From now until Dec. 20, artworks by 45 artists from across the state will be on display at the Ephesus Public Library, 200 Rogers St. It is the 28th anniversary of the Georgia Artists with Disabilities statewide tour, and it is the first time the show – which features the work of two West Georgia artists – has visited the community just across the Carroll County border.
The works are in all media, watercolor, oils and acrylic, along with pottery, textiles, paper and jewelry and others. Many are for sale and command handsome prices, as befit items of rich detail and composition. The fact that they were done by people with physical limitations only adds to their value.
Being selected to have works shown in the exhibit “is amazing,” according to Shelia Swann of Buchanan, who nevertheless has had works in several past shows.
“I’m really an infant-grade artist,” she confesses; seeing herself in the same league as the other artists leaves her a little awestruck. “I’ll look at them and see if there’s something new I can learn from their work.”
Georgia Artists with Disabilities Inc. was founded by the Pilot Clubs of Metro Atlanta, and is supported by Georgia District Pilot Clubs, which has local chapters across the state including Carrollton, Haralson and Heard counties. It was the Heard County group that asked to be on the tour this year, according to Marcelle Watkins, travel coordinator for the show and one of the key people in its creation.
The exhibit also is a chance to showcase the facilities of the Ephesus Public Library, whose manager is Donna Alvis. The 6,100-square-foot library opened in 2009.
The Georgia Artists with Disabilities project provides artists with an opportunity to display and sell their works, but it also is designed to show the public how physical obstacles can be overcome.
Swann has been painting for more than 30 years and is largely self taught; her only real instruction having come from attending classes in a craft store. Working without any adaptive tools, she has learned to work in oils, watercolors and acrylic, but she prefers the latter two, since they are quicker.
“I go through other peoples’ vacation pictures and try to get ideas, because you run out of ideas,” she said. “I have to reference a little bit, so I try to get (original) photos” – those which have not been, for example, published in a book.
Her entry for this year’s show took honorable mention and is called “Beach Silhouette.”
“It was one of my friends’ photos that he took on one of his trips. It was out in California, so it’s a beach scene.”
The work shows a beach cabana silhouetted against a sun setting over a watery horizon.
“I tried something a little bit different this year,” she said.
Swann has gotten more than compliments for her artwork – she has sold several pieces and even worked on commission. Some of her works are currently on sale in Buchanan at Glenda’s Notions and Gifts on Courthouse Square.
“I think it turned out really well,” she said of her entry. “I’ve done all kinds of things. I do birds, then I’ll turn around and do a barn.”
But she confesses that one subject that escapes her is people. Whenever a human figure appears in one of her paintings, they are only seen from the back.
Another West Georgia artist showing his work is Zachary Shay of Douglasville. He works in pottery and crafts unusual pieces, such as this year’s entry, “Lizard Big in Ocean.” According to his bio in the show’s catalog, Shay was born “profoundly deaf” and has “no radius bones or thumbs, though he never considered these conditions handicaps.”
Neither would the panel of distinguished art experts who judged the entries purely on the artists’ talent and expression. The range of the artwork is stunning, and is in virtually every media, from woodburning to photography and from embroidery to pine needles. Most of the art is also for sale, and the prices reflect both the skill of artists as well as the estimation of the fine arts professionals who graded the works.
One acrylic piece, “Field Workers,” is by Valton Murray of Mesena, Ga., who has become well known as a folk artist across the Southeast. It commands a price of $1,000.
Swann is also a member of the Pilot Clubs. The clubs support the overall service focus of Pilot International, which is to help those who, through injury or disease, have suffered brain-related disorders which affect their movement or cognitive abilities.
She says the local chapters produce programs for senior citizens and for school children, teaching kids the importance of wearing safety helmets to prevent brain trauma during sports.
The Georgia Artists with Disabilities exhibition began in September in Camilla, Ga., and will travel across 10 Georgia cities before ending in Brunswick in July 2013. After leaving Ephesus, the exhibit will travel to Thomaston.