For Edie Carpenter, the annual Winter Show is always a major endeavor. Carpenter, who is director of artistic and curatorial programs at GreenHill Center for North Carolina, works with her team most of the year, seeking and selecting work by artists from all over North Carolina to show in the yearly exhibition. Then they spend weeks planning how they’ll be displayed in the center’s galleries.
They were in the midst of that process when the pandemic hit, changing everything. As the state locked down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Carpenter and her team forged ahead as best they could, unsure they’d even be able to have the show.
“Winter Show is always a challenge because it’s an annual exhibition, and there aren’t so many annual exhibitions that have so many artists in them, and we’re trying to take a wide swath of the art moment in our state,” says Carpenter. “It’s still a question of feeling like you’re holding your breath and could all this work not come to fruition?”
But the show will go on, opening Dec. 6 with a public viewing from 1-6 p.m. Carpenter says this year’s show will run longer — through Feb. 7 — and offer extended viewing hours and appointments to allow visitors to safely view the art.
“We have a limit of 25 people at one time, and during the public opening we’ve extended it to five hours, so we’re hoping people won’t all show up at one time,” she says. “People might be prepared to wait for a few minutes to get in. And the way we have designed the show, we have 5,000 square feet of exhibition space, so it’s perfectly possibly to visit our space safely.”
As usual, this year’s show includes a wide array of N.C. artists, representing multiple mediums, ages, races and price levels (all works in the show are available for purchase). And many of those artists created works that speak to the strange, surreal world we’re living in during a pandemic.
For instance, Charlotte artist Tina Vincent created a series of portraits using a distinctive process of painting over quilted fabric, depicting scenes such as her husband holding their small child while reaching out to type on a keyboard.
“It’s such a loving image of fatherhood, a beautiful image of this family today wanting to harbor your child in your arms, but you’re reaching out trying to get your work done at the same time,” says Carpenter.
Raleigh artist Clarence Heyward depicted his child in a series of paintings, as well, with figurative images of his daughter, having her hair braided in one, over words like “beauty.”
“These pieces are all a meditation on ideals of female beauty as it is imposed on women and girls as they’re growing up,” says Carpenter. “They’re incredibly strong pieces speaking to the ways society can regulate ideas of beauty and outward presentation.”
Other works offer an escape from reality, through photography and landscapes depicting far flung locales, or whimsical pieces such as Greensboro artist Nikki Blair’s sunny yellow “Lemon Head” sculpture.
“Her really incredible sculptural pieces look like they could’ve been drawn or stepped right out of a contemporary painting,” says Carpenter. “They’re so unusual. ‘Lemon Head’ is so original and bright, and you look at it, and it just makes you happy.”
Carpenter says this year’s show feels particularly important with all that’s going on in the world. And she hopes the art will inspire visitors to slow down and take time to think differently about how they perceive the world around them.
“It’s critical for a community to know art is happening and artists are taking stock of this moment,” she says. “Artists are always at the forefront of understanding the values that will make our future.”
Contact Jennifer Bringle at email@example.com.