The Bold & The Beautiful

Werner Haker. Photo by Rimas Zailskas.

Werner Haker. Photo by Rimas Zailskas.

Since the magazine’s launch five years ago, Bold Life has profiled a local artist in nearly every issue. As George Alexsovich, director of the Arts Council of Henderson County, puts it, “It’s gone beyond a commercial publication and become an artistic publication.”

The Arts Council, a major player in the local arts community, and Bold Life will join forces in May to present The Bold and the Beautiful, an exhibit showcasing the work of over 50 artists featured in the magazine through the years.

“We’re going to have one of the most eclectic exhibits ever,” Alexsovich says. The art opening will feature everything from painting and sculpture to a Butoh performance, a mysterious improvisational dance with links to post-war Japan.

The variety of work testifies to the breadth of artists the magazine has introduced to its readers. Many artists have gone on to show their works in large metropolitan areas and realize the dream of earning an income from their passion. Some, never out to make a living or become well known, overcame formidable odds to channel their creativity. And others simply wanted to use art to make a difference in the world.

“Everyone has not only been thrilled to participate, but has been very complimentary, not only about what the magazine has done for their life, but for their art,” Alexsovich says. Next month, the creativity jumps off the pages of Bold Life and lands in the exhibition space of the Arts Council of Henderson County.

Werner Haker (January 2007)

Bold Life profiled Werner Haker a little more than one year ago, in January 2007. That year turned out to be a good one for Haker, a Brevard-based abstract painter. With regional exhibitions dating back to 2001, this former architect had shown his work in Chattanooga, TN, Landrum, SC, and WNC towns such as Brevard, Tryon and Asheville. In 2007, he added two big cities: Charlotte and Atlanta.

Haker already had a strong local following, but showing his work in major metropolitan areas brought him a new level of attention and appreciation. “There is a large market for art in this region, with a high level of sophistication. However, it is traditionally oriented,” he said. “There’s not as much of a market for abstract art. I get so used to it, I don’t even think about it anymore.”

He was pleasantly surprised, then, when 50 people showed up for a morning talk on abstract art on a weekday in Charlotte. There, and in Atlanta, he found an audience that was intensely interested in his work, and eager to purchase his works.

Not that Haker has a hard time getting attention back home. He was also featured in three other local publications last year, including the Asheville Citizen-Times. Bold Life’s sister publication, Carolina Home and Garden, wrote about Haker from a different angle — examining the architect’s self-designed residence and studio, a metal structure both stylish and functional.

Julie Gillum (December 2006)

Arthritis had been a thorn in dancer and performance artist Julie Gillum’s side for at least ten years. For that reason, the hip surgery she had one year after appearing Bold Life was a major resolution to one of the most difficult struggles of her life. “It was definitely impacting my teaching and my performing, every aspect of my career,” she says. “I’m so much better now.”

At age 56, she was one year from the age when her father died. The painkillers she required during recovery immobilized her, and colored her dreams during long sleeps. They were dreams of her own death, and that hazy period of recovery led to her piece, “Bio… A Hazard,” at this year’s North Carolina Dance Festival, an annual traveling showcase.

Those performances were not her first since the July 2007 surgery. In Fall 2007, she performed Pledge, which incorporated the American flag in ways she admits would infuriate some of the country’s more conservative elements. That piece premiered in September at the River Sculpture Festival at the French Broad River Park in Asheville, and she performed it again this year at the Fringe Festival in Asheville.

Gillum is best known for her Butoh performances, which she describes as “a postmodern movement in which formal dance technique is eschewed in favor of primal and idiosyncratic styles that transform the human body and allow raw mental energies to come into being.” The style arose in Japan after World War II as a reaction to the destruction caused by the atomic bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Gillum also teaches modern dance, musical theatre, performance art and Butoh at Warren Wilson College.

Gabriel Shaffer (November 2005)

When Gabriel Shaffer first appeared in Bold Life, he had just started experimenting with the collage technique that is now his signature style. He was just beginning to be able to support himself with his creations, and now works full-time as an artist.

Shaffer belongs to a niche called “Outsider Art,” characterized by unconventional, self-taught artists. Bold Life took a different approach to his work, he says. “It was the first article about my work by someone who knew my work and focused on that,” he says. “Previous articles always focused on the context of Outsider Art. This was the first time they weren’t trying to explain what that meant.”

Shaffer has gone on to exhibit his works in Boston and New York. He has shown four years in a row at the popular Outsider Art Fair, where celebrities such as Richard Gere and Mick Jagger mingle with the style’s luminaries and aspirants. He also just signed a contract with an agent in Los Angeles to begin exhibiting on the West Coast.

He estimates he’s sold about 250 paintings since appearing in Bold Life. “It takes a lot of paintings to be able to survive in this day and age,” he says. Now, he’s happy to report he’s able to make a living doing what he is truly passionate about.

Gene Apple (September 2004)

Some art critics say there are no new frontiers to explore. So what makes one artist different from another?

In the case of Gene Apple, that fact that he’s blind makes him pretty special.

A talented sculptor in his own right, Apple recently helped organize Sculptorama, a juried art show held earlier this year at Gallery One of the Tryon Fine Arts Center.

“We didn’t restrict the entries, so we got a huge variety,” he says. Forty-two sculptors entered 80 pieces, from six-foot-long creations to hand-held pieces, displayed on the walls, pedestals and the floor. As a judge, Apple’s own entries weren’t eligible for the cash prizes.

When he originally appeared in Bold Life, Apple was noted for giving back to the community through his teaching and other service. He took a hiatus from teaching last year, but continues to organize workshops, bringing in other sculptors to pass on their knowledge. He recently gave one of his works, a double-sized pair of hands gripping each other called Caring Hands, to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Asheville, where it is currently displayed.

These days, he has turned to more abstract works, he said. It’s an effort to be a little more experimental. Plus, he says, “Since I’m blind, doing representative stuff comes a little hard sometimes.”

Heidi Hayes (November 2003)

Surrealist painter Heidi Hayes studied art in Italy, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia. By the time she appeared in the pages of Bold Life, her art reflected the depth of those studies.

Sometimes, however, there’s more to being an artist than theory and application. “When the article came out, my biggest challenge was the business side of things,” she says. “Marketing and how to ‘make it’ wasn’t part of any curriculum.”

The launch of a personal website and forays into commissioned work began to solidify Hayes’ commercial successes as a painter. In addition to exhibitions, her work has appeared on bookcovers and compact disc cover art. She recently finished a commissioned piece on a kitchen wall that featured a baby doll head morphing into an oven, strange gingerbread men and even stranger cookie cutters.

Hayes also has a Masters Degree in Clinical Art Psychotherapy, which she uses as a mental health and substance abuse counselor. It should be no surprise that a practicing therapist and counselor such as Hayes would prefer surrealism, a style that taps into the deep subconscious of the mind.

She has always admired surrealism’s symbolism in the search to find meaning and uncover universal truths. Lately, however, she’s become more comfortable with the idea that we can’t always pinpoint the meaning or the truth. “I’ve become more comfortable with, instead of trying to figure that out, realizing that art is about embracing the uncertainty,” she confesses.


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