Published: Jul 20, 2012 04:21 PM
Modified: Jul 20, 2012 04:22 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Back in the late 1980s, Lisa Tuchek worked as a pastry chef at Crook’s Corner, turning out the restaurant’s famous persimmon pudding and Princess Pamela’s Buttermilk Pie.
You can still sample some of Tuchek’s offerings at Crook’s, but they’re no longer coming out of the kitchen. They’re hanging on the walls.
Tuchek, who works her magic these days with paint and canvas, has an exhibition of paintings up at Crook’s through July.
“This show is like a dream for me,” said Tuchek, who now lives and paints in Beaufort. “When I first started to paint professionally, I always felt like I’d have made it as an artist if I could have a show at Crook’s. The restaurant has always been so supportive of artists, and I remember seeing so much great art there when I lived in Chapel Hill.”
Tuchek has come a long way in a relatively short time as an artist. She lived in Chapel Hill for 16 years before leaving in 1996 for Nashville, Tenn., where she worked as a nurse until heeding the call of the sea and moving back eastward to the Carolina coast four years ago.
In Nashville she had taken some art classes, and once she arrived in Beaufort she began to devote more time to painting.
“It was still just a hobby,” she said. “I figured maybe by the time I retired I’d be really good.
“But I started posting some pictures on Facebook, and the owner of a restaurant in town liked them and said, ‘You should put some of your paintings in here.’ I did, and they sold, and from that point one thing led to another.”
She now shows and sells her work in two restaurants and two galleries in Beaufort, as well as galleries in Wilmington and Hatteras – and this month, at Crook’s.
The pieces there trace, to some extent, her evolution as an artist. Among them are some of the gloriously colored collaged fish, glittering with streaks of gold leaf, that were among the seashore-themed works she focused on when she first began to paint in earnest.
Also well represented are examples from what you might call her Livestock Period. Among them are paintings of cows, roosters and a lavender-toned pig that looks perfectly at home where it is behind the bar at Crook’s.
Along the far wall facing the front door is a striking array of Tuchek’s most recent series, which she calls her “Buddha heads.” Close-up portraits of a heavy-lidded Buddha, done in palettes of rose and blue, they evoke a sense of serenity.
“One day I thought, ‘I want to paint a big giant half of a Buddha head,’” she said. “So I did. Then I painted four more. I thought, ‘I love these, but nobody’s going to want to buy them.’ But it turned out they did. They’ve been very well received.”
You can see her work at lisatuchekart.com
She drove up to Chapel Hill last week for a small gathering to celebrate the show at Crook’s.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “What a joy it was to see some old friends and to have work up there that I’m proud of.”
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