Arts Uncorked

Published 11:04 am Thursday, October 26, 2017

JACKSON – The Northampton County Visitors’ Center temporarily became an art gallery last Thursday, showcasing the amazing works of two local artists. The “Arts Uncorked” event on October 19 was sponsored by the county’s Cultural Arts Committee and featured artwork from Juanita Best and Ermagene Ross.

“We are so thankful for our artists, we’re so proud of them,” said Cultural Arts Committee Chairperson Judy Collier as she welcomed the people who gathered to view the art and chat with the artists themselves.

“You’d be very surprised at what talent we have here within our own county,” she continued.

The style of both artists displayed around the room was easily distinguishable.

Best, a native of Rich Square, uses acrylic paint on canvas to recreate houses and landscapes, often local to Northampton County. It’s easy to recognize places such as Valley Pine Country Club and Boone’s Mill in her art.

A lot of Best’s work is done from memory, she said, though she admits that she uses photographs for reference sometimes as well.

“I just enjoy painting people’s houses, I reckon,” she explained. “I’ve been painting for about 28 years now.”

She hasn’t had any formal training except for a few art classes over the years. She cited a love of drawing from elementary school as one of the reasons she’s been interested in painting, and thanked her family for all their support.

One of her paintings on display was of Rich Square Auto Services, looking very distinct with its beige-colored walls and bright red letters of the business name written across the top. Best explained that she had painted that not long before the building burned down. It’s since been rebuilt, but her art is a preservation of what it once was.

“That’s why you need paintings,” she said.

Ross’ work, on the other hand, is made up of a multitude of subjects and materials. She, too, paints with acrylic on canvas, but also creates collages, chalk drawings, miniatures, and more. The retired educator from Garysburg minored in art while in college at North Carolina Central, though she said she put art on the “back-burner” for several years.

“A lot of times, I work better under pressure,” Ross said, explaining she created several of her pieces for the event only a few weeks before. “I had to start with something that I really loved, and somebody that I loved.”

That ‘something’ and ‘somebody’ was a re-creation of a photograph which included her daughter. The painting—titled “Tom Thumb Wedding”—illustrated an event which used to take place at a daycare in the 1970’s.

Ross’ other artwork is composed of things she says she enjoys seeing, such as city streets and country shacks. One of her most fascinating pieces is a drawing of a city block created with acrylic gesso mixed with white chalk done on a black background. She said she was thinking about adding a bit of color to the windows of the church in that piece, but not too much to take away from the simplicity of the black and white.

Her collage pieces are made of a hodgepodge of materials, like thread and cotton and burlap, which catch the attention of people admiring the artwork.

“I like abstracts because you can go anywhere with them, and you can incorporate color without having to define or follow a specific pattern,” Ross said, describing her art miniatures, small colorful squares that she started with when she got back into art again.

“I hope that I continue to want to paint because I really kind of had given up on it,” she admitted, but adding she was glad to have picked it up again. “The more I do it, the more I like it.”

While visitors were viewing the art and mingling with the artists, Collier spoke on how pleased she was by the event turnout.

“I’m just so glad we had the opportunity to honor both of our artists,” she said. “I think we need to recognize the artists here in this county. They have so much talent. We shouldn’t let it go to waste.”

Collier said the Cultural Arts Committee plans to showcase more artwork from Northampton natives in the future.