Article by Laura Fogg
Visitors to the Corner Gallery in March will be welcomed by an extraordinary show in the front windows. Entitled “Spirit – the Art of Gene Avery North.” it will take viewers on a magical and mystical journey to and through the flights of Gene’s prolific imagination. Though Gene is no stranger to showing her work in Ukiah galleries, this will probably be the largest collection displayed in one place.
First and foremost, Gene is a fabulously skilled painter. She can render a human or animal form as flawlessly as the Renaissance masters, but she has a way of leaving Classical imagery behind in a burst of her own charged energy. Her juxtaposed and sometimes zany combinations of allegory, fantasy, disparate images and botanical detail can leave one’s head spinning… both with surprise and delight.
Gene’s biography, in her own words, sheds light on her complex and passionate inner workings: “I was born in Memphis, 1947. Had a great tomboy suburban horse-filled childhood. Went to Memphis College of Art 1965-1969, and studied sculpture and photography. Later I became protégée to Burton Callicott, the great minimalist painter, and calligrapher. He was president of the Theosophical Society in Memphis, and really kindled my interest in trying to do something with meaning, something with heart, passion and soul. Also, I was so fortunate to have studied with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan for 4 years at his music school in San Rafael. I have had many great teachers over the years, and am really grateful.”
Gene continues, “Now I am 76, and find that it is more fun to get my answers from just me. Takes no time, and it’s free! If I goof up, then just try again to do better. No shame. no blame. Today, I feel my job is trying to do good work to help save sacred sites, and especially to support the Water Protectors through my art. My wonderful supervisors in Lakota land keep me inspired. What with all the trouble these days, it seems all of us suffer from anxiety. So, find your over-ride happy place, choose the love, and send it out there in whatever way you can.”
Gene leaves us with some thoughts particular to this show, “Making these pictures is a way for me to feel peaceful, because I have to concentrate. Some are images that won’t go away until I paint them. Some are my happy places, and provide a lovely escape.” All are images that will bring a sense of wonder to the viewers.
The First Friday opening celebration for Gene Avery North’s show is on March 3 from 5-8pm. Live music will be provided throughout the evening by Steve Winkle. The Corner Gallery is located at 201 S State St in Ukiah.