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