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Making Memories - WAC Juried Show announces winners

Article Published: Oct. 22, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Making Memories - WAC Juried Show announces winners

Watauga County Arts Council gallery chairman John Bond, joined by gallery committee chairman Scott Ludwig, pronounced the council's current juried show "a wonderful outcropping of amazing talent."

The arts council juried show inspired joy in the rich variety of the 43 pieces hung in the Mazie Jones Gallery. Bond also commended the richness of art inspired by the show's theme "Memory... Appalachia." Bond, Ludwig and the Art Mart presented prizes to the winners.

Juror and judge for the show was the distinguished artist and writer, Noyes Capehart (Long). Long is also a retired professor of art from Appalachian State University. He continues to be a practicing artist, and his most recent book, "The Diary of Noyes Capehart," is available from the author at (828) 264-0685.

Awards in the juried show went to Micah Branch Richter, 1st place for "Two Sisters," oil and wax on canvas; Carol Usdan 2nd place "Horse Training," photography; Cathy Taylor, 3rd place "First Frost," collage. Honorable mentions were awarded to Kyle Keeter for "A Southern Still Life"; Gary Nemcosky "The Christmas Tree House," watercolor; and Joe Burleson, "Nanny's Chicken House," colored pencil. All of the art in the show addressed the theme "Memory... Appalachia" - "memory through, from, is, to, upon, created" in whatever medium the artist chose to render it.

First place award-winner Micah Branch Richter said, "I like the theme of this show - memory. I liked what other people showed about memory. Paintings are incomplete narratives - a lot of mystery in them in all sorts of ways."

Richter's award-winning piece is a portrait of two young girls entitled "Two Sisters" done with oil and wax on canvas. There was great curiosity among both the other artists and the gallery viewers about Richter's use of wax. He said the wax is added to the paint, so it is an ingredient. It achieves a softness Richter wants. He doesn't like the finish of glossy oil. He had been seeking a means of achieving softness. He saw the wax advertised in one of Cheap Joe's catalogs. It seemed it might help him achieve the softness he wanted. It has.

His award-winning painting comes from an old, faded color photograph. The two sisters in the picture are his mother, when she was about 12, and her sister on an Easter Sunday. He said his painting, which he did specifically for this show, grew out of his feeling for "my mother's family in the Appalachians."

Richter's picture looks like a very old painting, drenched in time, the two sisters receding in time, but at the same time caught and preserved in time by art. Two young girls in their Easter coats close together showed with a golden glow, their shadows in turn cast on the ground. Richter makes admirable use of light in "Two Sisters."

Richter observes, "I hope my art conveys my Appalachian roots and an Appalachian aesthetic. I am interested in place."

It is part of his sense of identity. Again he refers to feeling for his mother's family in Bandana, Mitchell County, where he has gone to help decorate at a family graveyard. Taking part in this family activity made him feel "more connected," he said. Also he remembers, "As a child, I liked to wander in the woods."

He still does - in his life and his art. He paints mostly landscapes. There are two in the show: The old Bethel Elementary School - "It's still rich in my memory" and a hillside of Banner Elk trees. "I did it in one sitting. I have a vivid memory of the whole process, the whole day. People have taken note of the warm colors and the aged look." Both landscapes were done in oil and wax on canvas.

Long praised "Two Sisters" for the painting's being evocative, suggestive, for the element of its being intriguing, and the absence of specificity. Noyes admired the "haze" over the trees in the landscapes and, again, their lack of specificity.

Richter's work is being shown at the Art Cellar in Banner Elk.

Second place went to Carol Usdan for a stunning digital photograph of a white horse against a black background. The photograph is entitled "Horse Training." Usdan has captured the horse's movement in response to the training. In the photograph, the horse is both still and still moving. The photograph is an arresting piece of art, a memorable piece of art that may also be invested in memory.

Third place went to Cathy Taylor for "First Frost," a collage. The piece was inspired by an early frost that fell over her house and yard. "It was exquisite," she said of the scene of the frost. The same might be said of her deeply textured collage. She laughed and said, "All of my things are textured - all of them."

She has a second piece in the show, "The Edge of Winter." Cathy Taylor's work can be seen at the Main Street Gallery in Blowing Rock.

Long awarded honorable mentions to three pieces of art in the show: Kyle Keeter's "A Southern Still Life"; Gary Nemcosky, "The Christmas Tree House"; and Joe Burleson, "Nanny's Chicken House."

Wit met art in Kyle Keeter's "A Southern Still Life." He dipped back in his memory and his father's memory and the region's and, to an extent, the country's. His father had collected bottles from a small grocery store he worked in when he was in high school. Keeter enjoyed looking at them.

From questions to his father, he learned of a refreshment that enjoyed great popularity and enjoyed its own significance in the past - RC Cola and a Moon-Pie. Keeter took an RC Cola bottle and a Moon-Pie and experimented in arranging them, then produced a rich regional memory to which he gave the name "A Southern Still Life," which indeed it is and richly and evocatively rendered and underlined with humor. It also speaks with an Appalachian sensibility, which could be enhanced only by a '40 Ford in the background. But one should not ask too much of what is already a rare prize.

Rich with memory and rendered so in art is Keeter's "Greene's Grocery" in Spindale. Bedecked with Coca-Cola signs, a '53 black pick-up truck to the side, and two boys with bicycles entering the front door, Keeter has a lot of rich memories of the store from when he visited his grandparents as a child. (Keeter's work comes from a slide his father made in 1973.) It is gone now. But in "A Southern Still Life" and "Greene's Grocery," Keeter captures a world and a time.
In the third piece Keeter has in the arts council show, he captures the Jones House now, but he captures it with fall colors, leaves and tree branches. The house itself is a rich repository of memory for the community at large.

Keeter is a multi-prize winner for his art. Among awards he has won are First Place in the AAA National Poster Contest; First Place in the Elvis International Art Contest, Memphis, Tenn.; and Third Place in the Blue Ridge Parkway 50th Anniversary Celebration. He has published "Elvis Art" with an award-winning painting in "Elvis International Forum," Thousand Oaks, Cal. and an award-winning painting in "The Blue Ridge Parkway: Agent of Transition," published by the Appalachian Consortium. Keeter paints by commission both private and commercial subjects. He can be reached at (828) 264-4027.

Gary Nemcosky won an award for his watercolor, "The Christmas House." His watercolor is of a house - in recent years falling down - that stood on U.S. 421 just before the Watauga Industrial Park turn-in. Nemcosky called it "The Christmas House" because of Christmas trees growing in the front yard, their availability made known from a sign on the front porch and some aging reindeer on the roof.

It was a house rich in memory for the town and the county. It was the home of two maiden ladies and their help and their kin. Miss Sally and Miss Leila Ray were prominent in life and lore in Watauga County. Generous in many ways, their apple cider was famous, and they donated it to many a school function - and served it to their guests.

Sunday afternoons in my late childhood and teen-age years are rich with memories of the Ray house. Nemcosky has two watercolors of the house in the arts council show, and they are both beautifully rendered. His prize-winner is of the front of the house long after the Ray sisters were gone and Christmas tree signs and rusty reindeer invaded.

But Nemcosky also has a side view of the Ray house with rock stepping stones that lead to the combination spring house and pantry once replete with epicurean prizes flavored with the spice of Appalachia and a side door at the back. His watercolors are green and lovely as they depict a once golden world - now green in memory and not just Nemcosky's. But as the poet wrote, "Nothing gold can stay." The house was torn down in the last month. Only the stones remain and the rich memories. And Nemcosky's wonderful watercolors. Nemcosky teaches art at Applachian State University.

Joe Burleson's "Nanny's Chicken House" done in colored pencils is the last of the six prize-winners. It comes from deep in his memory, and it is deeply evocative. The colors are bold and strong and good, and gallery goers were drawn to it and interested in other work by Burleson, who has done numbers of book covers. He well bears checking out on the Web and is available by e-mail at (

The Watauga Arts Council's show also bears checking out. One is embraced by the rich body of talent. The show will be up through Nov. 6. The Jones House Community Center is located at 604 W. King St. in downtown Boone. For more information, call (828) 262-4576.

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