Sun-dappled sidewalks. Music in the air. A kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and talents. From established oil painters and printmakers, to emerging wood, fiber, and jewelry artisans, Artisphere, Greenville’s premier arts festival, offers a unique opportunity to be completely immersed in the arts and connect with the creators behind every inspired work—only this year, those points of entry are timed and ticketed to ensure safety for all. In lieu of live bands, tunes from local musicians will be piped in from off-site locations. Live painting, however—and the thrill of seeing art in action—will continue to surprise and delight. Kidsphere, juried exhibits, and additional elements of the festival have also evolved in order to return.
Many believe that art is essential to life; others see it as a luxury. All can agree that after the extraordinary challenges of the past year, the chance to experience this sublime event again—altered though it may be—is something not taken for granted. Whether you’ve already reserved a ticket, or will be browsing the work virtually, we’ve spotlighted twelve of our favorite participating artists to bring a taste of Artisphere to you.
From residencies in Italy and Japan, to studios in the Pacific Northwest and now her home state of Michigan, a passion for printmaking has grown into a storied career for Betsy Best. A background in graphic design has heavily influenced her work, as is reflected in her use of bold line and pattern, crisp design, and vibrant color.
Jeffrey Leder is intrigued by the relationship between form and color—how size, shape, and density dance around each other in a given space. His abstract paintings each have a multi-pronged intention: to achieve harmony within himself, to carve order from chaos, and to explore creative possibilities.
A native of Southern California, Gary Curtis’s watercolors and paintings capture details so realistic that the viewer is tempted to draw close and touch the objects within. Some of his favorite subjects include mirror-like reflective silver vessels and transparent glass, and his watercolors have been exhibited in several galleries and juried fine art shows across the country.
A deep love of the world’s wild places informs Cheryl Mackey Smith’s hand-formed ceramics. Each and every small piece of clay depicts an aspect of nature, whether real or abstracted. As she applies the fired ceramics to archival backings, her flowing compositions and striking patterns develop into finished framed ceramic wall pieces.
Greg Turco / Jefferson, GA
A fascination with shape, form, and design is at the heart of Greg Turco’s photography. With subject matter ranging from vintage vehicles to twisted metal, his unique perspective and colorful compositions breathe new life and depth of character into abandoned structures, apocalyptic settings, and surreal cityscapes.
Each piece of jewelry crafted by Olivia Ruxton comes to life when it is placed on the body, pivoting and swinging as the wearer moves. Made from sterling silver and semi-precious stones, Ruxton’s work is inspired by paring down, focusing on traditional metalsmithing techniques, kinetic movement, and repetition of form.
Steve Uren / Grand Rapids, MI
For Steve Uren, a single, inspiring piece of wood is where every finished artwork begins. All of his objects and one-of-a-kind furniture pieces are created using hand and machine tools—nothing is automated. Uren strives to unearth something magical out of the functional, beautiful out of the mundane, and singular out of the common, always with expressive originality and unmatched quality.
Painter Ning Lee pours passion into every canvas, evoking dynamic landscapes and seascapes that draw the viewer in before revealing rich abstract details. Rather than meticulously planned brush strokes, Lee leans into spontaneity, letting compositions unfold organically and with colors, patterns, and textures.
An unusual—even unkind—approach to treating and working with wood gives rise to beautiful results in Joe Graci’s work. Often worked green then allowed to warp and crack as they dry, Graci’s carved panels and objects are inspired by the simple and clean forms of modern design and the shores of Lake Superior, and are crafted from salvaged sawmill materials.
Sunny Mullarkey constantly pushes the bounds of printmaking through nontraditional methods. Her colorful linocuts focus on texture and movement rather than a specific subject matter, and are printed and layered together on Unryu paper. Her work ranges from tiny prints to huge wall murals, which are intended to inspire joy and curiosity.
Born and raised on the prairies of Oklahoma, it is only natural that the general theme of Deana Goldsmith’s art is wildlife. Her mixed-media pieces reflect a self-confessed obsession with birds, and portraying them as accurately as possible. Her still-life drawings pull the viewer into a playful, vintage world where nature is celebrated.
Bold yet calming, abstract yet grounded, Judy Verhoeven’s collage work is captivating. Informed by a career in graphic design, Judy uses a comprehensive collection of found papers that she paints, stains, and textures for her mixed-media pieces. Themes of her work include acceptance, love, peacefulness, tolerance, and gratitude.
This year’s festival in downtown Greenville requires a ticket for entry during a 2.5–hour time slot. To buy tickets ($5 each) and book your slot, go to artisphere.org/tickets. For a behind the scenes look at a few of these artists in action, see Studio Shots.
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