A crescendo of artists at Greenhill’s Winter Show

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by Eric Ginsburg

The only downside to Greenhill’s winter art show is that even just a few days in to the exhibit last week, all my favorite pieces had already been sold.

The Winter Show contains more artists than any other throughout the year at the downtown Greensboro gallery, but it’s the shortest exhibit, too. In its heyday, the annual show contained more than 200 North Carolina artists, and this year’s iteration includes more than 120.

Some of the pieces in this year’s collection are the kind we’ve all seen before: landscape paintings, representations of the female figure and so on. But on the whole, the Winter Show puts forward some of the best artists with ties to the Old North State, across all sorts of mediums, that deserve a close look. Even on a second pass-through of the show, I noticed elements of pieces or even entire works that I hadn’t picked up on the first time around.

Several straightforward pieces, such as Alberto Ortega’s oil on panel paintings depicting the front of homes shown right around dusk and sometimes with a vehicle parked out front evoke a strong enough mood to make them compelling. There’s a sense of brooding and uncertainty conveyed through the colors and framing that adds a depth to Ortega’s cluster of work. His pieces, and a handful of others in the exhibit, are easy to get lost in, staring into them and projecting your own memories, feelings or aspirations.

Scott Summerfield's glass vase.
Scott Summerfield’s glass vase.

The spread of artists included in the exhibit is wide, both in medium, experience and connection to the area. There are generations of artists on display — recent Guilford College graduate Katherine Maloney and her former teacher, Charlie Teft, are both included, Greenhill curator Edie Carpenter said. Maloney’s white stoneware, with different animal figures on top, are among the more eye-catching things in the show.

Carpenter intentionally seeks out artists with a variety of relationships to the state, be they natives, artists in residence, regular exhibitors in North Carolina, former students and more. For some, it’s their first time in a Greenhill exhibit. For others, like Bryant Holsenbeck from Durham, Greenhill is familiar territory.

Holsenbeck’s environmental sculptures made from recyclable plastic bottles is on display at the High Point Public Library through Jan. 3. In Winter Show, Holsenbeck’s “Jungle Hen” and “Jungle Rooster” add some three-dimensional life, made from collected wire from a beach, string-paper pulp and reed.

Local arts luminary Jim Gallucci’s “Cotton Light” metalwork lamps stand nearby, with large leaves and orb-like balls of LED light radiating from the tops. It’s the kind of thing that could be a much more tasteful and interesting approach to adding lighting downtown rather than the city’s atrocious, yet temporary, klieg lights after a recent shooting.

Just before the exhibit closed for the evening on a recent weekday, separate groups moved through the show, including a few sets of parents with small kids in tow.

“Oh, that’s a haunted tree!” one kid exclaimed, shortly before a second reminder not to touch any of the art. “A tree monster!”

"The Treasure Hutch"
The “Treasure Hutch”

A second later, having hopped over to O’Neal Jones’ “Treasure Hutch,” a set of drawers with a Japanese-style nature drawing mounted on the front, he said: “That’s furniture.”

That’s the type of exhibit this is, where visitors can take in all sorts of artistic craftwork by just turning on their heels. There’s September Krueger’s subtly colored but marvelously intricate fiber, quilt, silkscreening and embroidery pieces hanging not far from Daniel DiCaprio’s bristling black shapes, one that looks like a Victrola and the other like an anteater’s snout, both equipped with an army of small, silver quills.

But my three favorite pieces, each by a different artist and in a different medium, have all been bought already.

Brett McDonough, a local who teaches pottery classes, contributed several $30 bowls with a sense of humor, depicting goofy characters inside looking up and out of the vessels. The best, called “Cool Shades Club,” shows dinosaurs rocking shades and smoking. McDonough has shown at Greenhill before, Carpenter said, but my other favorite Scott Summerfield is brand new.

His glasswork, which appears in separate clumps in Winter Show, includes glimmering gold or silver pumpkins. But my favorite is an incredible black and gold ball-shaped vase, with gold dots raining like pollen or a shimmering and bright Milky Way. Even though it’s sold, at least the vase is still on display.

So too is “Not Knowing Where You’re Going,” a gigantic and colorful painting with web-like black lines crossing over chaotically spread color, relaying a feeling of disorganization. James Williams, its creator, graduated from UNCG’s MFA program and now teaches at GTCC, Carpenter said.

It’s good, in the scheme of things, that the pieces in Winter Show appear to be moving quickly. After all, it’s there to benefit the artists and the gallery, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Artists like Williams split the profits from all purchases with Greenhill, and everything in the exhibit is for sale, making it one a primary fundraising tool for the nonprofit art gallery.

Luckily those pieces stay on the wall, at least until the short exhibit comes down on Jan. 11, just one component of what makes a walk-through worthwhile.

Visit Greenhill at 200 N. Davie St. (GSO) or at greenhillnc.org.