Unloading Dreams

Ed Weaver began his career blowing glass before turning to a medium less fragile. Photo by Rimas Zailskas

For Hendersonville artist Ed Weaver, dreaming is believing. “Most of my paintings come to me in dreams,” he says. And not the long, convoluted kind where nothing makes sense. His nighttime imagery is “simple and innocent,” he says. Also colorful. These three words offer a concise description of his folk-art-inspired work.

“Many times I’m awakened from sleep with a painting in my head. I have to ‘unload,’ so I go to the studio and frequently paint at three o’clock in the morning.” The primitivist images he produces are rooted in a variety of traditions, including African tribal forms and Pop Art, all rendered in a bright, acrylics-based palette.

Early influences were found close to home on the Virginia farm of Weaver’s childhood, which contributes many of the animal images that appear in his work. His grandfather was an oil painter and a silhouette artist. “He was of the Hudson River Valley tradition and had a working studio when he was young, in the early 1900s,” says Weaver. “I loved his folksy-style animals and nature paintings in particular.”

A Henderson County Mud Painting.

Further afield, Marc Chagall and the outsider artist Bill Traylor were significant enough in Weaver’s estimation that he hung a sign in his home studio in homage, with accompanying photos of each man’s most famous images. Traylor’s work, in particular, seems closely aligned with Weaver’s portfolio: the work of both men favor rural imagery drawn with a cleanly rendered line. “He paints what he experienced, too,” Weaver says of Alabama-born Traylor, who used memories of his childhood in plantation slavery in the mid 19th century to inform the paintings he began to produce in the 1940s, when he was in his eighties.

“I admire this artist so much that I wish I could have met him,” says Weaver.

Like Traylor and other primitivists, Weaver will often use unorthodox materials in his work, including rust, soot, mud, and plant extracts mixed in with his paint. His canvases, too, are eclectic — sometimes wood, metal, or linen. “I don’t sketch, I just go right to painting using fingers, sticks, brushes,” Weaver notes. “I like the different effects each produces.”

Big Blue

Paint isn’t his first medium, though. He spent much of his career as a successful glass artist living in the South Carolina Lowcountry near Charleston. He had a well-known, profitable gallery for his glass creations — pendants, earrings, beads — that began in the 1970s at the then-new open-air Charleston Market, where he was offered a free booth. He gave glassblowing demonstrations and routinely sold out his stock before opening his own shop downtown, a business that provided a comfortable living with commissions and a wholesale exchange with other galleries.

But as the years piled up, the physical labor involved in glassblowing became troublesome. “It’s very hot and heavy work that becomes taxing,” he explains, recalling the strain of balancing up to twenty pounds of molten glass on the end of a metal blowpipe. At one point, he had to seek help for painful rotator cuffs. “In the past few years, I decided to move solely to the fun work of painting.” Two-dimensional work came to the forefront even before Weaver packed up and moved to the mountains.

The fun is evident in the work, but Weaver never shies away from the business of making art; he once noted that when any young person talked to him about being an artist, he advised them to add a business course to the art curriculum. “In Charleston, I made a leap and opened my own art glass and painting retail store and was able to make a good living,” he points out. “It takes persistence and hard work. But it seems to me that if you’re passionate about your art and you’re willing to work hard and treat it as a way to make a living, you can eventually succeed.”

Ed Weaver welcomes visitors to his home studio at 625 Kanuga Road in Hendersonville. No appointment is necessary. Contact him at 828-808-9596.

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