Asheville’s Paul Saenger didn’t set out to create a series of paintings about COVID-19 and its effects on the world around him. It just kind of happened.
“I took classes for drawing and painting for a year before the pandemic shut things down,” explains Saenger, who retired as an orthopedist in 2019. “Equipped with those fundamentals, I began experimenting with cardboard before advancing to canvases. I found myself painting mostly people, perhaps because of my career and its focus on human anatomy. I painted to create an expression of my sense of this world.”
He ended up creating paintings like “American Hubris,” an homage to Grant Wood’s classic “American Gothic,” complete with a masked woman and a CNN chyron reeling off COVID-19 death numbers. “Monumental” depicts the Washington Monument as a vaccine-filled syringe.
People, Politics and the Pandemic, an exhibit of 57 of Saenger’s paintings, will be on display from Friday, July 21-Sunday, Aug. 20, at Pink Dog Gallery. An opening reception will be Friday, July 21, 5-7 p.m.
“What I think people may get out of this show is a chance to reflect on the historic events we all shared over the past few years,” he says.
As the pandemic went on, Saenger says, he grew increasingly concerned about what he saw as a lack of effective leadership and the failure of the public to take the crisis seriously. That led him to create portraits in an effort to populate his life with people he no longer saw because of pandemic-related shutdowns and his own retirement.
“That the owners of Pink Dog Creative, Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull, invited me to put together an exhibition of this work for public display comes as a welcome surprise,” he says.
Pink Dog Gallery, 348 Depot St. in the River Arts District, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit avl.mx/a0b.
“Heigh Ho Come to the Fair” was printed on the poster for the first craft fair presented by the Southern Highlands Craft Guild. The year was 1948.
This year, the 76th Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands will take place Thursday, July 20-Sunday, July 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville.
Over 100 regional artists, makers and craftspeople will display and sell their works throughout the two-tiered arena, including pottery, sculpture, furniture, tapestry, apparel, mixed media, jewelry and more. Crafts rooted in Appalachian traditions will be featured alongside contemporary works, with live interactive demonstrations occurring throughout the event.
“This edition of the fair is filled with many heirloom-quality works of fine craft that offer long-term enjoyment for those who appreciate well-made, highly skilled crafts,” says Janet Wiseman, director of education for the guild. “For a first-time fairgoer, I would say: Take your time, hone your eye to the difference between machine-made items and those made by highly talented artists.” By developing such discernment, she says, visitors can choose works for their home “that stand the tests of time and trends … and gifts for loved ones that they can cherish and pass on to the next generation.”
Local musicians, including Carol Rifkin, Split Rail Bluegrass and Buncombe Turnpike, will perform traditional and bluegrass mountain music on the downstairs stage. A special storytelling session of Jack Tales told by Ashton Woody will take place at 10:15 a.m. Sunday.
“I’m excited about the music schedule,” says Wiseman. “The fair has offered live music since the first fair in 1948 where Jean Ritchie, the ‘songbird of the Cumberlands,’ was featured. This fair we are featuring mentors and students, with young talents such as local teen banjo sensation Bayla Davis, who will be playing with the Buncombe County Junior Appalachian Musicians Ambassadors.
“There’s an incredible amount of work and planning that goes into any event or festival of this magnitude,” she adds. “Everyone needs to have the experience of coordinating an event to understand the amount of dedication and cooperation involved. Luckily, the [guild] has always had people who step up and do the work. We are proud of our craft fair and the high-quality work of our members.”
Oh, the places you’ll go
For the first time, the art of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, will be on display in Asheville.
Rare Editions Exhibition: A rare selection of works from The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss will be on exhibit at BlackBird Frame & Art from Thursday, July 27-Saturday, July 29.
“Experiencing this collection will expand upon what most people know about Dr. Seuss,” says Mike Hardin, managing director of The Art of Dr. Seuss Collection. “It showcases not only his book illustrations, but also his ‘secret art,’ which he painted at night for relaxation and as a reflection of the world around him, as he saw it.”
Shared in conjunction with Roswell, Ga.’s Ann Jackson Gallery, the selection will include works from Dr. Seuss’ best known children’s books, as well as those from his private artwork. The pieces are limited editions that have been adapted and reproduced from Geisel’s original drawings, paintings and sculptures and are authorized by his estate.
Exhibition hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and until 5 p.m. on Saturday.
BlackBird Frame & Art is at 365 Merrimon Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/prxf.
Paying homage through art
An Asheville-based artist is paying homage to his inspirations, including Theodor Geisel, in an exhibition from Friday, July 21-Saturday, July 29.
Philip DeAngelo‘s exhibition at his studio in the River Arts District will open with a free public reception Friday, 5-8 p.m.
“I have had this show concept in mind for a while, so I’m really glad time and circumstance have allowed me to finally delve into it — it has been a really invigorating and fun experience to embrace the challenge of homage,” says DeAngelo.
Other influences in DeAngelo’s art include Norman Rockwell, Roy Lichtenstein and Mark Rothko.
“I think it’s important and useful to take a look at our influences as artists,” he says. “I hope, of course, that the public enjoys the new works, and I also hope that it [encourages] artists and art lovers to think about what inspires them and how they navigate that balance while developing their own unique visual presence as creators or collectors.”
Philip DeAngelo Studio, open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m-4 p.m., is at 115 Roberts St. For more information, visit avl.mx/bjf.
A Cherokee connection to Wedgwood
A free program hosted by the Western Office of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will focus on the history of early clay and mica mining in Western North Carolina.
On Saturday, July 22, 2:30-3:30 p.m., Alexander S. Glover Jr., a geologist and the recognized authority on the Spruce Pine Mining District, will present “America’s First Kaolin: The Wedgwood/Cherokee Connection.” The presentation will feature a discussion on the history of clay and mica mining near present-day Franklin, as well as kaolin mining in Macon County.
According to a press release, “When Georgia potter Andrew Duche first made porcelain in 1739 from clay found in the Cherokee region of the North Carolina mountains, his art inspired others, including English potter Josiah Wedgwood, who commissioned Griffiths to obtain this ‘Cherokee clay,’ or kaolin. Charleston planter Thomas Griffiths endured many hardships on his journey but delivered a five-ton shipment to Wedgwood in England in 1769.”
The exhibit Waking Rip Van Winkle: Gold, Mineral & Gem Mining in Western North Carolina will be open before and after the program.
To reserve a seat contact Angela Jervis at 828-250-3101 or email email@example.com.
The Western Office of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is at 176 Riceville Road. For more information, visit avl.mx/cug.
Community service recognition
The Edward Buncombe chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has named nonprofits Arts for Life and Asheville Quilt Guild as recipients of its Community Service Awards.
“The Community Service Awards are presented to individuals or organizations who are doing outstanding and often unrecognized volunteer work to improve and enhance life in their communities,” says Laurie Calkins, chapter Community Service Awards Committee chair.
Arts for Life, which provides support to pediatric patients and their families through arts education and engagement, was recognized for its annual work with more than 7,000 families across North Carolina. The organization is based in Asheville, with additional locations in Charlotte and Winston-Salem.
“They offer all types of visual art lessons, including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, music and creative writing lessons, all at no cost to families,” according to a press release distributed by the chapter. “Our chapter feels that Arts for Life inspires a sick child and us all to look beyond the immediate.”
The Asheville Quilt Guild creates and donates hundreds of quilts to community members in need annually, as well as provides education on quilting as an art form, working with organizations such as Eliada Home, Project Linus and Western Correctional Center for Women. “We feel the quilts the guild makes for display represent the true beauty of human creativity, and the quilts they give are true gifts of love,” according to the same press release.
“The Edward Buncombe chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is one of 11 DAR chapters in Western North Carolina,” says Calkins. “The DAR is dedicated to promoting historic preservation, education, and patriotism.”
For more information on the Edward Buncombe Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit avl.mx/cuh.
– Andy Hall, with additional reporting from Justin McGuire.