Hillsborough is well known for its art community and the nationally known authors who choose to make the town their home. Each year members of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts join with one of their author neighbors for a show called IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STORY. This event, now in its third year, features author Lee Smith, winner of the North Carolina Award for Literature, the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the Thomas Wolfe Award, the Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction and recipient of the 1999 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Lee Smith is a masterful storyteller, renowned for short stories that exhibit Southern charm and a wry sense of humor. The artists of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, together with Ms. Smith chose to respond to short stories from her book, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger.
After reading through all of the stories painter Linda Carmel returned to the first story, “Bob, A Dog.” Says Carmel, “in the opening of the story, Lee Smith graphically describes the husband, David, on the threshold of a new life – leaving his wife Cheryl and house behind. The story ultimately centers on Cheryl but I found myself still thinking about David and the mixture of nostalgia, fear and excitement that he must be experiencing.
Painter Lolette Guthrie describes how she arrived at her piece: “While reading Lee Smith’s wonderful stories in Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger I kept thinking about how so much of the real story was hidden beneath the more obvious narrative. About half way through the collection I came to the story “Between The Lines” and experienced an ah ha moment! The result is an abstraction exploring the idea that often in life one must not only know how to read between the lines but must also be able to see beneath the surface.”
Alice Levinson created a cloth composition, “No Stranger To Blue Eyes,” a play on the title of Smith’s story collection. Though varied in setting, personae or narrative twist, these stories share a common theme. “To me they read as narratives in which the personal drama in individual daily lives is affected by the ever-present reality of human mortality, finally personified by the blue-eyed stranger in the ultimate story,” says Levinson. “Mortality, as presented by Smith, is a natural aspect of human existence, to be understood and accepted, not feared. It becomes a prompt for opportunity, enriching the present moment. Finely drawn characters are the hallmark of these bittersweet tales. Each is clothed in specific details which makes them instantly familiar and endearing. Their courage and dignity is their backbone. She animates them with humor and affection and my resulting abstract hopefully reflects the colorful folks I met on the pages of her volume.”
Chris Graebner, a painter, was inspired to make a mobile instead of a painting. Graebner occasionally creates lighthearted mobiles and decided to approach the story through this medium. “The young protagonist in Toastmaster is working on his vocabulary and enjoys using his newly learned words. I thought it would be fun to juxtapose these words to create interesting images.”
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