Blog

The Ordinary

My mother always says, “Ordinary Moments make extraordinary memories.”

And of course, she is right. 

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Over the past month our city, state and coast endured extensive damage from Hurricane Florence. One of the moments during Florence that stood out to me the most was seeing my homeless friend take cover in a huge single concrete construction pipe. The lined up electrical workers in their ready-preparedness trucks moved their equipment over to her pipe to help stake down her tarps and give her extra shelter. These were the same men who laid tire tracks out so she could plant her garden several weeks ago. 

Really? Yep. 

To these workers, these small acts may have seemed like an ordinary moment.....but for this woman, she was seen, she was noticed. 

Extraordinary moment. Check. Little things. Truly. 

What ordinary moments have your witnessed that you would you say helped shape the person you’ve become? 

Andrew Leventis’ solo exhibition “Mise-en-Scène” is about the ordinary. He has this incredible way of capturing moments from documentaries and films, and realistically pulling you into the scene. The moments he captures on canvas are the ‘missed moments’ or moments you may not have been most impressed by when watching the film. These seemingly mundane moments are the ones that mold the person, the movie, the character and the narrative. A recent study found that our mundane experiences may actually bring unexpected happiness in the future. We remember via Instagram and Facebook all the ‘big things’ – birthdays, weddings, births of our children, hospitalizations, tragedies – all usually captured on our phones. Surprisingly, research has found that when reminded of the small moments through discussion or reading old journals, THOSE reminders of the ordinary bring us the most joy.

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Andrew’s work is an intense reminder of the true beauty we can discover within ordinary moments. 

Soccer carpools -an hour away 4 times a week? Bring it. Mama will sip on some tea and savor the ordinary.

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“Enjoy the little things in life...”- author Kurt Vonnegut.

Tracing the Lines

Sozo Gallery is pleased to present “Re-Lined,” a solo exhibit featuring the works of Davidson University graduate, Taylor O. Thomas. Currently residing in Tampa, Fl, Taylor is no stranger to the Charlotte area, having been involved with local arts organizations such as The Community School for the Arts. Taylor took time out of the studio to talk with us about her work, artistic process, and the future. 

 

 Taylor in her Tampa, FL studio working on  I Knewshed Be Back .

Taylor in her Tampa, FL studio working on I Knewshed Be Back.

SG: As an artist that has now had pieces shown and in collections around the world, when did you know that art would be the thing for you? 

“So, this is a funny question. So I’d actually started my undergraduate degree thinking that I wanted to be pre-med. I was really set on dental surgery and through a lot of hard conversations with my teams, honesty with myself, I kind of came to that point and it’s over and I realized that just because you are good at something does not mean you’re meant to do it. And that was the case with medicine and me. And so at that point, art had really started out as sort this therapeutic relieving practice. I’ve always been very type-A, and so to go into the studio and experiment with abstraction and with mark-making, it sort of went against everything that I had up until that point based myself and my identity around; really structured, having a plan.

I mean that’s when I moved towards it as a career path but I’d say that within the year after college, I knew that pursuing my own painting practice was what was going to bring me the most fulfillment. Because I worked for other artists in Charlotte, I worked for a really wonderful nonprofit, The Community School of the Arts, and so trying my best to find out if working in the creative field would satisfy me. And I went through that process and it just wasn’t for me. You know I would long to be in the studio, and I was longing to create my own work and just support others who were creating theirs. So that’s probably where I knew that that’s what I had to do.”  

 

SG: So from that it sounds like it took you some time and some changes to kind of figure out that this is the path for you, but what would you say has been the biggest evolution for your work as you’ve grown and you know, become the artist that you currently are? 

“Hmmm, that’s a great question. I don’t know if I could boil it down to just one moment because I feel like more than anything, what I’ve learned in the process of evolving is that it’s going to be a consistent act of my life and of my career… So I’ve almost learned the opposite, that there aren’t just one major evolution point but rather, there’s never this like ending. Like whenever I feel like I’ve arrived at a completion of a body of work, I’m already propelling myself toward change and toward that evolutionary process of pushing myself to create something, not necessarily better but still brings new questions that are coming up… That’s honestly how I would most answer that question, like rather than sort of one major change for my work, it’s been a series of ongoing changes and I think that they’re always very much guided by questions that I’m facing in my life or you know just basic questions of materiality and paint, so yeah.”

 

SG: I saw in your bio that you use painting, and to quote you “as a means of investigating identity, spirituality and human connection.” What have you discovered so far?

“So when I approach a canvas I often times think a lot about how much it relates to just living in a day-to day life. In terms of a lot of the times like this year that I have with releasing control in the process, how much control to harbor, how to exercise what I’ve learned, you know, through the years of painting while at the same time being willing to open myself up to all of the things, all of the material choices, all of the compositional and color combination choices that I’m not aware of, you know that I have yet to grasp and experiment with. I think that you know for me, that allows me to reflect back on a lot of the roots of my identity and questioning like why do I strive so much for control, like what does that say about you know, my insecurities, or my confidence or what not. So it relates back always to a very personal level and sort of those larger questions of you know, identity and how I just like live out day to day life, and then you know of course my faith always comes into that, you know with this need for knowledge and control and understanding, there’s always this sort of other side to it and that’s the unknown and the divine and the counterpoint of putting hope and putting trust into something that I can’t necessarily see or put my finger on.

And then finally just human connection. I mean even though I live this sort of day to day life that is relatively isolated compared to other careers, in my studio, I’m alone. I’m playing music by myself most of the time but I think really in sharing my work and sort of thinking through what questions I’m asking, what sort of themes or ideas I’m exploring through paint, I’m always preparing myself to be able to have conversations with other people, you know. I’m working alone but I’m certainly not doing the work for myself alone. You know the hope is to really make something that’s worth seeing. That other people can be challenged by or can be comforted by or you know whatever the emotion that is in the piece of work. I think that’s a lot of my drive, you know, like how is it going to propel greater human connection.”

 Emergency Exit |  @taylorothomas  | 48x36 | mixed media on paper

Emergency Exit | @taylorothomas | 48x36 | mixed media on paper

 

SG: So I see a lot in your pieces and your descriptions that you talk about lines… Can you tell me more about the process of peeling? You were saying that there’s different layers; how do you know what direction you want to take a piece once you’ve started it?  

“That’s a great question. So especially in the series called ‘Wild Things,’ most of my process revolved around sort of this laying down of really expressionistic, really movement oriented marks. And so I would fill the entire field of canvas with these super active marks that would engage my entire body and for me that was such a curious process and such a physically challenging and mentally sort of engaging one, and definitely an emotional one. But it always left me wondering why this need to repeat so many marks, like what does it mean for our body to go through this muscle memory type of action, and to get so swept up in the act of repeating a certain curved form.

And so in stepping back, I would really think about like there’s value in just laying these things out there but that there is even bigger value in being able to step away and to let certain aspects to reveal. And I started really loving and sort of cherishing that act of covering things up and only allowing the viewer to see certain elements. And again that sort of just made me think a lot more about sort of this larger question of what does it mean to cover-up aspects of self, of a painting, of whatever it may be, and then to reveal others. Like what value do some marks have over others, and I’m not sure that I have an answer to that question. I more just enjoyed asking that question, going through that intuitive process of everything revealing itself. I sort of do a practice of identifying marks that I’m drawn to. 

A lot of the time it’s intuitive, a lot of the time it really goes back to the basic composition and mark making and formal qualities of painting. And then there’s this sort of other mode that comes into play, there’s the laying down of these marks that’s really thin and quick, and then there’s this other sort of mode of using such thick spots of paint to like sweep over all of these marks that I’ve done except for those that are like preserving tape or masking element. And I think that this offers different things for me like there’s something risky in just taking a huge strip of paint over something that you’ve done and there’s also something relieving about it. Like knowing that you’re taking this piece to a next step and even though the result is kind of unfound at that point, I don’t know, there’s a truth involved. There’s a trust that I’ll figure out where to go next. So yeah, long winded answer to basically say it’s an intuitive process. It’s very much like act in this certain way and then pause and then respond to sort of what happened.”

 

SG: I think it’s an awesome answer only because I as a dancer go through the same process with a movement, so it’s interesting how different art forms connect in that way. 

“Yeah, totally. Like even with bees and different types of movement, the canvas really, it does kind of become like a surface for movement to happen upon and I’ve done more and more recent work about how can I push those different speeds to the extreme. Like how can you know, marks be rapid and active and hurried? And then what does it mean to make a slow changing or slow mark on top of that? So yeah, very interesting. Very into the body and movement for sure.“

 

SG: If you were looking down the road five years, what do you see for your work? 

“Hmm, what for I see for my work? This is an interesting question because when you say what do you see, it’s different than saying what do you hope for and I think that, I don’t know, I think that those two things are different. But with that said, I see a continued interest in exploring the basic elements of mark making and line. I think that line to me is always going to be a subject in my work. I honestly think about lines as characters in a sense, and I guess that’s become my language. So just from an artwork standpoint and subject matter, I continue to see so many questions and so much to mine out of just the interaction of lines and what they can signify, what movements they can make. And I’m nowhere near sort of feeling like I’ve arrived at my maturist point. Like I feel like I’m just sort of breaking through to that place. And I see for my work, it being seen by larger, more diverse audiences.

And you know my hope is that I’ll always be able to stand by it. Like I love getting to come to the exhibit openings because to me, being absent and not getting to see my work and engage with whatever audience is there, what person wouldn’t want to be there, whether it’s an opening and there are 50 plus people, I see myself getting to being there. Getting to just have conversations, and I’ve experienced nights where I’m left standing for an hour past closing, and I’m so exhausted and you know, starving, and ready to have a drink of water and end my day. But I like this adrenaline rush, getting to have people not just listen but for me to listen to them. Some of the most interesting, powerful words are not spoken by me, you know it’s spoken by other people and sort of the responses they have to the works or what the work makes them think about and the stories shared at that moment. 

Yeah, so, I mean I think that’s just on a personal level, and finally, on a career level, I see galleries in New York or in L.A.. I see, you  know down the road the hope of me getting to be in a museum and to have impact in that way. So I’m trying to see as big and as daringly as I can because my thought is, ‘Why not, you know?’ No one else has to sit here and create my vision. So I’m hoping for work that can be seen on a broader level, and yet at the same time for a relationship with my work and to people that will always remain intimate, and that will always be genuine and personal. Yeah, that’s a hard question. Sorry, I kind of rambled.” 

 

SG: No, you did great. You really did. Well I’ll lighten it up and ask you what’s your favorite guilty pleasure? 

“My favorite guilty pleasure? Oh gosh! So all of my friends, my best friends, most of them know this, but it’s probably at the end of the night, getting a bag of popcorn and watching Netflix. It’s like a very homey guilty pleasure but I’m probably the most extroverted introvert. I love people, and I can be social but I really love that end of the day me-time to just watch stupid Netflix and eat a bag of popcorn.” 

 Taylor O. Thomas during the July 27 opening of "Re-lined" at Sozo Gallery.

Taylor O. Thomas during the July 27 opening of "Re-lined" at Sozo Gallery.

 

“Re-lined” will be on exhibit now through August 24. Stop by and spend some time with this amazing collection, full of color, depth, and experience, and walk away with your own piece of the story that is “Re-lined.”

 

 

Deep In The Heart

If you've been following Sozo along, then you probably know that we just returned last week from the most exhilarating trip to Houston, Texas. (cue singing....'deep in the heart of Texas') My mentor Ron Gremillion, (crazy story here) offered our artist and friend Scott Gardner a solo show at his gallery during International Fotofest. 

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Scott's solo show, stalking Deep Time was well, pretty mind blowing. The oversized works of the sky, mountains, clouds and the vast are printed on what appears to be velvet. The specific paper that Scott asked the printing lab to use is pretty dreamy. You want to touch it. Linger. No to be to cliche - but very much to me like the impressive Rothko Chapel. 

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Yes! We visited that too of course. However, I didn't go back inside. I loved every single moment of my last (and first) visit that I didn't want it to take away from that experience. Rothko Chapel and viewing Mark Rothko's oversized canvases was a very spiritual visit for me, and conformation that chasing my mentor to Houston was exactly where I was supposed to be. 

In this short lived life we have on earth with the jobs we hold, the parents we are, the leaders in our community we strive to be- we must listen and stay open.  Scott's exhibit reminds me of that messaging each time I look at his newest works. 

Scott says that to him stalking Deep Time is about the fact that "Time is immeasurably vast and one single human life is but a blip. stalking Deep Time is a visual journal of my struggle to reconcile my fleeting animal moment with the infinite world I am swimming in."

Before the opening of his show he gave a heartfelt talk explaining his newest body of work to my mentor and their superb sales team of 5. I look over into my dear friend's baby blues and tell him, "you know I see God through you every single time you present your work". He sheepishly looks away with gratitude and rubs his tattooed arms- "I know- thank you," he says. My favorite is the one that has METTA beautifully inscribed on his inner arm.  

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Metta - unconditional and unattached loving kindness. 

Oh to have more of that in our world, and fill it up with purely talented people that live the message as he does. 

Not only is the message inscribed on his arm, yet so evident that metta is inscribed Deeply In His Heart. 

(To read more about Scott you should visit www.thegivingship.com and www.AboutFaceCLT.org

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Crafting Light from the Dark in UNSPOKEN

Aaron Hequembourg is an artist; this is clear the minute you lay eyes on his collection. What isn’t so evident is the story behind his work, and the faces of those in his pieces. Those stories are as important to each engraving as the materials used to create them.

In 1997, Aaron and his new wife, Hope, moved to her family’s rural Georgia farm. The property has been in her family since 1815, and much like many large farms in the south, their new home had a history. Aaron describes the farm as being like a small town, even having its own store at one time.

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What remained when the Hequembourgs moved in were strong reminders of the property’s past: a number of sharecropper homes. Not only were the homes still standing, but members of the families that worked those lands were also still in the area. Faced with the question of what to do with these structures that stood vacant but held so much weight, Aaron decided that instead of burning them down, he would repurpose the materials into pieces of art.

 Stand | Aaron Hequembourg | Engraved assemblage from sharecropper house

Stand | Aaron Hequembourg | Engraved assemblage from sharecropper house

Many of Aaron’s art feature the faces of one couple in particular, Willie and Josephine. Willie and his wife, Josephine, have lived in the community for many years. Willie has lived on the farm his entire life, with generations of his family having worked the land. Josephine has never left the county that she lives in, and has never seen a reason to.

In many ways, the work that Aaron does captures the physical history of the farm and molds it together with the future – the families that live on it and around it today.

Although he does possess the skills of crafting and creating, his story, and the story behind his work are important elements to each of his pieces. Aaron’s art not only features a subject, but each has details that catch the eye. From catalog pages to images of lynching, Aaron doesn’t shy away from the controversial.  History, regardless of who it belongs to, deserves to be told.

Cultural history and American history are the threads that weave the fabric of his pieces, and that shared history is what is captured in the engravings and construction of each one that he creates.

Kim Leaston
Assistant Gallery Manager
Sozo Gallery

UNSPOKEN will be on display at Sozo Gallery from February 2 - February 16

Homage to Hokusai: Interpretations of "Interbeing"

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Katsushika Hokusai, Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, (c. 1830-32), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, polychrome woodblock print, (25.7 x 37.9 cm)

Arguably, the most recognized piece of Japanese art, Under the Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai has permeated across all possible mediums since its creation circa 1830.

Iconic in its composition, use of Prussian Blue, and themes of nature, globalization, and impermanence, The Great Wave (how it is most commonly referenced) has been reproduced and reinterpreted an exorbitant amount of times in a wide variety of fashions. (i.e. on socks, tattoos, posters, coffee mugs, murals, etc…) The image has even been turned into an emoji:

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Needless to say, the influence is tremendous and the image is inescapable. However, every time I see an image of the original, I am floored by the compositional integrity of Hokusai’s masterpiece.

The finger-like tentacles coming from the crest of the wave, the foam falling down like snowflakes on top of Mt. Fuji, the magnificent scale of the wave, the hunkered down fisherman bracing the impending crash of the wave on their boats, and the use of linear perspective and horizon line all exhibit Hokusai’s brilliance and talent.

This piece is one that stuck with me as one of the most profound pieces of Japanese artwork during my studies so it was no wonder that my eyes widened when I first laid eyes on these two works by Sozo’s featured artist, Kenny Nguyen; Waves of Impermanence, I & II.

All references or potential influence aside, these two works are visually striking and compositionally brilliant in their own right. Kenny’s use of mixed media brilliantly blends color and texture to create two pieces of art that nearly jump off of the canvas.

Looking more closely at the two paintings, Nguyen’s attention to detail paired with his vibrant color choice, result in a sound composition. (Is that Prussian Blue I see?) Kenny’s line work results in organic shapes that look like the spray of the ocean’s waves and is as precise and calculated as Hokusai’s… Each speck of paint is carefully drawn and filled looking simultaneously serendipitous yet perfectly placed.

Like Hokusai’s Wave, each piece looks as though it is a snapshot from a moment in time. The texture from the acrylic paint on top of an ombre background creates movement that draws the eye around the canvas in a spiral-like manner alluding to the familiar motion of a wave.

Placed side by side, the movement in Waves I appears to transfer across the void and into Waves II. The continuous movement from I to II alludes to the crest and subsequent crashing of a wave. What motion begins in Waves I, is carried to fruition in Waves II.

Waves of Impermanence I and II are the work of a truly learned and talented artist. Striking on their own accord and, intentional or not, a beautiful homage to Hokusai.

Sara Frances Koontz
Gallery Manager
Sozo Gallery

Kenny Nguyen’s exhibition, Interbeing, is on display at Sozo Gallery until January 31.

Unfettered

Robert Boyd's solo exhibition 'Unfettered' is quite meditative and leaves collectors lingering over each piece. Introducing his solo show during the start of Fall season, was undoubtedly perfect timing. 

Unfetter | un·fet·ter | verb | past participle: unfettered | release from restraint or inhibition

 Disappearing and Forgetting | Robert Boyd | 40x40 | Mixed Media on Panel

Disappearing and Forgetting | Robert Boyd | 40x40 | Mixed Media on Panel

 

On a personal note, the past two months were extremely emotionally tough ones for me. (Hello, My name is Hannah, and I've been defined as an empath.)  We sent our oldest off to UNC Chapel Hill, and an individual we care deeply about (who is homeless) was lawfully and gently evicted from her home and gardens of 6 years under the bushes of uptown. Salvaging possessions from her haven right before I saw it bulldozed down nearly ripped apart my heart and rocked me to the core. 

 Out Of Reach l Robert Boyd l 40x40 | Mixed Media on Panel

Out Of Reach l Robert Boyd l 40x40 | Mixed Media on Panel

Unfettered. It is a reminder of letting go of things that you have zero control over. Letting go of things that control you. Letting go of loses, disappointments, fears, judgements, perfection, or even the past. 

To instead, be rooted with unfettered faith, and discover an inner peace that has been patiently waiting on your arrival.

Finding contentment. Peace. Ease. (I call that God). 

 Salt & Shadow | Robert Boyd | 60x48 | Mixed Media on Panel

Salt & Shadow | Robert Boyd | 60x48 | Mixed Media on Panel

One can certainly see traces of Rothko's expressionism in Robert's works. His sultry colors and textures will have your inner voice screaming, "I need a comfy bench, please." This body of work is a reminder of contentment and releasing all those things that don't serve our well being. 

I can't control how late our daughter stays out at night, or how many times in one week she eats at Al's Burger Shack. I cannot control the fact that our homeless friend choses to live outside in the freezing cold, or the fact that she refuses medical treatment. But I CAN easily get lost in Robert's works, and rediscover that peaceful rhythm of my breath.  

Find you inner unfettered beast. She releases. She refuels. 

She wins. 

Thoughts From the Artist: Laura Alma McCarthy

"Perhaps the dead weight of my arm is a wing..." 
               

 -Molly McCully Brown, 
The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded

          In the paintings and works on paper I create - I am looking for that space of “perhaps”.  A place I imagine inside of all of us that is the birthing space for the raw material of our lives to transform into the experiences and choices that will shape us into human beings who engage with the world and the people in it.  These paintings are my process for staying connected with a world I often feel I don’t have the skills to embrace or understand. Often I feel that sensation of just being a dead weight, of not wanting to move.  However, through the process of my work - allowing tar and oil paint to mix and transform one another on canvas, and the physical process of me moving those products around, making marks, etc. - it gives me a tangible product for an intangible internal process.  My work allows that space of “perhaps” to open up within myself and I begin to think that what may feel like dead weight may actually be a wing, and I move.  

 | Laura Alma McCarthy | "Maybe the Dead Weight of my Arm is a Wing" | Tar and Oil on Canvas | 48x72 |

| Laura Alma McCarthy | "Maybe the Dead Weight of my Arm is a Wing" | Tar and Oil on Canvas | 48x72 |

Orchestrated Serendipity

"Vital lives are about action. You can't feel warmth unless you create it, can't feel delight until you play, can't know serendipity unless you risk.” ― Joan Erickson

Six months ago,  I discovered this very article that caught my attention and interest. I started out on a path for one reason, but was instead lead down a very different path, that somehow ended up leading me exactly where I needed to be.

I am immensely drawn to others that have suffered and discovered something greater within themselves that they never knew existed. I can relate, as I’m sure many of you can. 

For over a year I’ve been disciplined in praying for a much needed gallery mentor. "Fake it 'til you make it," first year. Check. "Growth," 2nd year. Shock/check. "Double growth," third year. Happy Dance/triple check. 

Sister needs a mentor. 

I’ve needed someone that understands our fast growth, my self-doubt and stubborn determination, our passion at Sozo and our willingness to stay true to our beliefs while managing growth. My Dad was the one who always provided those answers and when he directed me with a nod and those baby blues, well then- I believed it. And he believed in me. God, I miss him.  

In February I contacted artist Patrick Fagerberg and told him of my interest in his work and desire to see more. He put me in touch with his mentor, Ron Gremillion and ‘warned me’ that Ron was appropriately protective of him as a friend and an artist and to not to be surprised if he Ron didn't offer his blessings. Sigh. And eyeroll. Another one of ‘those’ gallerist. Lawd. 

An hour into my conversation with Ron, I’m confident I’m talking to my Dad/Jesus/ and Santa Claus all wrapped up into one glorious gift. Tears streamed down my face after I asked him if I could hire him as a consultant. “Hannah, just hop on a plane and fly down to Houston, and I will tell you everything you need know to properly run a successful gallery.” 

Seriously? Do people like this still exist in this world? 

   Houston airport...and our first Uber driver.  

Houston airport...and our first Uber driver. 

Hubs think I am coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs crazy. ‘You mean to tell me you are flying to Houston/ meeting with another man we know nothing about/ and taking business advice from him?’ “Yep. Yes sir-eee. It’s a God thing. I know it. I really feeeel it, Charles.” He eyerolls and half smiles. (#hisapproval)  He knows me and he gets me.  I felt 100% confident this was meant to be, and God placed this Godsend into my life.. It’s beyond happenstance or serendipity. 

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After meetings, introductions, artist and sales education we are wined and dined at a favorite local Houston restaurant. Ron’s baby blues gaze firmly into mine and he gently pushes me, yet I already know that he believes in me. “Hannah, what are you afraid of? “ 

In Houston I learned that it is perfectly okay to be vulnerable in this industry, yet to trust your heart, stay true to your values, your prayers, your intuition. When something scares you, then pull your shoulders back and stand tall, tap into your yoga breath, and trust the process. That’s exactly when the magic happens. 

Our last day in Houston, Sara Frances and I ended our art journey at the Menil Collection and The Rothko Chapel  (one of my all time favorite artists BTW) After sitting in complete silence in the chapel and studying, praying, meditating and being in awe of his infamous works (and yes, I wanted to break out into some sun salutations, but refrained), we met on a bench outside. As if I needed anymore confirmation of this trip, the sun was setting and casting extraordinary colors onto the Texan sky,  we were serenaded with a warm breeze and doves confidently calling back and forth to one another in the large oak trees. (Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up.) 

In THIS very moment I’m convinced I have finally understood and nailed the truest meaning of ‘deep in the heart of Texas’…it’s not a place, it is what lies within certain people in this heartland and the magic and hope they offer to others. 

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Please join us on Thursday, September 7th for our newest exhibition Transcendent Light. Come meet my mentor, gallery owner Ron Gremillion and two of his artists, and our new friends Nicola Parente and Patrick Fagerberg

Truly, C.S. Lewis nails it best on the gratitude I have for my orchestrated serendipitous friend and mentor. Here. 

The Gentle Giant

Exactly 2 years ago (the day after Mother’s Day) we watched my Daddy take his last breath. He was our Rock and my Idol, and I was his ‘baby girl’. My father-in-law called my dad the ‘Gentle Giant’... He was a striking 6’1 tall man (many say he looked like an older Tom Hanks) with a deep voice, a hard hand shake, but the purest and kindest heart. When you love someone so endearingly that loss is always present, but we honor them by marching onward and keep living the love and legacy they created with and for us. He’d want that.

Our dining room. (Stay with me, there is a correlation here) 

When Charles and I married we were extremely fortunate to inherit a complete dining room furniture set from my in-laws and we had the traditional chairs recovered in a gold and Burgundy checked fabric. In 1995. Every day for the past 15 years, I’ve walked through this small dining room, turning my body a certain way to shimmy behind the chairs and open the door into our renovated kitchen/family room. Traditional, crowded, and did I mention ---1995. 

Meet our Sozo artist and friend Laura McCarthy.  For those of you who haven’t met her, well you should. She is genuinely a breath of fresh air. Extremely witty, authentic with a capital A, and she teaches yoga and mindfulness to incarcerated or currently homeless friends, as well as friends struggling with addiction, through her non-profit One-Breath.org  Laura is the ‘baby’ of five and lost her sweet Virginia-bred Daddy a few months before I lost mine. After her loss, while stumbling through her grief, she found comfort by reading Japanese death poetry. (Meanwhile, I was reading Tracy Curtis blogs and drinking a lot of La Crema). Inspired by the death poetry and her personal grief, Laura created a soulful series of internal landscapes. Beautiful big white backgrounds with thoughtful, gut-wrenching paint, pours, and textures of black, deep brown, gold, and hints of pink. 

Meet Yamoto Takeru-No-Mikoto: 

yamo.jpeg

When I saw this 6x6 diptych that Laura created, I cried. I knew nothing about this piece of art, yet I immediately felt it’s intensity and the light that radiated from the top right corner. When she shared the story with me about the Warrior, I, of course, cried more. 

Yamoto Takeru-No-Mikoto was a very well respected warrior in his Japanese village. He was a faithful father, husband and well respected warrior of the village. It was time for him to die, and he knew it. He walked to the beach and dismantled his robe covered in many expensive golden threads. He was searching for his Peace and was ready for his departure. His family was not. His wife and children chased him over rocks and dunes and sticks, and cut their feet along the way to convince him to stay on Earth just a little longer with them. To their dismay, he passed and in traditional Japanese style, flew off as a beautiful white crane. 

THIS, PEOPLE.

This is when your heart lights up SO big, you actually feel the work and you know it belongs with you. 

Bye Bye 1995 dining room. Yamo (my new name for him) now hangs in our most prominent place when you enter our home. We said goodbye to furniture used twice a year and the display of my grandmother’s antique wedgewood china and welcomed a room centered around the most magnificent piece of art, tranquility, light, and PEACE.  

My hubs jokingly says we now have a pretty hotel ‘Lobby’…but I disagree. My heart swells every single time I see the work and I breathe in PEACE. I’m reminded of my biggest Warrior, cheerleader, advisor, confidant, and how when his baby blues looked at me I knew that I was loved, and quite possibly his favorite girl :)  (Sorry Sister) 

Many of Daddy’s most favorite days and memories were centered around family at our Lakehouse at Lake Wateree. If you close you eyes with me—you might see with me what I encountered often. A 9 year old Hannah swinging in a hammock in the arms of my Dad. In the distance at the end of our dock on a quiet evening we hear the bull frogs chirping, the comforting creak of our hammock back and forth/back and forth, the whip-poor-wills start to sing, the faint ripples and circles in the cove of the Brim catching Mayflies, and always always we’d spot a big white Crane—flying away into the peaceful dusk. 

A room - and a home - can most certainly be transformed around a piece of art. 

Come tell us your stories. We’ll help you find that piece that makes your heart sing.  

xo Hannah

Finding Me, Seeing You

Hi there. It’s Hannah and it’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged. You’ll start to see a pattern in our Sozo blogging. Smart and thought provoking (big words) means Sara Frances is at the keypad. A little all over the place and snarky trying to prove a point…then it’s me. 

We’re beyond thrilled to introduce Winnie Sidharta Ambon to Charlotte. Her works are much more mysterious and more thought provoking (to me) than anything we’ve ever shown at Sozo. “The Unbound Self” is a selection of Winnie’s introspective works that have intense layers of collage and paint. Winnie joins together the two mediums beautifully and uniquely and uses women’s fashion magazines for most of her fragmented body selections. She’s cutting and pasting and painting and layering to create a ‘whole.' A whole which represents a deeper symbolism of women and identity. 

Winnie’s work has certainly connected with my deepest core of identity- being a woman and a mother. 14 years ago on Mother’s Day I felt bound, caged, and certainly not whole. Bound by a terrifying rare illness that left me paralyzed for 2 1/2 months, I was situationally depressed and desperately crying out to God and making deals with Him daily. Guillain-Barre Syndrome stole a little bit of my time, but it taught me how to be a fearless believer in healing and passion and rooting myself in faith. (Earth, Wind and Fire, R.E.M. and Ambien helped a bit too!) 

This month we’re giving proceeds back to NAMI Charlotte and Artist Recovery Movement. Both of these non-profits connect to those struggling with mental illness and recovery. Throughout our journey of opening Sozo, my heart has been deeply touched by those suffering and living with mental illness: a homeless friend, a neighbor trying to overcome the stigma of Bipolar Disorder, a neighbor who's son developed schizophrenia in college and unfortunately passed away, a yoga student of mine battling a severe eating disorder, a friend going through an ugly divorce. These situational bouts of depression or life long battles have really rocked my perception and understanding of being bound by a disease that effects not only the person suffering but their entire support group.

We all have a story. Some of us are fortunate enough to have suffered and recovered. Our past, our suffering, our own personal cutting and pasting creates our identity. Our whole. 

What whole are we tending to and nurturing? What perceptions are you making of your self or others that you’re only getting a glimpse of? 

These exploratory works of Winnie’s remind me that I am a wife and mother who will not be imprisoned to what society thinks we should be. 

Trying is enough.

 (This was created LAST minute by my big sister Helen for a High School English paper assignment about 'Mothers' that she had forgotten to do. And   this   is what I have to live up to! All joking aside, it is framed and has been my parent's room for over 35 years. Simplicity and truth win.)

(This was created LAST minute by my big sister Helen for a High School English paper assignment about 'Mothers' that she had forgotten to do. And this is what I have to live up to! All joking aside, it is framed and has been my parent's room for over 35 years. Simplicity and truth win.)

Show up. Try. Repeat. 

Choose your own identity. Don’t allow society’s kiss on the forehead try to determine it for you. 

Own your story. Believe in others. Try seeing the whole. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all my mamas our there. Wishing you boundless love and high fives for showing up and trying.

It is enough. 

xo Hannah

Sozo Gallery's Gift Guide For The Person Who Has Everything

Having trouble finding the perfect gift for that one person who has everything? Sozo is here to help! We've compiled a list of small works by a few of our awesome artists, that anyone would be thrilled to have waiting for them under the tree! 

BJ WEEKS | Hazel 1, Hazel 2, Hazel 3 | 12x12 | $150 ea. 

MICAH CASH | Overpass 8x8 $200 | Spillway 6x8 $150

ARTHUR BROUTHERS | Ecosystems 13.5x13.5 $545 framed | Rivers in the Sky 13.5x13.5 $545 framed | Study 3 6x6 $150 | Study 7 6x6 $150

LAURA McCARTHY | Remnant IV, Remnant V, Remnant VI | 10x10 | $100 ea.  

BRUCE NELLSMITH | Cross Configuration XII 13x15 $450 | Kite 12x12 $125 | Native 12x12 $125

 DENNY GERWIN | Handmade Ceramic Cups | $48 ea. 

DENNY GERWIN | Handmade Ceramic Cups | $48 ea. 

CURT BUTLER | Epicenter, framed, $350 | Bechtler Museum, framed, $350

To Be Healed

Our petite art gallery is blessed to call Uptown home. 

We pride ourselves as a splash of creativity in a part of Charlotte known for pristine, bustling streets and shiny windows. But, Sozo is more than that. 

During our three years in Uptown, we've learned to seek and strive to do more than selling 'great art'. 

We are community. We are relationships. We are love. 

That's the Uptown we call home and this is the Uptown compassion we will continue to perpetuate...

 Healing Water, 24x24, Wan Marsh

Healing Water, 24x24, Wan Marsh

Gracie, Hillary and I have grown so much from our friendships with many of our fellow small business owners, homeless neighbors, CEO executives, janitors, bank managers, servers, hotel managers, and chefs -- all of different races, ethnicities, and religions. 

All of us are hurting to see our beautiful city in this turmoil. 

We are firm believers in healing. And, that's our prayer. 

In fact, that's our name. 

Sozo in Greek means to be healed by God. In Japanese, it means artistic and creative. Our petite gallery is not only a haven of creativity, but it is also a haven of healing. 

Sozo = healing.

This healing now must start here, in Uptown.

We are committed to using our gallery, and our relationships, to heal our beautiful city-- to heal our home. We hope you join us.

Be creative. Be healing. Share compassion. Share empathy. Share Love.  

'PollyHannah'

Let me introduce you.

For those who don't know about her....Pollyanna is a best-selling classic novel from 1913 about a young girl with a sunny personality and robust optimism. Pollyanna is an orphan child who goes to live with Aunt Polly. Unfortunately, Aunt Polly is too concerned with appearances, propriety, and local politics to appreciate her effervescent niece and her ideas. 

This story is much deeper and profound than 'that', so maybe you should pick up a copy or share/read it with your children. (she too, was even paralyzed and had to learn to re walk again)

Pollyanna created a 'gladness game'. (fast forward 100 years...think 'The Power Of Positive Thinking', etc...) 

I think some of us in Charlotte, or the state of NC, or even our country should be required to play at least 15 minutes a day. Just like your cross fit, or yoga, or running fix. Or your vodka tonic. 

Have a glad fix. Change your outlook. Change your perspective.

At Sozo we want to spice up our community and outlook on art. It's not about looking out for numero uno. It's about us. Community. Teamwork. We're pulling out our finest Pollyanna attitudes and playing the gladness game with our uptown art community.

 Urban Mystique 60x36 Curt Butler

Urban Mystique 60x36 Curt Butler

Debbie downers and spinster Aunt Pollys you are invited too. 

Along with a great team including Charlotte Center City Partners, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Mint Museum Gift Shop, Levine Museum of New South, McColl Center, UNCC Center City Gallery, Goodyear Artists, New Gallery of Modern Art and Sozo we're introducing to Charlotte the Uptown Crawl. 4th Thursday of every month. 6-9pm. Explore many different cultural venues uptown.  

It's time for our uptown art community to shine.

Pollyanna style.

Something In The Water

Hello heat wave! Here at Sozo we’re hoping you and your family have been able to escape the summer heat and enjoy the serene beauty and rest of our local mountains and beaches. Camps. Beach time. Restorative summertime rest. 

Recently our family packed up and sold our lake home that has been in our family for over 53 years. That was my childhood ‘camp’. Swimming, skiing, boating, sailing (or capsizing), family BBQs, and the whispers at night of whip-or-whils and bull frogs. No cell phones, no internet. Just friends, family and nature. 

And the water. 

 Written In The Water, Windy O'Connor

Written In The Water, Windy O'Connor

There is truly something in the water there. We've experienced something deeper and more powerful than the regular Sunday church ‘by boat’ and ‘river' baptisms we’d witness, or catfish the size of your smallest child, or the occasional stumps you avoid when skiing.

Truly something in the water. 

Reflective peace. Strength.

Sozo is thrilled to announce the solo exhibition of friend and artist Windy O'Connor. Windy and I go ‘way back’. Church friends, raising children the same age, lake trips, beach trips, laughs, introducing and selling her artworks through the Carolina Art Soiree for GBS/CIDP | Facebook (and my hubs thinks she looks and sings like Carrie Underwood and in my opinion her legs come in pretty darn close too) 

Come join us Friday August 12th and see Windy's newest art inspired by water. We’ll help you find the perfect piece to reflect on your happy place. Every time you study Windy's work you’ll discover a connection to stillness and internal peace. 

 Find it daily through your art. Reflective peace through your home surroundings. 

“Live every day, give it all that I have. Trust in someone bigger than me. There must be something in the water."

Drink it up.

 Photographer: Ari Clare

Photographer: Ari Clare

Too Subtle for Words

Pain is a pesky part of being human, I’ve learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can’t be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces.
— C. JoyBell C.

There have been so many unexplained tragedies and horrific deaths recently in our country. Our hearts at Sozo hurt and pray for all the families and communities that are heart broken and questioning. This week's show couldn't have be more 'timely'. We will be showing the works of BJ Weeks. BJ has suffered and is coming out on the other side via her faith journey and through her art. Her bountiful colors and elegant brushstrokes will pull you in...asking for more. When I study her art I feel music (and a cold glass of Pinot Grigio). 

Art won't erase our pain but it's been proven to offer comfort and open up space for conversation.

Please join us for a lunch and lecture featuring BJ and Dr. Dianne Collard. Dianne chose to forgive the unforgivable, the unthinkable. I Choose to Forgive: An Intimate Journey with God: Dianne B. Collard ... 

Art rescued her...and gave her soul a big shake up. You'll never 'see' abstract art the same again.

Join us either Thursday June 23rd 12-1 and/or June 24th 6-830pm.

The summer winds will escort you in to Sozo and of course you'll find the Pinot chilled. We're always open to hearing your stories of suffering, of loss and how art has helped you heal. 

Breathing Space

It's been a while since we've blogged, but yesterday's installation was such a pivotal moment for me personally.  Blog worthy indeed. 

Breathing Space is a dual artist show of Scott Gardner and Laura McCarthy's works.

Scott's work is from The Finding Silence Project , focusing on the significant importance of silence, and prayer and meditation.  Scott and I have a beautiful love story. True brotherly/sisterly love. It's beyond coincidental that he was brought into my life shortly after my father died...through Johnna Smith - Charlotte, my beautiful yoga mentor and teacher. More than his sheepish humble blue eyes, the fingers that twist the back of his hair when he's 'thinking', and his scruffy beard...I'm in awe of the layers of soulful giving and thoughtfulness Scott has taught me through his lens, his creativity...his heart. 

 Thu Nanda Theit Hti, 16x24, Scott Gardner

Thu Nanda Theit Hti, 16x24, Scott Gardner

Laura, is the founder of www.one-breath.org and artist. Yesterday, she explained my most favorite painting. Possibly ever.

Stories. They are magic that Sozo wants to see by connecting your heart to the actual work.  Scenes From The Land of Yomi is about a Japanese narrative and was passionately produced after Laura lost her father. Grief. Alchemy. The stirring of emotions. This triptych creation is an internal landscape of her heart. Or yours. Or mine. 

And ohhh yes, I cried through the installation yesterday. (with Laura) 

 Scenes from the Land of Yomi, Triptych, Laura McCarthy 

Scenes from the Land of Yomi, Triptych, Laura McCarthy 

You'll notice the vertical movements of the tar and paint representing the heartbeat....and then the slow and steady decline...and then a peaceful passing. Into Death. A transformational experience silenced with shimmers of gold. One last breath.

And quiet. Peace. 

And silence. 

Join us Friday May 20th 6-830 to hear more about Scott and Laura's works.

Join me in slowing down and catching our peace, our breath. 

I just threw up the white flag to crazy Maycember and booked a room in Charleston. Tonight. Solo. Going to gather some peace and quiet and reflective rest. 

We can't wait to hear your interpretations and personal stories when you view this show. 

Inhale - Exhale

  Inhale, Wan Marsh

Inhale, Wan Marsh

Merry Christmas! As we come to the end of 2015, I wanted to express how overwhelmingly grateful I am. Despite losing my father this year and some other recent family medical emergencies...I look to hope. And gratitude. And breathing. 

Breathe. 

(If I were to write a ‘braggadocious’ Christmas letter…here’s how mine would go this year.)              

I lost my beloved father this year to Alzheimers yet he leaves with me the legacy of remaining a faithful servant to God and charged both Charles and me (at our rehearsal dinner) to forever be Good Samaritans. (If you need a sweet snoozer...I’ve got the 20 plus minute video of  for proof! He could talk. :) ) In May we watched him take his last breath on earth, as he gained his first breath in Heaven.

Shoulder surgery in November took a toll on my physical spirit leaving me without my most addicting and beneficial love of Yoga (the asana part at least…the physical practice) But no one can steal my 'yoga breath'. 

A week ago my dear mother was just diagnosed with a large carcinoid tumor (cancer) in her lungs. You should see her tackle her lung 'exercises'. Believe me, YOU are no match for my Mama. 

Breathe. 

I've attended labor classes on all 4’s learning how to breathe through childbirth,  pranayama training through my yoga teacher Johnna, and paid money for a workshop on breath work from Johnathan Winn. I even heard Brene Brown recently speak on breath work. Box Breathing…In for 4 seconds, Hold for 4, exhale for 4. Try it. Like now. 

Breathe. 

It gives energy, helps us sleep better, aids digestion, lowers blood pressure and stress level, improves our awareness and even our personal relationships. I've got research to prove it. 

Despite the detours life brings, our Sozo business has tripled, and we continue to plant our roots into Uptown. At Sozo we commit to leave an imprint not only on the collectors that run through our doors and easily whip out their credit cards, but also to the friends on our streets that huddle under bushes for shelter and deserve more than any of us have to offer. We are forever indebted to our incredible team of artist, our collectors and our community of friends.  Here's to a peaceful Christmas full of hope, laughter, and memories. 

Remember.... “inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4."

For the Spirit of our God has made me, and His breath gives me life.
— Job 33:4

-- Hannah and Gracie 

  Exhale, Wan Marsh

Exhale, Wan Marsh

Our 5 Senses and Art

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
— Oscar Wilde

Recently our family of five road tripped to Charleston (home of my college alma mater). As we crossed over the infamous bridges into the Holy City, I rolled down the windows and breathed in that magical sulfur breeze, instantaneously dropping my blood pressure and soothing my soul. “NASTY!!!…..OOHHH….roll up the windows MOM…WHO passed gas?!” (they used another word/I don’t like to repeat) Seriously children, that stench does not soothe your hormonal teenage souls? 

Tragedy.

Fall has arrived and I’m feeling a bit nostalgic lately. My sweet hubs caught me red handed last week with bathroom doors closed, sitting on the bathtub, and crying. I was sniffing (totally legal kids) my Daddy's after shave and craving his scent, his strength. I needed him near me. 

Fall is the time to harvest and reconnect with our sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. We all have certain senses that ‘take us back’ to a prior time of either freedom (childhood/college), relaxation (BC- before children), tension/heartache (poor relationship decisions), bliss/happiness (beautiful relationships), or ecstasy (non proper posting material or possibly retirement/ traveling)? 

Cool breezes and the smell of Tea Olive (it’s blooming now folks) -smell of security- my parent's bedroom (they had it planted all around their windows and frequently kept the windows up)

Hearing Prince and The Revolution- High School cheer routines/and thinking we ‘owned’ it. White gloves and all. I can still recite parts of 'When Doves Cry'. (but it would take a few martinis to show you)

Sound of a steam escaping the hole of a pot lid…the ‘dinging’- please be my Mom's infamous homemade vegetable beef stew

Smelling like The Bus Station- (for real) the best meat and three in Winnsboro….and the scent identified where you've dined

Musky scent of Bonfires- Beachside college Oyster Roast (heaven)

Halston cologne for Men- boyfriends that broke my heart (stench) 

A whiff of Mustela baby lotion- sweet days of mothering a newborn

Hearing Bagpipes - my father’s graveside service

Experiencing these senses is exactly how we want you to feel and experience art. We intend you to feel freedom, relaxation, ecstasy, and help take you to a place in your past or possibly a place you’ve never been. We all have different time periods of our lives that molded us into the beautiful human beings we are. Art can be enjoyed as a sentimental reflection, a mystery, thought provoking or a hope for something new to experience. I challenge all of you to ask yourself these questions next time you ‘double take’ a piece of art. What do I SEE? What do I TASTE? What do I FEEL? What do I HEAR? and What do I SMELL?

When you purchase a piece of art from us, we want you to connect to your senses every single time. 

 work by Mary Rousseaux 12x12 

work by Mary Rousseaux 12x12 

Don’t wait for a tragedy, or a loss, or a clean or quiet house, or to be ‘perfectly’ organized to relish in your 5 senses. Pop your trunk, pull up your soccer sideline chairs in your yard this evening, and huddle up with some loved ones. Enjoy the sight of our lunar red moon and let us know what you experience.

Consciousness is inherent in each one of us. 

Be alert.  Connect to your senses. If you're having trouble, let us know. Pop in to Sozo and we'll help you explore.

But let's keep it real. You are not allowed near my after shave.

Preconceived Notions

I was a big surprise for my parents. My mother always wanted a big family, but after 3 children and a few miscarriages they thought they were 'done'.

Mama turned 40, her father passed away, her mother was dying and their nest was full with a 15, 13, and 9 year old. And BAM!...they were blessed with MUAH. When choosing a name for me, my mother wanted to name me Caroline, and the rest of the crew 'out voted' her and named me Hannah (after my Mama). So she lost. (and, today as a mother myself, I'm like 'WHAT??'...I think push votes outweigh sibling votes any day.) 

In the south we true southerners name our littles after a family member or a biblical name.

Period. 

We don't choose a name by the place we 'fell in love' or our favorite actress or the month we conceived. 

Growing up with the name Hannah was pretty cool. Then my friend Esther ruined it. 'Hannah the big fat banana'. Violin~ please. I was the one who had to order her clothes from the Chubbies section in the back of the Sears Roebuck catalog. (for real) I won't even go into detail what we called Esther. (despite the name rants, she is still one of my oldest, truest and dearest friends)

 Hannah (already dreaming about colorful Art Basel Miami) and Esther /circa 1974 or so

Hannah (already dreaming about colorful Art Basel Miami) and Esther /circa 1974 or so

This month Sozo is introducing Wan Marsh at Sozo and she is fab. Before I met Wan I envisioned a tee-tiny petite hispanic or oriental gal with beautiful long black hair, quiet in nature. Right?

Far from it.

Wan is a primo talented abstract artist. Her background is in interior design and she is a gardener and giver to nature and birds. She is a HOOT. Wide open, full of life, bubbly, in LOVE with what she does (people like that give me the biggest high), over 50 something years old, confident and curvy.

She's the type that likes an ice cube in her chardonnay. Sassy and owning it.

After being rejected from show after show she decides to change her name. And then the magic began.

She dropped the DA.

Wanda became WAN overnight. Wan was accepted into the next highly acclaimed art show and won 1st place. She's been on fire and selling to collectors all over. 

 Garden Path 60x48~ Wan Marsh

Garden Path 60x48~ Wan Marsh

You must stop by Sozo and check out Wan's layers and layers of mixed media and collage fabulousness this month at Sozo. And please don't forget about inviting your friends named Linda, Sandra, Brenda, and Wanda. 

No judging here. 

My nieces (and sisters/one of them named Hannah Brown/refer to paragraph three and Ruthie) are due with their 4th and 2nd babies just a few weeks a part. Not too many good names left on the ole' family tree. We're down to Killough (pronounced KILLA) Ivor, Gladys, and Narcissus. 

I'm voting for Killough. Killough Henry to be precise.

Preconceived notions? Ehhh.

Nobody's gonna push that boy down on the playground.