Their friendship made them better artists.
As former art teachers in the Roanoke Rapids School District, Jan Sullivan-Volz, Susan Watson and Christina Gregory have been colleagues and friends for about 20 years. The three met at least once a week to talk about their schools, classes, families and dreams, Watson said.
When Sullivan-Volz, Watson and Gregory retired in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively, they were able to make their shared dream come true and devote themselves to their art.
“We all had wanted to be professional artists, but with teaching full time and coming home to families, it was difficult to be creative when you were tired and had been creative with other people all day and were teaching them how to be creative,” said Watson of Littleton.
Now, the trio is sharing something else — the walls of the Mims Gallery at the Dunn Center for the Performing Arts, said Everett Adelman, the gallery’s curator. The women’s show, “A Story, a Vision and a Promise,” runs through September.
“They are all remarkable artists and remarkable women,” Adelman said.
A free artist reception will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 in the gallery.
The women each brought their distinct styles to the exhibit, Adelman said.
Watson draws her inspiration from her emotional and spiritual experiences. The ideas for her acrylic paintings come from worship, dreams and studying scripture, she said.
“There are principles that I have learned about God and his attributes, and things that I want other people to think about and know about him, too. ... How do you show those attributes of God? They are sort of abstract. I sort of work that out and struggle with how can I show his greatness,” she said.
Sullivan-Volz of Rocky Mount also paints, but her pieces are Eastern North Carolina landscapes and skyscapes. The artist only has been working with oils for about two years, but she loves the way the paint allows for subtle color blending, a richness that comes across to viewers, she said.
“I hope it makes them think, ‘I remember that light’ or ‘I know when a day was like that.’ I hope it brings back some memories, and they can relate to when they were in a spot outdoors and they felt that very same way with the way the light is coming down,” Sullivan-Volz said.
To create her artwork, Gregory uses the German folk art tradition of scherenschnitte, a cut-paper design technique. The artist draws detailed designs and cuts them on a single piece of white paper. When she cuts, the paper could be flat like a silhouette, folded like a Valentine or folded a couple of times like a snowflake. Usually a work involves a combination of all three.
For this show, Gregory did several new larger pieces where she simply cut the white paper and mounted and framed them. The paper is usually stained and then framed.
“When you look at it, it doesn’t look like it is a paper cutting. You look at it and think it is a painting, so you pass over it,” Gregory said.