SPRUCE PINE — Toe River Arts has announced a pair of upcoming exhibitions taking place in the coming weeks.

‘Emotional States,’ an Exhibition of Works by the Beyond Prison Artist Alliance

“Emotional States,” an exhibition of works by artists in the Beyond Prison Artist Alliance, will be at its Spruce Pine Gallery August 5 to September 12.

The Beyond Prison Artist Alliance is a community of artists incarcerated at Avery Mitchell Correctional Institution (AMCI) and artists affiliated with the Penland School of Craft and Appalachian State University networks, who joined to facilitate short and long form workshops within the prison.

Beyond Prison’s mission is to build artistic community through collaborative education efforts within the prison and the pursuit of exhibition opportunities that amplify the voices of incarcerated artists to the outside world. Beyond Prison aspires to be a human and empowering presence that relies on all participants and a broader creative community to imagine art as an essential tool of liberation.

“Our classroom philosophy is rooted in reciprocal learning and active participation,” artists Daniel Beck and Sarah Rose Lejeune explain.

In a personal statement for the exhibition, AMCI artist Frederick Brason describes his creative practice, writing, “It’s not what comes out of the process that is most important but what happens in him during the process.” Another AMCI artist, Edwin Paul Riegger writes in his artist statement that “he has a need or desire to create that supersedes all other needs and wants. A need to create something even if it’s a cluttered mess. For even in the clutter, a confined solace and comfort of the mind can be found.”

The exhibition is open to the public as well as online at toeriverarts.org. In lieu of an opening reception, Sarah Rose Lejeune and Daniel Beck will give an artist talk about the pieces in the exhibition and the Beyond Prison Artist Alliance program more broadly, describing the program’s role within AMCI and situating this work within the broader field of prison art programs. Toe River Arts will host a live Zoom discussion from 4 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 4. This event will be an in-depth conversation about the impact of COVID-19 on incarcerated people, the evolution of the Beyond Prison Artist Alliance over the last three years, and the ways that their classes use art as a tool for building community. To attend this online event, email info@toeriverarts.org to RSVP.

Work by AMCI incarcerated artists will not be sold but work by Penland and ASU will be available for purchase. The proceeds will be invested in the local community in the name of the Beyond Prison Artist Alliance artists: Daniel T Beck, Audrey Bell, Ted Brason, Matthew Caldwell, David Clemons, Cristina Cordova, Annie Evelyn, L Autumn Gnadinger, Bri Gribbens, Corey Higgins, William Hopkins, Eric Hughes Sr., Megan Hunter, Edward Hyleman, William Inscoe, David Jones, Sope Kahn, Sarah Rose Lejeune, Janet Link, Nancy Lowe, Olivia Luteman, Timothy Maddox, Rachel Meginnes, Matthew Otter, Robert G. Reid, Edwin Riegger, Hannah Roman, Juan Santiago, Michael Sheets, Albert Stabler, Vic Suter and Leon Ward.

The Beyond Prison Artist Alliance would not be possible without the work of AMCI Volunteer Coordinator Angela Lamm and Penland School of Craft’s Community Collaborations Manager Stacey Lane, the grant writing efforts of Nancy Lowe and the support of Penland School of Craft. This project was made possible in part by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.

‘Between Psyche and Matter,’ an Exhibition of Works by Zac Trainor

SPRUCE PINE – Toe River Arts announces the opening of “Between Psyche and Matter,” an exhibition of works by Zac Trainor, in the ARC Gallery at its Spruce Pine location Aug. 5 to Sept. 2.

Trainor presents a confrontation with the unconscious in an effort to capture or access a glimpse beyond the veil and into the realm of the soul.

“The processes taking place in our conscious and unconscious, the conflict of desire versus necessity, the struggle to obtain a sense of place, and the impermanence of our existence are just some of the underlying philosophies and inspiration in the works,” Trainor said.

Trainor works with concepts and imagery that explore the alternate realities of our existence. Ghostly, layered, and nostalgic, his works describe a confident loneliness that lends the viewer to self-reflection, evoking a meditation on both the beautiful and harsh realities of this world and the mystery or defeat of what may lie beyond. Each work is meant as a dialogue with the past, present, and future, not at separate instances, but rather all moments occurring at once.

While there are often bold, bright strokes of color present in the works, there is always an ominous force that eludes to a darker, hidden meaning. Transparent, obscured, or partial figures entangled amongst an all-encompassing, unraveling atmosphere are used to portray a sense of impermanence or loss. Influenced by the work of the abstract expressionists just as much as the old masters, his genre-bending style is a constant battle between the tangible and intangible elements of existence.

“Every day we encounter a variety of stimuli and experiences where words fail us, and the psyche takes hold. It is these moments that I seek to capture in my work,” said Trainor.

The exhibitions will be open to the public during normal operating hours. Cloth face coverings worn over the mouth and nose are required while visiting. For additional information, click to toeriverarts.org or contact Exhibition Manager Kathryn Andree at kathryn@toeriverarts.org or (828) 765-0524.

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