Published: Jul 07, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 07, 2012 03:49 PM
Show features artists with different visions, shared dedication
Even when he is not in his Durham Golden Belt studio putting paint on canvas, Chapel Hill artist Warren Hicks is working on his paintings.“Sometimes if I am experimenting with color combinations, I paint myself into a corner,” Hicks said. “So I take a picture with my iPhone and look at it constantly, wherever I am. “I am always thinking as an artist.”The abstract painter joins Durham sculptor Renee Leverty in a two-person exhibition that opens today at the Horace Williams House, 610 East Rosemary St., with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m.Like Hicks, Leverty spends most of her time working on her art, even when she’s not actually engaged in the hands-on process of making it. In or out of her studio, at 609 Trent St. in Durham’s former Wild Bulls Pizza restaurant, Leverty sees almost everything through artistic eyes.“I am a very visual person,” she said. “That is how I learn. “When I am taking a hike I like looking at how tree limbs come together and the shapes of leaves. “I see a combination of a limb coming down an old stump and I see that almost as a sculptural form.”The Horace Williams House show pairs two local artists who had never met until their work was chosen for a Durham Art Guild show in April. Anyone who saw the Guild show will see all new work here from Leverty and, except for a few paintings, all new work from Hicks as well.Exploring new pathsHicks began painting 10 years ago when his wife took a job at SAS and the couple moved to Chapel Hill. Hicks, who had worked in architectural drafting and in the music industry, knew he didn’t want to return to either of those paths.“I was completely uninspired, and for the first time in my life I had no direction, no identity,” he said. “It was a horrible feeling to be lost like that.”For reasons he can’t entirely explain, he stocked up on painting materials and tried his hand at using them.“Then it hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said. “I instantly knew I was supposed to be an artist. Painting rescued my sanity, what was left of it anyway.”He has been creating art ever since, tending toward bold abstract shapes and brilliant colors. He calls the Horace Williams House “Scents of Humor,” and many of the 15 paintings in this exhibition reflect a departure from Hicks’ older work in technique and scale. Part of that new direction is the result of switching from painting on wood to canvas. The weight of wood limited the size Hicks could create. Larger canvasses allow him to use the full range of motion of his arms instead of just his wrists.“I can attack the canvas and grind the paint in to achieve different textural effects” he said. “Abandoning detailed precision allowed me to be more expressive and focus on the whole painting instead of getting lost in the pursuit of a perfectionist executive. “It is much more liberating.”Among the pieces in his show is a 44-by-44-inch acrylic called “Brouhaha.”“I wanted to paint on a larger scale and I wanted to see just how red I could make it,” Hicks said. “The answer is more red than red. Looking at that painting always makes me happy.”Light metal Leverty has always loved art, and she didn’t let the fact that she could not draw well deter her. “In high school art classes I wasn’t one of those stellar kids who could paint and draw, so I was relegated to the back of the classroom,” Leverty said. In 1991 she took a sculpture class at Vega Metals through the Durham Arts Council and found her calling. “I like the negative space of sculpture, the three-dimensionality,” Leverty said. “I see that way and feel I can create stories in individual pieces.”For this show, Leverty didn’t change her style but her intent. Social issues usually fuel her pieces. This show’s lighter tone is reflected in its title, “Play.”“For this show, I am trying to incorporate aesthetics of my work with a lighter subject matter,” she said. “I think the balance of life is being involved with social issues but also being very joyful, light and connected to your childhood and some of the joy that brings.”The show features eight sculptures, including two chess pieces and one of three dancing women.The king and queen chess pieces were inspired by the outdoor chess set at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. The queen is three feet tall and originally weighed 100 pounds – which, it turned out, exceeded the Horace Williams House’s 80-pound limit. So Leverty took steel off from the bottom.“That is the lovely thing about metal,” she said. “It is additive and subtractive, and you just have to trust that the end result is what it is supposed to be.” Among other advantages, she said, working with metal means that if she accidentally melts off the head of a sculpture she can weld it right back on.Leverty created her dancers by forming stick figures of steel and then with an acetylene oxygen torch adding layers of steel to create human forms.“You work toward your vision, but what happens sometimes in the process is better than what you imagined,” Leverty said.Children will delight in her sculpture of a skateboarder and in another one called “Looking Glass.”“You can look through,” she said, “and see whatever magic you want to see.”The Horace Williams House is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. A percentage of the art sales support the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill.
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