With Mixed-Media Artists, Watercolor Painters, and Sculptors, GreenHill’s Winter Show Returns with a Renewed Focus on Cultural Diversity

North Carolina Arts Council

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art, in Greensboro, has opened its forty-second annual Winter Show, which features a wide range of contemporary artwork by emerging and established artists across the state. This two-month exhibition, which will run through February 16, strengthens GreenHill’s focus on cultural diversity and demonstrates its innovative approach to presenting art amid a global pandemic. “Winter Show inspires connection and openness to new perspectives,” Barbara Richter, GreenHill’s executive director and chief executive officer, said in an interview with The News & Record. “The exhibition offers coveted access to many of our state’s most innovative and thoughtful creators both online and in-person. More than 400 works by emerging and established artists showcase the resilience of our multifaceted cultural community."

The North Carolina Arts Council asked five artists featured in the Winter Show how the pandemic has affected them as an artist and how art has helped both them and their community persevere. Their stories show the many ways in which the arts spark fellowship, vitality, and healing. Despite the uncertainty of these times, North Carolina artists continue to create meaningful work.



A Bangladeshi immigrant whose work combines traditional Bengali decorative art forms with Western gestural abstraction to celebrate her personal and artistic voyage and growth, Selina Akter sees her art as a way to show love and support for her community. “During the pandemic my daughter and I made some handmade cards with sweet notes for COVID-19 patients at Transition Life Care Center, in Raleigh. I believe those cards with colorful art brought some joy to those residents.” For Selina, as for so many people, the pandemic has been a time of great difficulty and sorrow. She said, “I have lost many friends and family members, including my father. I was overwhelmed by my loss and by thinking about our uncertain future. Art helped me to calm down, relieve my stress, and hope for a brighter future.”

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Crystal Hurt is a painter and a musician, and her artwork beautifully combines the power of both media and that of the natural world. The pandemic, however, dampened her inspiration. Without shows to submit work to and a halt placed on in-person learning for her graduate school program, she “spent several months not painting at all.” This fallow time gave her a chance to “give serious thought to her goals as an artist, and to reassess her work and where she wanted it to go.” Eventually this period of reassessment led her down a new path of collaborative artwork, and she partnered with fellow GreenHill Winter Show artist Lucas Hundley. Together they created a series of painted wooden salt and pepper shakers, some of which are shown above. Crystal had never worked collaboratively on a piece of art before, but she came to see the unknown of the pandemic as a perfect opportunity to breach what was for her unknown artistic territory. “Taking my art in new directions, in the midst of seemingly everything going in a new direction, feels reassuringly like moving forward.” 

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Jasmine Best believes that “creating art is prayer.” Her machine-sewn wall hangings and woven rugs present narratives of the artist’s childhood in North Carolina and evoke themes of self-identity, representations of Blackness, and cultural stereotypes. “I am most at peace when creating art,” she said. “During the pandemic, making art was what helped me process what was happening and to check in on my mental and physical health.” The pandemic presented some hurdles for her art-making, but those challenges provided inspiration. “I had to think differently about how I sourced my materials. Some of my favorite places to buy art supplies were either temporarily closed or permanently closed during the pandemic, so my art practice became even more sustainable than it was before. I tried to use the fabric that was already in my studio for new work.” You can see the results for yourself in the works pictured above.

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Julio Gonzalez, a Charlotte-based painter and printmaker, describes his work as “if Hansel and Gretel had met Quetzalcoatl while trying to find their way home.” His art draws on his father’s Aztec heritage and his mother’s Mayan one, reclaiming them through a contemporary lens. The pandemic forced Gonzalez to work smaller. “Prior to the pandemic, I had access to larger studio space. I have had to move to a small spare bedroom, which I share with another artist.” The move there changed his approach to making art. “I have moved from painting to using watercolors and inks to get quick immediate manifestations of my ideas. I recently completed a series of five-inch by seven-inch watercolor and ink works depicting a reimagining of Mayan cosmology and mythology.” Julio Gonzalez is no stranger to the healing power of art, using his paints, inks, and watercolors as tools to process the ever-changing climate of the pandemic. He says, “Creating art heals by allowing one to express and get out things they can't verbally. Really good art is able to do that for many.”

Connect with Julio Gonzalez:

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Jonathan Vizcuña saw the isolation of the pandemic as a chance to look inward. “Staying in art and getting lost is pure bliss. There is nothing better than this. The myriad little things on the outside serve as the coveted creative catalyst for my art,” he said, reminiscing on the world we left behind at the beginning of 2020. “Interesting and bizarre conversations, strangely beautiful hand-painted signs on buildings, rebellious flowers running down the sidewalk, and an endless list of inspirations: all I have to continue now is the memories of those experiences.” His intricate sculptures of animals, created using bright, carefully folded paper, evoke the special connections many of us had during the pandemic with our pets—for some of us, our only companions. “The pandemic has pushed everyone from isolation to introspection, whether welcomed or not. As an artist, it's not the worst place, as it happens automatically when you create a piece.”

Connect with Jonathan Vizcuña:

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GreenHill’s Winter Show is free and open to the public. All pieces showcased are for sale. See the work of these five artists among more than 400 other pieces in the gallery (which has updated its COVID safety guidelines) or browse the collection online.