The beauty of Bald Head Island took a bit of a hit after Hurricane Florence in September; residents weren’t even allowed back into the remote village until three weeks after the storm. Slowly but surely, debris is being removed, as homes are being refit to their original standing on 12,000 acres of land. For No Boundaries International Art Colony, it’s sheer luck their two week-residency, which takes place annually at the beginning of November, is still happening. Captain Charlie’s Cottages has been able to house eight artists who utilize their stay to create works inspired by the tranquility of Bald Head: picture-perfect beaches, wild marshes and maritime forest preserves.
Founded in 1998, No Boundaries has provided uninterrupted focus for artists worldwide to come together and infuse their minds, hearts and souls with creative output—morning, noon and night. It began in 1996 after Pam Toll, Gayle Tustin, and Dick Roberts, also founders of Acme Art Studios, invited Turkish artist Tomura Tagok to Wilmington to create a body of work to showcase on the walls at Acme. The following year they hosted Macedonian artist Joakim Colony in the same fashion. Holding small residencies inspired the group to grow No Boundaries’ magic beyond their 5th Avenue studio. Fast forward to 2018, and now the art colony is incorporated and has expanded into local alliances with Bald Head, UNCW, DREAMS Center for Arts Education, GLOW Academy, the FACT program at Jervay Communities, and even CFCC’s Wilma Daniels Gallery, which will host their 21-year anniversary show on November 17. The 2018 class will exhibit the work created during their stay.
To date more than 100 artists, musicians, poets, and even dancers from China, Spain, Serbia, Switzerland, Peru, Austria, Germany, and other countries have participated. This year Andi Steele, Harry Taylor, Shannon Bourne, Sarah Rushing-Doss, Mamiko Takayanagi, Rusudan Khizanishvili, Guillermo Oyaguez, and Nathan Verwey were chosen by a five-member jury made up of No Boundaries board president Beth Crookham, local artist Fritzi Huber, Cameron Art Museum marketing director Scott Relan, UNCW professor Ned Irvine, and local artist Mark Weber. Each year applicants and alumni fill out forms online to show they’re actively working and exhibiting—requirements to be considered for No Boundaries.
“We want to see to the skill of the artist is strong, along with seeking a mix of styles, experience and cultural backgrounds,” Crookham details. “This year there will be 3D objects along with numerous paintings in oil, acrylic and mixed-media, and photography [on display,] with sizes and price ranges from $100 to $3,000.” Wilma Daniels Gallery will curate the show.
It’s Tokyo artist Mamiko Takayanagi’s first time visiting Bald Head. So far Takayanagi has churned out seven oils on canvas. “I have never seen the ocean empty of people,” she marvels. “I can see only sand and waves—makes me feel peaceful.” Inspired by the quietude, the artist has recalled memories of yore, of landscapes and surroundings guiding her paintings of the ocean and frogs. The breaks of artist interaction have been all-the-more uplifting. “I’m learning most from conversations with them,” she says.
Despite language barriers, the camaraderie speaks greater volumes, according to Spanish artist Guillermo Oyaguez. “In other residencies, I was with Spanish people, so I could explain myself,” he tells. “It is special to meet people and not know their language. The language is very important, but it’s not everything. In the end, all of us are good people and that’s what I see.”
Oyaguez has done six or seven landscapes thus far in oil. It’s his first visit to No Boundaries’ creative freedom.
“What is surprising for me is to meet a lot of people . . . [who are] not thinking about the art market but just painting and enjoying it,” he tells.
“Being separated from the world is the greatest thing here,” Georgian painter and mixed-media artist Rusudan Khizanishvili concurs. Nature, silence and magic have been a trifecta of muses he has concentrated on within seven pieces thus far. “Part of them are based on the Los Dios de Muertos,” she explains. “The second piece I finished, I decided to paint humans that lived in the 19th century. I think I was inspired by Captain Charlie’s pictures in our house.”
The three cottages are the namesake of the Bald Head lighthouse keeper of yore. Each night artists gather around the dining table in the cottage and break bread. In essence, the stay feeds them creatively, spiritually and literally. No Boundaries brings in chefs annually to prepare meals each night, including Jessica Cabo of East at Blockade Runner and Tommy Mills of Little Pond Catering. This year they even foraged items from the island itself, when Chef James Doss from Rx and his wife, a No Boundaries artist, Sarah Rushing-Doss, came upon chicken of the woods, wild mushrooms that grow on Bald Head.
Rushing-Doss is no stranger to No Boundaries. She served on the board, and as a student worked under Pam Toll 15 years ago during her studies at UNCW. It’s provided a respite for her between helping run Rx and creating new works and commissioned pieces. “I’ve really learned the value of taking a break,” she tells. “For example, I was struggling with the color of the bark on the trees in one of my paintings and was able to stop what I was doing, go for a walk, really study the trees, and come back inspired. Getting away and clearing your head makes all the difference, and we are fortunate to have the time to do that here. Beautiful things happen when there is enough time to let them happen naturally and freely.”
Rushing-Doss also has been helping with a collaborative piece between DREAMS Center for Arts Education, Jervay and GLOW. During the residency, she and a dozen or so students took a nature walk led by the Bald Head Island Conservancy. They returned to paint about the experience, which will be a part of the coming exhibit.
“We are so pleased to be a part of this partnership, as we know from previous years, providing young people with up close interaction with artists at work is inspiring to them,” Crookham tells. “The conservancy is a great support to us when we are on the island by giving the artists access to areas of the island only accessible through them.”
Though working artists come from various backgrounds and technical abilities, all competition goes to the wayside when they’re around each other. Instead, the value of learning is the foremost outcome.
“It can be intimidating to be around so many talented artists,” Rushing-Doss admits. “It’s been very inspiring to have the time to work, to have company around to make me want to push myself, and have such an inspiring place to create. . . . I have learned so much from watching other artists. I’ve been able to study their painting techniques, been turned on to new materials, and most importantly, have listened to their unique perspectives. During my time here, I’m learning to give myself permission to feel unapologetic about the work I want to create, rather than worry about how it is perceived, or what will sell. That is an extremely freeing mindset.”
As an intern for No Boundaries two years ago, Nathan Verwey has returned to churn out watercolors, acrylics and chalk pastels, so far to the tune of 10 new pieces. A recent graduate of UNCW—also coming from his first solo show, “The Empty House on Top of the Hill,” on campus at The Boseman Gallery—Verwey’s well-known faces illuminate a sense of detachment, isolation and even capitalism.
“It’s funny how other people’s work or words or conversations, reflect inside of your work,” he tells. “Getting to be amongst really talented people and see their work and the energy exchange that happens [has been most rewarding].”
Community is an evolving concept each year at No Boundaries—much like the hurricane’s devastation caused a clean slate to give uprise to a stronger Bald Head. It’s a good metaphor for each No Boundaries International Art Colony: Different artists come together and build new connections and create greater bonds. Sculptor Andi Steele is turning 2018’s class of brotherhood into something for others to experience.
“I have one interactive piece about building community,” she tells. “I’m experimenting with casting to try to capture the residue of the movement of the water. And wrapping found objects to hide the forms similar to how the wind covers the shells on the beach.”