Fall-ing for art

It’s not the autumn equinox that’s inspired this season’s round of exhibits, local gallery owners maintain. No, these shows are the fruits of an ongoing mission to search out the best in the region’s arts and crafts. But color and change seem to recur as themes throughout the listed exhibits, which may be attributable — whether consciously or no — to the influence of the turning season.

Blue Spiral 1

38 Biltmore Ave., Asheville; Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, noon-5 p.m. 251-0202

Manager Wendy Outland waxes wildly enthusiastic on the topic of the gallery’s latest exhibit. In the spotlight are delicate, graceful vessels — created by Florida ceramic artist Roddy Brownlee Reed — which belie their indelicate, ungraceful moniker, “pinchpots.” Formed without the aid of a throwing wheel, pinchpots are a throwback to an ancient era of craft. They’re made the way their name suggests — by pinching. “[Reed] pinches them so thin, you would swear you were holding porcelain,” gushes Outland, explaining that the intricate designs worked into each vessel’s surface further enhance its appeal. “They are exquisitely glazed, in incredible patterns. … Some of the mazes take forever [to make],” she says, adding, “They’re really gorgeous.” The exhibit will be on display through Saturday, Nov. 7.

Catawba Sunrise

104 W. State St., Black Mountain; Mon.-Fri. till 5:30 p.m., later on weekends. 669-4045

Rita Vermillion has strong opinions about what she’ll show in her Black Mountain gallery. “We try to focus on individuals that are not represented anywhere else in North Carolina,” she proclaims. This month, Catawba Sunrise showcases the work of Gina Canter of Barnardsville, whose paintings plumb the depths of her uniquely Appalachian background (both Cherokee and Scotch-Irish), as Cantor both honors mountain life and strives to preserve her ancestors’ history. One such work is “Evolution of the Dance,” which depicts four generations of dancing couples. The painting sashayed away with every top award (including First Prize, Judge’s Choice and Best of Show) at this year’s Mountain State Fair.

Odyssey

242 Clingman Ave., Asheville; Thur.-Sat., 1-5 p.m. 285-9700

Every piece of art has something to say, but some do seem to say more than others. Such is the case with the latest exhibit at Odyssey, “Spinning Tales”. The exhibit explores narrative in contemporary ceramics, says Amy Hill, manager of the River District gallery, adding, “All of these pieces tell a unique story, whether through satire, humor or political commentary.”

Sometimes the story is personal, as with ceramic artist Dana Groemminger. In “Lone Star State” and other free-form pieces, Groemminger relates her travels and travails through the American West. Some of the country’s best-known ceramic artists were invited to contribute to the exhibit, notes Hill, and the results are as varied as the tales told by Scheherazade herself. “One artist explores the issue of female footbinding and circumcision,” notes Hill, cautioning, “Some of the stories are easy, and some are difficult.”

Penland Gallery

Penland School of Crafts, Penland; Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4:30 p.m.; Sundays, noon-4:30 p.m. (828) 765-6211

Despite its lofty title, “Fine Dining at the Penland Gallery” is not the exclusive soiree one might expect. Imagine, instead, a hectic hodgepodge of glass, silver and ceramic dinnerware, laid out on a 16-foot-long table. A sort of functional revival of the mad tea party? Not so, says gallery Director Kathryn Gremley. “It all blends together quite nicely,” she insists.

The collection, culled from the work of 20 Penland instructors and alumni, includes everything from hand-blown glasses to sushi plates to full tea sets (shades of the Mad Hatter). In keeping with the exhibit’s ensemble mood, no pieces will be removed until after the show, although many items have already been sold. “We were afraid, at first, of how [the combination of media] would look,” admits Gremley, adding, “but it’s been a great show — eclectic, colorful and fun.” The exhibit runs through Sunday, Oct. 25.

Seven Sisters

117 Cherry St., Black Mountain; Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays, 1-5 p.m. 669-5107

Like beauty, being “local” may be in the eye of the beholder. Seven Sisters, for example, showcases artists who make their homes in western North Carolina — even if they’re not (to borrow the local phrase) “from around here.” But move it, and you lose it. “We only handle craftspeople in the Asheville area,” explains gallery Manager Tisha Saville. “For example, if Valentina Leiderman [an oil painter featured in the gallery, who hails from Bolivia] was to move away, we couldn’t show her anymore.”

Fittingly, “Changing Seasons/Changing Times,” the gallery’s latest offering, is multicultural in both its dimensions and its ambitions. Spotlighted works include the ceramic shrines of Chiwa; Pei-Ling Becker‘s multimedia collages; Eliza Hafer‘s multimedia watercolors; and the ceramic works of Verilyn Cox and Don Davis. Leiderman’s paintings cast light on the modern exploitation of South America’s indigenous populations. Saville likens the saga to that of Native Americans to the north: “Same story, new century,” she observes.

51st annual Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands

Asheville Civic Center — Thur., Oct. 15-Sun., Oct. 18; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets $5 (group rates available). 298-7928

“What’s new and different this year is we’ve got some really cool glass-blowing demonstrations,” says Southern Highland Craft Guild Publicity Director Katherine Caldwell. Blacksmith Bea Hensley, winner of the NEA Heritage Fellowship Award, returns to demonstrate his own craft, while West Virginia weavers Aaron Yakim and Cynthia Taylor showcase the crafting magic that transforms a white-oak log into a beautifully woven basket.

Raffle tickets ($1 a pop) will give fairgoers a shot at three prizes: a $1,000 basket woven by Billie Ruth Sudduth (whose work has been displayed in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery); a $1,200 stained-glass screen, which will be created during the show by Selena Stained Glass; and a gold, diamond and peridot (a Pakistani gem) ring, valued at $1,600, made by jeweler Bill Lehnert.

Touchstone

318 N. Main St., Hendersonville; Mon.- Sat., 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sundays, noon-5 p.m. 692-2191

Gallery owner Jessica Claydon chooses her words carefully when describing the works of Paul Gable (oils) and Dale Lee McIntyre (pastels on paper), calling the regional artists’ evocations not landscapes, but “interpretations of landscapes.” Indeed, this Hendersonville gallery generally leans more toward abstract work; one highlight of the current exhibit is the cloisonne art of Mary Klein. This distinctive enamel-on-metal look is most often seen in jewelry, but the Florida artist breaks the rules with her unusual interpretation of the time-honored craft.

Claydon also enthuses over the small ink prints of Hendersonville artist Barbara Timmerman, calling them “vibrant and very abstract.” The tiny works, however, have evinced a pronounced herding instinct: “We’ve been selling them in trios and quartets, because they are most effective as a group,” maintains Claydon.

Village Galleries

32 All Souls Crescent, Biltmore Village; Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays (through Dec.), noon-5 p.m. 274-2424

Beginning Sunday, Nov. 1, this Biltmore Village gallery will hold an open house. Among the featured offerings will be porcelain dolls by Susan Snodgrass and etched stone by local artist McCarthy (who goes by only one name). Gallery owner Butch Ochsenreiter promises distinctive pieces, replete with the whimsical touches one might expect from a gallery which regularly features the work of no less than 10 glassblowers.

Zone one contemporary

37 Biltmore Ave., Asheville; Mondays and Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 258-3088

Zone one upholds its reputation for skating the cutting edge by presenting an exhibit that brings together, for the first time, the work of father-and-son artisans Randy and Donald Shull. Randy, a wood sculptor and furniture maker who lives in Ohio, learned the trade from his father. The younger Shull’s contributions include furniture and mixed-media pieces; the exhibit also showcases the whimsical, carved figures that have occupied Donald since his retirement from the woodworking business.

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