Up Close and Personal

by Keith Barber

Local artist Pat Spainhour’s abstract encaustic paintings will be featured at the Up Close and Personal exhibit at Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, which opens on Thursday. (courtesy photo)

The artistic process, like life itself, is filled with mystery. And it is that mystery that pervades every part of Pat Spainhour’s work.

Spainhour said she finds it difficult to name her pieces because they are a result of this enigmatic process. Still, Spainhour develops a theme for groupings of her work in individual shows.

“I like for things to work together,” she said. Spainhour is one of 22 artists whose work will be featured at the 4th annual Up Close and Personal exhibit, which opens Thursday at the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem Gallery at 301 W. 4th St. Spainhour’s three pieces in the exhibit are very abstract, very colorful,and based on shapes. She described the pieces as all having an “embryonic” quality.

“I wanted the pieces go together in a series and this show is focused on new work, things we’re experimenting with,” Spainhour said.

Sharon Nelson, executive director of Associated Artists, explained that the show is for juried members of the group who have to submit three pieces of work that have not been previously exhibited and have been developed in the past three years.

A retired art teacher in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Spainhour said her three pieces for the Associated Artists show came as a result of an encaustic painting workshop she attended in Santa Fe, NM two years ago. Spainhour admits she spent a lot of time at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum during the workshop.

“I connect with [O’Keeffe] because she was also an art teacher before doing her own work,” Spainhour said. “We share in common an organic feel to what we’re painting.”

Spainhour’s interest in encaustic painting blossomed six years ago when she took a two-week workshop at Penland School of Crafts near Asheville. To create her pieces, Spainhour works on a piece of equipment called a “hot box,” which is a heated metal surface.

“With every brushstroke, I’m evaluating color, placement and contrast,” Spainhour said. “Both consciously and subconsciously I’m con stantly analyzing my work,” she said. “I want my work to be the best it can be.”

Spainhour’s analytical nature proved beneficial when she taught high school students the value of art.

“Art is everywhere,” she said. “Every item in the room — the couch, the floor. Art is our life and it would be very dull without it. When I was teaching, I liked to instill in my students that everything in their lives involved an artist, from the chair they were sitting in to the clothes they were wearing — someone had to draw it up in the first place.”

Spainhour, who joined Associated Artists in 2002 along with her husband, Paul, credited the organization with building a support network for Winston-Salem artists.

“It was created by artists for artists,” Nelson said. “We’re the only [arts] organization in this region and one of the few in the country that is open to anyone. It is not a [cooperative]. You don’t have to be juried in and it’s open to anyone over the age of 15.”

Due to its open membership policy, Associated Artists can boast a broad mix of works in various mediums and genres.

“We have traditional landscape painters, photographers, metalsmiths, sculptors and abstract artists,” Nelson said. “We have student artists to people in their 90s — broad demographics in all directions.”

For example, Up Close and Personal will feature Spainhour’s abstract encaustic paintings of embryonic forms alongside artist Gail Wall’s steel and glass sculptures. She lauded Associated Artists for creating a supportive environment that leads to inspiration and makes the process of displaying one’s work much less stressful.

“When you produce artwork, it’s like your child, so it’s hard to give art away because it’s like a part of you,” she said.

wanna go?

Associated Artists 4th annual “Up Close and Personal” exhibit opening at Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, 301 West 4th Street on Thursday, Jan. 13. Artist reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.