Through Observation and Experimentation, Blanca LaCortiglia Blossoms

Blanca LaCortiglia is a painter and an arts administrator. Her work has been published in magazines, a book, and featured in a podcast. She has a BA in Arts Studios and a MA in Arts Administration. Her work has been showcased in solo, group, and juried exhibitions. Blanca is passionate about arts education and has hosted a variety of art workshops and has taught pre-K. She has curated art exhibitions in a gallery setting and has worked at a museum. She is a mixed media artist who enjoys exploring a variety of styles and techniques. Blanca describes her art as Frankenstein, which is dreamy, surreal, and abstract, as her pieces are all different and she doesn’t just fit in one category.

3 things you can’t live without and why Well, I can’t live without ART! I know what a surprise lol. I seriously need the arts in my life because I have no idea who or what I would be without it. I was born and raised in The Bronx. I used to hop on the train as a teenager and visit art galleries, museums, and any public art featured in the city. It kept me sane and happy. I participated in plays, dances, art clubs and much more. The arts have always been in my life. I couldn’t be me without it!

I love Jolly Ranchers. It’s the only candy I can’t live without. They’re so tasty and crunchy. I can knock out all my work with some hard candy crunching in my mouth.

I need my water! I love drinking water. It keeps my body feeling great. To me water is such an essential element in life. It helps plants grow, it keeps humans healthy, and you know, keeps living things alive. Water is so underrated. I love you water!

Local Artist you admire: Damien Mathis. I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen his work and I like it!

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Ok. I’ve been working at this FOR YEARS! I still am trying to develop a better way of showcasing my 3-D flowers made from acrylic paint. Most people want me to use clay and other mediums that are obviously 3-dimensional. I am obsessed with paint so I’m always going to stretch it to its limits. I’m hoping to one day make a huge piece with over 100 handmade flowers from acrylic paint! This will be a long process since it takes about four days for the paint to cure. In other words, each acrylic flower takes up to four days to dry. Talk about having patience.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? I had the biggest artist block EVER.  It was bad. I was able to create a few paintings in 2020 but I usually create a lot more. I wasn’t inspired. As I mentioned before I need to see art and be around art. It was difficult not experiencing the art scene. I will not keep this artist block. In fact I hope to create a lot more art in the future so stay tuned!

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. My workspace is a combination of a lot of paint and canvases around. I have a beautiful window that provides lots of sunlight for me and my plants. I am currently updating my furniture and will be working on a couple of murals in my space. My goal is to make it edgy, fun, and inspirational! I have the best studio space at home…

How do you find your subject? I am such a weird person. I can be driving, talking to someone, or looking at the sky and bam an idea comes to mind. I usually have to write it down, so I won’t forget it. Beach trips always help me feel relaxed and thus leads to inspiration. My studio space hands down is my cozy spot where I can doodle and sit on my grey couch and daydream (I’ve had this couch for years, it’s my fav).  

Advice to newer artists in your genre? Just paint! I know, I know art supplies can be expensive, but you need to paint. I usually use my “ugly paintings” and repaint over them to make a messier painting. After the damage is done, I move on to the next one. Keep going and don’t stop. Not all pieces are going to be your favorite, but you never know who might want that one piece you don’t like. The more you practice your art the closer you will be to achieving the look that you want. I dare say you will also discover who you are as an artist. Make time for your paint and the paint will love you back.

Guiding Light: Yolanda “Yogii with 2 i’s” Barnes

Photo Credit James Bass

I first heard Yolanda “Yogii with 2 i’s” Barnes do an extemporaneous motivational speech at El’Ja Bowen’s 3:10 book reading at the Arts Council downtown. Her stories trilled, dipped, pushed, and pulled. She was mesmerizing. So it was no surprise to find out her background with Toastmasters and she was obviously ingrained into the local slam poetry scene. But the more you talk to Yogii, the more expansive you realize her artwork is. And her community. And her heart.

El’Ja was kind enough to provide her intro: Yolanda A. Barnes aka Yogii With 2 I’s is an award winning Spoken Word artist, painter, and workshop facilitator. She is credited for being the first Fayetteville poet to compete in a major regional slam competition that in turn brought the city of Fayetteville visible to the Poetry Slam world. She is also the author of the book, “Y Aren’t U Listening” and the owner of Inspired Ink Creative Consulting.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me is definitely being able to not only grow myself, but to have the ones around me grow as well. So if there’s no growth in me and there’s no growth for the people around me, I’m not successful. I love being able to walk around and see all the seeds that have been planted–whether they were intentional or unintentional–and everything they have produced in the harvest; it’s been amazing. Success to me is just being able to not only do well for me, but to do well for the people around me and my community: as big as slam coming to Fayetteville on a national scene and to as small as my daughter passing her EOGs, and everything in between. 

Success is definitely not just a singular thing for me. It’s a group effort. I can’t tell you how many babies –I call all the poets, babies–how many poets I have named, or how many poets I have given counsel to, or how many poets have just come to just sit near me at a show just because, they didn’t want anything, they just wanted to sit there. Then they grow out and branch off into these trees, these teams, they leave the state, they go do other things, but that stem is still rooted, what they learned. And those are things that are beautiful to me. 

Becoming a mother with a preemie baby– now a vibrant creative tween– changed how Yogii thought of success and her own artistic practice. 

I was no longer Yogii the poet that I had been prior. My complete and utter life flipped on its head. I felt the death of me. I felt like my voice was no longer the same as it was before. I honestly was grappling with how do I become this mother? And how do I continue to live in the shell of what I was? And there’s no real way to do that. The butterfly doesn’t have a choice of staying kind of in. And so I had no choice but to become that butterfly. It’s still every day deciding to be that butterfly and not go back to the Caterpillar.

But I got a chance to see myself and to deal with me in a way that helps me grow and become more successful in the process. It was different; my poetry was different. I was everything from angry to sad to hopeful and yet melancholy at the same time. It was just a mix of things that I hadn’t felt all at one time. Some days are better than others, but I’m better for that process everyday.

Photo Credit Eric L. Brim

What changes in your audience do you seek to make with your art? 

I love being the person that teaches without people knowing I’m teaching them. I don’t want to be the person that’s like, “Hey, you gotta do this and you gotta do that” because people don’t learn that way. But if I can get you to laugh and we can talk and have a conversation, and then I can hit you with a question every now and again, and then I can give you a long pregnant pause for you to think about some things, and then we come back and talk about it again later. If my art does that, in a poem or on canvas or my mannequins or different avenues, various techniques and skill sets, to make you look, and then look again and then make you wonder. I think if my art doesn’t make you wonder, if my art doesn’t make you sit quietly and reflect, then I’m not doing something right, because I need you to go within yourself and say, “how do I feel about that?” Or even just want to think about that. Cause a lot of people don’t have time and don’t make time. And that is one of those things that I want for my art to do, if it’s singing, if it’s rapping, if it’s painting, if it’s drawing, whatever it is that I’m doing, if I can get you just to say, “how does that relate to me?” That’s when I’m hitting on something.

How have you constructed the bridges of your career?

Honestly, I was doing a certain thing by accident back in the day: categorizing people. So if you know me from poetry, then I’m not going to put you in my art realm or I’m not going to put you in my music route. But I didn’t realize the six degrees of separation is real. And because it is so real, when I would put people in those different categories and people would know each other from those different categories, they’d be like, “well you mean Yogii the poet?”

And they’d be like, no, I mean, the artist, 

no, you mean the singer, 

but like, no you mean the girl that works at Belk.” 

Somebody told me “you wrote a book, I don’t even know why you didn’t tell me.” Well, you’re not in that box, you know? But that’s how that works and now people want to know more about my work.

Another thing I did was I wanted to prove things to myself. When I went to Southern Fried Poetry, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know it was the second largest national poetry festival. I had no idea. I just put my money up and decided to go. I didn’t tell anybody. Finally, I told El’Ja, “You need to see this.” It was like the last two days of competition, the day before the final stage, and he knew a lot of the people there. I didn’t hardly know anybody, but I wanted it that way. I was trying to prove to myself that I was not wasting my time by writing poetry, by being just who I was. I was proving to myself that it wasn’t a waste of time. And I think for me, a lot of things that I have done and still do to this day are just to prove a point to myself. 

A lot of times, too, for me, it takes a contest. When I wrote my first book, I put it up for a contest. So Fried, that was a contest. The wire dress was for a contest. Sometimes that extra push of a contest makes it even more exciting: just being able to know that it can be done, even if I don’t know anything about it, makes it even more amazing.

And I pivot myself into positions that have always been able to bridge me into the next thing. People don’t believe it, but sometimes you just gotta go, you gotta do. Because if you’re in that space, they will see you and they will wonder about you and they will make room for your talents. I continue to put myself in places that most people wouldn’t even dare, just because they thought they wouldn’t make it in that space. I’m in that space and you’re going to see me. 

Photo Credit Eric L. Brim

Who do you consider your present artistic cohort? 

I have been going to writing workshops during this whole pandemic: Cultivating Content, Craft, and Conversation by Christine-Jean Blain and Kimberley Gaubault. It’s open with donation for anybody to come to the workshop. They are amazing: they push and they question and they give the best prompts. When I’m there in that virtual space, I feel free. I can write, I can really just put pen to pad: whatever comes out comes out. I give them a lot of credit for creating that space. There’s other workshops I’ve gone to and I have my own artists’ retreats where I work with people. But for me, for that release, yeah, that does it. 

Right now I’m focused on writing, but when summer hits, I go back into painting because I can be outside. I can’t wait to get on canvas cause I want to practice more with watercolors. I have lots of visions in my mind, so I want to get those down. Usually I cycle a year creatively, so when I can get outside, that’s usually the time I paint and when it’s cold outside is when I’m inside, working on next year’s plans or writing and doing things. 

Guiding Light: Leslie Pearson

artist Leslie Pearson. photo by Shane Booth

The official short bio of Leslie Pearson reads: a multimedia artist who utilizes many fiber based materials, processes and techniques to create sculptures, installations, encaustic paintings, and handmade books in which she explores themes of memory and identity. She pursues art as a studio artist, community arts advocate and educator. She has taught at various colleges and Universities and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Arts Council of Fayetteville, and is a member of the Surface Design Association. Pearson exhibits her work nationally and internationally. But that doesn’t scratch the surface of the long and varied path her artwork has taken her on, how she’s become a fixture in Fayetteville, or even touch on Fayetteville Pie Company or her forthcoming establishment, Curate Essentials. Pearson has traveled the world and embodies the idea that you can improve and be improved by your local community.

A portion of installation “Tell Me Your Secrets I’ll Tell You Mine” and her cat, Friday Noir.

What does success mean to you?

When I was younger, I used to dream of being an artist. I thought, “Well, how can I make money as an artist? How would that look as a success?” So I thought I would teach art; that was my limited knowledge of what I could do as a profession in the arts.

I pursued that and then switched from arts education to studio practice because I knew I needed to hone my skills as an artist. Then, I wanted to work at the arts council in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, when I was taking my studio classes. That opened my knowledge of arts administration and being able to work in a gallery space, which led to pursuing a master’s degree in museum studies, in the hopes of working in an established museum. But when I got back to the States, that was when 9/11 happened and people were really holding onto their jobs. I realized, if I want to work in a museum, I need a PhD or I need to at least learn a foreign language, but it was really hard to even get a foot in the door in museums.

So there I was with debt, student loans, things like that. I was having meetings with professionals in the art world; I moved to Kansas City for a little while because I thought I would have a better connections. And I ended up working at Sonic and selling my plasma three times a week. That’s how hard up I was. I worked at a donut shop before Dawn and I was substitute teaching. I was like trying to do whatever I could to earn some money. I met this kid who said, “I’m going to join the army because I’ll use my GI bill. They’ll pay for my education after that.” And it just kind of clicked in my mind; I’d never thought about joining the army. And she said, “well, why don’t you just talk to my recruiter?” one thing led to another, and then I’m in the army as a photo journalist. That was the most creative thing I could think of to do for the army. From there, I started writing articles for the local newspaper in Augusta covering arts and entertainment. I realized after I got out of the army that I could get a master’s degree, which would then allow me to circle back and teach art at the college level.

After arriving back in Fayetteville with her husband, Pearson opened the Fayetteville Pie Company, which she credits to a childhood spent learning from her grandmother how to garden, can food, and bake pies for a crowd. Another childhood dream was to open a studio/coffeeshop-type place with her sister, who now also resides in Fayetteville and works closely with Pearson. They are currently renovating a Haymount building to achieve this dream.

To go from being artist-, writer-, teacher-brain to business owner was a big change for me. Through that, I’ve really learned a lot about running a business, which is now helping me as I’m developing Curate Essentials, which I think brings me full circle because with it, I’m able to take everything I learned from the pie shop and develop this store. All that I learned about teaching: I’m going to be able to teach workshops here. Everything I need in terms of travel to exhibit my work, this place is going to allow me the flexibility of that. I’m going to be able to use part of this space as a studio space to continue making work. I’m going to be able to show work. I’m going to be able to bring visiting artists. And so I’m going to be able to cultivate all of that interest in teaching and being with other artists.

So to answer your original question when I was younger, I used to think that being a famous artist was being someone featured in an art book. For me now, it’s just being able to constantly live in my natural, creative, passionate self, but also earn a living doing that because what I’m doing has a monetary value as well.

detail from “Canoe”, a commissioned piece co-created with Australian artist Kerrie Bedson, 2018

What changes in your audience do you seek to make with your art?

I am interested in autobiographical work and the idea of family and being in a community. At first it was very literal: my thesis work was called “Vignettes of a Family”, and I broke down each person who had a big impact on my life and started exploring their story. Then branching out to think about the people who had touched my life in some way, even if it was indirectly. Because embroidery pieces are extremely time-consuming, I’m still working on a series called “Trace Evidence”, which is a fingerprint embroidered over, in an abstract way, old family photos. I love to learn. I’m a lifelong learner. So I was taking some classes on forensic science at Methodist University, where we were learning about fingerprints, how to take fingerprints and about trace evidence and how every single person has trace evidence that they leave. There’s a part of you that you leave at a scene and you also pick up things and you take them with you. So you always are touching your environment and being touched by it. I was thinking about life and how we touch other people’s lives and how one person can be influenced by this person. And they’re influencing you as well.

Pearson’s visual work is complex, usually made up of smaller pieces that represent community, and they are enhanced with text of some kind, giving more depth and intricacy to draw in the viewer.

They just, they like it for the simple shapes, the forms, the colors, and possibly the materials. And then when asked deeper questions, I have answers for them, because people approach artwork differently: everybody who approaches art comes with their own perceived notion, their own background and how they think about things. But I think that idea of family is a very universal thing.

Now how I’m going to use that to change the world in some way. As an artist, I absorb all of my surroundings, all of my interactions with people, everything that comes my way. And then I translate that into my work as a way to get it out and then invite people to just experience it. They have been able to connect with it and maybe see their situation a little bit differently.

always learning something new

How have you constructed the bridges of your artistic career?

There’s a great book called Hinds Feet on High Places that always made me think when I’m going through hard times, God’s got a plan. This little character, she’s trusting that she’s going to the high places and to get there, she thinks she’s going to go straight up, but she has to be led down lower and lower into valleys and in dark times, she realizes that she’s learning to trust more in her guide and in herself and the pain that she goes through makes her stronger. So she actually is able to live in the place where she’s meant to be on the mountain top. There’s been times in my life where I’m just like, ah, I just really want to get to this place where I have this huge exhibit and but I’m still here with these little small exhibits and stuff like that. Well, now I understand that when I do get an opportunity to have a big exhibit, I needed to show in those smaller places. I needed to define my work. I needed to grow as an artist. I needed to know those things. I needed to go through grad school to learn more technique and how to be a professional. I needed to teach at a community college before I could teach at a university. So it has been very, very, very small steps along the way.

One of my biggest problems is I never have enough time to actually get to all the things I have or want to do. I keep a journal with sketches; sometimes, I’ll say, okay, I’m going to do a little sample piece, which I’ll set in my studio. It will remind me, even if it’s a year or two later: Oh yeah, that’s what I was going to do with that.

from Pearson’s latest show “eco prints”, 2021

Who do you consider your artistic cohort?

Firstly, my sister, Leigh, who is my studio assistant. She has been a big help to me. My husband, Justin, who never complains about the ongoing projects I’m involved in. My friends Jennifer and Ellen, who are always game to do something creative and both challenge me to be the best version of myself. Everyone who works at the Pie Shop: they work so hard and are so creative. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. And all of my Facebook friends who are always encouraging me. I also look to the other women business owners in Fayetteville who are in the trenches every day making their own dreams come true.

For me, also, is going to places and doing workshops. For instance, I’m going to be teaching at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, Tennessee soon. I’ll be surrounded by other artists who are teaching classes, and also exhibiting their work, and all the students. Those are the times when I get pushed; there’s a synergy that happens. So I rely on those times.

I have another friend, MJ, she’s about 80 years old and she’s my best bestie: she’s an artist. When I’m around her, we just push each other and we’re constantly being creative and things like that. I always say, I want to be like her when I grow up. We used to be together at Acme Art Studios in Wilmington. There were 22 working artists there. That was such a highlight of my life to be there every day with people who were working as practicing artists for their living and teaching and doing commissioned work and things like that. That was a really sharpening time for me.

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!

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.

Dr. Daniel Montoya is a Modern Day Renaissance Artist-Scientist

Dr. Montoya at LeClair’s General Store

It doesn’t come as any surprise that a neuroscientist–someone who studies the way the brain works for a living–would be interested in the concept of Resonance. “It’s the goal of many people vibrating at the same frequency,” Dr. Montoya grins, “and I’ve experienced it with music.” He researches the idea of consciousness from a cognitive psychological standpoint, but philosophy and arts are never far from his scientific work.

Dr. Montoya hails from Argentina, where he started playing guitar at twelve. When he was seventeen, he volunteered to work a visit from the Pope. Eventually, the music and religion overlapped when he started writing and playing music for churches here in America. Religious music is designed to lead to resonance within the congregants.

His creative muse is Electronic music and his latest album is Space Songs for Earthy People. He creates the ethereal tunes on the computer, records vocals on his iPad in found spaces, and overlays more traditional instruments to make the sound full and rich. Getting caught in the bain of the artist’s life — when is the work done? when is it finished? — is not helped by the computer. “I’m endlessly tweaking,” he chuckles.

Another aspect of Dr. Montoya’s love of music is working as a deejay, spinning ambient, house, new age, trap, and other genres of electronic music. One of his favorite musicians is David Bowie, not only because of his constant learning and reinventing, but because of Bowie’s business acumen. “You have to learn to do it all as an artist today,” Dr. Montoya says, “No one else will look after your business like you will.”

photo from Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County Block Party.

A devoted community member, Dr. Montoya participated in a local board training program, and was selected to work with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County on their Board of Directors. He is also a member of the Arts Council’s CMAC (Cumberland Makers and Creatives) team, which focuses on networking, training, and supporting independent artists of all forms in our neighborhood. “I’m excited about things that are happening [in Fayetteville], the people, the vision,” he remarked.