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The Eye Of The Beholder

It takes

a special kind of person to turn something plain into something beautiful; it takes patience and an inner vision. And yet, the eye of the artist can often be different than the eye of the beholder. When you display your work for others to judge, praise, or critique, you aren’t just showing your work, you are showing a part of yourself.

Artists sharing their work and art beholders will come together at the Spring Art Market, an annual Leland Cultural Arts Center program, in Founders Park on May 7. The Market is free to attend. Artists who want to participate can apply online at the Leland Cultural Arts Center website from March 7 to April 1.

This event started in 2015 and attracts artists from all over North Carolina. What makes this not just another art show is the selection process. According to Kirsti Armstrong, this year’s Program Coordinator, artists submit “jurored applications.”

In addition to the application, artists send photos of their bodies of work to be reviewed and scored. Artistic categories typically include pottery, basket weaving, work in stained glass, wood work, paintings and illustrations, however pieces in all artistic categories are welcome. The application also asks how the artist started working in a particular medium. “The backstory is a really important part of the application process,” said Kristi. “It gives you a sense of what motivates the artist.”

After the artists submit their applications and examples of their work, a panel of artists reviews each application and body of work. From there, five anonymous jurors score each portfolio on a scale from one to five (five being the best.) “This is not about whether a picture of a rose is better than a picture of a horse,” Kristi explained. “This is about the body of work in general, diversity in creating, and what the artist expresses in their work.”

After the work is scored, 35 artists (and often more) who scored the highest are notified that they have been selected to show and sell their work at the Art Market. It’s a wonderful opportunity for new artists to be recognized in the community as well as to see beautiful pieces from established artists.

Artist Billie Outlaw said she would not be in a business she loves if it wasn’t for the Art Market. “The Leland Art Center Art Market gave me the confidence to show my work. The people who work there are so supportive and encouraging,” she said. “I developed my craft very fast after my first showing there.”

“I like the juror process,” Billie said, “I don’t think sending pictures instead of seeing my work in person is a problem. Judges can still see if the talent is there.”

Billie creates pottery and works with stained glass. She said was “instantly hooked” after inheriting her grandmother’s glass collection and is carrying on her family heritage. “I let the glass speak to me,” Billie said. “I look into it and ask myself, what does this look like, what can it be?” Billie likes to use vivid colors in her work. “I can’t leave anything plain,” she laughed. Working with glass and doing pottery work seem to be at extremes, but Billie explained that each has its own place in her vision. “With glass,” she said, “you cut it, grind it and solder it. You have to be very careful with it. If it breaks or I crack it, I walk away and understand that today just isn’t a glass day. With clay, you can have an idea of what you want to create and if you make a mistake, often it’s a happy accident.”

Rhonda Jones, an artist who also has shown at the Art Market, praised the process and the venue. “Leland Cultural Arts Center and the Art Market have raised the level of creative pieces being shown. You see quality products from talented artists. And the best part is that the cost to display is reasonable. I’ve seen events that charge up to $400 to enter and who knows if you will make that back? The Art Market is different.”

Rhonda is an illustrator who creates cards, notepads, stationery and decals full of color and often with a beach flair. “My pieces are colorful and whimsical,” she said. Rhonda said that she showed her work at the Art Market in 2017 and, “people responded to it immediately. Every time I show there, I sell more and get different ideas.”

“I was in the world of business for over 20 years doing a wide range of things,” Rhonda said. “I create art that has a lot of thought and love put into it and turn it into handmade products people can’t buy everywhere. I love what I do.”

Brett West is another artist who has had multiple business opportunities over the years. He started exploring woodworking and salvaging woods about six years ago. “I create pieces out of wood like bowls, bottle stoppers and even snowmen in the winter,” he said. But Brett’s piece are different, because he likes to use personally salvaged woods in his turning. “Spalted woods are a bonus to the salvaging process, as they can add a lot of character to a piece.”

“The spalting is actually coloration that happens when the fungi colonize in the wood and extract nutrients from it,” he explained. “It causes dark, dotted and lined patterns in the wood itself.”

“All wood is taken through a drying and sterilization process,” he said “The drying of the wood down to a lower moisture content of approximately 6 percent to 8 percent, stops any additional or possible decay in the wood. Sterilization is the final step of drying in a kiln as it eradicates any wood borne insects and eggs.”

“Wood is a living thing,” Brett said. He has worked with Bradford Pear, Hackberry or Sweet Gum as well as Live Oak, Magnolia, Holly, Birch, Mimosa, Cherry, Black Walnut, Chinaberry, Hickory, Poplar and Eastern Red Cedar, just to name a few. He makes useful pieces and decorations that stand out and show his creativity, commitment to his craft, and talent.

Art, and what is considered art, is in the eye of the beholder. If you want to show your work, check the Leland Cultural Art Center’s website and complete the application process. If you want to “behold it,” go to the Art Market in Founders Park on May 7, from 10 am to 3 pm and enjoy!


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