WESTERLY — The Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly’s March show, "From Nothing to Something — the Creative Process," will run through March 27 with an opening reception on Friday, March 3, from 5-8 p.m.

The March show will feature works from gallery members with a special highlight of the works of artist members Jane Rollins and Joan Mullins.

As everyone looks forward to "witnessing the magic of spring," said artist Helen Roy, "when once invisible tree buds swell to red, then burst to green and the first crocuses emerge from the soil," the gallery's more than 50 artist members will perform some magic of their own. 

"Many of them will also give visitors a glimpse into how the magic is made," Roy said in a statement from the gallery. "Some works on display will be accompanied by a series of photographs revealing how the piece progressed from nothing — a blank canvas, a lump of clay, a white sheet of paper, or simply an idea — into a finished work of art."

Visitors will find that no two artists approach the creative process in quite the same way, Roy writes, "because producing a finished work of art requires a series of decisions about how to begin, develop, and complete a finished work."

The show is aptly titled, Roy said.

Rollins, said Roy, "makes art from letters."

"It is a process that must be seen to be fully understood," she said. "In 1980, after having completed a master’s degree program, Ms. Rollins decided to take a calligraphy class, for fun. Although she had no art background, she immediately became mesmerized by the meditative practice of the letterforms."

She soon realized that there was a lot more to it than “wiggling your fingers and out come the letters” and began to study in earnest. She joined Masscribes, a Boston-based calligraphy guild, attended workshops and traveled to different cities to attend international conferences.

In 1989 the artist launched Scribe Calligraphy Studio and Gallery in East Greenwich. She has spent many years studying the refinement of historic and traditional letterforms and her work has gradually transitioned into a more abstract realm where, while legibility may not be apparent, the meaning of the text is still paramount. Rollins enjoys experimenting with unconventional lettering tools and mediums such as sticks, shells, folded pens, bleach and balsa wood.

Her artwork has appeared in various international juried publications, and she has exhibited throughout the New England area. In keeping with the theme of the March show, her piece “Songs of Social Justice” will be on display together with an explanation of the process involved in its creation.

Mullins, who enrolled in the University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts to pursue her dream of becoming a painter after retiring from a teaching career in South Africa and the U.S., has an eclectic approach to her work, Roy said.

"It emerges from a background in theater and literature, both of which draw on visual imagery for the dramatization of human experience," Roy writes. "The vast landscapes of her South African childhood are among her earliest influences. Since then, she has traveled extensively and finds herself captivated by the drama of the unexpected images she comes across — patterns, shapes, colors, light and textures."

She has moved gradually toward abstraction through the use of loose brushstrokes, the thick application of paint, mixed media, and the distortion of perspective or scale. These abstract paintings strongly reflect the March exhibition theme because she delights in creating from repurposed castoffs such as discarded paintings, paint blots on paper toweling and laundry dryer sheets. The titles of her work are intentionally open-ended, slightly provocative, and sometimes obscure.

— Nancy Burns-Fusaro

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