Local Arts

Meet McColl Center’s new residents

Six newly arrived resident artists have settled into studios at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. Coming up next: An array of activities at 721 N. Tryon St., from a Community Pie Social (bring a pie, plan to converse) to a portrait photography workshop. Meet the artists:

Julio Gonzalez Courtesy of the artist

Julio Gonzalez

The artwork of self-taught multidisciplinary artist Julio Gonzalez incorporates three themes.

In the first, he begins the third year in a five-year project: Día de los Casi Muertos/Day of the Almost Dead. He interviews people about death, paints their naked bodies, and photographs the results, yielding a complex view of how people from this country and Mexico respond to death. Year one featured people older than 60, and year two 50 to 60; this year it’s 40 to 50.

His second theme: pre-Columbian art, which includes Mayan-inspired drawings and 3D art, including an innovative knitted headdress. Third: His painted “Gonza Fish.” “I had a big aquarium growing up, and I had all these goldfish, and I doodle; this came about right around the time I started using color,” he says. “The original fish were yellow, green and red, because those were the highlighters I had on my desk. An interior designer told me yellow was never going to sell, so now I do blue and orange.”

Gonzalez has lived in Charlotte for 18 years. As part of his residency he will offer workshops to make 3,000 paper marigolds for his Día de los Casi Muertos exhibition. “Whatever the pine tree is to Christmas, the marigold is to the Day of the Dead,” says Gonzalez.

Amy Johnson Courtesy of the artist

Amy Johnson

Native Charlottean Amy Johnson moved west after college, and has lived and worked in Anchorage, Alaska, since 2011. Her work ranges from fabric landscape collages to performance videos that explore female archetypes, cultural expectations for women, and the natural environment. Living in Alaska has influenced her work through “the landscape and the harshness and the solitude, and using that as a metaphor for human endurance,” she says. “My work really shifted into ideas originating from fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella.”

Johnson’s work explores multiple aspects of being a woman. “You’re always swimming upstream from every angle,” she says. Her ”Matanuska Project” is a series of fine art prints featuring Johnson in a patchwork blue gown and an Alaskan glacier.

After working in fabrics and dyes and video installations, Johnson looks forward to working with printmaking and clay, which is her favorite medium. “Whenever I do a residency I never go with a plan, because I like to respond to where I am,” she says. “I graduated from West Charlotte in 1984. I’ve not spent time here as a result. To actually come back to work and not being a teenager playing soccer every day, it is cool.”

Nelson Morales Courtesy of the artist

Nelson Morales

Nelson Morales grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico. His photography centers on the community of muxe, which he describes as a “third gender.” A muxe was born a man, but looks like a woman, and dresses like a woman, he says: “It is a secret, but everybody knows. It’s a blessing for the parents, because muxes will take care of them until they die.”

When Morales discovered he was gay, he knew he did not want to be like a muxe, because he did not want to be a woman, he says. He wanted to move to a big city and live an urban lifestyle. When a friend asked him to take a picture of a muxe for a beauty contest, he reluctantly accepted the assignment, and was amazed at the results. “Now the muxe is part of my life, because I am looking for my own identity, and me and the muxe, every time we meet we are more close. I understand he has life, he has problems. I feel more compassionate.”

During his residency, Morales will have a show with portraits about his exploration of his own masculinity and femininity. He hopes his plan to work with the gay Latin community in Charlotte will culminate in an exhibit for the next Pride.

Leah Rosenberg Ryan Whelan

Leah Rosenberg

Painting, sculpting, performing, printmaking and baking are some of the media Leah Rosenberg, who lives in San Francisco, uses to create. Her brilliantly striped large wall installations come from an intentional process. “How I got into stripes was trying how to make a generous painting. How do you make something for everybody?” she says. “If I’m picking the colors, how do I bring other people into it?” Rosenberg started creating site-specific wall installations in unfamiliar places, basing colors on those she saw around her during the day.

The persistent question of generosity came to Rosenburg during grad school. She began taking cake decorating classes, thinking the techniques like piping and stacking might overlap with her art. When she brought the cakes to her painting critique class, she was stunned at the difference between her co-artists’ reactions to her cakes, vs. their reactions to art on the walls. She began to show the cakes on pedestals, and found that making food a component of her projects put people at ease, and connected them with their own memories.

In her project “Color For The People,” on Sundays she will paint the first-floor gallery walls with a color inspired by the city. She’ll also host a series of “Color Bar” events on selected Thursdays, which will feature a savory snack, a sweet snack and a drink, all based on a color inspired by Charlotte.

Carmen Papalia Courtesy of the artist

Carmen Papalia

Vancouver native Carmen Papalia is a social practice artist. This means his art is the process of engaging with groups of people, rather than being focused on an object. A self-described nonvisual learner, Papalia says he resists language that is marginalizing. “Blind has come to mean a lack of knowledge, and a lack of awareness,” he says.

Papalia helps people develop their nonvisual senses. “I want to create opportunities for people to find other ways to understand the places they are living in.” He began his project “Open Access” to redefine how one experiences a building, or a space. Rather than focusing on how to physically access a space, Papalia defines accessibility by the degree of agency one has when inside it. For example, “Do you have the freedom to move freely in the environment?” he says. He began to write tenets that are particular to himself, and started sharing those tenets as a new model for accessibility.

During his residency Papalia will also teach at UNC Charlotte. He plans to establish an ongoing platform called the “Office for the Practice of Accessibility,” where he and his students will apply subjective access considerations to its design, via signage, placement of objects, etc. He is also working on developing a critical language for analyzing art by touch.

Zoë Charlton Courtesy of the artist

Zoë Charlton

Associate professor and chair of the department of art at American University, Zoë Charlton incorporates stereotypes and their ironies into her artwork. “I am looking at how people are perceived,” she says. “I’m thinking about gender, and about the relationship people have with the things that are around them.”

In her “suburb series,” Charlton tackled the subject of domestic workers in suburbia. The series explores the power relationship between worker and employer through graphite drawings of a woman interacting in various ways with shocking pink houses. The drawings raise questions about who is allowed to do what kind of work, and who is unwilling to do a certain kind of work.

“My goal is not to be opaque about anything, and I’m not trying to be overly descriptive,” she says. “There are a lot of different ways that the trees or the buildings are drawn or described; that language is also fair game. Is it a cartoon, an illustration, or is it photo?”

While in residency, Charlton plans to create life-sized drawings of black women bodybuilders. The end product will depend on the types of conversations she has with her subjects. “I want to leave part of my proposed work open, so it can shift if it needs to.”