Two local wildlife artists featured at exhibit
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
The supply list seems rather short — some powder form of papier maché, a few plastic bags, some wire and a roll of tape.
Then weeks later, the prize emerges, a red-tailed hawk ready to take flight. Artist Sharon Webb, of Maryville, has been creating nature’s most beautiful creatures from commercial papier maché for about three years, starting out first as a painter years ago. Her subjects have always been the animals that fascinate her and the rest of us.
“Papier maché has been around since the creation of paper,” she explained. It’s been a learn-as-you-go process like most creative endeavors are. Check out her work, and you’ll see she’s certainly moved beyond that to an artist who truly gets the delicate balance nature provides.
Eye of beholder
Webb and another local artist, Evelyn Bryant, are pairing up to present their work at the Denso Gallery at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the campus of Maryville College. Both artists take their respect for nature and create sculptures that bring that red-tailed hawk or sly fox and family of black bears into our living rooms.
It is more complicated than papier maché powder, some tape, bags and wire. Once the shape of the sculpture is determined, there are the subtle details that take it from an unknown form into something that reminds us of a trip out West, half way around the world or our backyards. The eyes of the otter, the rhinoceros, chipmunk and lizard have to be a window into their souls. Paint is required over that gray or white papier maché construction. A base must be found.
Living here at the base of the Great Smoky Mountain, there certainly is enough inspiration and subject matter.
“I’ve always been interested in nature,” Webb said as she gave a look around at the exhibit. “My parents grew up here. I grew up here, and my grandmother was raised in Cades Cove.”
Webb admits some projects become tedious with the details they require. At any one time, she has 10 different works of art in various stages of completion. One of her first pieces, a small bear, still sits on her shelf. She won’t sell it.
But the rest can be had for a price. “Once I’m done with them, I am ready to let them go,” the artist said.
Attention to detail
To get the details right, Webb said she often works from 100 different images of her animal subjects. You have to get the feet right, the stance right, she explained. And if she doesn’t get there, she prefers to put the subject out of its misery. A chop to the head usually does the trick, and then she starts all over. “I have a couple sitting that I don’t know if I will ever get them done,” the artist said. “There are others I am determined will get there.”
Webb, like Bryant, loves to use recycled materials in her art. The plastic grocery bags are used to stuff the sculpture. And while on a walk along the Greenbelt Park or nearby mountains, Webb might find the perfect piece of wood or rock to use as a stand. She also has permission from an area cabinet maker to look through his trash.
Jane Richardson is the curator for this exhibit. She’s part of the Townsend Artisan Guild, as are both Webb and Bryant. Richardson said these artists might use different techniques and come from different backgrounds, but they definitely complement each other with this exhibit.
Bryant, Richardson explained, has a keen sense of how animals interact and how to portray that in her art. She likes to create sculptures using dual subjects. One of her most eye-catching in the exhibit is of a pair of spindly-legged horses. It’s called “First Love,” and depicts one horse appearing to whisper into the other’s ear. It’s made of rebar, wire, clay and concrete, and made to be displayed outdoors. It stands about 5 feet tall.
“She really has an eye for interaction between the animals,” Webb said. “I admire her work.”
One voice, many talents
The Townsend Artisan Guild has about 60 members, a good showing for an organization that’s only five years old. Webb said it’s been worth joining. Artists support each other and help spread the word about the talent living right here, she explained.
Currently, Webb is working on a pride of lions and some other new stuff. She said she continues to experiment and now adds more movement to her sculptures. She doesn’t paint much anymore, but a couple of those pieces are in the exhibit at the Clayton Center.
Bryant, who spends time between Townsend and Florida, will be present for the reception. This will be a great opportunity, Richardson said, to meet two talented artists who only prove you don’t have to travel far to see some amazing art.
“We just need to support each other,” Webb explained. “There is so much talent here.”