Rawlings’ Voice Resonates in ‘Cross Creek Rising’

The latest exhibit at the Thomas Center Galleries celebrates the 75th anniversary of the publication of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ book that helped put the rural Alachua County community of Cross Creek on the literary map.

“Alogfellintothewater” (woodcarving), by Bob Bird. (Photograph courtesy of Bob Bird)

In the opening chapter of her autobiographical book Cross Creek, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings makes it abundantly clear her affinity for nature and its vital role in her way of life in rural North Central Florida.

Silkworm Cocoon Shaped Vessel (ceramic), by Sean Sexton. (Photograph by Gainesville Downtown)

She wrote: “[T]he consciousness of land and water must lie deeper in the core of us than any knowledge of our fellow beings. We were bred of earth before we were born of our mothers. Once born, we can live without mother or father, or any kin, or any friend, or any human love. We cannot live without the earth or apart from it, and something is shriveled in a man’s heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself with only the affairs of man.”

Those words, written 75 years ago, are the inspiration for the newest exhibit at the Thomas Center Galleries that opens this week titled “Cross Creek Rising :: The Consciousness of Land & Water.” There’s an opening reception for the juried exhibition tonight from 7-10, when five $500 “Awards of Merit” will be announced as well as several honorable mentions.

The free event is open to the public and one of the highlights of this month’s Artwalk Gainesville, which is taking place at numerous art galleries and art-minded businesses in and around downtown Gainesville. (For a complete list of this month’s Artwalk participants, scroll to the end of this article.)

“Cross Creek Rising” includes 86 works of art — sculptures, paintings, drawings and photography — by more than 70 artists from around the region and the Southeast. The expansive exhibit is being held in both the Mezzanine and Main galleries at the Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave.

“Stone Tool from Cross Creek” (pen and ink, watercolor), by Kate Barnes.

The exhibit is presented in part by the Friends of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Farm to celebrate 75 years since the publication of Cross Creek and Cross Creek Cookery. Despite its name, however, the exhibit does not showcase just the beauty of Cross Creek.

“Tokens of Affection” (mixed media, found objects), by Crystal Floyd.

“Artists were asked to use North Central Florida as their muse, not to depict anything in particular but to make art in response to the region,” said Anne E. Gilroy, curator of “Cross Creek Rising.” “Some of the art is quite illustrative and realistic. Other pieces are quite non-representational and/or interpretive.”

Woodcarver Bob Bird of Melrose submitted two pieces he created specifically for the exhibit. “Cross Creek Imaginaire” (made from cypress) shows moss-draped trees and palmettos against a full moon, while “Alogfellintothewater” (cedar) shows an underwater wildlife scene that includes various fish species, turtles and a baby alligator.

“I draw inspiration from what is around me,” Bird said. “I spend a lot of time in the water and on the water. I like swamps and like to spend time in them, so some of my art comes from there.”

Bird uses everything from a chainsaw to fine little wood files — “Basically whatever works at the time” — to carve the intricate pieces out of wood that he finds.

“I have been carving off and on for 50 years,” he said. “I started idly doing it when I was in Vietnam. I seem to be changing all the time and wanting to do more difficult things. I like to do Florida art, but I also like to explore other dimensions. Sometimes I dream about those dimensions early in the morning.”

A call to artists earlier this year resulted in 265 entries, which a panel of four judges narrowed by one-fourth.

“Some artists chose to withdraw in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” Gilroy said. “It was either impossible to ship their art to us or they were just overwhelmed and could not drive it in the face of congestion and fuel shortages.”

Photographer John Moran delivered his piece for “Cross Creek Rising” via boat, then bicycle, when roadways were impassable after Hurricane Irma. (Photograph courtesy of John Moran)

One artist, photographer John Moran, made the Sept. 13 deadline by delivering his artwork for the exhibit by way of canoe and bicycle when flooding from Irma prevented him from driving a vehicle to and from his Gainesville home.

The four-person judging team included Amy Freeman, UF Visiting Assistant Professor; Erin Curry, Sculpture and Multi-media artist, Santa Fe College; Larry Wilson, Sculptor, Interior Designer and Co-founder of Designmind; and Carol McCusker, Curator of Photography, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.

“Artists interpreted the North Florida theme in a variety of ways,” Freeman said. “Many were realistic in nature, while others were specific to Margaret Kinnan Rawlings and her homestead. The 3-dimensional work is pleasantly unassuming and unique, especially Sean Sexton’s ceramic vessel and Bob Bird’s wood carvings. Kate Barnes’ ‘Stone Tool from Cross Creek’ was a big surprise in person. It has a level of magic that keeps me staring at it for an unexpected amount of time.”

Freeman added that the entryway to the Main Gallery is powerful with award-winning pieces by Anne Lindberg (“Paper Forest”) and Penelope Livingston (“Sweet Home”). Another favorite of the judge is Stacey Breheny’s arrangement of small mobile home paintings.

“I heard Stacey has a series of about one hundred other mobile home paintings, and this is just a sampling,” Freeman said. “I would love to see them all at once!”

Russell Etling, Gainesville’s Cultural Affairs Manager, said that “Cross Creek Rising” fits well into the 352arts Roadmap, which calls for celebrating regional arts and culture as well as the literary arts.

“The exhibit is very diverse in theme and opens a new window to our natural landscape through the artists’ eyes,” Etling said. “I think it’s high-quality work.”

“Orange Tree Cottage” (acrylic on canvas), Cydney Robbins.

“Cross Creek Rising :: The Consciousness of Land & Water” continues through Jan. 6, 2018. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 1-4 p.m.

Tonight’s Artwalk also features an introduction to three traditional dance forms at the Rosa B. Williams Center, 524 NW 1st St. The Gainesville Old-Time Dance Society, Cross Creek Cloggers and Gainesville International Folk Dancers will introduce newcomers to contra dance, clogging and folk dances.

Meanwhile, established artist and Gainesville native Ted Lincoln will showcase more than a dozen original pieces at Third House Books, 113 N. Main St. Lincoln describes his works on paper as “landscape studies and sketches of both [his] Sumi ink paintings and mother-of-pearl inlays.”

Following is a complete list of participating venues for tonight’s Artwalk and what to expect:

GFAA Gallery (1314 S. Main St.): The Gainesville Fine Arts Association presents an opening reception for its Black & White exhibit — a chance to see original fine art from multiple mediums exploring the theme of black and white. The exhibit runs through Oct. 21. NOTE: Artwalk hours are 6-9 p.m.

First Magnitude Brewing Co. (1220 SE Veitch St.): Hosting a variety of artists, including Jenna Horner and Painting With A Twist, Carina Dybevick, Bich (pronounced Bic — like the lighter) Nguyen, Bobby Fox, Lyssa Bowen and Purple Star Clayations by Violeta. Food trucks and beverages, including craft beer, available. The Parker Urban Band goes on the stage in the Beer Garden at 8 p.m.

Gainesville Art Studios (618 S. Main St., Suite B): Welcoming new house artist Daniel Velez-Clement, who states that “People always have to be armed: A book in one hand and a brush in the other. Education and sensitivity together are stronger than any army. From the books they learn new worlds, and with the brush they create them.” Located in the same complex as The Freewheel Project and LEJ Pretzels. (www.gainesvilleartsstudio.com)

Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.): Blacksmith Jordan Borstelmann of Crooked Path Forge will present a live steel-working demonstration in the Courtyard behind the Center. Borstelmann will also have a display of his artistic creations for viewing and purchase.

Hippodrome Gallery (25 SE 2nd Place): Featuring the exhibit “Resist and Rise: The Art of Protest!” A variety of artwork is displayed, including signs, paintings, sculpture, bumper stickers, political buttons, t-shirts and personal memorabilia from across cultures and time periods.

Maude’s Classic Café (101 SE 2nd Place, Sun Center East): Presenting “Stoopid Paintings for my Idiot Friends, Vol. 2.,” a collection of paintings by Shelly “Warren” Goodwin involving ridiculous turns of phrases, aliens, UFOs, lotuses, serpents, wizards, skeletons and much more. This collection is numerous and affordable.

Dale’s Salon (101 SE 2nd Place, in Sun Center East): Presenting Rainy Burns, a Melrose oil and watercolor painter.

Artisans’ Guild Gallery (201 SE 2nd Place, Union Street Station): Presenting “True Blue and Orange, Too,” Gator-inspired gifts for fans and alumni. The gallery features hundreds of quality, handcrafted fine art and fine crafts created by regional artists. Sidewalk music courtesy of  Tierra Libre.

Sweetwater Print Cooperative (117 S. Main St.): Featuring Mike Donovan: “Musicians.” Donovan has been drawing and painting musicians everywhere he’s been, from New York City to the beaches, bars and parks of Florida. This exhibit is his tribute to them. Show ends Oct. 25 and may be seen after Artwalk on Thursday afternoons, Friday mornings and by appointment by calling Stewart Thomas at 352.514.3838.

Eleanor Blair Studio (113 S. Main St.): New oil paintings by Eleanor Blair of Paynes Prairie and Cross Creek, plus live music by the Weeds of Eden (and free coffee). (www.EleanorBlairStudio.com)

The Bull (18 SW 1st St.): Hosting Dusty Hunsaker and Josh Wilson. 

Hardback Café (211 W. University Ave.): Presenting local artist Alix Mathia. Many of her colorful acrylic paintings feature bold, stylized faces with a soulful presence.

Third House Books & Coffee (113 N. Main St.): Exhibiting Ted Lincoln: Works on Paper. Growing up in Gainesville the son of a Filipino mother and a Yankee father, Lincoln was aware of all the contradictions and treasures that this contemporary dynamic propagates. Amazed the preponderance of overt and convert eastern influences in his western world, his artwork is by no mistake a reflection of this rich mix. Examples of landscape studies and sketches for both his sumi ink paintings and his mother of pear inlays. Food and beverages available from adjacent Downtown Wine & Cheese.

E’lan Hair Salon (115 N. Main St.): Diana Diaz, also known as Feral Ursa, is a local first-grade teacher turned mixed-media artist. Featuring both random and deliberate geometrical images, line work and pieces grabbed from nature such as plants and insects. She employs creation as a means of therapy to transform daily and life-long struggles into something positive that resonates with all of us.”

Kevin Robertson Law (224 NW 2nd Ave.): Gretchen Casey and Maggie Gerard displaying and selling a variety of glass mosaics, fused glass and Wabi Sabi Copper hearts and birds cut with a plasma torch. Also “MaskSpeak,” original sculptures by Suzanne Kragiel of archetypal faces using found natural materials.

Rosa B. Williams Center (524 NW 1st St.): Featuring one last look at the contemporary photography of Jan Zamojski in Room for Reflection. Also, in concert with the exhibit “Cross Creek Rising” at the Thomas Center Galleries, the Rosa B will offer introductions to three traditional dance forms. The Gainesville Old-Time Dance Society, Cross Creek Cloggers and Gainesville International Folk Dancers will introduce newcomers to contra dance, clogging and folk dances. All ages are invited to watch, participate and learn more about how to join these social dance groups. Also on the walls: Blues Pioneers and their Progeny by Ty the Portrait Guy and George Borum.

The Vine (627 N. Main St.): Hosting Bob and Arupa Freeman, active members of the downtown Gainesville community since 1984. Their great joy — and relaxation — is painting. She is an outsider artist who paints the secret, happy world she calls “Arupa Land,” where no one is hungry or without love.

The Thomas Center Galleries (302 NE 6th Ave. ): Presenting the opening of “Cross Creek Rising — The Consciousness of Land & Water.” The exhibit is part of the “Year of Cross Creek” celebration organized with the Friends of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Farm. In tribute to the wilderness, land and water that inspired the artistic voice of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, this juried exhibition of painting, drawing, sculpture and photography has as its source of inspiration in the natural environs of North Central Florida. The Main and Mezzanine galleries will be dedicated to this exhibition of the work of 70 artists. Five prize winners will be announced during Artwalk. All artists will be honored with this festive opening event with food trucks featuring Cross Creek Cookery recipes, and music all evening. Event runs 7-10 p.m.

For further info, visit the Artwalk Gainesville website.

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