Loulie Scharf has two very apparent passions in life: art and animals. Both began early in life, as she took art classes in childhood and grew up with countless rescued pets, from an abandoned tarantula to a horse. Today, she and her husband and children live with two dogs, three cats, a bird, and three gerbils.
“I realized at a very young age that meat was formerly an animal,” Scharf tells, “and thus have been a vegetarian most of my life. Animal rescue and advocacy is a huge part of my current life—and it always has been.”
As is the case, she dedicates proceeds collected from sales of her work to benefit various animal rescue groups. On Friday, as part of Fourth Friday Gallery Walk in downtown Wilmington, Scharf will open “Have a Heart: SkyWatch, Art by Loulie Scharf,” at WHQR. Her work features various birds, from parrots to cardinals to pelicans, in mixed-media and paint, with bright, bold colors and whimsical prints and text backing them. The work will be shown in the renovated MC Erny Gallery, featuring refinished wooden floors, as well as new lighting, painted walls and a fresh hanging system for art exhibits.
“The jury met over a year ago [and chose Loulie as the first art show of the year,]” according to WHQR’s gallery coordinator and development director Mary Bradley. “We all found her work so vibrant and positive, and I think it’s a terrific way to kick off the new year and show off the gorgeous new gallery.”
Scharf, a graduate of University of Georgia, was self-taught for many years before taking classes at UNCW and thereafter enrolling in the Academy of Art in San Francisco. “They have an online program that is second to none, in my opinion,” she tells. “I have grown so much as an artist through those courses. I still have a ways to go before I get my masters; I am on the slow track, but it works for our family.”
Experience has become the vibrant artist’s mainstay of a life well-lived and -learned. She and her husband lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, before moving to Asheville, NC, having children, and then landing in Wilmington. They have stayed here for the last 16 years. Since, Scharf has instructed at CAM’s Museum School, teaching mixed media and printmaking, in a teaching style she says is chaotic if not completely fun.
“Anything goes in our classes,” the artist promises. “The processes are open-ended and experiential. The joy of art, to me, is in the playful processes and the delightful surprises. That is what mixed media is all about. My current class involves gelli printing, painting, carving linoleum stamps, making rubbings, paper weaving, and more.”
The techniques and tools can be seen in her own works. Some include leftover wrapping paper in strips and making up a backdrop, including stamped circles and what looks like wood grains, with a bright blue and red bird at the forefront in “Woodsy Walk.” Prints of dictionary pages, overlapped with paint markings and red cardinals appear in “Upbeat Reds.”
“I have collected random, quirky art supplies for more than two decades,” Scharf says. “I love art supplies the way most women love jewelry.”
She will find everyday household items an inspiration for printmaking and mark-making. Her husband dares not throw anything away that could be upcycled into a Loulie original.
“I have a collection of clothing tags to use in an upcoming series,” she says. “I save used gift wrap if I like the patterns. The library sale has excellent old dictionaries for cutting up. In my studio, there are huge bins for papers, sorted by color. It took me years to get that organized, but I tend to work by color, so it makes sense.”
Her favorite technique to play with comes in painting paper by using gelatin plate printing. “If I am working in blue, I open my blue bins and ‘shop’ through my nutty collection of all papers blue. It’s so fun!”
A self-described “junkie for learning,” no experience is off limits for Scharf or her family. In fact, five years ago, they stopped what they were doing to partake in a year-long RV adventure. Deciding to homeschool their kids, Scharf and her husband wanted to show them firsthand the benefits of volunteerism. So they traveled to animal shelters across the country and offered help. They spent a lot of time at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah.
“It’s the largest animal shelter in the world, I believe,” Scharf says. “We adopted Goose [our cockatiel] and a cat named Wednesday there. Our family of four has spent lots of time working in Parrot Garden there; it is one of my very favorite places. You feel like you are in a happy insane asylum, with the birds screeching and shouting out random words all the time. Our whole family is hooked on birds, and I love birds of all types.”
And that means dedicating a tremendous amount of time loving and caring for them, even when they come with their own set of problems. Their beloved Goose happened to be a self-mutilator.
“He had to wear a homemade cone and a homemade sweater at all times so he wouldn’t peck his back,” Scharf explains. “He is healed now! He no longer self-mutilates and he can be naked!” [Laughs.]
While meandering the Masonboro area one day, her family came across a royal tern that was injured. They scooped up the bird and took it to SkyWatch Bird Rescue.
“They admitted him to their hospital area for an extended time so he could heal and then be released back to the same spot when his flock returns to the area,” Scharf tells.
After Hurricane Florence, Scharf became a permanent volunteer for the nonprofit. Pairing her art show with the nonprofit seemed like a no-brainer after seeing firsthand their operation. “SkyWatch needs physical help and donations pretty desperately, as do most animal philanthropies,” she adds. “SkyWatch is incredible. I have so much admiration for Amelia [Mason, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator,] and her helpers. Animal rescue is a pretty thankless job, and it is done by those who have an unstoppable passion for animals.”
Scharf knows firsthand, as she and her family once even ran a guinea-pig rescue out of their own home. Local shelters still call on them today as needed.
Folks will be able to meet Scharf and discuss her artwork and rescue stories at WHQR on Friday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. A closing reception will take place February 22, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m as well. Scharf will be making 200 small plaster hearts to give out at the closing.
“They are called ‘Pocket Hearts,’” she explains, “and each is handmade and painted with a positive affirmation. I am so excited to give these out! They inspired the name of the show, ‘Have a Heart.’”
Throughout 2019 Scharf will continue the theme, each show benefitting a different rescue group. She already has planned a Burgwin-Wright House exhibit in September and she wants to add a third show this year.
“I have Bald Head Island on my mind,” Scharf tells. “I would love to do a show for the conservancy there, and paint all of the species found there, such as sea turtles, Painted Buntings and gators. Eventually, I would like to also have monthly online shows to benefit animal groups in other areas.”