Florence Art School hosted the 4th Annual Corey Anne Celebration of Women in the Arts in August of 2016. The exhibit featured four local and regional female artists: Martha Gimlin,Wheeler Munroe, Mary-Ann Prack and Loretta Weaver. Alexa Rose played two sets of original songs as a part of the exhibit opening. The Symposium on Women’s Influence in the Arts included talks by all the exhibit participants as well as keynote speaker Dr. Sally Atkins.
Martha was born in Buffalo, New York, and her formative years were spent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Encouraged by her mother, Betty Herbert, she began painting at the age of 12. Her mother worked in an art gallery and took all her little paintings off and sold them.
Martha attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, majoring in English. In 1971 she married Hal and moved to North Carolina where they bought a Christmas tree farm in Ashe County. Soon after, Wiley and Jody were born, setting the stage for a fulfilling life. It was this environment, family and farm life that inspired her to start painting again, and spend much time with the Ashe County Arts Council.
Martha had two outstanding characteristics – exuberance and talent – both displayed in her art work. Her exuberance was displayed in the presence of others – always in the best of attitude, with a smile and intensity of emotion for people with whom she was with. She gave you all the attention and energy that could be given in her presence.
This intensity was also channeled into her artwork. Martha’s art talent delved into sculpture, producing numerous busts of family and God’s creatures, and paintings, where flowers or fruit were the major subjects of her interest. And in these paintings, a singular (or pair of) flowers or fruit would dominate the landscape. The colors and likeness of the flower were so unique and appeared to reflect the same focus and intensity she gave to people in her presence. When viewing displays of her work at the Arts Council, local art studios, or at home, one would wonder if these flowers represented certain people in her life, each with their unique personalities.
Wheeler Munroe is a multi-faceted maker with her hands in woodworking, upholstery, leather work and farming. She studied fine art at the UNC School of the Arts, and furniture making both at the College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking School, and abroad at Capella Garden in Sweden. Today she produces carefully crafted leather tool belts, and farms maple syrup in the mountains of North Carolina.
Wheeler states regarding her artwork:
“When I make things, it is with a desire to create things that are worthwhile. Worthwhile for the enjoyment of the passing moment within the making, and worthwhile in that the end result is an object that enhances the daily experience through its use and presence, something that is worth holding onto because it is a pleasure to have and use, and that will not only endure with use, but warm and improve with age.”
The human figure is an infinite source of inspiration for me as an artist. It is my personal expression of the
human experience on a physical, emotional and spiritual level and is revealed in each of the sculptures I
create. Clay is the ideal medium for my work on many levels, including having total involvement in every
stage of the creative process and the controlled flexibility that allows intuitive and spontaneous ‘in the
moment’ execution. My sculptures consist of elegant, organic and geometric forms with treated surfaces.
And yet simple forms, with abstract painterly surfaces, colorful glazes, and incised lines, that when
experienced in person, have a very distinctive presence, personality, and energy. Each conveying real
human qualities and emotion. It is this intuitive process of turning clay into something tangible and meaningful
that has kept me fully enthusiastic and passionate about my work over the last thirty years. As a result, my
work has evolved in a continuous growth progression; developing with creative rhythm and in a natural, lineal
I have created over 400 individual sculptures of many different sizes and shapes. Much of my large-scale work pushes the envelope of clay sculpture construction without compromise of artistic vision or integrity; forcing the development of methods to overcome drawbacks inherent in the use of clay. Problems such as body weight, glaze fit/finish, kiln size limitations are solved by using a specially formulated clay body that, when fired, has a stone-like hardness, strength and consistency suitable for large-scale, three dimensional construction. After the first bisque firing I apply glazes and stains in much the same manner as a painter approaches a new canvas, and fire once again to attain the final colors and surface patterns. On occasion, I use cold-colors or metallic oxides to obtain a specific surface treatment. Sizes range from one to nine feet in height. At this stage the completed clay piece can also be used as a master form for finish casting in the more traditional metal methods using bronze, iron, aluminum or stainless steel.
“The figure has been the subject for sculptors since the beginning of human history; to interpret the figure in
an artistically original way at this point in time is almost impossible. Mary-Ann has accomplished this. Her work
is powerful from a distance, but the details make it quite exceptional up close.”
John Henry, American sculptor, juror – Sculpture Celebration 2009, Lenoir, NC – excerpt from juror’s remarks.
Loretta Weaver, an Ashe County, NC, native, started painting with Florence Thomas. She was a homemaker with two children but still found time for her work. Now that her children are grown up and her husband has passed away she says she has “all the time in the world to paint”. In addition to studying under Florence Thomas, Loretta also took workshops with John Sours and Joe Miller. Her interest in art began when she was a child and started painting on her own. A longtime member of the Blue Ridge Art Clan, Loretta has been a part of many of the exhibits in the area.