the ocean at night. It is evident in her painting of a jelly fish and sea turtle. “The turtle’s shell is made out of broken glass and the jelly fish are made from light bulbs,” she explains. “It is three panels measuring 48-inches-by-24-inches, so it ends up being 6-feet-by 4-feet-long.”
Veering away from the mixed-media style to a more classical approach is Robinson, the longest-standing Wabi Sabi member. His studio has been there for seven or eight years. “I do watercolor paintings of different sceneries, mainly just for my own enjoyment,” he tells. “I’ve shown a few paintings before, but this my the first exhibit.”
Robinson keeps an open mind when it comes to subject matter in his work. He looks to his surroundings for inspiration. “I’ve also done paintings that were inspired by old photographs I took,” he says. “In the exhibit, I am showing several pieces of urban scenes, rural landscapes and bodies of water.”