One of the perks of being a member of ACME Art Studio is the opportunity to develop and host your own art shows. When 10-year tenant MJ Cunningham invited a group of divergent artists from the community to join her this go ‘round, it forged a new collective of women creators. Together they’ve tapped into the universe’s most mythical property: the fifth element.
Cunningham best describes her art as exhibiting the style and aesthetics of Wabi Sabi. “It’s the beauty in things that are unfinished, that are dying, that are being born, and things just as they are,” she says.
Known for her simplicity and subdued, earth-tone landscape paintings, Cunningham woos onlookers with natural scenes from locations like O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM; however, lately she’s begun to let loose. Her unleashed technique and palette evolved from an abstract-painting workshop she taught recently. Her oil painting, “Glory at Dawn,” represents a surprise element.
“Dawn is a lovely, velvety time of the day, and out of it emerges a wonderful explosion of activity and color,” Cunningham describes. “I was at my easel, with a blank canvas [and] feeling bored with a recent series of landscapes that I was working on, and voila!”
The nurturing aspect of Wabi Sabi is reflected in Cunningham’s decision to invite eight fellow artists to exhibit work in her show, “The Fifth Element.” “All of the artists that I asked to be in the show are women that I greatly admire,” Cunningham states. “Not everyone knew each other, but from the beginning we gelled and were immediate BFFs!”
The eight women fill out Cunningham’s collective, Diverse Works. The group includes a self-taught sculptor, an impressionist painter and a mother-daughter duo. Their multifaceted techniques, mediums and personalities not only make them great artists but also skillful storytellers. The power of their newfound sisterhood is perhaps the best representation of what the fifth element is and why they claim it as the namesake for their first show together.
“Quintessence, or [the] fifth element is, by definition, pure energy—which is what we bring to this exhibit,” says Peggy Vineyard, a refreshing new addition to the Wilmington art scene.
Vineyard relocated to Wilmington from Houston, TX, where she recently wrapped a successful one-woman show at the Jack Meier Gallery. Her latest series, “Empyrean” (the highest heaven in ancient and medieval cosmology), is a tribute to her favorite aunt’s passing in June. The large, richly hued acrylic pieces chronicle her aunt’s journey to the ultimate heavenly paradise through thick layers of atmosphere and ethereal spacescapes full of billowing nebulous clouds.
The work of Katherine Wolf Webb also is influenced by loss. After her husband died two years ago, Webb needed to have control over something. Last year she began creating small, precise and intricate watercolor images of insects, with her own input of color and pattern. Her creations look like normal bugs but with a twist. She rearranges thir anatomy—a thorax here, some antennae there —so what’s left is an entirely new species. Her use of mixed-media card stock and patterned paper forms a playful study of an insect’s instinctive camouflage.
“[Insects] are that inexplicable energy—that fifth element, which includes so much intangible pathos, passion, love, and beauty,” she says. “The process leads me, and I follow to the best of my ability.”
Kate Sinclair represents the youthful nature of the fifth element. While she is the youngest member of Diverse Works, she has several art shows under her belt. Her style is heavily influenced by her travels throughout Europe— specifically Roman frescoes, which transport lush gardens to the indoors by utilizing lime plaster (a combination of hydrated lime, sand and water). Her most recent painting is of an imaginary bouquet of flowers, which gives the impression one could pluck them from the wall. The petal-soft image transmits a subtle, consistent energy that rises to form a vibrant plume of color like prismatic incense smoke.
As an added bonus, Kate will be sharing the experience with her mother, Anne Sinclair. A visual-arts teacher at Hoggard High School, Anne produces paintings inspired by natural light and the Carolina coast. It’s a pairing that’s long overdue, she shares. Although their techniques differ, Kate is excited for folks to make a connection between her and her mother’s work. Like her spectacular plants, Kate wants to grow in new directions with her mother and this new community of strong, supportive and creative women.
“We all have these varying perspectives, different lives, experiences, and painting styles,” she notes. “The fifth element is very much alive and breathing within each of us. It makes me very proud, to dig a bit deeper and to speak [and] paint with a more studied conviction. That’s always the goal isn’t it?”
The Fifth Element
(Artwork by: MJ Cunningham, Justine Ferreri, Sandra Ihly, Leslie Pearson, Eloise Randolph, Kate Sinclair, Anne Sinclair, Peggy Vineyard, Katherine Wolf Webb)
ACME Art Studios, 711 N. 5th Ave.
Opening reception: Sept. 26, 6 p.m.
Shows through Oct. 17
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