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Ballantyne resident wins at statewide pastel exhibition

By Reid Creager
Correspondent

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    Hickory Museum of Art, located in the Arts & Science Center of the Catawba Valley, 243 3rd Ave. NE, Hickory. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: Free; www.hickoryart.org/; 828-327-8576.



The pastel painting’s palette of emotions mesh yet clash in distinct layers: calming, cleansing blue waters; brownish-green hues as in a wheat field; a dominant storm of fiery red.

Judith Cutler says she got her inspiration from a small detail in another abstract painting.

“In this case, it was something else that turned into the end product,” the longtime Ballantyne resident says. “I worked it and changed it enough that it just became its own.”

Her piece, “Exploring New Horizons,” at the On Common Ground: Pastels from the Mountains to the Sea exhibition won the Blick Award in this year’s North Carolina Statewide Pastel Juried Exhibition. The event featured 77 pastel paintings from 203 submissions.

“Horizons” is on display at the Hickory Museum of Art through Aug. 18.

“I see depth, emotion and exploration” when looking at the painting, she says. “I hope that it’s complex and layered, melding excited in some areas and calming in others. ... I think the depth of emotion comes with abstract work. You can’t really force it into a flower or landscape or whatever.”

Whether her medium is pastels, acrylics or mixed media, she says, “I particularly love abstract expressionism. I have loved it since my late teens. I took my very first oil painting class with Elaine de Kooning, which is a pretty big name in the abstract world.”

She’s always been drawn to “loose and expressive” work of artists such as Wolf Kahn, David Hockney, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, and Helen Frankenthaler, although “representational and realistic work is also part of my enjoyment.”

Cutler’s career path included more than 25 years as a corporate graphic designer before she became a full-time artist 12 years ago.

She often gravitates toward pastels as a medium: “I like the fact that it’s color in stick form, an extension of my fingers - no brush between the colors and my fingers. So I can pick up the stick, and I can use it as a drawing tool or a painting tool.”

The recognition in Hickory isn’t her first.

Last year she also won the Blick Award for her painting “Filled With Passion and Possibilities” at the Pastel Society of America’s 40th Annual Exhibition at the National Arts Club in New York City. That work was exhibited at The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.

Represented by the Redsky Gallery in Charlotte, Cutler is a Signature Member and designated Master Pastelist of the Pastel Society of America in New York City, a Master Circle Member of the International Association of Pastel Societies, and a Member of Excellence of the Southeastern Pastel Society in Atlanta. She’s also a member of the Piedmont Pastel Society, and the Pastel Society of North Carolina.

The Hickory event featured members from those latter two groups, as well as from the Appalachian Pastel Society.

Cutler is excited that the third annual statewide pastel exhibition next year will be in Charlotte, at Myers Park Baptist Church’s Cornwell Center in May.

“Jerald Melberg (who has a gallery in the Cotswold area) will jury and judge the show, so we already have a big-name factor there,” she says.

Reid Creager is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at reidcreager@yahoo.com.
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