In one gallery in Waynesville this month, the nations of the world will gather. While the international dance and song of Folkmoot will take their traditional place in Haywood County’s summer calendar, this year international art will also make an appearance at “The World Around Us,” a show put on by the Haywood Arts Council in Gallery 86 on Main Street in Waynesville.
The show runs through July 30 and features works from seven artists from across Europe and Central America. Their works range in scope, including painters, weavers, photographers and mixed-media artists.
Silvia Williams is a native of Cuba, and the warm Spanish lilt remains in her voice and laugh, though she hasn’t lived there in more than 50 years. Williams spent much of her career as a foreign language teacher, at universities and in public and private schools. But her dream, and now her career, was in abstract art.
“I had a sort-of drawing talent and little by little, I just kept on painting and just recently I feel like I became what I wanted to be and that is an abstract painter,” said Williams. She’s not always been a North Carolinian — she and her husband moved here from Florida around 10 years ago — but the state has been intertwined through her life.
“I feel kind of fated to North Carolina from the beginning,” said Williams. “I came here to school in my early teens and then I married this North Carolinian, I went to the University of North Carolina. North Carolinians, especially westerns, remind me a lot of Cubans.”
Though she said her Cuban heritage doesn’t have a direct effect on the watermedia pieces she produces today, at least one piece of her Caribbean culture still shines through.
“I imagine that the thing that perhaps that could have influenced that is that I love color so much and my painting is a lot about color,” said Williams.
She’s learned her craft over the years through classes, workshops, books and the unrivalled teacher that is hands-on experience.
Today, her process isn’t mapped out in steps, but intuited along the way.
“I never have a definite plan, it just evolves from there,” said Williams. “If I plan something … that’s when it dies.”
Her best pieces, she said, have evolved in that way. And those are the ones she chooses when deciding what to put in shows. If she likes it, it goes.
And for Williams, it’s a good system. The ones she sells are usually the ones she loves.
Williams’ work can be seen at Gallery 86 and also at Gallery 262 in Frog Level.
Yvonne Van der Meer Lappas
Yvonne Van der Meer Lappas has lived an international life. That’s how she describes her journey from Amsterdam to Clyde, with many global stops in between.
Lappas has been an artist her whole life, studying at Paris’ L’Ecole des Beaus Arts at the Sorbonne after finishing school in the Netherlands.
Then, however, she turned her artistry to industry, working in fashion design for 16 years.
Her career took her to all of the usual hot spots for haute couture — New York, Paris, Rome — but didn’t quite fulfill her need for artistic expression.
“That was just making a living and fashion is very demanding,” said Lappas. But she squeezed the painting in at night, taking workshops and classes at the Art Student’s League in New York and studying the techniques of Rudolph Steiner and his watercolor veil paintings.
Then she and her husband moved to Clyde around 20 years ago, and she leapt into not only her own artistry, but the area’s vibrant artistic community.
“It is totally different from New York City, where everything is high dollar and big art shows and big money,” said Lappas, mentioning craft schools like Penland that feature traditional artistry that isn’t often seen in larger urban areas. “It is very charming to see how much interest there is in art here. It really is no wonder that people like to come here.”
When asked what has kept Lappas involved in her own creations and the artistic scene throughout the years, she replies as though that is, of course, a foregone conclusion.
“It’s a lifeline for me, it’s a voice that I have to follow. Any artist could tell you that. It’s a must. You have to get it out of you.”