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Joan Sporn's art at Alta Vista

Article Published: Jun. 24, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Joan Sporn's art at Alta Vista

Joan Sporn displays her new painting, "Along the Parkway," at Alta Vista Gallery in Valle Crucis.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Joan Sporn is getting her point across.

Known for her colorful, soft paintings, the Linville artist has recently adopted the palette knife as her instrument of choice, and folks can see the results for themselves at Alta Vista Gallery in Valle Crucis.

"She's pretty courageous with color," gallery owner Maria Hyde said. "Every time she brings in a new painting, it's my new favorite, and the first palette knife painting she brought here sold the next day."

Hyde expects more of the same when Alta Vista hosts an opening reception on Saturday, June 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It'll also give patrons the opportunity to meet the artist and learn about her style.

"Customers like to meet the artist, because they like to see if the art matches the personality of the artist, and it often does," Hyde said.

This applies tenfold to Sporn, from boisterous laugh to vibrant sense of humor. Painting is her passion, a fact further realized this past winter. With impassable roads, grueling power outages and brutal cold, the most difficult hardship she endured was a cold studio unfit for painting.

"I've never been a card player, so painting is my therapy," she said. "It's something I've always enjoyed, creating something. It's one of those things - why do people write, why do people do anything creative? The more I painted, the more I enjoyed it."

Sporn has been painting for 50 years, her mind always open to new ideas, lessons and techniques. One came courtesy of her mentor, the late Jim Crompton, who taught her the technique of oil painting some 15 years ago. Prior, she'd worked primarily in acrylic, but now does both, depending on the subject matter.

Sporn's also keen on brushing up her techniques, including her newfound love of the palette knife.

"A brush I think I can control more, but that's not what I'm about," she said. "I like the surprise about what's going to occur. It's fun to see it evolve."
Her style is best described as bold and loose.

"I like the look of something that seems effortless, but, to me, making something that looks effortless is harder than not," she said. "I don't want it to look tight or contrived. It's colorful, and the loose strokes mean I get the right stroke at just the right time without having to fuss with it. It's learning how to do it, knowing where to put the brush stroke, so you achieve that effect."

Fortunately, the area's landscapes are an apt fit for Sporn's style, as are scenes and moments captured by photograph during Sporn's and her husband's globetrotting travels, from Italy to Argentina.

Compared to those original photographs, color abounds in Sporn's artwork. "If I was a detailed painter, I could recreate something the way it is, but that doesn't interest me. I'm not interested in a tree being green or brown. I'd like to see it purple or something else. I like to push it as much as I can."

Sporn considers color an instinct, something developed and fine-tuned over the years.
"I think the older I get, I like the color I'm using more," she said. "I think my paintings are becoming more colorful."

Hyde has another word for them: Strong.

"Strong strokes, strong colors - that's what people say about her art," Hyde said. "Thankfully, they also say, 'I want to buy it.' The more colors you have ... the more chance you have of pulling someone's heartstrings."

Gallery patrons also describe Sporn's art as impressionistic, a compliment she appreciates in the looser sense of the term. "I always think of myself as being an impressionistic-expressionistic painter," she said.

"On the other hand," Hyde added, "impressionists were about capturing a moment in time."
If that's the case, Sporn has successfully captured time in more than one frame.

For Alta Vista's June 26 reception, Sporn will have at least 12 new paintings on display. The reception coincides with the Avery Tour de Art gallery crawl, which takes place on the fourth Saturday of each month from June to October.

Alta Vista Gallery is located at 2839 Broadstone Road in Valle Crucis, between the Mast Farm Inn and Mast Store Annex. For more information, call (828) 963-5247 or visit

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