Asheville Art Talk: Drifting along with Donna E. Price and Elisa Treml

DRIFTERS: Donna E. Price, left, and Elisa Treml have made their way from Austria to share their latest works, in an exhibit titled "drift: [know no borders]."

Mixed media artists Donna E. Price and Elisa Treml entered the art world in very different ways, from very different places. Price, who works primarily in metal, wood, paint and text, grew up in Hickory. In 1988, she graduated from Warren Wilson College with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology. For over a decade, she managed the school’s organic farm before creating her own landscaping company.

It wasn’t until 1998 that Price tried her hand at blacksmithing. “I got started very late in the arts,” she says. “But I was immediately hooked.” Shortly thereafter, Price enrolled in classes at John C. Campbell Folk School and later, Penland School of Crafts.

Unlike Price, Treml was born into a family of artists. Growing up in Austria, she watched her father transform wood, metal and stone into sculptures, while her mother worked with textiles. “It was clear to me when I was young that I would like to study art,” she says. In 2011, Treml earned her master’s in textile art and design at the University of Art and Design Linz in Austria.

Price and Treml met in 2012 after Price relocated to Austria. Since that time, the two have held a number of exhibitions together. Their latest work will be on display at Mars Hill University’s Weizenblatt Gallery, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 26, and running through Sunday, Nov. 20. It marks Treml’s first time to both Western North Carolina and the United States. The exhibition drift: [know no borders] looks at the theme of change and movement through a variety of mediums, borrowing from and blending components of the natural world.

Whether it’s the shape of a seedpod or the texture of a tree’s bark, Price says nature has always inspired her. Treml’s designs share a similar influence. The Austrian speaks of growing up in the lake district of Salzkammergut, where her proximity to large bodies of water then continues to manifest in her work today. Wood carvings coated in silver leaf paper will be one of her many creations on display during drift. These pieces capture the winter lakes of Treml’s childhood. They also represent one of the many interpretations of the word “drift,” which both artists played with and explored throughout the process of assembling the collection.

Pollen is another prominent element within the drift exhibit. Several of Price’s paintings, as well as her metal sculptures, represent the yellow, powdery substance. Through pollen, Price highlights the beauty of the inherently unpredictable and seemingly chaotic manner in which all things travel, move and change over time. She notes that pollen never asks where it will go, but simply spreads, enriching the environment around it. This perspective and message play into the exhibit’s overall hope and encouragement that others will embrace new discoveries and transformations.

At the same time, both artists speak of the Syrian refugee crisis and the subtle way in which drift calls attention to it. Price notes that when visitors enter the Weizenblatt Gallery, a wall divides the room in half. The artists have created a steel pipe boat that they will hang from the wall. The vessel is viewed by Price and Treml as a symbol of survival. “The boat is an absolutely critical component of the refugee crisis,” Price says. “It either means life or death for them.” In following with the collection’s theme, it also offers another perspective and meaning for what it means to drift.

While the display is up through Nov. 20, the artists hope visitors will make it a special point to join them on Saturday, Oct. 29, when both will be at the gallery from 1 to 4 p.m. They see it as a chance to interact with guests to further discuss their works, as well as a way to celebrate the collection. “To do an international exhibition is not easy,” says Price. “But if you’re working with the right people and have good ideas, and if you can be creative with how you build up the body of work, that will hopefully show in our work — that we found a way to not be held back, but to drift into this idea, literally.”

WHAT: drift: [know no borders]

WHERE: Mars Hill University’s Weizenblatt Gallery (located in Moore Auditorium), 100 Athletic St., Mars Hill. www.mu.edu

WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 26- Sunday, Nov. 20; Reception 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27; “Meet the Artists,” 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. Free.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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