In life, perspective is everything. There is more than one side to every story, and a multitude of ways to interpret them. “Insider/Outsider: Art Two Ways” is a unique exhibit that embodies such concepts.
Hanging on the walls of the MC Erny Gallery at WHQR in downtown Wilmington are paintings by Kirah Van Sickle and Candy Pegram, each of whom integrated training and education in art throughout her life. Van Sickle’s approach is academic and contemporary, while Pegram’s style is more retro—even Southern folk art. The two artists have taken their nearly opposite painting styles to interpret the same subject, whether it is a story passage, inspirational quote or image.
“I approached Kirah over a year ago about the idea that we would take any sort of subject matter that we were interested in and do our own interpretations of them,” Pegram says. “The only guidelines we gave each other were the size of each piece.”
Pegram and Van Sickle worked on their projects separately, and had no idea what the other’s work looked like until each piece was completely finished. Adding anticipation to the show, some of the artists’ art weren’t revealed until they were displayed at the gallery.
“The show provided a way for us to come from different directions,” Van Sickle says. “It was fun to see how we both used the inspirations to pull from our own histories. It all came together in a really cool way.”
Van Sickle was born in Oregon and moved around with her family before settling in North Carolina as a teenager. Her father, a nuclear engineer, sparked her interest in art at the age of 6 when he took her to an art-supply store. The trip inspired her to take on its studies throughout grade school until she went on to complete her undergraduate education at Duke University. While there she majored in biology, as well as art and art history. She received her Master of Science in medical illustration from the Medical College of Georgia, and her Master of Fine Art in painting through the Academy of Art in San Francisco. “I have been making and studying art for over 40 years,” Van Sickle states. “It’s been kind of a convoluted path.”
Van Sickle had her own creative consulting business for 18 years, and worked in both commercial art and graphic-design while maintaining her fine arts craft. These days her career revolves around sharing her talent and love for art with the Port City, as well as other artists who attend her regional and international workshops.
“Ten years ago I started teaching,” Van Sickle says, “I’m a practicing studio artist, but also I am an art adjunct at Cape Fear Community College and an instructor at the Cameron Art Museum.”
While Cameron Art Museum is the largest studio space in which Van Sickle teaches, she also hosts private art lessons in her home studio. Plus, she travels to various art councils and associations as an instructor throughout the year.
“Lately, I’ve been focusing a lot on abstract mixed-media landscapes and seascapes, but my traditional background is in still-life and plein-air paintings,” Van Sickle explains. “All three of those things are represented in the show at the MC Erny Gallery.”
The majority of Van Sickle’s paintings at the gallery are acrylic mixed-media. They incorporate different textured mediums, glazing effects and pencils.
Pegram, on the other hand, works in latex, wood and wax. “The majority of the paint I use [comes from] the paint mess-ups from Lowe’s,” Pegram says. “I finish my paintings with a wax seal that protects it, and gives it the old, muted look I am known for.”
Born in North Carolina near Winston-Salem, Pegram first picked up a paint brush in 2003. After working in an office setting, her career shifted to wood-refinishing on boats. Working outdoors for most of the day, the change of scenery inspired Pegram to embark on a new hobby.
“When I started working outdoors, working with the wood and refinishing it, something sparked a need in me to be creative after hours,” Pegram states.
Having had some experience with art photography, Pegram started working on experimental projects in a garage she had in Castle Hayne, NC. She began jotting down images she would conjure and then transferred them to wood, while working with different paints and wood finishers. Because of her prior experience refinishing wood, the new endeavor came naturally. Eventually, her artwork progressed from a hobby to a new career.
Pegram participates in several festivals throughout the year, including Artsplosure in downtown Raleigh, Art for the Masses in Wilmington and even an event for the International Bluegrass Music Association in Nashville, TN.
“This year I’ve branched out a little,” she says. “I’m traveling to Alabama soon to participate in the Kentuck Arts Festival. It’s a very well-known outsider, folk-art festival that I’ve been wanting to attend for years.”
While festivals make up a large part of Pegram’s exhibitions, she also holds local gallery shows occasionally. She loves showing at MC Erny. “So far it’s been really successful and we have actually sold a lot of pieces already,” Pegram says.
Insider/Outsider: Art Two Ways will continue to hang in the MC Erny Gallery through October 14. All pieces from both Pegram and Van Sickle are for sale to the general public, with partial proceeds benefitting WHQR, our local affiliate for the national public radio station. They are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.