History is important to Amy Grant, owner of Art in Bloom Gallery in downtown Wilmington. After she purchased the property at 210 Princess Street in 2015, Hipp Architecture and Urban Building Company got to work renovating the building and uncovered a great deal of local history. They removed layers of drop ceilings, walls and floors, which hid 150 years worth of pristine heart-pine ceiling, barn walls, ballast stones and many other features of a horse stable built by the Quinlivan family of farriers in 1910.
“I continue to marvel at the beauty, design and craftsmanship of the building, from a time when few power tools were available,” Grant muses. “The stories of the previous architects, builders and owners inspire me, in that they made the most of what they had, given limited resources and contributed to the community. They used their knowledge and ability to adapt and learn to create a space built to last and a thriving business.”
Four generations of farriers from the Quinlivan family owned the property from 1904-1920, and in that time they became known for helping injured horses and mules. The Quinlivans built a state-of-the-art brick building over the property’s wooden stable. “When you visit Art in Bloom Gallery today, you will see cut outs in the gallery walls showing the wooden walls from the stables (c.1858 and 1891),” Grant details, “including the metal rings where the farriers would tether the horses.”
Paying homage to the equine past of Art in Bloom’s home, last week it opened “Horse Play” (hanging until May 26), which includes work by more than a dozen sculptors, painters, jewelers, photographers and mixed-media artists, with various visions and forms of horses. In the spirit of the Quinlivan family’s legacy of caring for horses, a portion of sales will go to Cape Fear Equine Rescue (capefearequinerescue.org).
“I am thrilled with the variety and originality of all of the art and artists participating in ‘Horse Play,’” Grant says. “Catherine Porter Brown’s ‘Spring Run’ (oil on canvas) makes you feel as if you are running with the horses. I love the seahorse looking at its reflection in the water in Pam Toll’s colorful ‘Netherworld’ (mixed media) [and] fabric is used in her piece ‘Horse Race’ (fabric and oil on canvas).”
While 2015’s renovation uncovered countless horseshoes, loads of farrier’s tools, wagon parts, harnesses, a crate of well-preserved Quinlivan family papers and other artifacts from early the 20th century, the uncovered ballast stones were incorporated back into the new brick fence and courtyard in the back of the building. Also added was a sculpted metal gate by Dumay Gorham III, whose “Drifting” (14-inch-by-14-inch-by-20-inch bronze seahorse) is featured in “Horse Play.” It’s Gorham’s first bronze seahorse and sits atop a driftwood base. It is the latest in his series of marine life sculptures. He has another albeit slightly larger seahorse on a stone base, made of copper with nickel and silver details, that is part of “Horse Play.”
“I love the variety and anatomical uniqueness of sea creatures,” he says. “This was a series that happen to be a great fit for the show. ‘Drifting’ was actually a piece I made for the Acme Art Studio’s spring show last fourth Friday. I was excited and honored Amy wanted to include it as part of ‘Horse Play.’”
Gorham finds sea creatures, such as seahorses and sea dragons, as well as animals in general, visually interesting and intriguing to base work on. Using photo references for realism, he takes artistic license and adds details that are “sometimes not anatomically correct but make the sculpture itself more visually stunning.” Depending on size and complexity, some pieces take months to complete the process of welding and layering metal textures. Others, like “Seahorse” and “Drifting,” are finished in a matter of days.
“I cut the basic body forms from sheet copper (or bronze in this case), hammer them out and weld them together or add them to a wire form armature,” he details. “Then I use my torch and welding rods to lay or weld in the details and texture over the surfaces of these sculptures. The next step is sometimes adding more layers of texture by welding or using grinders and other tools. The final step is cleaning and polishing the piece. Then they are mounted to various bases.”
“There is a certain quality and spirit in Dumay Gorham’s ‘Seahorse,’” Grant notes. “The sculpture seems to be alive with a story of its own. . . . Dumay Gorham’s 3-D sculpture pairs well with Catherine Nicodemo’s 2-D pastel. Both works of art have depth and mystery.”
Like her three other abstract works featured in “Horse Play,” there is an open-ended story left for folks to interpret from Nicodema’s “Sage” (9-inches-by-14-inches, pastels on paper). Its geometric-like shapes act as trees and mountain or hilltop in the background, with a horse and its colt being watched over by a robed figure standing in the foreground.
“It starts from my heart,” Nicodema says of her works. “I take the cues from my life. For example, the stage, nature and my friends: What is going on in my personal and inner world comes out subliminally in my work. The concept comes from my imagination. Sometimes I start on my beautiful vellum paper drawing with graphite and sometimes I work from sketches from the past. I have my own technique for using pastels.”
Other pastels on display include Jay DeChesere’s “Waiting for a Ride” (11-inches-by-14-inches) and “A Bit of Salt” (13.5-inches-by-10.5-inches). Man and beast embrace each other in Elizabeth Darrow’s “Black Beauty” (oil on canvas). Nick Mijak reimagines horse-drawn carriage rides in downtown ILM in watercolors, while Dave Klinger’s photographs captured them in black and white. Another unique gem is Roberto Vengoechea’s hand-carved opal horse head and sterling silver pendant.
“Each horse has a distinctive character in Bradley Carter’s three acrylic paintings, ‘A Little Love,’ ‘Shall We?’ and ‘Forever and Day,’” Grant adds. “You forget you are looking at a painting and feel the presence of each horse. And Janna Siegel Robertson has created a whimsical and playful horse (papier-mache and acrylic on canvas) swimming in the ocean and practically popping out of the canvas.”