Physicists teach that life is motion. All life. Even a sedentary rock.
Gloria Coker reveals the motion of everyday scenes, people and objects in her paintings to celebrate the underlying rhythm of life. In her own words, Coker’s paintings of musicians, dancers and beach and street scenes appear more like videos than static images.
The work of the 77-year-old Virginia artist is on display at the Dare County Arts Council through Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Thirty-five acrylic paintings fill the upstairs gallery of the Manteo venue. They call to the viewer to listen to a saxophone, watch as children splash in the ocean, feel the rhythm as a tango unfolds and sense the air rushing by as bicyclists race through an explosion of color and lively brush strokes.
Some works appear fully abstract while others merge abstraction with impressionism to reveal swirling dresses, strumming hands, and collective and contemplative faces of performing musicians.
Figure and background merge as blurred edges and a cacophony of brushstrokes create a moving moment rather than a still snapshot. Couple these choices with vibrant, complementary color, and you have myriad celebrations of life enlivening the staid, wooden-walled gallery that, ironically, once served as a courtroom.
Coker never thought she would be an artist. She earned a degree in psychology and another to be a counselor. Eventually — and armed with a talent for drawing and an excellent visual memory — she went into illustration in the newsroom at the Daily Press and also did courtroom drawings. Over the years, she photographed life creating a morgue of images from which she painted.
“My family was involved in biking, ballroom dancing, tai chi,” she said. “I had access to those things. I did art for the Virginia Symphony for four years.”
While she may start a painting — she works in acrylics — using a photograph as a reference, she may turn what once was an oysterman into a bicycle mechanic.
“These are all made up,” she says of her current work. “I do not have something I copied from a photograph here. They are invented.”
What matters to Coker is accuracy, how fingers are place on a keyboard, how a musician is holding an instrument.
While Coker can paint a realistic portrait, she is more interested in engaging the viewer in what a person is doing. Her figures may have minimal features to keep the focus on their actions.
As a result, she presents universal happenings to which a broad swathe of people can relate. She keeps them attracted, as moving things do.
“Motion and emotion,” she says. “If I can get someone to feel it inside, I have accomplished something.”
Replicating a pulsing sense of life is not easy unless, as in Coker’s case, the paint runs through your blood.
An opening reception is at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, at Dare County Arts Council, 300 Queen Elizabeth Ave., Manteo.
Also, at the Dare County Arts Council is the work of Fay Davis Edwards. Called "Watermark," the exhibit — which runs Nov. 1-26 — includes paintings, photography, and film as part of an installation.
Edwards’ focus is on climate change and sea level rise. “…paying particular attention to the voices of those of us along the coastlines who have to experience these changes in real time as more and more severe storms and flooding change the landscape of our homes,” she said in her artist statement.
Her work focuses not only on climate change and sea level rise, but also how these things affect people in a socio-economic way. Her sensitive subject matter pairs beautifully with her strong technical skills including draftsmanship and delicate and purposeful handling of paint.
A recent Masters graduate in Studio Art from Maine College of Art in Portland, Edwards’ video, "Watermark," was selected to be included in an exhibition at UMass/Amhurst in a film exhibition called “SCREEN2019: CLIMATES.”
"My painting, 'NCHB819,' is being included in an anthology focusing on Maine artists’ response to climate change entitled “Anthology on Climate Change” published by Littoral Press and due out in November,” she says.
These works will be included in her DCAC exhibit. An opening exhibit is at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1.
Edwards is an adjunct instructor of art with College of the Albemarle, and she operates a studio in downtown Manteo at Magnolia Market, where she teaches classes and hosts pop-up shows.
She is a major figure in the Dare County art scene and is the creative director of Expressions of Hope and Healing (in conjunction with DCAC) where she and others work with people affected by cancer including the infrastructure that supports the patient. The open studio provides a creative outlet, which includes art classes and supplies.
Edwards has won multiple awards and honors for her art including the 2019 Scholarship Award for Bookmaking, Monson Arts, Monson, Maine, and the People’s Choice Exhibition Award, Dare County Arts Council, which culminated in her having this current exhibition.
She was chosen from a field of over two dozen artists working in varying mediums.