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Life out of Doors

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‘Outside’
Hanging through Fri., 7/13
MC Erny Gallery, WHQR Studio
254 N. Front St. • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
www.whqr.org • 343-1640

THE NATIVE TONGUE: Elizabeth Singletary created this image, entitled ‘Venus Fly Traps.’ The plants are native to only a 60-mile radius of Wilmington. Photo by Bethany Turner

The beauty of nature has long evoked inspiration. Masterpieces from poets such as Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Emerson and Frost speak of pathless woods, a summer’s day, and cloud-shadows on the lea. Monet’s lily pads channel tranquility and eased bliss. Mental visions of wind and waves can be brought forth from a songstress’s tune. Nature’s grasp as a muse is unavoidable.

For artists Elizabeth Singletary and Penny Ames, it’s no different. Iconic imagery of the countryside—such as cats and unassuming homes with wide front porches—fill their works with life, sweet and simple. They are both deeply moved by nature’s effect on their moods and even their childhoods, and the manifestation of such appears in their works, currently hanging at WHQR’s MC Erny Gallery. The show, “Outside,” will close on Friday, July 13th.

“We had a farm on the Nolichucky River in Tennessee,” Singletary recalls. “It was truly a magical place to be a child. My father was a nature and animal lover, so I had horses, ducks, cats, dogs and every animal I could find. I loved spending the day exploring the river banks and woods. It will always be a part of me.”

Singletary, who creates collages from magazine clippings—something she refers to as “painting with paper”—also spent time working in Yellowstone National Park. “[It] was a summer of hiking and camping with no outside connection to the rest of the world,” she says. “That experience was life-changing and furthered my love of the outdoors.”

As a young girl, Singletary entered the world of art as a professional calligrapher.  “My father, who died when I was 11, bought a calligraphy set for me,” she shares. “We used to practice it on rainy days at our farm. Later when I started doing it professionally, I felt like it was a gift my father gave me.”

Her beginnings founded a love for paper, though Singletary learned that keeping focus while painting was difficult. Her true calling, she discovered, was collage. “I love what I do because I never know what it is going to look like,” she admits. “I use magazines to create the color, gluing onto a canvas. It is all a little foggy when I am doing it, so it is a surprise when it dries. I usually have one image in my head and the rest unfolds.”

Penny Ames takes her folk art one step further by utilizing old doors, windows, cabinets and furniture as her canvases. “I really don’t believe in unpainted wood,” she says. “If you can paint on it, go for it.”

Tiny flowers and fat, striped cats are the characters of her choice. They control each scene, images derived from her day-to-day life. “My definition of basic human needs would be a house to live in, clean water, food and a pet,” Ames declares. “My cats represent love through companionship; as humans, our lives are certainly improved with companions. The chickens represent food—it would be nice if we all had enough to go around.”

Likewise, she believes art should be spread throughout communities, filling empty souls ‘til their cups runneth over. “I like expressing myself through art because these simple pictures work as a universal language. Any person anywhere in the world can understand my art.”

A graduate of the University of Maine, Ames studied sculpting in stone and clay. Though having shown in Los Angeles and Santa Fe, this is her first show as a painter in North Carolina, despite living here for 15 years. “I still love sculpture; it was a big part of my development as an artist, [but] I found painting more expressive. I was able to get my art where I needed it faster and explore more vibrant colors,” she explains. “It is great to be able to share my art with my neighbors. North Carolina is where I started painting, so this means even more to me to have the opportunity to share this experience.”

Happily, Singletary was selected to be the 2013 Azalea Festival featured artist. She just finished the artwork for the event, using past festival magazines. The work will be unveiled in the fall.

“I think that art can alter one’s mood,” she says, “and I hope that my artwork makes people feel uplifted and happy. I also hope that people will take the step to find their own creativity. I always wanted to do this but held back for numerous reasons. My boss gave me a card a year ago that said, ‘Leap and the net will appear.’ I put it on my fridge and read it every day. Sometimes you have to leap and have faith in what you do.”

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