One of my favorite images can be seen as a man sitting in front of a billboard, simply and boldly stating, “Life without art is stupid.” For me, art has always been one of the most beautiful expressions and representations of the human experience. For anyone who has been keeping up with my art ramblings over the last year, it should come as no surprise that 2013 has been huge for Wilmington’s art scene. As a rapidly emerging destination for artists both national and international, the Cape Fear has drawn some ground breaking artists, as well as high caliber exhibitions.
From HBO’s “Tremé” to the international art colony that populated No Boundaries at Bald Head Island, Wilmington just gets steamier annually as a creative hotbed. Although the news is often plagued with government failings or the horrendous economic instability throughout the world, art often provides us with a respite from societal agonies. Proving that hope, beauty and creativity prevail.
This year the arts in Wilmington has been a most encouraging one. One thing the economic recession teaches us is resilience. Through their art work, artists have inspired us to keep working and fighting for more for progress, change and advancement.
2013 marked an upturn in the successful opening of several art galleries. Kelly Starbuck and Horace Long’s S.A.L.T. Studio challenges Wilmingtonian’s ideas about art as craft rather than high art forms. Celebrating the one-year anniversary of Clair Hartmann’s Sun Gallery in midtown Wilmington, the gallery helps expose innovation and passion. The Art Factory also recently celebrated its one year anniversary and has re-purposed a forgotten building into one of Wilmington’s most creative centers.
The Cameron Art Museum, one of the leaders in artistic taste, marked 2013 with some blockbuster shows that that challenged our perceptions of art as static paintings hanging against a wall. “From Gatehouse to Winehouse” allowed us to enter the studios of three of this town’s greatest and most influential artists: Elizabeth Chant, Claude Howell and Minnie Evans. The exhibition made art interactive, relatable and provided a more personal insight into the artist’s existence.
In the spring, the museum welcomed “Well-Suited,” which consisted of costumes from HBO’s series “Tremé” that focuses on a New Orleans neighborhood after the devastation of Katrina. Bringing in costumes designed by local designer Alonzo Wilson, we were provided with the experience to see art as something that moves, is wearable and possesses a life of its own.
The August opening of Canadian artist Diane Landry’s “The Cadence of All Things” has done more to challenge perceptions of traditional art forms and force us to see art as something beyond normal everyday use. Using found objects, Landry transforms umbrellas into an orchestra of movement and sound, and water bottles and laundry hampers into kaleidoscopic displays of moving shadows. She makes us reevaluate our relationship with space and memory.
The growth of locally started No Boundaries art colony fueled by both national and international participants to help grow the artistic reputation of our town. As well, it provided exposure to other artistic mediums.
UNCW’s addition of Courtney Johnson as not only a professor of photography but as director of the Cultural Arts Gallery, led to an exhibition of renowned esteem. “Test City” focused on Wilmington as the first city to test the transfer from analog to digital television. It marked the introduction of students and public alike to international artists from Finland to Korea. This exhibition not only provided international art exposure, but also highlighted our own importance in the technological revolution.
In addition, the Wilmington arts scene has showed us that anything is possible and dreams can become a reality. Local artist Sullivan Anlyan is selling her work at national retailer Anthrolopologie throughout the holidays. Taylor Hamilton has gotten lots of traction with her TayHam greeting cards, hand drawn and sold at Edge of Urge. More importantly, tons of other artists have shown us that in this 21st century, we have the power and the privilege to combine our work with our happiness.
With an endless amount of exhibitions at the 20-plus galleries dotting the coastline and new artists showing works across all mediums, 2014 keeps us excitedly awaiting for more artistic inspiration and admiration.