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Brave Combo


BY NORM POWERS



Rimas Zailskas
"The Flood And The Pump" is the joint effort of Nancy Holmes, who has curated over a hundred exhibits at The Upstairs over the years, and Jolene Mechanic, the founder and director of the Flood Gallery Fine Arts Center, which includes both the Flood Gallery and a second exhibit space, the Pump Gallery, in a former warehouse in Asheville's River Arts District.

Both women have long focused on young artists working at the boundaries of popular art; and while both recognize the place that more traditionally crafted forms have in the region's artistic traditions, both have worked to create space for less familiar, sometimes controversial new art.

"I've admired the Flood since it opened," Nancy says, "even though Jolene and I met just a month ago at the Upstairs. For me, it was meeting a kindred spirit. And since Jolene keeps discovering artists I don't know about, I thought it would be cool to show some of them at The Upstairs. I see bringing the Flood to The Upstairs as a recognition of a sister nonprofit contemporary art gallery with a similar vision."

Jolene, an Asheville native says, "I love the fine art and craft that dominates Asheville. My house is full of local, handmade functional pottery. But functional pottery and pretty landscapes don't create a dialogue. It isn't meant to do that. But that's what I'm attracted to — the dialogue."

Years before Jolene set about creating the Flood, which opened in 2006, as a home for "art that encourages critical thinking," Nancy was attracted to a scrappy little gallery that had opened in a rented house in Tryon in 1978. As its founder Craig Pleasants famously stated, the Upstairs was dedicated to "art that's not intended to sell."

"I lived in New York City during the '60s, and spent a lot of time in art galleries and museums," Nancy says. "Especially MOMA. And I hung out with visual artists and even modeled for some of them. When my husband and I moved to Tryon in 1991, the Upstairs Gallery was a major reason for choosing to live here."

While the Upstairs may now be housed in an elegantly refurbished former hardware store in picturesque Tryon and the Flood inhabits a grittier, sprawling former warehouse with a biodiesel fuel plant in the basement, Nancy and Jolene still travel on parallel artistic tracks. "One of us has grown older and perhaps a bit more practical," Nancy says, "while the other is younger, more brash and energetic. But we still share a 'will do' spirit of seeking out new artists." Jolene looked forward to expanding the Flood's message to a new audience. "Contemporary art provides a near perfect venue for teaching us that we should be more aware and responsible to our communities," she says. "I truly believe that to the depths of my soul."

The Flood And The Pump: Galleries With An Attitude

Opening Reception: June 4, 5-8pm, in conjunction with the Tryon Gallery Trot

On Exhibit: June 3 through July 23

Where: Upstairs Artspace, 49 South Trade Street, Tryon

Extras: "What's Hot, What's Not," a panel discussion by Flood artists on July 12th at 7pm

A puppet show by artist and puppeteer Madison Cripps on July 9, at 3pm

More Info: Visit www.upstairsartspace.org or call 828-859-2828. Visit www.floodgallery.org to learn more about the Flood Gallery





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