By Seth Clabough and Hannah Gutzwiller
Floyd Center for the Arts is currently hosting a juried exhibit titled Art Appalachia: 2020 to display the unique cultural works found across the vast region of Appalachia. The exhibit can also be viewed online.
The exhibit features various works from 36 artists across nine states within Appalachia. The variety of the artists provides diversity to the exhibit while still remaining true to the overall spirit of Appalachian art. Though the medium, subjects and inspiration are all different, each piece is bound to the one next to it by an essence unique to Appalachia.
In a recorded gallery talk, Wendy Earle, curator of contemporary art at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the juror for the exhibit, says “the artists who make their home here really are responding to the landscape, to the rich history, and to the absolute fullness of living in a space like this.”
Every work that has been carefully selected for this exhibit is deliberately and quintessentially Appalachian. Many pieces choose to focus on the natural beauty of the region, and others take into account the painful history behind aspects of the culture of Appalachia. No matter the subject, viewers can find emotion and meaning evident in every piece inside the Hayloft Gallery.
The first-place piece for Art Appalachia: 2020 is Reclamation, a mixed media creation by Sarah Method of Mocksville, North Carolina, which Earle describes as a work of art that is “actually escaping it’s containment like so many things do in Appalachia.” In the theme of reclamation, the piece uses a recycled window frame to house the delicately placed, lively moss (made of assorted fibers) that creep behind the glass and out from a broken pane.
Earle notes how she is drawn to art that the “viewer can put [their] own meanings onto” and works like Reclamation have a “life far beyond the artist studio” because they encourage “viewers to flex their own imagination muscles.”
In sharp contrast to the textured vibrancy of Reclamation, the winner of the Appalachian Center for Photography’s Outstanding Photograph Award displays the art of capturing stark simplicity. L.S. King’s Rock Castle Gorge Overlook, Floyd embodies the raw reality of a foggy scene in delicate shades of black and white.
The photograph is part of L.S. King’s “Post Cards from the Pandemic” and in the accompanying postcard King writes that he was “driving through the mountains and straight into clouds,” noting that “alone isn’t really alone, as you remind me, it is a choice. You can chose to be lonely or you can find your own quiet company enough.”
“When I was doing my selection, I had a few criteria,” Earle says, “but the primary goal was to stay true to the title…Art Appalachia.” The result is an engaging exhibition that allows the public to explore works of art from the region as unique and diverse as the people who inhabit it.
The exhibit is open until December 3. You can learn more about the exhibit and view the featured pieces online here.