Extractions: Sallie White’s Solo Exhibition Comes to CVA Gallery
“I begin most paintings with a sense of unknowing, so my process is something like a wrestling match,” said Sallie White. “I don’t have a formula and I never take the easy way out. I want to know that the end result is something that was worth the fight.”
White, whose solo exhibit of abstract paintings will open at Greensboro’s CVA Gallery on May 5, has wrestled to bring form to her emotions for most of her life.
“When I approach a painting, I don’t really have a vision in my head of what I want to paint. It’s based on a particular energy I feel or a mood I’m in, a conversation I just had, or something I’m trying to process,” she said.
Making art has been a constant for White since childhood, even when a fixed address was not.
“I grew up kind of all over the world,” explained White, whose father served in the military. “When he retired – I guess I was in 8th grade – we moved to Savannah. But I’ve been in Greensboro now for 25 years.”
White studied art at the University of Georgia. After graduation, painting for its own sake took a back seat as she learned to apply her talents to a career. Or rather, several careers, including teaching art at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind and designing art programs for nonprofit groups.
“It doesn’t matter what I’m doing; I will find a way to build art into it,” she said.
In 2007, White founded WhiteHouse & Co., an interior design and consulting business where she brings her artistic vision to styling interiors for clients as well as home staging for real estate. But the need to make art for its own sake never left her. After decades of working in art related fields, White has been able to turn most of her energy to painting once again.
“Painting is my first love,” said White. “It’s so nice to be concentrating on it, to have the luxury of time to do that. I keep one foot in the design world; when I’m not on a project, I’m in my studio, painting. It’s a good mix.”
White’s studio is located in the Sternberg Artists Center in Greensboro, but she is represented by Mason Fine Art in Atlanta. Her work can be found in galleries there as well as around North Carolina. Extractions will be White’s first solo show at the CVA Gallery. She earned the opportunity from last year’s Juried Exhibition at the CVA. The annual event is open to all CVA members, but only one is chosen for a solo exhibition.
White was delighted at the chance to have the CVA Gallery to herself, though the sheer size of the space presented a challenge.
“I’ve had a year to sort of process the idea and work towards building a body of work that’s cohesive and will fill up the exhibition space,” she said. “It’s a big stage and it can carry big paintings. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s been fun to work towards.”
Extractions will feature 36-38 pieces of White’s distinctive abstract art. Each piece was created just for this show, with one exception.
White’s painting entitled “after it all,” was the entry that won her the 2016 Juried Exhibition. It will be on display at Extractions both because it opened the door for her solo show, and because of its personal significance.
“I painted it in the weeks following the death of my best friend of 25 years. It was one of the saddest times of my life,” said White.
“That painting flowed out of me quickly, effortlessly, and it put me on the road to healing. When I look at it now I don’t see the sadness, I just see love.”
Like all of White’s work, “after it all” is heavily layered with water based paints that have been built up and removed in sections. An underlay of drawn lines is barely visible beneath the paint, like something half unburied.
“When you look closely at my work, you’ll see the ghosts of a lot of different kinds of materials, even if they’re not fully realized,” she said.
Extractions takes its name from this process of adding and subtracting different mediums to canvas until White reveals the core of the emotion or event she wants to capture.
“Sometimes a painting that feels really honest to me might be beautiful, or it might be chaotic,” said White. “They look very different, but I know I’m there when I feel like I’ve gotten to the truth of each painting. That’s what I’m trying to extract; something that feels like the truth.”
White’s work will be on display at the CVA Gallery on 200 N. Davie St. May 5-19. More of White’s work can be viewed by appointment at her studio in the Sternberger Artists Center at 712 Summit Ave. For more information about her current projects, visit www.salliewhite.com.
– Mia Osborn is a Greensboro-based freelance writer who hails from Birmingham, Alabama.