The apprentice displays alongside the master

by Keith Barber

The apprentice displays alongside the master

A city’s support for its artistic community is invaluable, one of those intangibles that Winston-Salem boasts about on a regular basis to attract people and businesses to Forsyth County. But how does all that boasting hold up under the spotlight of a gallery show at the corner of 6 th and Trade streets? Very well, said artist Cindy Taplin. Taplin’s first gallery exhibit of her acrylic paintings was done in conjunction with Kimberley Varnadoe, her art professor at Salem College. Varnadoe, an artist with 20 years of experience, said she knew Taplin had a gift the first day she taught her color theory class at Salem. “She taught me how to look at things,” Taplin said of her former mentor. “It seems simple but it’s not. If you look at the whole picture, it’s overwhelming, so I focus on small areas.” People driving through downtown Winston- Salem might only remember the dome atop the Wachovia building, but Taplin’s work makes the viewer look a little closer at the urban landscape. Taplin’s 24-inch by 30-inch acrylic paintings include works like “Spruce Street,” inspired by the various geometric shapes seen in the city’s architecture. Taplin’s painting “Jesus Saves” captures the well-known neon cross above the Downtown Rescue Mission, while her work entitled “Framed” offers an interesting perspective on the Forsyth County Jail. “Steel Standing” poses a unique view of the RJ Reynolds industrial infrastructure in the downtown area. “I wanted people to see familiar things that they haven’t stopped to look at,” Taplin said. Taplin always had a passion for art but it took a backseat to raising her two children, Sarah and Adam. Three years ago, with Sarah and Adam headed off to college, Taplin opened a studio on Liberty Street and began discovering her artistic process. In the early evening, the sun hits the buildings of downtown Winston-Salem in a manner that inspires Taplin. She snaps photographs and returns to her studio to look at each photograph’s composition — the light, shadow and geometric shapes contained therein. Taplin prints out the photos and divides them into squares. Square by square, Taplin draws the photo on the canvas. Taplin said her technique comes from her background in math. “Then I’ll paint it with a thin wash of acrylic paint and start layering the paint with a brush,” she said. Several coats of varnish later and Taplin has a finished product. In addition to her Winston- Salem series, the exhibit at Artworks — which runs through Aug. 1 — features her “imaginary building series.” The strong geometric shapes in eye-captivating colors could represent any city, real or imagined. Varnadoe’s exhibit features photographs of angel sculptures she captured on a trip to Rome four years ago. “Statutory and cemetery sculptures have been a recurring theme in my work for 20 years,” Varnadoe said. Ten of Varnadoe’s original photos of angel sculptures taken in the Eternal City line one wall of Artworks Gallery. Flanking the photos are larger versions of two of the photos that feature a Polaroid emulsion process that utilizes a matte polyester film process. The technique, featured in “Watching Over: Yellow Angel,” creates a three-dimensional effect due to the fact one print is lifted several inches above the other. The work looks different from every angle, which adds “enormous presence” to the piece, Varnadoe said. “It looks like a hologram,” she added. “My next batch, they’re all going to be that way. I love that space between prints.” Taplin said Varnadoe’s presence in the local arts community has inspired her to work through the problems that inevitably arise during the creative process. Taplin said she regularly calls upon members of the downtown arts community to offer “fresh eyes” on her works in progress. “I can look at a painting for two weeks and I know something’s wrong with it. I just can’t pinpoint it. Fresh eyes help a lot,” Taplin said. A fresh perspective is what Taplin and Varnadoe’s work offers visitors to Artworks Gallery. And it is the apprentice-master nature of their relationship that underscores the ties that bind the city’s artistic community together. During First Friday Gallery Hop earlier this month, Taplin said she received a boost of emotional support from a young arts patron. “I heard her say, ‘Who knew Winston-Salem was so beautiful?’” Taplin recalled.

The Taplin-Varnadoe exhibit at Artworks Gallery runs through Aug. 1. Artworks Gallery is located at 564 N. Trade St. in Winston-Salem. Call 336.723.5890 or visit for more information

Artist Cindy Taplin (center) chats with a patron of Artworks Gallery in Winston- Salem during a reception on Sunday. Taplin’sfirst gallery exhibit of her acrylic paintings was done in conjunctionwith Kimberley Varnadoe, her art professor at Salem College. Varnadoe’sexhibit features photographs of angel sculptures transformed by aPolaroid emulsion process that gives them a three-dimensional quality.(Photos by Keith T. Barber)