In Asheville, art can be found in some unlikely places. Walk into the new game shop on Page Avenue called Blitzkrieg Games, for example, and a collection of large and atypical paintings hang throughout the room. In one, an army tank rolls ominously towards the viewer; in another, a submarine breaks surface. While they may not be pretty or decorative, the paintings make sense to the store, as they evoke some of the games sold there.
The space that Blitzkrieg Games occupies used to be an art gallery, and owner Eric Barnes was decidedly in favor of keeping visual art an important component in his business. He commissioned local artist Ian Wilkinson of the Asheville Mural Project to make the warring series for the shop.
In one, an expansive desert provides the setting for a variety of creatures and characters that look like they might have crawled out from the boxes of games that line the shelves of the store.
"Comic book and game stores have a stigma of being dirty. We wanted an open and clean space that anyone would feel comfortable in," says employee Luke Campbell. While most people are likely to associate popular gaming trends (think Dungeons and Dragons) with dark-and-dingy basements littered with soda bottles, at Blitzkrieg, gamers are welcome to meet up and play in an environment that artfully mirrors their activities.
Around the corner on Battery Park Avenue, the women's lingerie shop Va Va Vooom has ornamented the boutique with the art work of Rene Crigler. Crigler's abstract and stylized botanical forms are boldly sensual, colorful and very contemporary — much like the shop itself.
Walk through the boutique to an intimate space in the back, where owner Brian Kirk has his black-and-white photography on display. Kirk's images fit in wisely with the theme of the shop, as he combines "portrait, figure, fetish and landscape."
"In the Kitchen" depicts a curvy woman in an apron standing in her kitchen as hazy-morning sunlight spills in from a window behind her. The photos and prints by Kirk are all for sale, and visitors to the gallery are welcome to lounge in plush chairs as they peruse books and art prints.
Legendary bookstore Downtown Books and News on Lexington Avenue has earned a reputation for its revolving book selection, variety of magazines and extensive collection of zines. It is also becoming recognized as a venue for art, a work by six local artists currently hangs on the walls above the bookshelves. The pop-art collage paintings of Tami-Lu Barry lend an amusing aesthetic to the store, as do the narrative portraits of Lisa Nance and anthropomorphic illustrations of Nina Ruffini. "Having art on the walls makes the store more interesting," says Julian Vorus, Downtown Books and News manager, "and it provides a place for local artists to show their work."
More info at www.blitzkrieggames.com, www.vavavooom.com and www.myspace.com/downtownbooksandnews.
Ursula Gullow writes about art for Mountain Xpress and her blog, artseenasheville.blogspot.com.