by Daniel Wirtheim
A young violinist and a wandering saxophonist played along to the buzz of energy that was happening on Trade Street during Winston-Salem’s First Friday gallery hop. New exhibits were showing at most galleries in the city and most of the artists seemed to know one another.
Mary Bailey Thomas was at Studio 7, showing her new pieces that might surprise some of her students. Thomas is a photographer and educator. She teaches darkroom classes at Sawtooth Center for Visual Arts and as an adjunct photography instructor at Salem College, but her Studio 7 exhibit shows her skills as a painter.
A series of Thomas’ paintings featuring a woman in various poses has a photographic quality in the hyper-realistic rendition of shadows and light. It’s clear that Thomas has mastered the manipulation of light throughout her long career as a photographer.
Donell Williams, a resident artist of Studio 7 was live-painting just a few doors down at Hubris Boutique. The artist collective at Delurk Gallery teamed up with Ember Audio and Video to present Collective Impressions: Delurk on Delurk. For this one, each artist drew the names of other collective members from a hat and then made a painting in those artists’ styles. Paintings from the exhibit were shown at galleries in both Delurk and Ember. Jack Hernon and Dane Walters were the only two to draw one another’s names.
Hernon has been exhibiting his work in the Triad since the ’90s, has a huge body of work including landscapes and more abstract, compositionally complex pieces. Walters paints nightmarish and detailed scenes of fictional beasts and things he encounters in his dreams.
Hernon’s take on Walters, “Dane’s Sunglasses,” pays tribute to the artist’s dark fantasies in a burst of color specks and floating objects — an egg, an eye, an eagle and floating heads that look pissed off. Sunglasses sit on what looks like psychedelic cacti.
Walters’ Hernon piece is a portrait of Hernon in his typical splotchy painting style. He painted Hernon with a very bright and amiable color palette, a departure from the bulk of Walters’ downbeat and sinister paintings. It’s a nice change, a way to poke fun at another Winston-Salem artist and underlying that the art scene is a close-knit circle. All of the collective members pick to others to imitate. Jack Hernon’s other piece, a sculpture in the style of sculptor Aaron Gibbons, uses The Book of Inside Information with attached wheels and a clock mounted to the middle. It’s called “A Speed Reader for Aaron.” Although Gibbon’s work is much more technically complex than Hernon’s, seeing the painter take on sculpting is an exciting departure from the typical Hernon style. The Book of Inside Information could be an analogy for the sense of inside humor that ran along the gallery’s walls. Although the art was interesting and refreshing, it gave off the sense that everyone knew one another fairly well.
Sometimes, that’s what keeps a gallery interesting, as was the case with Reanimator Records’ IIIans Art Show, an exhibit featuring three Winston-Salem artists named Ian. For the exhibit, Ian Dennis, Ian Bredice and Ian Killea provided their art on the theme of robots, monsters and aliens.
The venue is a tight squeeze in any situation but on first Friday admiring the exhibit meant maneuvering around the 15 or more people hanging out inside.
The largest and most eye-catching pieces of the IIIans Art Show were Ian Dennis’ three stuffed plush aliens. One hangs from the ceiling like a floating space-robot and two more are fastened to the wall. The sculptures are colored in vibrant, neon-like hues. They’re like the objects of nightmares with elements of childish amusement. People that they knew surrounded the Ians and by 8:30 p.m. they had already sold three pieces of art to their friends, a testament to the tight-knit scene at Reanimator Records.
But the overwhelming number of gallery-goers didn’t seem to be interested in buying artwork as much as enjoying one another’s company. Even as the night dwindled down and the violinist kid rosined up for his last song, some artists stood outside their gallery spaces talking to one another, maybe sharing their stories of another gallery hop come to pass.