The Many Forms of Sculpture and Learning of Damien Mathis

Damien Mathis

Painter and sculptor Damien Mathis is a Fayetteville native and resident, and an avid Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club member. A Marine Corps Combat veteran, Mathis served two tours in Afghanistan with 1/6 Bravo Infantry Battalion before earning a Bachelor’s in Visual Arts from HBCU Fayetteville State University. Mathis recalls drawing as a child even before he learned to write, but only began painting eight years ago, in his early twenties. His art has since been collected and exhibited throughout the U.S., including the Arts Council of Fayetteville, the Harlem Fine Arts Show, Fayetteville State University, A&T, and various communities along the coast.

3 Things you can’t live without & why: The 3 things I can’t live without is ambition, blessings, and lessons. You need all of them to become individually great. They will balance you.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: Shane Wilson is a good friend who taught me the meaning of a giving friend. He has a welcoming heart open to the world around him. Other artists are Professor Dwight Smith and Professor Soni Martin of Fayetteville State University: they taught me the freedom of the mind with all materials and to always trust the process.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? My current artistic experiments are learning how to mold and shape fiberglass and different resins with different materials.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Self management and preventive procrastination changed in my practice in 2020.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I mostly do my creating in various places–maybe in my studio or in the woods somewhere–where everything feels natural. It just at that moment has to have a calming environment as the foundation to start the process.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Usually the next idea just comes from everyday thought in life… sometimes it’s from boredom. I guess it’s just supposed to be created into what it shall be.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. You don’t know everything. You barely even know yourself. Never stop trying to learn or pick someone’s ear. Never know where your interest may take you!!! Creating comes in many forms.

 

Illuminating Friends and Feelings: Dark Pop Singer Keyse

photo credit Matthew Wonderly

KEYSE is a Dark Pop/Alternative Rock project based out of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Madeline Keyse, the sole writer and vocalist, is a former opera singer turned modern pop act. Pre-pandemic, she shared the stage with artists such as Lacey Sturm (ex Flyleaf), Tilian Pearson (Dance Gavin Dance), and Landon Tewers (The Plot In You).
MERCH: https://keyse.bigcartel.com

Surround yourself with people who inspire you to create.

Madeline Keyse

3 Things you can’t live without & why: First, I absolutely cannot live without a keyboard (more specifically my ROLI Seaboard Controller). It is an integral part in my creative process with songwriting; I’d be pretty lost without it. Going hand-in-hand with that, the next item would be my iPad Air 2. I store all my lyrics, voice memos, song ideas, and write out full demos that I bring to the studio on it, so it is a necessity. Lastly, I couldn’t confidently perform live without my Telefunken M80 microphone. It makes my voice sound great, and it’s also neon yellow. You can’t miss it on stage, and it’s a great conversation piece.


Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: As cliché as it sounds, it’s definitely going to be my bandmate and partner Grant Garner. He is best known around town for being the vocalist of The Sherman Neckties, and has performed with his band for various city events, such as Hay Street Live, Downtown Summer Nights, Zombie Walk, and the Dogwood Festival. He not only plays guitar for my live performances, but he handles everything regarding my live performance altogether, and to be quite frank, KEYSE gigs wouldn’t even exist without him. He is inspiring to me for a multitude of reasons from personal to professional, but the most admirable thing about Grant is his need to grow as a musician. He spends hours learning about the industry, new musical equipment, experimenting with audio production, and passes whatever he learns onto anyone willing to listen. He is the most passionate musician I’ve ever met, and our relationship has pushed me to pursue my career in music to the best of my ability.

photo credit Matthew Wonderly


What is one of your current artistic experiments? In March of 2020, I started working with Landon Tewers as the new producer for KEYSE. He produced, mixed, and mastered my most recent single “Are You High Enough To Hold Me?” and we have created a whole new sound for the project. Since then, I have been traveling back and forth between Fayetteville and Detroit, working on the new material. I have been pretty quiet about what the future holds for KEYSE, but what I can say is the new songs are an entirely different body of work from my previous releases. There are some really incredible things that we are working towards, but that’s about all I can say at the moment. The future looks bright.


What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? In 2019, I was gigging about once or twice a week, sometimes three. And I absolutely loved every second of it. So you can imagine that with the entertainment industry shutdown, it has definitely taken a toll on me. Going from having your entourage of friends supporting you at every show to almost complete isolation will do a number on you. But I had to learn to adapt. I went from consistent live performances to recording new songs every opportunity I could get. As of right now, I’m sitting on about 7 or 8 unreleased singles. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to prepare myself for steady releases once I am able to, but I am more than ready to return to gigging, post-pandemic of course!


Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I don’t have band practice anymore, considering that live music doesn’t really exist currently. But my songwriting work space is pretty minimal. It consists of my ROLI Seaboard and my iPad. I will typically come up with a basic chord progression and write the topline of the song over that. Once I get the basic structure, I will take the demo to Grant, my partner, and he will help me re-record a higher quality demo on his workstation. There he can add guitar, bass, sample drums, and a better vocal take to further demonstrate the idea so we can bring it to the studio.

photo credit Matthew Wonderly

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? The majority of my songs are based off real life. Recurring topics in my songs are typically grief, loss, and heartache. But my music is not limited to that spectrum of feeling. More recently, I have been inspired by things as simple as a line in a movie or a character in a book. This past year has been emotionally exhausting for everyone, and I know I don’t want to think on or write about the hardships I’ve faced until I’m truly past it and am reflecting. Until then, using songwriting in a fictional sense has been, and will continue to be my favorite form of escapism.


Advice to newer artists in your genre. Set a couple attainable goals every year, and focus on making them happen. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone when creating. Surround yourself with people who constantly inspire you to create. Make sure your circle of people are dependable, trustworthy, and encouraging. Pay attention to who stays inside for your set at a show, and who hangs out in the parking lot the whole time. Most importantly, be kind to your fellow artists!

Catching up with Shane Wilson: New Stories, New Songs

Writer Shane Wilson. Photo Credit Michelle Winfrey

Shane Wilson is a storyteller. No matter the medium, the emphasis of his work is on the magical act of the story, and how the stories we tell immortalize us and give voice to the abstractions of human experience. His first two contemporary fantasy novels and a stage play, set in his World of Muses universe, are currently available. Shane also plays guitar and writes songs with his acoustic Americana/ folk band, Sequoia Rising. He writes songs as he writes stories–with an emphasis on the magic of human experience. Sequoia Rising’s debut album, Of All the Things I’ve Ever Said, I Mean This the Most, is available on all music streaming platforms. Additionally, Shane’s novels are A Year Since the Rain (Snow Leopard Publishing, 2016) and The Smoke in His Eyes (GenZ Publishing, 2018). Shane’s short story, “The Boy Who Kissed the Rain” was the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize winner and was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. Shane is currently at work on a new novel.

3 Things you can’t live without & why: I want so badly to say “a stiff cocktail” or “whiskey” or even “coffee,” but I’m afraid of what that might make me sound like, so I’ll go with something that plays music, something to write with, and a guitar. That might sound redundant, but I’ll explain. Something that plays music can be a stereo or a record player–something with speakers or headphones. I draw so much inspiration from music that the thought of life without music feels like a life not quite worth living. I’m listening to a ton of new and interesting stuff while I’m brainstorming new music, so I would hate to be without. Something to write with can be a pen and paper or a computer or a typewriter, but I need some place to scribble the ideas down that will become the next thing–song or book or play or, hell, film or musical. And I’ve listed a guitar because I need a way to make the music that I’m writing in my journal or on my computer. Also, if something happens to the thing that plays music, I can play a few things myself.

Local artist you admire: You know, I know this is probably the answer you get all the time, but it’s hard to talk about the arts in Fayetteville without showing love to Neil Ray. We’ve worked on projects together, which are experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. He means so much to the Fayetteville area at large, but he also means a ton to so many of us, individually. This community is full of artists I admire — El’Ja Bowens, Lisette Rodriguez, Doug Burton, Michael Daughtry, Damien Mathis. Artists who are carving their own paths and celebrating original art are my people. This is just a smattering of those names who celebrate originality and the pursuit of genuine artistic expression.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the new Sequoia Rising album, Of All the Things I’ve Ever Said, I Mean This the Most. This was the project that I poured myself into when the world shut down last spring, and it’s finally come to fruition: I’m incredibly proud. It’s a collaboration with Michelle Winfrey and Jerry Smith. It’s the first full length album I’ve written and produced, and to have that record out in the world for people to interact with is a joy.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? I think that living through a year that featured isolation in such heavy doses made me look for ways to mix it up, so to speak. I’ve started looking for more experimental sounds for my music and wilder plots for my stories. I think it started as a way to mentally escape the tedium of the day-to-day in COVID-induced isolation. I think I’ll definitely keep exploring these new avenues of creative expression. I’m hearing a lot of wild songs in my head. I just need to keep learning so I can record them. And the novel I wrote during lockdown? Whoa. It’s definitely a lockdown novel, but it’s also a ton of fun.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. At home, I work in my office surrounded by books and music and instruments or outside on the balcony. I still have music with me, though, no matter where I am. I also usually have some caffeine or whiskey. I also think it’s important to have a physical boundary that can create physical space for creation. Of course, you also need to live with people who respect that process. I’m lucky enough to have that.

As much as I am able to get done at home, I still find time to isolate for a couple of weeks a year in the mountains. The western North Carolina mountains are a magical place for me. Spending time there has changed my art and my process in ways that I’m not sure I can articulate. So, I’ll use time away at a retreat or residency to create momentum in a new project so that when I’m back at home, I can ride the wave for a while.

Shane Wilson and Jerry Smith. Photo Credit Michelle Winfrey

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Oh sheesh. I wish I knew! Life would be so much easier if I knew where to look for that stuff. Seriously, though, I’ve spent so much time thinking about creativity and where inspiration comes from. I don’t know. It’s no wonder the Greeks created a mythos for the phenomenon. The thought that I can just set out and find the next “thing” is so strange to me. I think it just happens–like in a lightning strike that I don’t perceive.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. You can’t wait for anyone to take a chance on you if you aren’t willing to take a chance on yourself. Any artistic pursuit begins with the work. We all want to see our painting on the wall of a gallery, see our book in a library, or hear our song on Spotify, but none of that happens if you don’t pick up the brush, put your pen to the page, or pick up the instrument. Art is a pursuit, and if you aren’t chasing, then you aren’t going to get anywhere. The work of the artist is important, soul-cleansing, humanity-defining work. But it’s work. You have to resign yourself to the pursuit of the work and learn the steps by which you achieve what you want to achieve. We don’t do the work to be famous, though. That way lies only madness. An artist does the work because they don’t know how to not do the work. As Rainer Maria Rilke told the young poet who wrote him for advice, if you can imagine a life wherein you are not writing, then you should not write. In short, artists cannot imagine a life without their art, and if you can, then you should find something else to do with your time.

Tony Murnahan Cultivates Creativity to Calm

all photos courtesy of Tony Murnahan

Fayetteville based multi-media talent, Tony Murnahan, has been honing his skills in still and moving images since 2006.  He has worked with many local recording artists and models to create award-winning music videos and short films. He also co-produced “Pieces of Talent”, an independent feature horror film, that won multiple awards on the film circuit including “Best independent horror film – 2014”.

Tony is also a gifted musician himself and has nationally toured with bands showcasing his musical talents on guitar, bass, and drums.  In his spare time away from his visual media work, he enjoys creating soundscapes with his handpan. Tony is a critically acclaimed recording artist on acoustic baritone fingerstyle guitar.

3 Things you can’t live without & why:

My photography equipment – My creative eye never rests. I am always studying lighting and looking for different ways in which to capture images. I enjoy the entire creative process from start to finish. 

My musical instruments – Creating music keeps my blood pressure low and relieves any stress that accumulates throughout my day. I would be miserable without them. I continually play music throughout my day, especially when I feel like I need a little decompression.

My ping pong paddle – When I was 16 years young, I was really into skateboarding. One day that year, it was raining and my friends and I could not go out skating. So, my friends invited me to play ping-pong. We visited the U.S.O. in Jacksonville, NC and there I met a Marine by the name of Joe Billups. Billups was a master table tennis player. He told me I had lots of natural ability, and suggested I continue playing regularly to develop my skills. So, for the next few years, I trained with him several hours a day after school. Today, I am a (USATT – USA Table Tennis) certified state coach and I continue to play for fun and exercise. I’ve competed in over 100 tournaments and have earned dozens of trophies over the years. I challenge anyone in Cumberland County to a game. You can meet me at the Cape Fear Table Tennis Club (http://capefearttc.net)

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: I really admire Raul Rubiera. He is such a loveable guy and a fantastic photographer of course. He has this great way of making you feel like family. His family is very talented and creative and this area is fortunate to have them here.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Currently, I am cultivating soundscapes from my handpan. I feel like the handpan is my soul instrument, and every time I play I feel a little piece of my soul is repaired. I really wish I would have started playing handpan a decade ago. I have the Covid pandemic to thank for learning handpan. I figured I needed to learn something new if I was going to be spending so much time at home.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? You know… I do not think much changed about my practice in 2020 aside from avoiding large gatherings. My photo & video endeavors pretty much continued on as normal thankfully. Musically I have been rolling solo for the last few years so nothing much changed there either. I have not been performing live because I mainly focus on recording and creating videos for my social media pages.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your workspace. I practice my music in the peace and quiet of my uncluttered home. I practice my photography & videography everywhere. I’m inspired by life, and by the people and things around me.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? I gave up hunting for my next subject or idea. I usually come up with ideas when I am not absorbed in work or practice. I have found it is more effective and efficient for me to just stay aware throughout my day. There is so much around us to feed off of, and if you stay observant and perceptive ideas will find you.

Advice to newer artists in your genre: My advice to newer artists is to keep your mind open. Spend lots of time with the people you trust and with the people who inspire you. Make your own rules and experiment with different ways when it comes to your art.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.