Local gallery gifts

by Amy Kingsley

You may have heard of Black Friday. That’s the “holiday” when retailers bait budget-conscious Christmas shoppers with super-low prices – and shoppers end up trapped in parking lots, eating out of food courts and ringing up year-end debt.

Then there’s Cyber Monday, the online equivalent, where office drones tethered to computers contend with managerial surveillance, identity thieves and shipping fees.

Is there another way? Alas, weary shopper, there is.

On a late Wednesday morning, I book it downtown to the Greensboro Cultural Center on Davie Street. It’s a part of town notoriously unkind to retail, and the streets are empty. The inside of the center is also still.

A jazz tune plays over the lobby sound system, and something Christmas-y drifts from a gallery at the end of the hall. I step into the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art, which is hosting its annual Winter Show.

It’s actually pretty daunting, the Winter Show. More than 100 North Carolinians contributed pieces to the exhibit, including some local big shots like Roy Nydorf, Mark Kingsley and a bunch of others.

There’s jewelry, furniture, pottery, painting, drawing, hand-blown bottles and clothes. And all of it – at least this morning – is mine for the perusal.

Christmas shopping is rarely this peaceful. In fact, it’s almost meditative. I slip between the work, arrayed under track lights, evaluating price tags and quality.

And there’s plenty to look at, particularly for photography fans. Jeff Wayman has a few photographic prints of scenery familiar to Piedmont residents. There’s Pilot Mountain, and forests of longleaf pine. Around the corner, another photographer, Ken Abbott, takes a more particular view. His shots include reflective storefronts, benches and signs from Asheville and parts west.

This year, the Green Hill extended a special invitation to the artists of Seagrove, a community built on clay – and the clay arts – just south on Highway 220. There’s a beautiful tea service by Maria Andrade Troy with cups, pots, creamer pitcher and sugar dish. Parts of it have already been purchased, which the gallery indicates by placing red dots on the label.

This show opened a couple weeks ago. And before that, the gallery invited customers to an early showing where, for a fee, they’d get first dibs on the pieces. Even so, there are plenty of potential gifts left for the taking.

Furniture maker Michael Brown has two wood chairs in the show. One of them, a blue settee, has ergonomic divots fit for two average asses. It’s beautiful, but a little pricey.

I drift over to the far wall that holds several embroidered pieces by the artist Jeana Eve Klein. They’re closer to my budget, but my favorite – which resembles a red-orange galaxy stitched to a flower – already has an owner.

Not far from the Klein pieces hang a series of prints by John Gall, all of which feature the Knowledge Seekers, buffoonish characters decked out in Greek characters.

Gall’s Seeker – singular – also adorns a T-shirt in the gift shop of the gallery down the hall, the Center for Visual Arts. The Center for Visual Arts’ gift shop is a modest nook of knick-knacks near the front door. Behind it, their Holiday Invitational unfolds along a narrow corridor.

They also have local work for sale, and the prices are, on average, slightly lower than at the Green Hill Center across the way. Highlights include graphite drawings by Matthew Shelton, a Guilford College grad who now lives in New Orleans, and paintings by Les Caison III.

Shelton’s works are precise and kinetic. In fact, I’ve got one in my home, hanging over the loveseat. Caison’s paintings are more colorful, a little urban and a tad dreamy.

This little excursion has left me invigorated, even if I didn’t find any presents. Christmas music plays overhead, and I head back out into the sunshine. The mall will have to wait until another day.

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