YADKINVILLE — “Wonderfully Made,” the newest exhibit at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center, opened on Friday with a reception featuring the artists, painter Cory Willingham and glass blower Nicolas van der Does. This artistic husband and wife team resides in New Orleans, Louisiana, and said the city where they live has a huge impact on their art.
“The city has such incredible soul,” Willingham said. “It had a big part of informing this show.”
Van der Does added that “it’s a vibrant city.”
The couple met in 2008 while both working on their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in their respective mediums. They moved to New Orleans in 2010.
“When you’re from New Orleans,” Willingham explained, “you are from New Orleans and not even the city, it’s your neighborhood. That is where you hail from and that is a huge part of your identity and getting a sense of that was really cool for me.”
The show “Wonderfully Made” is all about exploring home, family, heritage and connection to those things.
“It’s an exploration of how do you determine where you are from if you don’t have that absolute home,” Willingham said. “How do you determine what your worth is if you don’t feel like you belong any where.”
Van der Does said that the long and nearly unchanged history of the process of glass blowing is how he expresses those themes.
“For me, it’s part of the process. It’s quite an intense process. There are no breaks in between. You have to stay with it the whole time so for me, my feelings are translated by the way that I do it and the process that I go through to make it. It’s an intense process, but I love it.”
The glass pieces in the exhibit were created in groupings designed to be considered individually and as part of the “family” as a whole. The pieces feature brilliant colors and the fluidity of the glass blowing process is captured within each one.
Willingham’s paintings are a unique portrait style theme with birds instead of humans. Before the advent of Facebook and genealogy sites like Ancestry.com, Willingham said that old family portraits might be all the knowledge a family could access about their forebears.
“The only thing you knew about ‘Uncle William’ was what was expressed in this one portrait,” she said. “That was it and that was all you had.”
As a departure from some of her past work in depicting extreme weather, Willingham said she gave these portrait style paintings a touch of whimsy by using birds instead of people.
“For me they were a fun, whimsical way of creating these wonderful family people,” she said.
Though the couple practices two very different art forms, their shared loved of art is what drew them together initially and what keeps their relationship strong.
“We have fun working together since our media are so different,” Willingham said. “It’s fun because we pick out colors together. We each sketch shapes and ideas and concepts together and that’s why I think our stuff visually goes together so well because we have sort of the same aesthetic and color pallet and to a certain extent the same narrative quality to it.”
The pair never have a lack of conversation topics, Van der Does added.
“There’s always something to talk about,” he said. “People love to talk about art. You can say anything about art and we’re the ones that get to create it.”
“We can debate art all day long and it’s just delicious,” Willingham agreed. She also added that their shared knowledge and love of art benefited them both.
“I think that’s what we can bring to each other’s art that helps us make each other better artists. We just have that love in common,” Willingham said.
Their next project, Willingham said with a laugh, was to finish painting their bathroom.
The “Wonderfully Made” exhibit will be on display at the Welborn Gallery in the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center until June 29.
Kitsey E. Burns can be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.