Life Unfolding: Art as Respite

Christina Foard, Shrimp and Grits for Dinner, 60″x48″

Hillary Whitaker Gallery is highlighting two artists this fall, Christina Foard and Wyanne Thompson, whose works beckon with vibrant color and shape. While primarily abstract, the works give hints from life that add to their narrative qualities and ability to connect with viewers through their unfolding stories.

Gallery visitors will find Foard and Thompson’s work abundant and spotlighted. Two new bodies of work were created for a show planned for May 2020 that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 quarantine. Owner Hillary Whitaker says that the gallery is now “absolutely open for day-to-day viewing with social distancing protocol, and open for private viewings by appointment.” The gallery is highlighting the two artists online as well and hopes to hold a pop-up exhibition in the future.

“As horrible this pandemic has been for the health and well-being of human life and the financial devastation it has had on the entire world, somehow in this mandated down time, both personally and professionally, we have managed to embrace the good,” says Whitaker. She says that the gallery is bursting at the seams with work that artists have produced during their extra studio time.

Whitaker describes these latest bodies of work by Foard and Thompson as “unequivocally happy in feel.” She cites research that has demonstrated in many cases the impact and mood-altering effects of color. “These works invite you in and leave you feeling a sense of joy,” she says.

Foard is a familiar name in Northeast Florida, having been a widely exhibited and collected artist, as well as a popular curator and juror, and having held prominent positions in the arts here before moving to Athens, Georgia five years ago. Foard’s most recent post in Jacksonville was the Arts in Medicine program director at the University of Florida Health Medical Center Jacksonville. Prior to that, she was the public programs manager and educator at

Christina Foard, Bent Over, 48″x60″

the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Cummer and the Jacksonville Public Library, as well as in numerous corporate and healthcare collections. She recently received her master of fine arts degree in painting and social ecology from the University of Georgia, where she was celebrated with numerous fellowships, grants, and awards.

Foard’s paintings are highly layered, both in the literal sense of the materials and in the conceptual narratives. Foard describes her work as a navigation between formal concerns and narrative relationships. “Some works stay close to formal color or shape, where others swing toward relational narrative,” she says. She is known for her unique use of pattern, and her recent works for Hillary Whitaker Gallery show new dimensions to this approach. There is less visible stripping away of paint in these works, lending them a more deliberate quality. Their ambiguous beauty commands attention, almost as if in conversation with the viewer. Whitaker calls it “an amazing body of work.”

Wyanne Thompson, Mimosa Pond, 40″x40″

“Each work selected for this exhibition is a touchstone to a series, as I allow myself a wide channel to address whatever I feel relevant at a given time, trusting that even though the topics and material applications change, they feel like they were made by the same hand,” says Foard.

“Christina’s scenes can be abstracted or fragmented, but upon a closer look at the piece or the title you can slowly start to peel back the story she is trying to tell,” says Whitaker. “Her style is very much her own and we love the way she intermixes layers of paint mixed with the occasional mixed media collage.”

In terms of story, Thompson’s personal story is amazing, says Whitaker. She has been a working artist for 20 years and her work is collected internationally, but she works through the struggles of having lost her tongue and 66 lymph nodes to oral cancer, which was diagnosed in 2013. Speaking clearly is a challenge, and she takes all of her nourishment through a stomach feeding tube, but she is free of cancer. The gallery’s artist description expresses that Thompson “considers the cancer a gift, pushing her to find the courage to express herself more honestly and boldly. She doesn’t waste a minute of the time she’s been given, painting full time most every day.”

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