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A Place of Diversity and Beauty

March 26, 2016
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"Stillness" is an oil painting on canvas board of Eastern Shore marsh land. 6" x 6" by Barbara J Hart

STILLNESS © Barbara J Hart is oil on canvas board and measures 6″ x 6″


I just love the marshes along the Eastern Shore. A walk through these magical boggy places encourages you to slow down, take in the sights, smells and sounds of nature. They are places that fill you with awe and a reverence for the beauty and diversity of nature.



“A thin wet sky, that yellows at the rim,

And meets with sun-lost lip the marsh’s brim”…

by E. Pauline Johnson


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Interview with Karen Stastny – Contemporary New Orleans/Asheville Abstract Artist

February 28, 2016
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What do a native of New Orleans and a native of Brooklyn find in common while volunteering at a Food Bank in Asheville? Painting!

Meeting Karen Stastny was like reconnecting with an old friend. While packing bags of rice and pasta, we chatted about this and that and discovered that we had so much in common, including our love of painting and our love of a good belly laugh.

Karen’s spontaneous gestural abstract paintings are full of life and energy. Each painting contains a glorious palette that conveys the pure expression of her creative spirit with a sensitivity to blending color, form and texture. Enjoy the interview.


Karen Stastny in front of CHARTING A PATH, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48"

Karen Stastny in front of “Charting a Path”, acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 48″

Why did you choose abstract art and what is the most challenging (and best) part of working in your medium?

I chose abstraction because it is the art I respond to most.  At some point it dawned on me when I was looking at realistic work, that the pleasure I derive from it is when I could distill it down into an abstract construction. Overall, I am usually looking for a feeling, an emotion, a why did I paint this painting.

Since acrylic paint dries quickly, I can change my mind. I paint very intuitively.  It also allows me to add different media like charcoal, pencil, oil bars, etc. I can also draw into and on top of the work. It’s just very flexible. I also like that I don’t need to use toxic solvent with the medium.

How does living in Asheville influence your art?

I am certainly closer to nature in Asheville, than in New Orleans, and the weather permits being outside a lot more. I think more nature elements will creep in. I also think the palette will change a bit, as it usually does with me in different seasons.

What does having a physical space to make art mean to your process?  Describe your studio space and how, if at all, it affects your work? How do you make your space work for you?

My physical space definitely impacts my work.  The Asheville studio is very light, and large and spacious.  I feel like I can breathe.  The paintings from here reflect that lightness of being.  The New Orleans studio is great, but snaller.  I feel more closed in there, so the paintings are not as loose and free feeling.

How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?

I have been an artist for about 15 years.  I have a degree in Fine Arts.  When I was thinking about quitting my job to paint full time, my husband told me he thought he could support me if I could buy my own paint. I started teaching children’s art classes out of my house in order to pay for my supplies.  Eventually I ended up teaching adult classes at both the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and the Jewish Community Center.  I am not very aggressive.  Each gallery I have ever been associated with, have asked me to join them.  I have been very fortunate, and I have very good working relationships with the galleries I am with.

Describe your working routine.

My work routine varies.  Generally, I like to put in between 3 to 5 hours a day at a minimum of 4 days a week.  I don’t usually paint on the weekends.  I also like to set a goal for myself of painting a painting each week.  I just like having a set goal, other than just putting in time.  However, if I am not painting on a regular basis, I feel very out of sync, just not right.  That studio is everything.

What are the key elements in creating a good painting?

My personal strengths are in color, line and a fluid gesture.  Those are the primary building blocks  in my work. Aesthetically,  I like harmony, with some dissonance.  I want to live in the piece, whatever it is, and I want to keep coming back to it.  Overall,I want to feel something.

Call and Response is an acrylic on paper by Karen Stastny, a New Orleans and Asheville Painter.

CALL AND RESPONSE by Karen Stastny is acrylic on paper and measures 22″ x 22″

What inspires you?

What inspires me – looking at art that I love – it makes me want to get back in the studio and get to work.  Also, working inspires me.  Work comes from work.  I am interested in the process, and one painting usually has a relationship with the former and then the next one.  There is a dialogue there that I don’t like to interrupt.

How has your style changed over the years?

Initially my paintings were abstract, based on the figure.  They are now totally non-objective, although I think there are landscape/water references in some of them.  They are also now much more fluid and loose.  I think that just came with time as I settled into my self.

How do you navigate the art world?

I don’t.  I’m not good at it.  I don’t have a web site, I don’t try to network.  I do have a number of good friends who are also painters.I have two galleries that I have been with for years and I am grateful for that.

DAY DREAM by Karen Stastny is acrylic on paper and measures 22" x 22"

DAY DREAM by Karen Stastny is acrylic on paper and measures 22″ x 22″

What are you currently working on?

I just recently finished painting for a solo show.  Whew!  Right now I am just working on some smaller pieces on paper and enjoying the process of painting and experimenting.

What’s next?

I will  be attending an abstract painting workshop given by Steve Aimone, my mentor, in the spring in NOLA.  I would also now like to develop a body of work with which to approach galleries in the North Carolina area.

What advice would you give to other artists?

Keep working. Be disciplined.  This is your job, and your gift.  Nurture it and be grateful for it.  Be generous – help others.  Support other artists.  We all benefit from it.

What are you currently reading, listening to, and looking at to fuel work?

I am reading “Keeping an Eye Open / Essays on Art” by Julian Barnes.  I also use Pinterest and Instagram to look at other painters work.  When I see work I like, it always makes me want to get busy painting.

Anything else to add?

Barbara, just thank you for this opportunity.

Barbara: It’s my pleasure and thank you for taking the time to share your art and your process. To see more of Karen’s work please visit Cole Pratt Gallery on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

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A Little Something Artfully Special….

February 24, 2016
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Quiet Sky is an landsape oil painting on panel. It is inspired by the marshes on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

QUIET SKY © Barbara J Hart is an oil painting on canvas board, 6″ x 6″



Quiet Sky is an landscape oil painting on panel. It is inspired by the marshes on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

  • This little gem of a painting is done in oil on cradled board
  • 6″ x 6″ inches and 1 inch deep
  • ready to hang (framing not necessary)


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Jackson Pollock – Painter, Baker, Foodie

February 23, 2016
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I love to cook and I love cookbooks, so full of visual delights!  I recently came upon Dinner with Jackson Pollock: Recipes, Art & Nature by Robyn Lea, published by Assouline.

Dinner with Jackson Pollock

Dinner With Jackson Pollock: Recipes, Art & Nature Robyn Lea, Francesca Pollock (Preface), Helen A. Harrison (Foreward), published by Assouline

Did you know that Jackson Pollock was a gardener, chef and baker?  We all know Pollock as a world-famous, wild abstract expressionist painter, but he was also a culinary talent and lover of good food.

Who knew! Robyn Lea, photographer and author discovered a treasure trove of hand written recipes belonging to Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, also a painter at their home in Springs, a hamlet in the Town of East Hampton, New York.

The book includes over 50 scribbled/handwritten recipes from Pollock, his wife and his mother. It reveals some of the culinary skills of this great artist.

It all started when Robyn Lea, an Australian photographer went on assignment  to take photos of Pollock’s house for a magazine article. She ended up in the pantry, where she discovered the artists’ hidden recipe collection.  She found the recipes stuffed inside the front and back covers of cookbooks and inside the pockets of a small New York Times recipe file from 1942.  This discovery reveals a quieter, domestic side of Pollock. Recipes include starters and entrees to side dishes, breads, and desserts. His apple pie even won first place in a local pie baking competition!

Dinner with Jack Pollock, Recipes, Art and Nature is a lovely exploration of the artist and his culinary talents drawn together by Lea’s beautiful photographs, interviews and writing.

The recipes featured are simple, post-war favorites made with traditional ingredients. The book is full of photographs of the dishes, candid snapshots of Pollock’s former home, his studio and handwritten recipes on scraps of paper. Included are over 100 illustrations.

As Francesca Pollock, the artist’s niece, writes in Dinner‘s introduction, “He painted the same way he cooked: Endlessly using leftovers; keeping and re-using; trying one color or shape and then another. There was never ever any waste. Painting, like cooking, was a way of living.”

This spiral-bound volume is a delicious addition to any cookbook collection. Oh, and be sure to try Pollock’s prize winning apple pie recipe.


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February 12, 2016
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 Dawn’s Wedding Chapel II, 1959, Louise Nevelson

Dawn’s Wedding Chapel II, 1959. Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) Overall (Including base): 115 7/8 × 83 1/2 × 10 1/2 in. (294.3 × 212.1 × 26.7 cm) Base: 6 × 83 1/2 × 10 1/2 in. (15.2 × 212.1 × 26.7 cm)























I believe in my work and

the joy of it.

You have to be with the work and the

work has to be with you.

It absorbs you totally

and you absorb it totally.

Everything must fall by the wayside by comparison.

Louise Nevelson

Louis Nevelson (1899-1988) created this large wood sculpture from found objects. She transformed every day materials into an evocative shrine. Nevelson used a technique called assemblage. She stacked boxes with discarded items she found on the streets—scraps of wood, banister railings, parts of furniture and ornate architectural moldings, all painted white. The rhythmic composition is created through her use of different shapes and textures juxtaposed with light and shadow.

This piece was originally part of a larger installation called Dawn’s Wedding Feast, created for an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1959.  Nevelson described her installation as “a white wedding cake, a wedding mirror . . . a pillow . . . a kind of fulfillment, a transition to a marriage with the world.” After the exhibition closed, Nevelson dismantled the installation and reassembled the boxes to form new sculptures like this one.

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Capturing Light and Atmosphere

February 4, 2016
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Calm Waters is an oil painting on canvas board, 6" x 6", Barbara J Hart

CALM WATERS © Barbara J Hart is an oil painting on canvas board, 6″ x 6″

I see the most amazing skies here on the Eastern Shore. Pearly grays, moody yellows, vibrant pinks and clouds with lots of nuances. No matter the weather, I have a fascination with the coast line. I love the challenge of painting the sky, ocean and marsh lands. It’s about capturing the light and atmosphere.

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December 4, 2015
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Le Rêve (“The Dream”), Pablo Picasso, 1932

Le Rêve ("The Dream"), 1932, Pablo Picasso

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions

that come from all over the place: from

the sky,  from the earth,  from 

a scrap of paper,  from

a passing shape, 


a spider’s web”

Pablo Picasso

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Morning at Savage Neck Dunes

December 3, 2015
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Morning at Savage Neck Dunes is an 6"x6" oil painting on board by Barbara J Hart. Inspired by a trip to this golbally unique environment.

MORNING AT SAVAGE NECK DUNES © Barbara J Hart, oil on canvas, 6″ x 6″

I collect visual pieces of a place and put them in my paintings.

This tiny painting is inspired by a field trip with my Master Naturalist class. On a beautiful fall day we explored the remote Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve. As we walked the trail, we learned about the many animal and plant species of this globally rare maritime environment.

Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve is a stunning preserve with sand dunes that tower as much as 50 feet above the Chesapeake Bay as well as forest, woodland and scrub. The Preserve provides food and shelter for migrating songbirds as well as  a home for the federally threatened north eastern beach tiger beetle.

Wander a short trail through the maritime forest and gradually you find yourself walking on a sandy path. Here stunted loblolly pines form an open canopied woodland. Meander through the woodland and pass through the dunes that include loblolly pines, ground-hugging beach heather, persimmons, and wax myrtle. Just on the other side of the dunes is a beach with a mile of shoreline running along the Chesapeake Bay. The dunes are an unexpected find along the bay.

How could I not be inspired? The painting is from the beach looking up to the dunes at the loblolly pine and the scrub.

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A Visit to the Studio of Russell and Ann Jones, Eastern Shore Potters

August 14, 2015
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When you meet Ann and Russell Jones you are immediately drawn in by their enthusiasm, playful spirits, and love of artistic pursuits.  In this interview they discuss how they found their way to pottery, sharing studio space, and their upcoming exhibit.

Russel and Annie Jones in their ceramic studio.

Russel and Annie Jones in their ceramic studio.

Why did you choose ceramics and what is the most challenging (and best) part of working in your medium?

Russ: Throughout our marriage of 43 years we have admired and collected decorative pottery. Our exploration of various art forms has taken us throughout the U.S. and inevitably included at least one if not more trips to someone’s pottery studio.

Many years ago we thought we might be able to convert an old barn on our property to an art gallery and studio space. Although that venture didn’t come to fruition, during that time, we learned a great deal about the vast differences and variety of art mediums. I was interested in exploring pottery and Ann expanding into fiber arts, hand work and sewing which had been a hobby of hers for some time.

Ann: Discovering Seagrove, North Carolina over 20 years ago was perhaps a turning point for Russ. He’d taken other opportunities to watch pottery demonstrations but in Seagrove the potters had their studios and kilns adjacent to their homes. In 2006 after we retired Russ had the opportunity to take a class with Elizabeth Hunt, an amazing ceramic artist who lives in our town. The challenge was the frustration in the once-a-week scheduling of classes. It was difficult to keep the momentum going in the learning process with that schedule. At the time we were renovating our home in Onancock and decided to add a “project room” — now studio for each of us. My sewing machines have been safely tucked away after I also started working in clay almost two years ago. Once again, we find ourselves working together as we did for many years in business. Now, however, we simply walk out our back door and explore new and fun things about clay.

How does living on the Eastern Shore influence your art?

Ann: The Eastern Shore of Virginia has some wonderfully talented artists as well as several art organizations that promote their members. We have been supporting members of the Artisans Guild for some time. A number of years ago Russ’s work was juried into the Guild. The Eastern Shore Art League Gallery was the first to show and sell his pottery. Now both the Red Queen Gallery in Onancock and the Ellen Moore Gallery in Cape Charles carry both of our work.

This year the Artisans Center of Virginia helped to organize an Artisans Trail Network on the Eastern Shore. The kick off for the Trail will happen this year and will include the largest number of trail sites to date.  Since Russ is a juried member, our studio is a site on the Trail.

What does having a physical space to make art mean to your process?  Describe your studio space and how, if at all, it affects your work? How do you make your space work for you?

Russ: When we decided to change the plans for the renovation of our home to include our studio, it was more of a way to give us the luxury of having our own spaces rather than of necessity.  However, it has proven to be the best means by which we can explore pottery. The ease of having the space directly out our back door is invaluable. The wheel and kiln are in one room, a table for slab work in the next. It’s truly not an issue to work on something at anytime necessary. We have come to the point that we can “multi task” home chores while waiting long enough for something to dry so it can be trimmed out a slab to cut. Laundry and yard work certainly gets done in a more timely fashion!


Ceramics in the kiln.

Ceramics in the kiln.

Describe your working routine.

Ann: We find our work routine to be not as structured as it might be. However, this winter Russ organized a number of workshops with some other potters in Onancock. We explored surface treatments with slips and stains, spraying, and an especially fun barrel firing. This kept us a bit more structured. Now the summer demands have started and we find we are working more. Recently we’ve been in the studios each day. Russ usually works in the mornings and I head out to the studio in the afternoons.

What personal narratives are related to the work? What inspires you?

Russ: I named my studio Useful Pots and that says it all about my work. Functional bowls and dishes are the bulk of what is created on my wheel. For the most part, my pieces are named to denote their purpose. Munch Buckets and Pails are bowls with handles so that you can carry your snacks and drink outside with one hand. Batter Bowls have a handle to make pouring easy and Walk-Abouts are bowls with a handle that make hot foods easy to handle on the move.  Recently, I’ve expanded my repertoire to include pedestal pieces and free-form dishes.

Russ's works in process

Russ’s works in process

When Ann decided to try making pots she quickly transitioned from the wheel to slab work. Her background in sewing and crafts formed the basis for understanding some of the construction techniques. Her pieces have a function but are rarely plain. Texture and decoration of some kind are on incorporated into each piece. Boxes are a favorite-each one different and distinct. Because she enjoys flowers and baking, vases and casseroles regularly come off her work table.

Ann's works in process

Ann’s works in process

The two forms compliment each other. We now call the studio Useful Pots – by famous unknown potters. We enjoy trading ideas and encouraging each other to try new techniques and designs.

How do you navigate the art world?

Ann: Since the business we sold in 2005 was a technology based firm with no link to the art world at all, navigating the art world is a rather new experience for us. Certainly the aforementioned Artisans Guild and Art League have been more than helpful locally as have the galleries that carry our work. In addition, we have attended a number of classes at the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. Taught by potters whose work we admire and often discovered in books and online, exposure to this level of craftsmanship is inspiring.

Is there something you are currently working on that you are excited about that you can tell us about?

Russ: We’ve been talking about collaborating on a few things. I’d like to make some bowls and have Ann “dress them up.” Recently Ann has been taking a class with Elizabeth Hunt in slab, coil and pinch pots. As a result, there are new ideas each week after class. Stay tuned!

What’s next? Are you involved in any upcoming shows, workshops? When and where?

Ann: We will be the featured artists at the Red Queen Gallery in Onancock for the Art Walk, 2nd Friday on August 14, 2015. In addition, each year the Artisans Guild sponsors a two day show on the weekend following Thanksgiving and this year our studios will be a featured site for that tour. Of course we are also very excited about the launch of the new Virginia’s Eastern Shore Artisans Trail. You can follow the progress of the launch at

What advice would you give other artists?

Russ: Just like Simon Leach says — “keep practicing!”

What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at which fuels your work?

Russ: We constantly refer to books we’ve accumulated. One Ann has recently gotten that has lots of great tips on slab building is From a Slab of Clay by Daryl E. Baird. Ceramic Arts Daily. Ceramic Arts Daily also is a great resource and has an endless stream of videos and books from which to choose.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Ann: Pottery is a relatively new part of our lives. We feel like it’s something we can do and continue to explore for many years. We love visitors and love to talk about the fun we are having in the studio. Please visit us at Useful Pots or come by to see us sometime in Onancock.

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