In 1998 local artists Pam Toll, Gayle Tustin and Dick Roberts founded the No Boundaries International Art Colony. The annual artist residency on Bald Head Island is coming up on its 20th year of providing artists from all over the world a few weeks of creative focus on their craft in the company of their peers. Alumni reunite in November, but beforehand All About Art Gallery of Bald Head Island will host a collaborative exhibition by Toll, Tustin and Roberts entitled “The Creators of No Boundaries Art Colony” on Saturday, Sept. 2.
“I’m one of those people who paint everything: in, out and around,” Toll states, “things that are inside of me, stories, my environment, people … anything.”
One of the cofounders of ACME Art Studios—along with Roberts—Toll was inspired by a friend performing at one of ACME’s events to explore the idea of attending an art colony.
“My friend had just returned from a Fulbright scholarship program in Macedonia,” Toll recalls. “After she told me about all of these art colonies and meeting the director of the National Gallery of Macedonia, she suggested I send them some of my work.”
The outcome was an invitation to an art colony on the Bulgarian border. As the residency came to an end, Toll knew she had to share the experience with her peers.
“I took Gayle with me the next year, and Dick went the year after that,” Toll recalls. “The inspiring thing was the gift of time we were given to work on nothing but art, and the generosity of a country that didn’t have a lot of money. We were housed, fed and given art supplies. It inspired us to do the same for other people.”
No Boundaries has served over 200 artists from around the world. It continues to inspire its founders, too, which will be seen in their multitude of works, such as the five Toll will contribute to the show. “They’re transfers of aerial photographs of the Outer Banks onto canvas,” she explains. Enhanced with an ethereal flair, the landscapes reveal details easily gone unnoticed. As a mixed-media artist, the process doesn’t end with transferred ink.
“Afterward, I’ll take charcoal and draw things I see on the canvas, such as people or animals,” Tolls explains. “Then I use a layer of acrylic paint on certain points before moving on to oil paint.”
The results are a complex, yet balanced blend of color and texture. For Tustin, attending art colonies has helped her realize an ever-greater appreciation and enthusiasm for her craft.
“I feel like the colony has really been a gift that started with my first trip to Macedonia,” Tustin says. “This very poor little country has such a high respect for art. Their Ministry of Culture allotted funds to many art colonies in the area. It raised the level of thinking for me in the sense that it’s good to be an artist.”
For Tustin’s contribution, she decided to veer away from the usual and revisit some old roots. “A lot of people mainly know me as a ceramic artist,” she says. “For this exhibition, though, I’m submitting all collage works. They’re something I’ve always loved, and some of my earliest memories of art involve collage work.”
Constantly finding inspiration in her surroundings, Tustin often incorporates feathers, scraps of paper, playing cards, and other found objects. Other methods include letting paint randomly drip onto sketchbooks laid out on the floor and building from there. She even sews into her pieces.
“I have a vintage sewing machine I found at a yard sale, and it very much looks like the old sewing machine my grandmother had growing up,” Tustin says. “I’m hand-sewing and machine-sewing on paper. I might be sewing elements together, or I might be using the sewing line for details.”
Roberts rounds out the exhibit with his own contribution of oil paintings. Some of the works were created over the last three years. “All of my pieces are oil on canvas,” he tells, “and some are oil and mixed-media. I tried to bring an assortment of works that I felt related to the colony.”
Each of Roberts’ pieces represent some aspect of nature. For example, “Luna” is a depiction of a full moon shining in the night sky—especially timely in light of the recent solar eclipse.
“I am showing one piece that was in a recent display at the WHQR [MC Erny] Gallery called ‘What the Flock,’” Roberts divulges. The vibrant colors in the cluster of feathered friends adds the perfect balance to the blues and greens prominent throughout the rest of his collection. For Roberts, though, his work is about the physical act of painting, itself.
“The magic of painting can never be totally explained,” Roberts mentions in his artist statement. “I find great joy in discovering and participating in the emerging world of a new painting.”