Photographer Shane Booth on Stories of Self and Place

Photographer Shane Booth, with Helen.

Shane Booth grew up in central Nebraska where he would spend hours looking at family photos with his grandmother, sparking his love for photography. He graduated with a BA in art from Nebraska Wesleyan University and an MFA in photography from the Savanna College of Art and Design. Currently he is a Full Professor of photography at Fayetteville State University. His diverse body of work has taken him all over the world where he has taught workshops and exhibited work in Sweden, Africa, Taiwan, and most recently Russia. He received a grant to work with HIV positive orphans in Ethiopia with Artists for Charity, and was awarded a another grant by the US Embassy in Moscow to work with the LGBTQ and HIV positive people in Russia. He has many honors including being nominated for Sweden’s favorite TV star by QX magazine for his stint on the wildly popular reality tv show Allt for Sverige, tackling the subject of being HIV positive. It was his time on this show that took him back to his roots and he began photographing Nebraska and its people. He also photographed Laura Bush for The National Willa Cather Foundation. His camera of choice is an antique studio camera from 1867 which he found in a junk shop in Alma NE that he has converted to shoot 8×10 film.  

3 Things you can’t live without & why: I cannot live without Coffee (Starbucks is the best).  I learned to drink it in Sweden and have been addicted ever since! Pandemic Taylor Swift ( her last two albums were brilliant). I have literally listened to nothing but those two albums for 6 months now. And of course my camera. Or actually any type of camera will do. I love making images!!

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: Hmmmm, that’s a hard one but I am gonna have to say Sara Meyers Sourcier! I would love to have the ability to paint like she does! Oh the stories I could tell if I had that ability!!

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I am currently working with Cyanotypes combining my love for graphic arts and ancient photography techniques. I love combining new technology with antique processes. I combine digital photography and graphics with the cyanotype process.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? During the pandemic I have had the motto “just make it”. All of my work is deeply personal and with so much time, I have had the opportunity to flush out some of the ideas that live in my head. Some have been successful and others not so much. Being your authentic self is so important when making art. So much soul searching happened during the pandemic and my photography has been a great way to express that. I will definitely continue to work with this freedom!

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. As a photographer I practice my art wherever my subject is. This is consistently Nebraska and my home in Benson NC.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? My voice comes from my life experiences  and my Nebraska upbringing. My artwork often revolves around pastoral scenes that have deeper meanings. The Landscapes are self-portraits, and the portraits tell stories. My love of the Nebraska author Willa Cather is also a great influence on my work. Her ability to connect the reader to the subject is something I aspire to do with my photography.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. My advice to artists is always be your authentic self! It is so important to make work about what you know.

The calendar changes. Our purpose doesn’t.

Sticky note with "I made this" written on it.
the ultimate creative statement

I spent the first week of January trying to clear off my desk of the tower of notes, mail, calendars, lists, and receipts which had accumulated over the last two weeks of the year. There was also a constant nudge in the back of my mind: “What about Color of Fayetteville? What’s next there?”

Artist friend, if you, too, have been trying to clear out the old so you can make a little space to think about your next project, know I am right there beside you. Yes, this time of year is traditionally full of running and relaxing, doing and reflecting, gathering your abundance and then wondering how to get rid of clutter to make time and space for what can be deemed really important. These weeks feel like a dichotomy of purpose.

Our purpose here to to share the stories of our local artists in Fayetteville and the rest of Cumberland County. That sharing can take many forms. I’m proud of the many artist Q&As we published in 2020 and I’m looking forward to tweaking the Qs and getting more As from a new crop of up-and-coming artists in 2021.

Sharing stories can also be inspirational, and I will be introducing a monthly series of interviews with more established artists (I hesitate to say “successful” because that word means something different to everyone).

I’m also looking to dive into local history, share new short fiction, and publish photos by our incredible photography community.

I’d love to hear from you! Are you an artist with work to share? Do you know a Wise Elder we can interview? Do you have a story bursting out of you in word, song, or picture? Leave a comment below so you can be a part of this.

Here’s to a new year and new art.

Rachel Espenlaub on Rome and Rhymes

Rachel Espenlaub (b. 1991) is an acrylic abstract painter from Colorado Springs, CO. She earned a B.F.A. in Painting from Tyler School of Art at Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) in 2015, with a 1.5 year study abroad at Temple’s campus in Rome, Italy. Notable awards include a National Gold Medal in Painting from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (New York, NY; 2010). She recently completed a six month painting retreat and internship at the Gallery of Art at Temple University Rome. Currently, she is based in Fayetteville, NC. “Structure and rules are the basis for my work. My paintings are flat, simple arrangements of shapes that follow specific patterns for color and position. Sharp, crisp edges add definition and emphasize orderliness. Color rules create predictability and calmness. I enjoy the challenge of simplistic compositions that convey compelling rhythmic architectures.” Venmo: @rachelespenlaub

Favorite Local Place: Leclair’s General Store

3 Things I Can’t Live Without: Dogs, chocolate, outdoor spaces to enjoy

Local Artist I admire: Kenneth Proseus (an artist, gallery owner, and art promoter who lives in Raleigh)

A practice I’ve started in quarantine that I plan to continue: starting the day off with a long walk with the dogs

One of my current artistic experiments: painting with a very limited color palette for at least 10 paintings

Someone who encouraged my art work: My parents every step of the way!

My advice for other artists: Get rid of the pressure to make artwork you think other people will like or is cool. If you stay true to making the art that is fun and interesting to you, others will see that in your work.

Nikki Loy on Coffee, Color, & Creatives

Nikki with brown wavy hair and blue shirt in front of orange background
Nikki Loy

My name is Nikki Loy. I was born and raised in southeastern North Carolina. My education has moved me to several places around the state, but the coast has always been my favorite place to be. The ocean makes its way into a lot of my artwork, but I love to travel and share my experiences through my art. Elements of light, architecture, movement, and reflection have become important to my art. I loved watching how quickly a storm would roll in and bring a sense of cleansing with it. My work is inspired by traveling to places that have struggled with natural disasters and exploring how they have built themselves and what continues to attract people. I aim to create art in which a viewer sees a landscape or events are more than just a beautiful place. I want my art to inspire people to stop and consider the beauty around them.

“Hwy 12”

Favorite Local Third Place: Dirtbag Ales is my favorite place to hang out and eat delicious food. I love that they support so many artists and host events to keep people connected. I was so happy to see them host Art After Dark because of all of the cancelled events, shows, and exhibitions this year. 

3 Things you can’t live without: My watercolor pencils and camera go with me any time I travel. I spend a lot of time at the beach and like to sketch while I’m there. I also probably wouldn’t be a happy camper if I had to go without iced coffee. I know, it’s terrible.

Local artist (any genre) you admire. I really enjoy Emily Musolino’s music! She’s amazing.

A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: It all began with a French press that was gifted to me earlier this year. I didn’t have time to use it before quarantine. I started making coffee every morning and working on quick art projects. Quarantine gave me a renewed connection to the artwork that I am making. It slowed me down enough to really think about the kind of art that I want to make. I feel like my creativity comes in waves and I needed that space to really dive into my work. 

“Self Portrait”

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I’ve been experimenting with color in my work. I’ve always wanted to be a hyper-realist with my painting, but it’s just not my style. I like the constraints of realism with the freedom to express myself using unrealistic colors. 

Who is someone who encouraged or championed your art work? The first group of people that comes to mind are strangers on the internet. When people are passionate about art, they’ll want to see you succeed. Outside of that, my family has always been supportive of my artwork.

What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? Keep doing hard things, the things that make you stop for a second and question if you should, because you absolutely should do it. And keep meeting people who make art. I think it’s easy for artists to isolate, but there’s nothing like having a support system of creatives in your life. Other artists usually want to see you succeed and success is better when it’s shared.

Motivation and Mess-Making with Maggie McLaughlin

I’m Maggie from the Midwest. I’ve been making art since I was seven years old. I am skilled in many areas, but I specialize in colorful acrylic portraits and animals. I have a bachelor’s in Studio Art with an emphasis in Painting and I am pursuing a masters in Museum Studies. I teach art locally at Wine & Design and I am interning at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. You can currently find my art on display at Wine & Design downtown and in the Public Works Show at the Arts Council of Fayetteville.

Green flower on orange background with text "we all miss each other"
“we all miss each other” painting

Favorite Local Third Place (not home, not work, a place you like to hang out, talk about the world): Blue Moon Café for cocktails with my best girlfriend!

3 Things you can’t live without: Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

Local artist (any genre) you admire: I was recently in a show with Samod Wilson and I really loved the portrait work he did. His work is so skilled and colorful!

A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: I finally gave in to listening to podcasts and I like it so much, I hardly watch TV anymore.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Before quarantine, I was very interested in acrylic pour painting. Now I am revisiting more techniques like printmaking, stencil work, and non-canvas painting surfaces like wood.

Maggie working

Who is someone who encouraged or championed your art work? My husband has been an amazing support system! He keeps me motivated even when I don’t want to be. He is incredibly driven, which I admire.

What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? Ask questions, stay motivated, sign up for shows! Learn from your peers. Failure is a lesson, not a reason to quit. Being an artist can be hard, but stay with it and it will love you back. If you feel out of your element, get involved anyway and you will gain vital experience.

Catching All the Artistic Opportunities: Jessilee Hari

Jessilee Hari in her art studio, various paintings and collage on the wall behind her

Besides family and a career as a logistics specialist in the Air Force, Hari works across both visual and performing arts fields. You can also catch her catching Pokemon in downtown Fayetteville on Community Pokemon Go! Days.

I was born with a natural drive to create art. I began with doodles, which turned into painting murals on my bedroom walls. That drove me to create completed works of art. I am skilled in modeling clay, pottery, drawing, painting, vocal arts, and performance arts. I attended Mississippi School of the Arts, a high school for artistically gifted kids, where I found out I could compete vocally. I sang at Carnegie Hall in NY and performed John Rutter’s “Requiem” with our choir. I also fell in love with dance: I created my own choreography for a show. In the visual arts, I was awarded the highest accolades for my portfolio in MS. I put on my own show and fell in love with displaying my works. Years later I put on a second show held in Memphis, TN and am now currently in the works for my third show to be held here in Fayetteville.

Put your voice in your art and you will find gratification in your work.

Jessilee Hari

Favorite Local Third Place: I have to admit, I am stuck on Latitude 35’s shrimp tacos with sweet potato fries. I crave them. So, I like to take my out of town family and friends there to enjoy the patio seating. I have been to a few events there, one of which was with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. I have had art discussion meet ups on the patio as well. I love it. It is a wonderful place to sit down for a discussion and a meal with a breeze on your face and a cold one to sip on. The staff is friendly, and the establishment has a family feel to it, as if they genuinely appreciate you coming to dine.

3 Things you can’t live without: Standup comedy. I LOVE to laugh, and many nights I fall asleep watching Dry Bar Comedy videos online. I feel like laughter is a medicine of its own. Just a few laughs every day keeps me feeling positive. It is so easy to get caught up in all the negative parts of life right now. 

Cereal. It is its own food group in my home.

Outdoor experiences. Camping, canoeing, rock climbing, hiking, tree climbing, inline skating, biking, sky watching, rainstorms, stone skipping on lakes, fishing, etc. All of it. Many of my most nostalgic memories are from the outdoor moments in my life. Being outside inspires me to really take in life in the moment. It inspires me to create.

Local artist (any genre) you admire: I have fortunately had the opportunity to meet several local artists. One of my favorite local artists was a woman I met through the Cool Spring Downtown Street Busker program. I wish so badly I could remember her name. Fortunately, I can’t forget her performance. Her confidence in her art form was striking and mesmerizing. Belly dancing is so physically demanding. She had the moves and security in her own talent to perform in front of hundreds of people both on the street and at local events. She was a beautiful soul. 

A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: I have begun illustrated journaling. Covid-19 has completely changed the way I live my life. With all the added stressors, I needed a cathartic outlet I could pick up and put down with no associated time limit. I found illustrated journaling to be an important part of stress relief in that the images do not need to be planned out or utilize any formal techniques like I would with a painting. The images also flow freely from my mind like words would for a writer. I began my artistic journey with graphite #2 pencils and pens in the classroom. Going back to that baseline feels like a blast from the past.  I forgot how much I love to draw. I usually utilize painting as an outlet, so I like to incorporate mixed media in the journal illustrations: graphite, tea, pen, or watercolors. 

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I love to experiment with new media. Right now, I am experimenting with adhesives and glass. I am only using the glass as the material to create the images on. I am using adhesives to create textures and translucent imagery. I am enjoying this form of experimentation quite a bit. It feels like a problem to solve since I am learning the capabilities of each adhesive. I love mixed media. 

To give an example, I used a glass pane as my canvas. I used color pigment in an adhesive to create solid color marks on the glass. Then I filled in areas with a clear adhesive and strategically implanted pigments into it to leave the translucent effect. My favorite objective for mixed media is creating art that makes onlookers want to touch it. 

Who is someone who encouraged or championed your art work? Out of all my mentors over the years, there has always been one constant supporter of my art: my Father. I have had art instructors when I was a teen, admirers in my friends, but no one who has ever believed in me more than my Dad. If he could, he would buy every piece of art I ever create or commission me to create works for his home. I have a completely biased supporter, but he has encouraged me to pursue my artistic interests over anything else due to the intrinsic rewards I get from them.  He would say “you can work any job to get money; why not be in a career that doesn’t feel like work?” He always seemed to have all the right words to say. My Father put many miles on his vehicle transporting me back and forth from his home to Mississippi School of the Arts. He encouraged me to attend their program there, for which I lived on campus for 2 years. I have not had formal training beyond those 2 years, but they impacted my entire view of what art means. If it were not for my Father, I would have never had that opportunity in my life. 

What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? Don’t feel like art is a competition of skill, but rather a journey to self-discovery. No, seriously.  So many people criticize the definition of art, trying to fit it into one description or another. “That’s not Art; that’s a craft” or “That’s not Art; I could do that if I felt like it”. Lose the labels and ditch the unnecessary censorship. Your art is just that. I used to strive for perfection in my drawings. For a little while, I thought my art was poor quality because I was not creating hyper-realistic images. Then I remembered the reason I first picked up the brush in the first place. The process of creating was more important than the result. What ended up on the paper or canvas was my voice. Put your voice in your art and you will find gratification in your work.

It may be 2020, but we’re still doing a season of gratitude

It’s November so internet rules state I must post a gratitude list.

But this blog isn’t about me, it’s about all the amazing artists in and around Fayetteville.

So I asked them who they were grateful for.

The love train was phenomenal.

Arts Event Manager and writer Ashanti Bennett (and one of my personal gratitudes) called out painter Jen Hancock, who choose two other painters: “This year, I am grateful for all of the BLM inspired artists and artwork, but Carlos Tolentino’s George Floyd portrait particularly stands out for me. It was a beautifully and powerfully portrayed artwork reminding me that there is a whole nation of people within our nation who have felt unable to breathe for centuries and we all need to do better, and be better humans. I am also infinitely grateful for another of the local heroes of our artist world, Mary Ward, whom we tragically lost a week ago. Not only did she create art that burst at the seams with bright and loving joy, but she bestowed her passion and love of art on to my children who were blessed enough to call her their art teacher. She is already truly missed.”

Minda Rella tagged Val Humphrey, who said, “I’d like to shoutout Beth Davis. I pick her because, not only is her artwork visually stunning and complex, but she also happens to be remarkably kind and humble. I love her vivid use of color and intricate line work. Her art is very different from mine, and yet it inspires me so much.”

Doug Burton and Michael Daughtry caught their own loop. Michael said about Doug “Thank you for supporting original artists and creating excellent original music!” And then Doug responded about Michael: “Throughout the year he’s kept us all entertained via “Get The Drift” webcasts, even while we can’t make it out to traditional venues. Michael supports local music & musicians like very few others, and we are lucky to have him as part of our community.”

Dec 2019 Lisette and Justin perform at The Sweet Palette.

Singer TishMone and Author Shane Wilson both tagged singer-songwriter Lisette. She shared “Grateful for my cellist / partner in crime Justin Mackey, for helping me record and produce my acoustic EP. Grateful for The Arts Council for supporting the arts during a year where everything had to go virtual.”

Pre 2020 pic. LtoR: Devra Thomas, Ashanti Bennett, El’Ja Bowens. Photo credit: Monica Bowens

“Talent, passion for his craft, entrepreneurship, leadership, generosity in lifting others, and willingness to invest his time, talent, and energy into the community. Plus, a genuinely good guy.” Of course Sam Dubose is talking about El’Ja Bowens. He then spread the love around more: “For me, there are too damn many lol. But, let’s go with Neil Donnell Ray, Law Bullock, Yolanda A. Barnes, Ed Owens, and Ashanti Bennett. All dedicate themselves to their craft, community, and above all else they are willing to look past themselves to help the greater good.”

Shane also tagged painter Damien Mathis, who returned the love and then some: “Shane, he met me at a point in life where I didn’t understand a lot about how people view my art. As an author, he solidified a different viewpoint. Carter has gave me every opportunity without asking for anything in return…honest in his tomorrows. Metoya Scott has been very informative in what’s going on in the community and has a professional persona about the art world.”

Pre everything. Neil Ray and El’Ja Bowens at The Sweet Palette. Photo credit: Law Bullock

And almost everyone mentioned Neil Ray. As musician Shaun McNamee put it: “Can’t have this list without mentioning the great Dr Neil Donnell Ray. There wouldn’t be a local scene without him!” Neil replied, “It is so good to be honored by your peers! My respect and adoration of these artists and so many others is the true testimony of the talent we have in this area! I am grateful to all of them! They have helped me become better! Or at least get in the game!”

Keep the love going! Shoutout in the comments a local artist you’re grateful for this year!

Slow Fashion, Complex Art: Fiber Artist Kia Love

Kia Jones is a self-taught knitwear designer and fiber artist. She holds an AA degree in Graphic Design and Advertising as well as BFA in Interior Architecture and Design. In 2014, after practicing her craft for 14 years, she launched her brand Kia Love – a women’s knitwear and home decor brand. She specializes in fashionable accessories and home décor for the daring individual who loves bold color and texture. Her current custom collection emphasizes craftsmanship, feminine design and is dedicated to knitwear’s unbeatable comfort, to the way it follows the moves of the body and drapes around it. 

Kia is passionate about slow fashion, the healing powers of fiber arts and the importance of teaching hand crafts to the younger generation. Paypal Email: kialovecreative@gmail.com

Favorite Local Third Place: Myrover-Reese Thrift  Store

3 Things you can’t live without: My yarn, seltzer water and my liquid eyeliner.

Local artist (any genre) you admire: Keith DeWayne, painter;  Samod Wilson, painter; Redyn, musician

A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: Meditation and bike riding.  Both are essential to my physical and mental well-being.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I am currently experimenting with quilted clothing. I learned how to quilt a few years ago. Since, I have become obsessed with creating items that are aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Who is someone who encouraged or championed your artwork? Me. I always try to outdo myself. 

What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? Experiment. Fail. Repeat. Knitwear design and textile art isn’t something that you’re good at overnight. It takes years to master your craft and to find your niche. Experiment with knitting, crochet, rug making and sewing. All these things are connected. Knowing a little about everything will ultimately make you a better artist.  

Editor’s Note Nov ’20: Important Questions

The dirty not-so-secret secret of the arts world is the forced ranking of artists and organizations: white artists and large, well-funded spaces/organizations are considered “world-class”; well-connected artists of color and organizations that have the resources (money, people) to play the game of grant writing and code-switch marketing are held in a second tier of regional recognition; and then the base of the pyramid, the iceberg under the ocean: the millions of individual artists of every color, orientation, gender, preference, and artistic genre who are creating meaningful art, either by themselves or with similar-minded people, hopefully for a small committed audience. Their numbers are legion; their accolades, few.

Going backwards through the last century, the NEA (as fabulous and necessary as state support of national art should be) fosters such rankings by their onerous grant approval process, made all the worse by political maneuverings in the 1990s over freedom of speech and artistic license. As fantastic as the non-profit idea is, it still is crafted under the oversight of toxic capitalism to mimic the roles, mechanisms, and output of for-profit companies. A brief moment during the Great Depression saw government willing to support a range of artistic voices across America, albeit predominantly anglo-saxon ones.

It boggles my mind that it is 2020, and with our copious resources of money, technology, connection, and education, artists are STILL being forced into rankings based on their level of these things.

Art is art. Human is human.

As our nation deals with a political system that is functioning the way it was intended to–to perpetuate the financial success and ruling power of a select few white people–the same questions of how to dismantle the system must be asked in the arts world. I include myself and the Color Of project in this. How am I contributing to the system? How can I contribute to its dismantling?

How can I contribute to something better? Something equal? Something that truly values all artistic expression?

“Richard Hamming was a mathematician at Bell Labs from the 1940’s through the 1970’s who liked to sit down with strangers in the company cafeteria and ask them about their fields of expertise.

At first, he would ask mainly about their day-to-day work, but eventually, he would turn the conversation toward the big, open questions—what were the most important unsolved problems in their profession? Why did those problems matter? What kinds of things would change when someone in the field finally broke through? What new potential would that unlock?After he’d gotten them excited and talking passionately, he would ask one final question: “So, why aren’t you working on that?””

http://rationalitydojo.com.au/resources/how-to-dojo/hamming-questions/

I think this trio–how am I contributing to the system as it is, how to dismantle, how to create something truly egalitarian–are the most important questions in the arts world currently. Everyone in this community needs to be working on them. If we believe in our own humanity and our shared world, we must find a way to stop restricting help and start living into the abundance that exists for all.

Art can change minds and hearts. If we make sure that all art is included.

Portraitist Melissa Greco on Music and Meditation

Melissa Greco is “a mom of 3 and wife of a soldier stationed here at Fort Bragg. I’m from California, but this is our second time here in North Carolina so it feels like home. I don’t recall a time in my life when I wasn’t enthralled by art and have been drawing my surroundings for as long as I can remember. I remember asking my parents for a kiln for Christmas when I was 10. Over the years I have experimented with every medium I could get my hands on. These days I typically favor watercolor or chalk pastels. Portraits are my favorite, because I love the challenge of bringing a person to life. My decision to sell my art was fairly recent after family and friends begging me to do so for years.” Venmo @Melissa-Greco-11

Favorite Local Third Place: I’m a homebody so I don’t get out very often, especially since the spread of covid-19, but I do love visiting Rude Awakening for some coffee whenever I am downtown.

3 Things you can’t live without: I cannot live without coffee, my pastel pencils, and music. I often put my headphones on and get lost in a painting for hours. My playlist ranges from punk rock to classical music, depending on what I am working on.

Local artist (any genre) you admire: Linda Draper of Apex is an amazing oil painter who specializes in pet portraits. As a dog lover myself, I enjoy seeing her capture the character of each pet.

A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: I have started taking some time to myself every day to meditate since quarantine and I look forward to it so much that I plan to continue for as long as I see a benefit.

“Veronica” by Melissa Greco

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I am currently working on a multimedia commission that consists of a monochrome abstract portrait incorporated into a movie poster. I am having a ton of fun with it.

Who is someone who encouraged or championed your art work? My sister and my husband have always been supportive and encouraging when it comes to my art.

What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? My advice is to get out there and make art. Don’t wait until you’re “good enough to be a professional.” There is no such thing. Don’t compare your art to the art of others. We are all constantly learning on our own journey.