From Australia to Madagascar to Wilmington, artists from near and far are currently gathered on Bald Head Island at the No Boundaries International Art Colony. A forum for free expression and cross-cultural dialogue, the two-week stay is a sacred time for the artists, who are able to produce a sizable body of work despite the short stay. Opening Sat., Nov. 21, a selection of these works will be featured in an exhibition at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilma W. Daniels Gallery (411 N. Front St.), downtown.
“The greatest thing about No Boundaries is that it provides artists with the gift of time free from distractions,” says Sarah Rushing, gallery technician for the Wilma Daniels Gallery and No Boundaries board member.
Australian artist Ana Young agrees. “I had a bit of downtime before I arrived here, but now that I’m here, I can’t contain my energy,” Young says. “It’s wonderful to be able to concentrate on my art and nothing else for two weeks.”
It’s not just time that has been valuable to Young. An interdisciplinary artist who works on paper, canvas and in sculpture, she has been overwhelmed by the wild and unscathed beauty of Bald Head.
“It has been an incredible experience,” she exalts. “I am not just painting. I am collecting things from around the island and constructing them into boxes, which to me will be very much about this place.”
Young describes them as her “American Boxes,” and will feature them in the exhibition . They include items like cookie cutters and toy soldiers she found in thrift stores around town. They’re bound together by pieces of net-like materials.
“These boxes are very personal, but they also tell their own stories,” she shares. “I want viewers to be able to interpret or overlay what I’ve made with their own narratives.”
The same goes for Young’s paintings. A landscape painter—but not in the traditional sense—the artist has also been busy working on a series inspired by the undulations of the sand dunes on Bald Head.
“When I am painting landscapes, I paint a moment or memory, but it is constantly transforming,” Young notes. “From the minute I first see a landscape to the minute I finish it, it becomes its own idea of a landscape. My sand dunes are quite abstract—they’re really my interpretation of this joyful moment of being in a new landscape.”
Baltimore-based Iandry Randriamandroso, originally from Madagascar, has been enriched by the experience, too. The muralist and community artist specializes in graphic and mixed-media art, showcasing environmental and social issues. The artist is particularly proud of (and recognized for) his work designing and painting five murals of native Baltimore birds along the city’s famous York Road corridor. Randriamandroso’s mission was to create art that transcended the neighborhood divide. The native birds were chosen for their universality, inclusiveness and connection to the local environment.
Randriamandroso has devoted a portion of his two weeks in Bald Head to another nonprofit: the Bald Head Island Conservancy. The organization seeks to protect and preserve the barrier island through conservation and education. Now, thanks to Randriamandroso, the conservancy will receive a large wooden panel mural featuring a majestic bird native to this region, the brown pelican. Like in Baltimore, Randriamandroso hopes the piece will inspire Bald Head community members and leadership to come together to address environmental issues and the importance of the work the conservancy is doing. “Birds are an important symbol for this project because they are an important part of the environment,” Randriamandroso says. “Birds transport seeds to another environment. They bring color and songs . . . They adapt as an ecosystem changes. Birds are similar to how we are as people.”
People have been central to Randriamandroso’s experience in Bald Head. “The beautiful thing about No Boundaries is that you are able to talk work and be with other artists, and have people respond that understand art,” he says.
Young agrees. The energy is contagious. “With No Boundaries, you have this fraternity of people all working together and that energy carries us away,” she says. “And that’s the intention of the program.”
“One of the things I love most is that the colony itself, as a whole, is like a living being, made up of all these working parts—the individuals,” Rushing adds. “I love that both the individual and the collective are thriving here … both can grow and change and learn and produce. I love that the collective can inspire the individual and the individual can also inspire the collective.”
While no year is the same at No Boundaries, each brings a new round of artists with different personalities and talents. Additional artists participating in this year’s colony include Nii Narku (Ghana), Rusudan Khizanishvili (Georgia), Michelle Connolly (Australia), Ahlam Lemseffer (Morocco), Myrna Pronchuk (Canada), Fritzi Huber (NC), Kirah Van Sickle (NC), Christopher “Topher” Alexander, (NC) and Mark Weber (NC).
“That’s the fascinating thing about the colony,” Rushing continues, “the magic of the unknown. We have this formula that works year after year—for 18 years—but that unknown variable (the individuals) is what keeps things fresh, exciting and relevant. This year’s colony is turning out to be an introspective and quiet one. While the artists are having a lot of fun, they came to work.”
Young alone has produced four boxes and nine paintings. Randriamandroso also expects to complete around nine pieces by the end of the week. This year’s exhibition will incorporate artwork made by children from the nonprofit youth program, DREAMS of Wilmington, into pieces created by No Boundaries artist Lázaro Medina Hernández, “Salsita,” from Cuba.
With so many pieces in production, the real conundrum is one of Rushing’s: what to hang in the exhibition. “As a general rule, we consider works in terms of variety and overall cohesiveness, but we also like to highlight each artist’s best and we take into account artists’ favorites,” she explains.
Sponsors for this year’s colony and exhibition include Bald Head Island Limited and Riverside Dental Arts. Work from past colonies can be seen at Manna, Pembroke’s and Riverside Dental Arts.
No Boundaries International Art Colony Exhibition
Sat., Nov. 21, 6 p.m.
Wilma Daniels Gallery
411 N. Front St.
Gallery Hours: Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
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