My partner and I just returned from a week’s vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. This small city has long intrigued us, because of its art community and its location on a plateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We love to hike and we love art. So, we spent most of our days hiking, and the rest of the time looking at art and eating excellent vegetarian food!
Part of the larger Appalachian Mountains that stretch all the way from Canada to Florida, the Blue Ridge range has some of the oldest peaks in the United States. Centuries of wind, rain, sleet, and snow have smoothed and rounded the peaks. On hiking days, we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at numerous overlooks where we could view layers and layers of ranges as they continue into a distant horizon. Early morning mist gets caught in the low areas and creates a mystical scene. It was easy to see why these mountains have inspired artists.
Art in the Park
We were fortunate to be in Asheville during one of the Saturdays when their outdoor art market, Art in the Park, was happening. Over 200 artists exhibit their work in this juried show. It was a great place to see high quality craftsmanship in glass, wood, jewelry, ceramics, and painting. We talked with several artists, including Phil Okrend, a writer and husband of pastelist Elise Okrend. I loved Elise’s paintings of the mountain mist and would have enjoyed talking with her, but she was out of town. Phil and Elise produced a beautiful book (which we bought) that combines his words with her art: Messages to the Heart. I’m going to study her work and see if I can learn from her how to capture that mist.
At the end of our Art in the Park tour, I was drawn into the booth of Booker T. Howze. Here’s a guy who has mastered several mediums: watercolor, oil, and acrylic. At first, I thought I was seeing the work of 3 different artists. When I asked if he was the artist of all the pieces, his smooth, confident voice said, “Yes, I am.” He has no preference, and simply enjoys choosing the medium which best suits his intention.
River Arts District
Next stop was the River Arts District, home to 180+ artist studios and galleries in 23 buildings. We walked there from downtown, which is only a mile or so. But, on a hot and humid day, our energy definitely got zapped and we visited only a few buildings. We saw incredible wood sculptures, glassware, and ceramics. One of my favorite painters was Philip DeAngelo (Broken Road Studio), whose use of color and texture really appealed to me:
Final, Full Day of Art
After a few days of hiking, we were ready for another full day of art in the city. In the Boston area, we have a myriad of opportunities to show our art at open studios, outdoor markets, holiday markets, First Fridays, and more, but I’m not sure we have anything quite like the Woolworth Walk. This is a very cool art gallery in Asheville, inside an old Woolworth’s bldg. It’s a brilliant combination of outstanding location (downtown), a rebuilt soda fountain lunch counter, and creative division of space into booths for 160+ artists. I soon became envious of the gallery and began to think of ways that we could do something similar back home!
Woolworth Walk felt informal compared to the Blue Spiral Gallery, where we were transported to another zone. The large space is beautiful and wide open. The artwork is extremely high quality and very engaging.
Coming Full Circle
Earlier in the week, while exploring Art in the Park, I had a lovely conversation with painter Jannah Kirkland. I told her how much I liked her texture, and she recommended that I visit the Haen Gallery. She thought I would enjoy the work of one of their exhibiting artists, Lynn Boggess. So, on this final, full day of art, we followed up on her suggestion.
The moment we walked in the door, a large painting to my right caught my eye. It was a large landscape, bold, detailed, and textured in such a way that it seemed to be alive and moving. I walked briskly towards it and was instantly absorbed by the technique: palette knife. The artist was Lynn Boggess.
More Art on My Pinterest Board
The artists I talk about here in this blog article represent the highlights of our art trek through Asheville. What a great week we spent there surrounded by the mountains and the art. There were many artists whose work moved me and I’ll be posting examples on my Art Inspirations Pinterest board. I invite you to follow me on Pinterest and share your inspirations and thoughts.