Ambleside Gallery recently hosted the Watercolor Society of North Carolina’s 71st annual exhibition in downtown Greensboro. The exhibit’s opening reception took place on Dec. 2 and the art remained on display at Ambleside until Friday, Jan. 27.
This Friday the exhibition came to a close, and I ventured downtown to take a walk through the gallery with a friend. She’s an art history major and my knowledge of art is minimal at best, so, her accompaniment was warranted.
We entered to find walls only semi-covered, framed pieces of art resting on the floor, all in the midst of being packaged and taken away. A man that we later learned to be Jackson Mayshark, the owner of the gallery, greeted us: “You’re welcome to take a look at what the end of an art exhibit looks like.”
There was still plenty to see, we realized, and I later recognized that there was something special about seeing the exhibition in this way—in a stripped down, informal manner, with the knowledge that we were likely the last ones with the chance to appreciate it.
All other attendees had been forward thinking enough to view the art from the exhibition with more than a few hours before its end, but it left us with the place to ourselves, except those working on closing the exhibition. My tendency to wait until the last minute doesn’t typically grant me with opportune experiences, but this time, it worked out in my favor.
We began by taking note of the pieces still hanging that had ribbons beside them, focusing our attention on the one labeled “first place:” a watercolor painting entitled “Hello Again” by Greensboro artist Nancy Paden. It featured a realistic turtle that we kept coming back to appreciate as we circled the exhibition. Mayshark later informed us that turtles feature heavily in much of Paden’s work.
We continued throughout the gallery, pausing briefly at some paintings and stopping for minutes at a time at others. I asked my friend if she felt inspired looking at all of the art (she paints, I write), and she said yes, but that it was overwhelming.
There is an immediate immersion that comes with viewing something like a gallery of paintings, I realized. We compared this to books—how it’s impossible to take in the entirety of a room filled with novels in a matter of minutes the way you’re able to with a room full of paintings.
Mayshark joined us occasionally as we continued our expedition through the gallery, adding insight and giving us background on the paintings and the artists behind them. He showed us four prints and one original painting from famous Chinese watercolorist Guan Weixing, allowing us to go through works not included in the exhibit itself from his own impressive compilation of paintings.
The nearly two month long exhibition at Ambleside was the second and last time the public was granted the opportunity to view the collection of watercolor paintings. Their original exhibition, held in Manteo, was scheduled to open just as Hurricane Matthew arrived. This hindered the number able to attend the exhibit. WSNC president Isabel Farrell wrote about the challenges of working an art exhibit around a hurricane in WSNC’s catalogue, noting that this 71st annual exhibition was certainly abound with unique circumstances, and can be considered “one for the record books.”
The paintings represented in the exhibition came entirely from North Carolinian artists, many of which Mayshark spoke personally about. This simple fact did not register with me until later, after I had departed from the gallery, all of the artists responsible for the paintings that left me so impressed, were from towns not far from my own. The talent that surrounded and overwhelmed us as we walked about the gallery truly surrounds us all.
The WSNC was not the only chance to view an exhibition at Ambleside Gallery. Those interested in experiencing an art exhibition will have another chance. Beginning on Feb. 3, Mayshark’s gallery will be filled with pastel paintings as opposed his previous exhibit featuring watercolors. The opening reception of the exhibition, available to the public, will feature an evening of art, refreshments and classical music.