Chapel Hill News

Brushstrokes: Open Studio Tour rolls into town

Chapel Hill artist Ruth Ananda often is inspired to create her acrylic on canvas paintings, currently with leaf and birds motifs, from her longtime devotion to yoga. Ananda is on this year’s artists in the Orange County Studio Tour.
Chapel Hill artist Ruth Ananda often is inspired to create her acrylic on canvas paintings, currently with leaf and birds motifs, from her longtime devotion to yoga. Ananda is on this year’s artists in the Orange County Studio Tour.

Ruth Ananda was so sure she would be rejected when she applied to join the Orange County Artists Guild this year, she already had a Plan B.

“I had decided that when my work is more mature, I would re-apply,” said the painter.

Not only was she accepted, but she was encouraged to join the guild’s 19th annual Open Studio Tour.

The tour offers the chance to explore the studios, some of them in the homes of the 76 featured artists throughout Orange County.

Bird Nest Studio, at 805 Kenmore Road in Chapel Hill, is where Ananda creates her acrylic paintings inspired by nature, yoga and meditation.

While in school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Ananda majored in art and minored in religion, studying Tibetan Buddhism with Jeffrey Hopkins, who served as the Dalai Lama’s interpreter for a decade and is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. “When Jeffrey would host monks in Charlottesville, I would get to study with them,” said Ananda, who taught herself yoga and also has been trained to teach it.

Visitors will see works that, much like the practices that inspire them, are calming and absorbing. All are part of Ananda’s series called “The Field and the Knower of the Field,” which is the title of a chapter of the Hindu text “The Bhagavad Gita.”

Her talent is evident in her work, but she remains shy about it.

“My friend, artist Anna Crawford, offered to help me so I won’t be alone welcoming people in, and that made me feel like I can do this,” said Ananda, who, like most artists, feels nervous when she shares her work.

“I am putting myself out there, and I wonder if people will like my work. I am exposing myself,” she said. “I feel vulnerable that way.”

Good sales medium

Carroll Lassiter, at 1900 Jo Mac Road in Chapel Hill, has been involved with the tour from the start.

“We started with about 25 people. It was an experiment to see if people would actually show up,” she said. “It has been a really good sales medium for me.”

Edenton, Lassiter’s hometown, is flat, open, and agricultural; it offers endless inspiration for Lassiter’s oil paintings. “You get big skies and there is a lot of water around,” she said. “I just get a really solid feeling when I am looking at the field, and I try to put that in my paintings.”

The painting that Lassiter would hate to see go – despite the important fact that it would signify a sale – is a new one that captures an early-morning view of a field seen from her mother’s Edenton home.

“It is looking towards a creek that I am real familiar with. The mist was on the field; the sky is real pink; and the cypress trees had turned a coppery color,” Lassiter said.

In addition to nature, tools inspire Lassiter. “I like the integrity of what tools can do – move earth or cultivate your garden,” she said.

No intimidating galleries

This year’s guild president is Linda Carmel, at 101 Huntington Drive in Chapel Hill, who was juried into the group in 2008.

“I love the behind-the-scenes feeling of the studio tour,” Carmel said. “I was a teacher before I was an artist, and (I) enjoy talking about my work and demonstrating my painting process. Some people come back year after year and have become friends. Also, art galleries can be intimidating for many people.”

Visitors to Carmel’s studio, which she shares with glassblower Pringle Teetor for the tour, will see “Autumn Glow.”

“One of the things I loved about being a tour visitor was driving through Orange County enjoying the fall colors, so I wanted to do a painting that reflected this time of year,” she said. “I know we don’t have many aspen trees here, which is the subject of the piece, but I remember them from my time in Colorado, and I love their silver-gray trunks.”

The very first photogram made by tour artist Jamie Hagenberger, at 2408 Wade Hampton Road in Hillsborough, was of a common landscaping plant, nandina. Her experimentation with the color of the light and filters during its creation produced, an exquisite, blue image.

“I loved this piece and when I finally opened my own studio, it became my muse," said Hagenberger, who has been on the tour three years. “So I named my workspace Blue Nandina Studio.”

Photograms are made in a darkroom without a camera or a negative. An object or objects – such as a leaf or flower – are placed on photo sensitive paper, exposed to light and then developed.

“Not many artists focus on this technique,” Hagenberger said. “When I experienced this magic in the darkroom, I was so in love with what resulted that I have never moved on.

“I did wrestle for a while with calling myself a photographer since I don’t use a camera or negative … ,”Hagenberger said. “I got a degree in photography but put my camera down because I got burnt out. I realized I was passionate about the darkroom and imagery, whatever form that comes in. Photograms are my identity.”