Remembering John Payne

Remembering John Payne-attachment0

There is a black hole in the local arts community. Yesterday, local artist and River Arts District visionary John Payne died after suffering a massive stroke. He was 58. He is remembered both for his work as a sculptor and as the owner of the Wedge building, an arts-friendly space that has been credited with helping turn the River District into a haven for a variety of artists and performers.

Payne’s advocacy of the arts in Asheville was as significant as his contributions to it. Known most recently for his “kinetosaurs” — large-scale dinosaur marionettes — Payne’s work fused mechanical knowledge with true artistic technique.

One person deeply familiar with his work is freelance arts writer and painter Connie Bostic.

“My granddaughter Hannah will never forget the day when she was 11-years-old and I took her to a big building down by the river into a dark, cavernous space where she was confronted by an enormous steel bird,” Bostic says, referring to one of his many animatronic creations. “John Payne handed her the remote. There were no ‘Now, be careful’ or ‘Watch out’ for this or that. He simply grinned and handed her the control.”

Bostic says that it was that same carefree attitude that made Payne such a memorable part of the local arts community.

“It is hard to imagine the Asheville arts scene without Payne’s outrageous sense of humor and his uncanny ability to figure out how to get things done,” Bostic says. “Not just in his work, but in things that have had a tremendous impact on the lives of so many other artists.”

Click here to read more about Payne in an Asheville Citizen-Times news story.

— Steve Shanafelt, A&E Editor

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4 thoughts on “Remembering John Payne

  1. slowlocal

    sending love and the deepest appreciation to john’s family, and especially gwenn, for the amazing life and inspiration of john payne. we must continue his efforts to advocate for affordable art space, and let’s hope that there is a benevolent landlord in the arts district that will do just that….

  2. John Payne’s creative eye was beyond compare – the man was nothing less than inspirational to all creatives who were blessed to know and meet him.

    During the Faces of Asheville project, when taking photos the 2nd time, I was based out of the Wedge Gallery. I got to know John pretty well during these three months we were neighbors. He was a little shyer due to his other stroke, but he had a fierce sense of resistance for the Riverside artist community and was adamant about keeping condos out of there. He wished to allow artists to remain and struggle only slightly (as artists always will) against rising rent costs, rather than be outright pushed out by gentrified high costs of living in the area.

    In late April John and I had agreed to do a private photo session, he wanted to take his FOA portrait nude in a balled position with his white hair flaring out wildly in all directions. It was the very last portrait I took for the project, and it had a great significance and meaning to me. His portrait seemed to be the perfect conclusion to the photo aspect of the project on so many levels. He told me it was a portrait he had been wanting someone to take of him his entire life.
    Now, as we Ash-villians lose one of our most prominent and beloved members, it holds even greater significance for me.

    I’ve no doubt that the citizens and artists of Asheville who love and owe John so much will find a magnificent way to memorialize his vision & his life, so that future citizens of Asheville will know how much of our arts district we owe to this one legend of a man.

    Blessings and prayers to his family.
    -JBo

  3. dorkey

    John Payne’s creative eye was beyond compare – the man was nothing less than inspirational to all creatives who were blessed to know and meet him. “It is hard to imagine the Asheville arts scene without Payne’s outrageous sense of humor and his uncanny ability to figure out how to get things done,” Bostic says. “Not just in his work, but in things that have had a tremendous impact on the lives of so many other artists.

    dorkey

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