State of the Arts

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what constitutes a permanent collection, according to Nancy Holmes. For Holmes, the long-time exhibition organizer at Tryon’s Upstairs Artspace, a true art collection has integrity and scope, rather than aimlessly rambling across a living room wall. Or put another way, it needs to have point.

“It’s different than just having a lot of art,” she told Xpress. “Very few people methodically and thoughtfully and passionately collect art.” In this case “few” includes Asheville residents Ray Griffin and Thom Robinson, whose private collection constitutes the bulk of “Seeing Is Believing,” a new exhibition opening Saturday, July 20, at Upstairs.

The exhibition features 65 artworks by 34 artists working in photography, painting, drawing, sculpture and mixed-media. The common thread in their collection is simple and direct. All but six of those 65 works are from Asheville and WNC artists. Most of them are still active in the downtown and West Asheville scenes. Those six exceptions are still regional, hailing from South Carolina and East Tennessee. Though, they do share the bright and often-luminous color palettes sewn into the rest of the works.

There’s too many artists to list. But to give you an idea of the WNC/Asheville-based diversity, a few of artists include Courtney Chappell, Julyan Davis, Edwards Hopper, Alice Sebrell and Brian Mashburn.

“[The works] are a selective, definitive collection of contemporary art being created in Asheville and WNC,” Griffin and Robinson told Xpress. “It’s a visual record of what’s current and available.”

A little more than half of the show is directly from their private collection, which is not for sale. But the remaining works on display, done by those very same artists, are indeed up for grabs. It’s a nearly-even swap — one work from the collection is countered with one work from the same artist. (There are a few artist repeats.)

The plan was hatched by Holmes, who was looking for a means of offering something to patrons looking to expand on their own collections. The idea, a private collection alongside new and available artworks, is the first showing of its kind showing for the 35-year-old gallery.

The exhibition comes across as a means of exposing, if not educating, patrons on the theories and practices of art collecting. According to Holmes, the show is a cohesive and visually clarified example of the collectors’ equally clarified theoretical intentions.

The gallery has also organized a panel discussion to coincide with the exhibition.

Griffin and Robinson will chair the talk that they’re calling “Why Collect Art” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug.6.

On Saturday, Upstairs will also feature a simultaneous opening in its second gallery space. Crossing the Line features found-object folk works by Polk County artists Bonnie Bardos and Charlotte Fowler. This exhibition will feature an artists talk at 4 p.m., just before the opening.

Seeing is Believing
and Crossing the Line open Saturday, July 20, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Upstairs Gallery in Tryon. Both shows are up through Aug. 31. For more information go to

Lexington gets a south mural

A new mural by Asheville artist Gabriel Shaffer has brought a rural essence to the south end of Lexington Avenue. The work is on a parking lot retaining wall adjacent to Storm Rhum Bar and just below Northup McConnell and Sizemore, the law firm that commissioned the mural. It features seven 10-by-10-foot panels of barn quilt patterns — eight-point stars, to be specific.

The designs are seldom seen in the city, but decorate many of the barns that dot the hills and valleys surrounding Asheville. You’ve undoubtedly seen one. They’re modeled after quilting patterns and most often perched at the peak of a barn’s facade. But while quilts include dozens of such squares, the barn-top decorations typically display a single, enlarged wooden square that boasts simplified geometric shapes and large blocks of color.

“Barn quilts are some of the oldest forms of public art,” Shaffer told Xpress. “They’re just in a rural setting.”

Shaffer’s altered his take on this decor. He opted to infuse the work with the simplified neon colors that he associates with early video game systems. The colors are brighter, nearing an electric state as opposed to the softer and subdued tones of traditional countryside works.

The project is outside of his narrative-based norm. Shaffer, who’s recently completed murals for BMW, Facebook’s North Carolina complex and several works for area Mellow Mushrooms, usually hones in on storytelling through figurative painting. “Abstraction is typically an aspect of my painting,” he says, “but not a main theme.”

It’s that abstraction that has removed the artist’s hand — Shaffer’s hand — from the mural. “I don’t feel like I own this work,” he says. But he does feel like it will reach and register with a bigger audience. There’s no need for explanation. People may recognize the form and function of the patterns. But if they don’t, he says, then they still see a large abstracted work, he says. “Sometimes the individual can get in the way of the greater whole.”


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About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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