At least one Saturday a month, artists in residence at the McColl Center for Visual Art (a Knight Arts grantee) open their studio doors to the public, offering visitors the chance to learn about the creative process. With the goal of making contemporary art more accessible, Open Studio Saturdays help engage the community with art. The McColl center opened more than a decade ago in what was once an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, a Gothic Revival structure that had been abandoned for many years and damaged in a fire. Today, the Center houses nine artists’ studios with 5,000 square feet of gallery space.
This past Saturday, I made my second trek to an Open Studio Saturday at the McColl to view the new artists in residence: Natalie Abrams, Natalie Bork, Ginny Hanes Boyd, Linda Luise Brown, Jennifer Parham Gilomen, Aspen Hochhalter, Sheila Klein, Jeff Schmuki & Wendy Deschene, and Jason Watson. Most of these artists will be in residence until fall 2013, with the exception of Watson and Brown, whose residences last until March 2014. The work of Natalie Abrams and Natalie Bork particularly resonated with me emotionally and visually.
Bork, a mixed media artist who has headed sculpture at the Charlotte County Day School for the past eight years, explores the impact, permanence and evidence of memories. Her textural method uses layers of paint splashed, dripped and carved on canvases, wooden sculptures and aluminum sheeting to show the way memories are layered. According to Bork’s artist statement, “Some layers are permanently buried, while others are aggressively erased leaving only a trace. How much a preceding layer reveals itself depends on its impact, both visual and emotional.”
“Transition” by Bork highlights this exploration; it reads as a visual landscape for memories with rugged terrain and diffuse light revealing certain recollections and shadowing others. The title further hints at the way change causes us to reflect on, cling to and or alternately push away certain memories.
Abrams also offers a textural experience, but with an entirely different medium: encaustic, which is a pigmented hot wax. Abrams’ ribbon like forms literally leap forward at the viewer, echoing the complex structures and textures of coral reefs and the seabed. Abrams is interested in the biodiversity of these natural landscapes as well as manmade environments like the urban-scape. Her work on view at the McColl is untitled, leaving the type of landscape up to the viewer. For me, works like “Untitled 11.14,” done on a wooden panel with the wood grain evident, recalled the bio-diverse environment of a live oak, where centuries of life has attracted mosses, ferns and mushrooms.
The McColl Center for Visual Art: 721 N. Tryon St., Charlotte; 704-332-5535; www.mccollcenter.org. Open Thursday-Friday, 2 to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; or by appointment.