I just recently returned from a weeks stay in Corolla, NC, vacationing with family. We are a group of cousins that try to get together in what has become a yearly tradition. This time we decided to extend the stay beyond the usual long week end to a full week of vacation time. We decided on the Outer Banks area, as it is relatively equidistant for all travelers. It had been a long time since I visited this area of North Carolina and I was anxious to get back. After spending time there I decided that unless you are actually venturing down the Cape to the areas below Nags Head, then the Corolla area is a perfect getaway.

Aside from the activities of eating, drinking, eating some more and drinking yet again; exercising enough so that we could start over with the afore mentioned activities without feeling too guilty, there was the day that we rented Jeeps to tour the dunes and beach areas to view the famous Corolla wild horses and other wildlife. You can actually drive from Corolla to the Virginia line via the beach. We managed to see quite a few of the horses and one other interesting fellow. A seal! As it happened, the second day we were there we were walking on the beach and could see this form off in the distance. As we came upon it we discovered it was a seal. Now I have seen them in Nantucket on this coast and in California, but never have I viewed one in the wild in North Carolina. Heard about the occasional sighting, but never lucky enough to actually see one. Well on this walk I had just my IPhone and managed to snap a pic. Imagine the surprise when we were driving the beach and came upon a crowd viewing what we thought were horses and found that it was yet another seal! Now all seals seem to look alike and this guy may have been the same one we came upon two days before, but he was certainly the center of attraction this day. I read later that seals often will haul out of the water to sun, rest and hang out before continuing on their journey. He was solo, so it could have been the same one and I am not sure about how they travel, mating habits and if being alone was unusual. He seemed happy and that was important. It was very cool and on this day I had my gear.

Now for the mentioned weirdness. In looking for the horses we were tipped off about a grove off the beach where you could catch views of the horses in groups in the woods. As we were driving around we came down this road and saw these mannequin heads hanging on a rope. Venturing further we saw an area containing an old bus, dune buggy, what looked to be a home and other buildings. At the front of the drive way were long poles with several mannequin heads at their ends.The property was edged with heads as one would use landscape lights etc. No half tires in the ground or plastic flamingos for this guy. It was the weirdest yard art I have ever seen and creepy, to say the least. I couldn’t resist the photo op! Lying in the drive way, like dogs, were several horses. I guess that no one bothers them there because most people probably get spooked by the weirdness and leave. It certainly was different and we laughed about it for days. After some inquiry I found out it was a local that just would rather not see people on his property. Ya think?

Anyway, it was a great trip and the area of Corolla will probably see us again. The beaches are great and contain much wildlife and are relatively quiet South of the dunes area. Not sure about going back to the head display, but it might be interesting to see what other yard art this guy produces. Or not.

 

When you approach the studio at the back of Wilmington, NC artist Bruce Bowmans’ home, you are immediately drawn to its crisp, clean lines and many windows.When you enter you are greeted with walls adorned with his colorful artwork. It is a comfortable and cheery space and like Bruce’s artworks, it draws the viewer into the setting. Much of his art includes building scapes and interiors.Bruce is no stranger to visual interpretation of these subjects, as not only is he an accomplished artist, but also a principal with Bowman, Murray, Hemingway Architects. However, his paintings are in contrast to architectures preciseness.

He uses broad palette knives to create sharp edges and tight lines and his method of applying the oil paint provides dimension and texture. He purposely uses skewed perspectives and distortions in much of his paintings and that coupled with the selection of vivid, bright colors has led him to develop a unique expressionist style. It is very recognizable and fun.

Bruce is very active in the Wilmington art world. He has served on the board of directors for the Cameron Art Museum and is founding President of the Greater Wilmington Arts and Culture Alliance. He has several art installations and commissions in the Wilmington area including the New Hanover County Judicial Building and New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He also has been the featured artist at the North Carolina Azalea Festival.

You can see Bruce’s art at New Elements Gallery, 216 N. Front Street, Wilmington, NC. 910-343-8997. It was a pleasure to visit Bruce in his studio and photograph him at work. Don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy this wonderful artist.

 

As I headed to Oak Island to shoot Nick Batounis at work in his studio I was anticipating a space of rather large proportions. After all, Nick was a sculptor and they always worked in large rooms to accommodate the large pieces of  stone from which they craft their art right? Not necessarily. When I got to his work space, Nick had his studio set up in his garage , and while efficient, it still had to be functional and share some of the space with, well, garage stuff. I was impressed with how well it worked and also with the beautiful sculptures that are created within its walls. Amidst the 1000 pound pieces of stone, the steel hoist used to maneuver them and numerous tools, sits a work table where each piece is transformed into a female form.

Nick Batounis is a native Wilmingtonian. While an undergraduate student at UNCW, where he received his degree in Visual Arts, he says he happened to view a piece of sculpture referred to as the Venus of Willendorf. He said it influenced him and his art, which are a blend of the classical female figure and those of a prehistoric fertility goddess such as the Venus of Willendorf. After UNCW, Nick went on to receive his MFA from UNC-Greensboro, where he studied under Peter Agostini. He spent time in Charlotte where he worked in Human Resources before teaching in the Gaston County public school system and also Gaston College. He returned to his native Wilmington area in 2003 and currently teaches art at South Brunswick High School. Nick has served as state representative for the Tri-State Sculptor’s Guild and was associated with the Regional Artists Grants Committee for the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, serving on the selection board and as chairperson for the visual arts.

Nick has worked in clay, resin, fiberglass and now works predominately in stone. He has exhibited throughout the Eastern United States and his work is in several private collections.

Nick is represented locally at New Elements Gallery, 216 North Front Street, Wilmington, 910-343-8997. Stop by and view the wonderful pieces he creates from nondescript blocks of stone.

 

When I entered the studio of Anne Cunningham for our session I was met with a calming energy. It’s a bright, happy space and immediately you are put at ease. I knew it was going to be a good shoot.

Anne is a metal artist whose medium is a fascinating combination of shapes, colors and textures. Her finished free form pieces come in all shapes and sizes. Anne has been creating art using metals since 1990. She incorporates metals such as copper, brass and aluminum and  discovers various ways to shape and create textures on their surface. Her pieces are layered with paper, chemicals, paint, dyes, inks and other metals. Each one is completely different than the last and as Anne says ” Every day is an experiment”. It was hard to keep my eyes on the viewfinder and not watch her apply her creativity as she cut, moved and attended to each piece of her current project on the studio table.

Anne has been very successful with her  artistic endeavor. She is represented in galleries up and down the East Coast. Her  work can be found in Corporate and Private Collections, a few being: PPD in Wilmington, NC, SAS Institute, Duke Medical Center, Bank of Birmingham, Wake Medical Centers and United Health Care in Salt Lake City. She has been published in several art publications. Her work was voted ” Best of North Carolina Artists, First Place in Mixed Media” as well as receiving awards in other exhibitions.

You can view Annes work and contact her concerning commissions by viewing her web site: www.anne-cunningham.com.  Visit, linger awhile, and enjoy this wonderful artist and her medium.

 

When I first met Ben Kastner and Richard Coley in their shop/studio to do the shoot, I looked around and for some reason my first thought was the scene in one of the Mel Gibson movies where he and the character played by Rene Russo compared scars incurred in their line of work. I thought to myself, I bet Ben and Rich have some scars to compare, what with all the red hot surfaces, heavy material and serious tools that have the potential to contact human flesh. The craft that these artists practice is perhaps the most physical I have encountered. It takes great concentration and care when you are in their studio, both as an artisan and observer. Fortunately we got through the shoot unscathed.

Ben and Rich began their careers as artisan blacksmiths while attending the College of Oceaneering in Los Angeles. From there they went on to working off shore oil rigs as Lead Dive Coordinators performing underwater welding and inspections. However, artisan blacksmithing was where their  hearts were taking them and it became their focus of concentration. Eventually it led to studying at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and the forming of their current venture, Intracoastal Iron. In that time they have also collaborated with several internationally known blacksmiths and their talent has been recognized in several publications. Ben and Rich are members of the Artist’s Blacksmiths Association of North America of which Ben is President of the Southeast region. They have recently started  ALLOY Artisan Group with award-winning artist and designer Toby Keaton as a design/craft collaboration focusing on public works of art.

It was hard for me to concentrate on my task at hand during our session as I was mesmerized by the whole process of their art. Each piece is unique and requires careful thought and design. From small sculptured pieces to large custom railings and elaborate staircases, each project starts as a non-descript piece of iron and is transformed into something of intrinsic beauty. They are often called upon by architects and designers to create pieces for fine custom homes and commercial applications and many can be seen both in our area, as well as other areas of the state and country. As mentioned above they are also involved in public art commissions. I wish I could portray some of their work here, but thats another project in itself.

You can view more information on Ben and Rich by going to their website at Intracoastal Iron . For commissions and consultations you may call at 910-547-3131 or email ben@intracoastaliron.com or richard@intracoastaliron.com.

Ben forming iron while its malleable.

Rich inspecting iron before shaping.

Small pieces for various projects.