Usually, when I think of Hillsborough, North Carolina, I honestly do not think of much. Never mind the fact that I have never really visited, the only things I know about the small town (population of less than 7,000) are its agrarian atmosphere and drivers constantly pass it on their to and from Raleigh. So, it was my surprise to hear about a brand new display titled, “ColorFull” debuting at a local art gallery this Friday. I decided to go check out the art beforehand, and it was anything but underwhelming.
The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts is located near the quiet corner of Churton and King street in the historic area of Hillsborough. As I was walking towards the gallery, I noticed other establishments: Purple Crow Books, A Little Something gift shop, and The Wooden Nickel. I felt the charm and safety of a small town but the excitement of unique finds and experiences of a metropolitan city. As I entered the gallery, I noticed how pristine and professional the space looked. Although small, the gallery presented beautiful paintings, sculptures, photographs, and even jewelry. Woodturner, Michael Salemi greeted me at the front desk. He told me more about the gallery, his own work, and the work of the featured artists in the ColorFull exhibit.
The gallery is nearly 12 years old and is completely run by local artists. Nearly every month, there is an exhibit with new work from artists belonging to the gallery. They also host an annual Juried show where other North Carolina artists have a chance to show their work in the gallery. Salemi has been a part of the gallery since 2016. I was able to admire some of the detailed work in the various bowls, flower holders, and goblets he turned. They reminded me of ancient Greece with their After he explained how his woodturning picked up after he retired from teaching economics for 36 years, I asked Salemi how he got his start with woodturning:
“I have always liked working with wood…I am particularly attracted to wood that has started to decay. A decayed piece of wood can reward the turner with dramatic color and pattern but requires that the turner navigate voids–a challenge worth taking.”
Salemi shared how woodturning truly became therapy for him. Spending time at the University of Minnesota Wood Studio in his earlier years allowed him to take time away from the pressures of life and just focus on sculpting wood. He explained how the process can help build self-esteem. Salemi and other woodturners in his circle participate in woodworking events at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough. There is hope that these events will be able to help troubled youth find an activity to escape in, themselves. Shortly after this conversation, I was actually able to meet one of the ColorFull exhibit’s featured artists, Chris Graebner, a painter who focuses on botanical scenery.
Graebner has been painting since she was a child. She took painting lessons and spent 3 years studying art with a Costa Rican artist in Latin America. She dabbled in stain glass in the 1980s but returned to painting soon after her son was born. Graebner was even a graduate of the first class of the Botanical Illustration Program at UNC-Chapel Hill. In order to find inspiration for her paintings, she makes sure to take pictures wherever she goes. If she is able to find a picture that intrigues her, she will photoshop it, crop it, edit it, and so on before beginning the painting. Her mediums include oils, cold wax, scratchboard, silverpoint, and acrylic. The title of one oil painting I observed, Colorful Portugal, stood out to me. Splashes of yellow, orange and purple invade the terrain of the buildings pictured, and the culture of Portugal shines through inviting the audience in.
As our conversation continued, I realized not only how impressive Graebner is as an artist but also an individual. She explained how she never uses her middle name (Anne) in her work or any print related to her work. She stressed the importance of people not having preconceived notions about her; she does her best to make sure people see her as an artist, not a female artist. When our conversation came to a close, I asked Graebner what advice she had for other upcoming artists and what plans she has for the future:
“Don’t be afraid to put work out there. Rejection is painful. It’s part of the process…I just want to keep painting as long as I can.”
The opening reception for the ColorFull display is this Friday, August 31st at 6:00 p.m., and you can check out both Salemi and Graebner’s work along with artists Pringle Teetor and Lolette Guthrie. You can learn more at https://hillsboroughgallery.com/ .
Come and enjoy!
You can also check out more work from these artists at these links:
Michael Salemi http://michael-salemi.squarespace.com
Chris Graebner ChrisGraebner.com
Lolette Guthrie LoletteGuthrie.com
Pringle Teetor firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Baggenstoss, Contributing Writer