A brood, a building, a gaggle, a murder – these words all have one thing in common – birds. Flocks of birds come in all different shapes, sizes and names. On display in the Clarkston campus’ Jim Cherry Learning & Resource Center’s fourth floor is the exhibit A Flock of Three. This exhibit features bird themed paintings from three artists – Sally Wansboro Eppstein, Holly Henson and Kathy Meliopoulos.
These three women gathered in the JCLRC’s fourth floor gallery on Thursday, Feb. 11, to talk to faculty, staff and students about their artwork. All three women took a few minutes to answer student and faculty questions regarding their works before continuing to mingle among everyone.
When asked what inspired each of them to focus their pieces on birds, all three artists had wonderful things to say about the winged creatures.
“I think that some of it just may be their endurance, what they go through to survive. Especially migrating birds – they’ll travel thousands of thousands of miles their migration patterns are incredible, and a lot of them don’t make it, a lot of them don’t survive migration. But it’s what they do to carry on, that’s very inspiring, but I just think they’re so beautiful as well. Their texture, their flight, their behavior. I think they’re really interesting creatures to watch,” said Holly Henson, the artist whose work is the most representational.
Sally Wansboro Eppstein, the painter of the feather collection, said, “What inspires me so much is that my mom didn’t have many interests, but she loved birds. She was always feeding the birds, so it was just something that was a part of our lives every day, observing bird behavior.”
“[Birds] are beautiful, the variety is infinite. You can always discover a new bird when you think you’ve known them all. I think they’re very intelligent, especially ravens and crows. I have a special fondness for owls. We have a barn owl that comes back every winter. They sing, they have a lot going for them,” said Kathy Meliopoulos, the creator of the more abstract pieces.
All three of the artists expressed an interest in art and drawing from an early age. “My grandmother told me once that she had to hide the paper and pencils when I would come spend the afternoon with her because I would use every piece of paper she had,” said Meliopoulos.
While Henson works exclusively in oil paints, Wansboro Eppstein and Meliopoulos both have shown interest in working and experimenting with other media.
“I majored in jewelry, and in fine arts. But mainly I do paintings, and lately I’ve been doing sculptures. I’ve been doing wooden sculptures, and just lately I’ve been doing ceramic sculptures,” said Wansboro Eppstein.
And though Meliopoulos works only in two-dimensional art, she uses many different media and surfaces. “I paint with oils, I use soft pastels, charcoal, graphite. I work with ink drawings on sham leather. I do apron drawings. I like to experiment; I think of my studio as a laboratory. I’m not so much concerned with producing a product as with trying different things.” said Meliopoulos.
Working with many different media can be rewarding, but learning one specific medium is not to be underrated according to Henson who said, “I love the oil paint itself. … I could just play in paint, oil paint is so luscious and it has this great smell.”
In addition, all three artists expressed that aspiring artists should take classes and learn the fundamentals of art, which serve as a foundation no matter what media the artists use. Eppstein also added that finding your own voice and passion is important. Meliopoulos in particular encouraged students who are earning a degree in fine arts to learn about the business side of art.
“They don’t teach that enough in school. You get your degree in art and you try to go out in the world. You need to know how to deal with galleries; you need to know about contracts and how to get into shows and marketing,” said Meliopoulos.
The gallery is located on the fourth floor of the JCLRC; A Flock of Three is open to the public, including students, for free through March 11.