New art at Jones House
In August, the Jones House Community Center has a certain je ne sais quoi.
This comes courtesy of Aurel "Frenchy" Tremblay, whose artwork is featured in the house's Open Door Gallery, and the High Country Watermedia Society, presenting a juried exhibition of its members' work in the Mazie Jones Gallery.
"You cannot talk to Frenchy very long without hearing about the two loves his life," said Teena Cone, office manager for the Watauga Arts Council, which is housed in the Jones House said.
Tremblay's loves are his late wife, Joy, and his artwork. "You see, without Joy, there would be no artwork," Cone said.
Tremblay was born in Quebec, Canada, where he worked as a steeplejack, bridge painter and sandblaster. In 1978, while traveling for business in Florida, he met Joy. They were soon married.
"One day, Joy observed him helping their daughter with a drawing for a school project and informed him that he was an artist and would paint one day," Cone said. "He didn't really believe that, but didn't want to argue with his beautiful wife."
In 2005, Joy died after a prolonged illness, and Tremblay would soon live up to her words.
"He ... says that one night she came to him in a dream and told him it was time to open the box she had placed in the closet years ago," Cone said.
Tremblay knew of the box, but had always wondered of its contents. The one time he asked her, she insisted he not worry about it, but save it for later.
"But now the time had come, and when he opened the box the next morning, there were all the supplies he needed to paint," Cone said. "He began painting that very day about four years ago and has never stopped."
Now based in Lansing, Ashe County, Tremblay focuses on his unique brand of folk art, claiming he has "one foot in the 1800s and one in the present." He's also stepped into community artwork, after the town of Lansing commissioned him to paint a mural along the Lansing Walking Trail, depicting the town as seen in the 1940s.
"Thanks to the love and inspiration of Joy, who Frenchy says lived up to her name everyday, we can now enjoy his beautiful artwork," Cone said.
Community artwork also abounds in the Jones House's downstairs Mazie Jones Gallery, as the High Country Watermedia Society (HCWS) presents its annual juried exhibition. The exhibit showcases the work of 24 society artists, both full-time and seasonal residents.
Watermedia includes watercolors, water-soluble oils, acrylics and water-based pigments, though the artwork also shares aspects of collage and mixed media, said HCWS president and mixed-media artist Cathy Taylor.
"It's diverse and stunning," Taylor said of the exhibit.
"From contemporary to traditional, it runs the whole gamut," HCWS chairwoman Gale Champion said.
And Watauga Arts Council executive director Cherry Johnson couldn't be more pleased, adding, "The shows are getting better every year."
For Taylor and Champion, this comes as no surprise. The HCWS, which boasts a membership of more than 120 artists, meets every second Saturday of each month at Cheap Joe's Art Stuff in Boone.
At these meetings, members enjoy fellowship and conversation amongst themselves, before attending a brief business meeting. Meetings are promptly followed by an artist demonstration and workshop.
"We really have some excellent guest artists," Champion said, mentioning Susan Crouch and August's featured guest, Jeff Jakub.
"And every once in a while they have me," said Taylor, a well-traveled and represented artist, who started painting in 1990.
She started teaching in 1995 and continues to do so today throughout the United States and overseas.
Champion has been painting for 25 years, off and on, "but mostly on for the last three years, since I retired," she said. "I do watercolor and mostly realism."
And though Champion's a recent member to HCWS, both she and Taylor have it to thank for their continuing education. To join, one only needs "an interest in watermedia and a desire to improve and meet other artists," Champion said.
Membership costs $500 a year, and monthly workshops cost $30 for members and $75 for guests. Taylor said membership proceeds benefit a different charitable organization each year, with 2010's being the Children's Playhouse of Boone.
For more information on the High Country Watermedia Society, visit http://www.highcountrywatermediasociety.com or call Bettie Bond at (828) 264-4275.
The Watauga Arts Council will host a reception for the artists, during which the HCWS winners will be officially announced, on Friday, Aug. 6, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., as part of the Downtown Boone Art Crawl.
The Jones House galleries are sponsored by Cheap Joe's Art Stuff and Grassroots Funds of the N.C. Arts Council.
The Jones House Community Center is located at 604 W. King St. in downtown Boone. For more information, call (828) 262-4576 or visit http://www.watauga-arts.org.