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Playful Spirits: Three artists’ works culminate in ‘Silver Linings’ exhibit

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The idiom “every cloud has a silver lining” implies that even on the rainiest, worst day, there is something positive yet to come. All of the arts have a power to comfort, inspire, and restore a sense of hope. Music, literature, poetry, and paintings, just to name a few, distinctly capture our experiences and emotions.

Compounding on the power of art and its infusing of an optimistic perspective, the current show at ACME Art Studios, entitled “Silver Linings,” features the work of Wilmington native Michelle Connolly, Destry Sparks from Greenville, NC, and Karl Mullen from Massachusetts.
silver lining
After meeting Mullens in 2009 and Sparks last year, Connolly felt their work had a strong connection. Their playful abstract styles shared a spirit of creative improvisation, which lended itself to the show’s title, “Silver Linings”—also a title of a song written by Mullens.

“I like the positive connotation of this title,” Connolly states. “And it speaks to the creative spirit and the way that art has the power to restore hope and optimism.”

Connolly’s abstract, mixed-media works represent her creative openness and ingenuity. British born, by way of Australia, Connolly has been living and working in Wilmington since the 2000s. She’s also helped transform Wilmington into a destination spot for artists. Connolly serves as president of the No Boundaries Interantional Artists Colony, which brings a plethora of artists worldwide to Bald Head Island each fall to partake in a residency wherin they’re focused only on creating art.

Of her own work in “Silver Linings,” Connolly notes, “The way I work is free and open to experiment. I invite in the new and celebrate the positive energy from my creative output. A silver lining is what I see in my work—the potential of all creation to move to another work.”

Viewing her art is a visual progression, like a train that doesn’t stop moving, of her creative process and consciousness. Never afraid of change and evolution, Connolly’s art contains dynamo color and whimsy almost always.

Mullens is a Dublin-born artist and musician, but has since lived across the pond in the U.S.  Currently, he resides in Williamstown, MA. With no formal training, Mullens has developed his own approach and methods of painting. Mullens has a unique vocabulary and works outside the boundaries of conventional art. Brush strokes don’t necessarily show up in Mullens’ work; he literally uses his hands as a tool of direct impact. His abstract style has been described by the Irish Times as, “raw, direct and sometimes unsuitable, but there is plenty of ‘guts’ underneath the outwardly ‘hot’ manner there is a balancing cool streak.”

Using anything and everything, from paper to automobile hoods, toilet paper to receipts to parking tickets, his canvas becomes something recognizable to the common eye. He uses raw powdered pigment, walnut oil and wax medium to create paint. Based on mythology, Irish poetry, and dreams, Mullens’ art translates itself into a world where anything is possible.

“I am as concerned with magic as I am with meaning,” he says. “I still cling to the notion that art can mean something, that the individual can mean something. That, beyond the social mask, art and art making are a vital and necessary activity.”

Destry Sparks is a Greenville-based artist, who is a self-described “art junkie,” constantly looking for work that pushes boundaries. With over 5,000 Facebook friends from around the world, who are artists and art directors, inspiration never lacks as she creates new contemporary artwork.

Having grown up in Beaufort, NC, Sparks’ imagination soared while reading comics—the Silver Surfer was always one of her favorite characters. “He scoured the cosmos with a great sense of duty and elevated consciousness,” Sparks notes. “Sounds like the ultimate art hero to me!”

His grandfather, Irvin Fulcher, was a well-known traditional duck-decoy carver from Stacy, NC. “I think seeing raw blocks transform into abstract-yet-real-life-inspired creatures had a big impact on me,” Sparks states.

He admits his process becomes heavily influenced by chance. He hunts for the abnormal or anything that piques his intrigue—whether found embedded in a gravelly road or beyond the trees of nature.

“I find all kinds of things by chance, like when I got out of my van at a convenience store and saw a bottle cap smashed flat or a pine cone,” he explains. “On walks in the woods, I’ll see a stick with a graceful line. The world is full of amazing things that we usually don’t take time to notice.”

Sparks explores the commonalities between his found objects. Then, he allows them to lead his creative process. The outcome mirrors the tribal, almost outsider feeling, evoking a child-like imagination seen in Connolly’s work. The two artists met at the opening of “Assemblage” at ACME studios last year.

“Fritzi Huber and I had work exhibited in the same show at ECU’s Wellington B. Gray Gallery,” he tells. “So I came to visit. Michelle liked my work and felt it would be a good fit [for ‘Silver Linings’]. I’m really excited about seeing our work together.”



Silver Linings

Artwork by Michelle Connolly, Karl Mullens and Destry Sparks
Hangs through April 20th
Closing reception, Friday,  April 18, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
ACME Art Studios • 711 N. 5th Ave.

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