‘Open to Interpretation’ — New abstract exhibit at the Community Arts Center aims to challenge, inspire

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Community Arts Center

You won’t find trees, horses or smiling faces on the wall of the Community Arts Center this month. Or if you do find those subjects, you might not recognize them.

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The Arts Center’s new exhibit,“Open to Interpretation,” is a showcase of non-representational abstract art. There are bold colors, vivid lines and complicated designs, but no clearly-recognizable subject matter.

The title of the show gives visitors insight into its purpose, says Creative Director Brandon Long.

“This show is all about the interaction between the audience and the art,” he says. “In the past, when we’ve exhibited abstract art, we’ve noticed that there are a variety of opinions on the genre — some people love it, some people don’t, while others may wonder if it’s art at all.  I’ve even heard the old cliché, ‘My toddler could do that…’ thrown around in the past.”

Long explains abstract art is one of those things that seems a lot easier that it really is. “In making abstract art, the artist is going beyond conventional imagery and creating something that can stand on it’s own. There are no external guidelines for success.  For example, if you are painting a still life, it’s easy to look at your painting and decide whether or not it looks like a vase of flowers.  When creating abstract art, the struggle is purely within the artist to solve the puzzle and create something worthwhile.”  

Some of the featured creators are familiar to Danville audiences, including local artists Sarah Wiltsee, Robert Lackney, Nick Lacy and Mark Wilhelm, but others are making a debut appearance at CAC, like Louisville artist Elizabeth Foley. A printmaker with a background in graphic design, Foley say her work focuses on the interplay of lives and the concept of life-balance.

“Bubbles,” a monoprint by Elizabeth Foley

When describing her work, she says, “I explore the circle as a resolved but potentially irregular shape, representing both the balance and variety we all strive for in our lives. How is wholeness achieved and what tips the circle off center? What distracts from the main circle? Does wholeness come at the price of predictability?”

For many abstract artists, the process of creating the artwork is as important as the finished product. Louisville artist Terri Dryden describes her approach as “an adventure into the unknown.”

She says, “With no specific outcome in mind, I respond to the changes in the picture as I explore and interact with materials by layering paint and paper, scratching, sanding and marking, creating open spaces, altering and adjusting.”

Because abstract art can be a challenging genre to understand, Long has created several hands-on activities visitors can explore to further their understanding of the exhibit. The activities, located in the upstairs Farmers National Bank Gallery, include collage activities and a painting exercise. One challenges visitors to create abstract artwork based on everyday objects in a process similar to one used by Wilhelm. For his paintings, Wilhelm drew inspiration from a Taco Bell cup, the color palette of a dollar bill and a pet rock.

Although widely known for his pop art and three-dimensional cardboard sculptures, Wilhelm — one of CAC’s two artists-in-residence —  has recently turned his creative focus to abstract work.

“Fast Food Cup,” oil on canvas by Mark Wilhelm

He says, “In every piece of art I have done since I started, I very much wanted to connect with people through the pieces. With abstract art, the interpretation of what the piece is and what the piece makes people feel varies so much from person to person that it makes talking to people about them incredibly satisfying. It’s almost like they can add to my understanding of the piece even after it is complete.“

The concept of finding meaning and beauty in ordinary objects is also central to photographer Ku Hone’s work.

He says, “I often strive to deconstruct space in order to gain new — and often confusing — views of ordinary objects. The ultimate goal of such attempt is to kindle the viewers’ imagination and help them appreciate the beauty of the mundane.”

An opening reception for the exhibit will be held on 5:30-8:30 p.m. April 13. The reception is free and open to the public and will include appetizers, live music and beer and wine for sale. Centre College Art History Professor Amy Frederick will give opening remarks about the abstract art genre at 5:30 p.m.


“Open to Interpretation” is up through May 25. The opening reception will be 5:30-8:30 April 13, with opening remarks by Centre College Professor Amy Frederick.

Exhibit workshops

• Adult Abstract Painting, 6:30-8 p.m. April 23 and 30, $30; instructed by Brandon Long.

Join instructor Long as you explore exercises in composition, line, and color to create your own 18×24″abstract painting. Register online.

• Kids Abstract Painting, 4-5 p.m. April 17 and 24, $20. Tuesdays, April 17 and 24

Abstract painting is just flinging paint on the canvas, right? Wrong! Explore this exciting – and surprisingly challenging – medium in a two-week workshop. Register online.

Upcoming Classes

• Introduction to Wheel-Thrown Pottery, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Mondays, April 9-May 21, $160; instructed by Stacey Chinn. Get centered and try your hand at the potter’s wheel.

• The Art Museum in the Modern World, 5-6 p.m. Wednesdays, April 11-25, $30/series or $13 at the door Presenter: Dr. Jay Bloom, Centre College

• Lunch with the Arts –  “The Changing Antique Market” presented by Jerry Sampson, noon-1 p.m. April 11. Cost is $5/door, feel free to bring lunch.