This 4th Friday, people participating in the downtown gallery crawl will be able to view the new work of Robin Gahr and Eric McRay at Green Light Gallery on Hay Street. This particular exhibit is an example of how a collaborative effort and networking can work for artists, musicians and businesses.
    It all began with the opening, less than a year ago, of Green Light Gallery on Hay Street. A full-service frame shop, Green Light, like most framing businesses, has both fine art and commercial art; but framing is their main source of income. Nancy Studer and Garry Dixon opened their business in the downtown area in an effort to be a part of the wave of creativity that exudes in the downtown art venues. In short, Studer said, “When we were looking at different areas to open our business we decided on the downtown, we wanted to be involved in the community, we loved what was going on downtown, and we just wanted to be a part of it.”
Entering Green Light you first go through the front part of a narrow space that extends to the rear of the building, two bubbly fountains and greenery are near the exit. That long narrow space has become Nancy Studer’s effort to be involved in the arts downtown. The space has been converted into a gallery where she has made a commitment to exhibiting artists. {mosimage}
    Then Studer’s path crossed with Starr Oldorff, the president of the Fayetteville Art Guild. Oldorff is not only an individual who passionately seeks out new venues for members of the guild to exhibit, she has also been exploring the possibility of representing artists and networking with galleries to show their work locally and in the region. For Green Light Gallery it was a perfect match. Oldorff was looking for a venue to show the new work of Robin Gahr and Eric McRay; Studer was open to exhibiting new artists.
    Being familiar with both artists, I was very interested in seeing new works by Gahr and McRay. Neither artist disappointed me; their new work is upbeat, colorful and full of energy.
    After returning to Fayetteville several years ago, Gahr has exhibited in several of the downtown art venues. In this exhibit Gahr’s subjects are varied, but the dominant theme is music. Drums and guitars swing in patterns of color and movement; images are inundated with color and energy. Her familiar style of line, shape and the overlay of shapes and often symbols have emerged into even more movement and energy than her past works.
    So where did the musical theme come from? Gahr addressed this question with ease. “After taking the time to attend the local music venues regularly, and having a passion for music, the theme emerged. I love music and I enjoy the variety of live music being played in the area during the week and on weekends.”
    Knowing Gahr is such a music fan; it seems predictable that she would team up with a musician for the reception on 4th Friday. Musician Edward Protho will be playing new age sound-scape on the keyboard, along with some soft singing.
    An eclectic musician, Protho moved to Fayetteville from Atlanta to perform with a local band. The band disbanded, but Protho stayed to try and make a living as a musician in the area. Protho commented he is “happy to be participating in an event that celebrates the visual arts and Robin Gahr.”
    McRay is an artist from Raleigh who is widely known for his Jazz paintings and depictions of the North Carolina landscape; he can be seen regularly working at Artspace in downtown Raleigh. A fulltime artist, McRay is represented by several galleries in North Carolina, and has exhibited locally at the Architect’s Gallery. He has been featured in Southern Living Magazine.
    McRay is exhibiting a new body of work that incorporates the heart as an icon, as well as exhibiting a selection of small mixed-media works. Double VV Heart is an example of his style of mixing pop with abstraction.
    Similar to Double VV Heart, the hearts in each painting are a dominant shape that fills the canvas, the negative space around its contours creates a curvy boundary between the foreground and background. His line is ink on paper, press type is obscured inside the heart from brush marks; acrylic and metallic paint are oozy contrasts to the hard edge black vinyl ellipses which have been glued onto the surface. McRay commented, “I am always trying to build a special foreground, middle ground and background with textures and forms.”
    Being familiar with his success at painting in a larger format and how popular his Jazz series continues to be, I wondered if the shift to incorporating such a large iconographic symbol in a much smaller scale work was a new direction for the artists. Not so for McRay, he commented, “I have been working on the heart theme for several years. I work on various themes simultaneously to avoid creative block, so I switch up painterly abstraction with other themes, and mix collage and painting at times.”
    Gahr is similar in her approach to painting. In the small mixed-media titled Vibes, she uses mixed media to express an idea through the use of abstraction and the use of symbols. For Gahr, the moon, sun or both are always present symbols in her work, yet subordinate to the energy, movement and color around it. Gahr commented on how the symbols represent a time element in her work. She stated, “I paint motion and movement and energy, yet I am also mindful of the cycles of day and night. We have to go to sleep in order to be able to get up – constant time.”
    Gahr reflected on influences in her work, “What people say and do are my influences. Although the relationship I have with people is in my work, you won’t see the representation of a person in the work. As well, the act of creating is a very physical activity for me; those that see me at work in the studio are somewhat surprised at the pace at which I work. While in the moment of the work, I don’t think about similarity, each area is complex and different for me.”
    {mosimage}The energy in Gahr’s work is similar to the energetic style of McRay; an exhibit by these two particular artists is a perfect match by Oldorff. Gahr refers to the physical when she works and how her relationships with people influence her. McRay addresses his moments of painting as self discovery.
    He stated, “Abstract painting is self discovery, you must tear down mental barriers and prejudices before you can feel the sensation that comes from good abstract painting. One should get a surge from a painting just as you get a sensation from making love or a spiritual awakening.”
    Join the artists this 4th Friday gallery crawl in downtown, it starts at 7 p.m. and ends around 9:30 p.m. Green Light Gallery is two doors down from the Huske Hardware building on the 400 block of Hay Street. For information on the artists call Nancy at Green Light Gallery, (910) 321-1542.

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