Lo­cal artists get plat­form of their own in the Mint’s Con­stel­la­tion CLT se­ries

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Baseball - BY PAGE LEGGETT Arts cor­re­spon­dent

Crista Cam­maroto can now be placed in a cat­e­gory with An­drew Wyeth, Robert Mother­well, An­nie Lei­bovitz and other lu­mi­nar­ies of mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art: The Char­lotte artist’s work will soon be fea­tured at the Mint Mu­seum, which in­cludes in its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion works by those mas­ters.

Cam­maroto – en­vi­ron­men­tal artist, cu­ra­tor, art pro­fes­sor, pho­tog­ra­pher, sculp­tor – is the third artist fea­tured in the Mint’s Con­stel­la­tion CLT se­ries, de­signed to give ex­cep­tional lo­cal artists – usu­ally emerg­ing or mid-ca­reer – a wider au­di­ence.

And an im­pres­sive ad­di­tion to their re­sumes.

The ti­tle, Con­stel­la­tion CLT, refers to the ubiq­uity of lo­cal art: It’s all around us. The Mint web­site de­votes a page to each Con­stel­la­tion CLT artist, and each gets a map show­cas­ing ev­ery­where in the area you can find his or her works. The pins on the maps are like stars form­ing con­stel­la­tions.

“I was jump­ing up and down when I found out I’d been ac­cepted,” Cam­maroto said. “This is such a big honor. The Mint … com­mands such re­spect. This is go­ing to open doors for me out­side the re­gion.”

The idea for the se­ries, which pre­miered last fall, was hatched

by Jonathan Stuhlman, the Mint’s se­nior cu­ra­tor of Amer­i­can, mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art, and Adam Jus­tice, the Mint’s for­mer as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor. (Jus­tice is now direc­tor of gal­leries for UNC Char­lotte Cen­ter City, a po­si­tion Cam­maroto used to hold.)

“We wanted to be more en­gaged with the lo­cal arts com­mu­nity,” Stuhlman said.

There’s no for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion process – at least not yet. Artists have been hear­ing about the pro­gram and con­tact­ing the Mint to ex­press in­ter­est. Hap­pily for artists, the Mint gives them no pa­ram­e­ters.

“They’re free to cre­ate what­ever they wish,” Stuhlman said.

The first fea­tured artist was ac­tu­ally a pair of artists – a young hus­ban­dand-wife team, said Stuhlman. ARKO + OWL pro­duce large-scale mu­rals. “We were think­ing they’d do one big mu­ral,” Stuhlman said. “But they came in, looked at the space and wanted to do three or four. We loved it.”

Stuhlman has told artists they can pro­vide ex­ist­ing work for their Mint show­case, yet the artists cho­sen so far have made new work.

“It’s an honor for us to be at the Mint,” said Cam­maroto. “Any of us would step it up for the op­por­tu­nity.”

Choos­ing ARKO + OWL first sent a mes­sage: The Mint wants to be seen as hav­ing a broad def­i­ni­tion of art.

“Street art is not typ­i­cally em­braced by the high art com­mu­nity,” Stuhlman said.

The next fea­tured artist was Nel­lie Ash­ford, a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian self-taught folk artist who at­tended a seg­re­gated, four-room school­house in Mecklen- burg County.

Ash­ford be­gan get­ting se­ri­ous recog­ni­tion in her 50s. her work has been ex­hib­ited at the Levine Mu­seum of the New South and the Har­vey B Gantt Cen­ter for African Amer­i­can Arts and Cul­ture, and she was re­cently awarded a com­mis­sion for the new ter­mi­nal at Char­lotte Dou­glas In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

A PER­MA­NENT RECORD

Cam­maroto, whose 2-D and 3-D work will be on view at the Mint up­town beginning March 30, seems a per­fect can­di­date for the se­ries. Her largescale art is all about, she said, “place-mak­ing and bring­ing peo­ple in.”

Her Terra Forma se­ries, parts of which will be on view at both Mint lo­ca­tions, uses nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als – such as leaves and dirt – to cre­ate tem­po­rary, site-spe­cific works of art.

“My works have a short life span,” she said.

Here’s where Cam­maroto’s pho­tog­ra­phy skills come into play. That’s how she makes a per­ma­nent record of her blinkand-you’ll-miss-it art.

She in­tends to in­volve the com­mu­nity in her art­mak­ing at the Mint on Ran­dolph Road. (Dates are still be­ing fi­nal­ized, but the Mint is tar­get­ing May or June.) “I want to let peo­ple play in na­ture. There will be chances for the com­mu­nity to place berries in a cir­cle, for in­stance or dip dirt balls in turmeric to make them yel­low and then place them within the sculp­ture.” Dirt balls? This is art for the peo­ple.

Cam­maroto is ac­cus­tomed to cre­at­ing art and see­ing it de­stroyed – or at least reimag­ined – within days or even hours. Her art cel­e­brates the process more than the fi­nal prod­uct. At her Mint event, she’s plan­ning to build a “mother piece” from nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and then al­low the au­di­ence to de­con­struct it and build smaller pieces out of it.

“My work is all about reignit­ing the au­di­ence’s re­la­tion­ship to na­ture and the ecosys­tem that sus­tains us,” she said.

The Mint de­but has spurred her fo­cus. “I’ve been an artist for 30 years and an ed­u­ca­tor and cu­ra­tor for 15. And I haven’t al­lowed my­self to be so full-time in my own art since grad school.

“This se­ries is some­thing very dif­fer­ent for the Mint,” Cam­maroto said. “They’re known for be­ing very pre­med­i­tated. This is the Mint be­ing coura­geous, but in a good, cal­cu­lated way.”

Visit mint­mu­seum.org/con­stel­la­tion­clt. Cam­maroto will lead a fam­ily-friendly art-mak­ing event at The Mint’s up­town lo­ca­tion for Earth Day on Sun­day, April 28.

Mint Mu­seum of Art

ARKO + OWL: Here con­cludes what we be­gan. Just like this mo­ment eter­nity stretches be­fore and af­ter so take the time to ex­plore your mind, 2018, ap­prox­i­mately 10 x 14 feet

BRAN­DON SCOTT

Three paint­ings by Nel­lie Ash­ford. From left, Juke Joint, 2018; Gen­er­a­tions: A Fam­ily Re­union, 2018; Gen­er­a­tions, 2016.

CRISTA CAM­MAROTO

Spi­ral­ing Scales, 8 feet in di­am­e­ter, lamb’s ear, im­pa­tiens, sun­flower seeds, morn­ing glory leaves, lily leaves, daisies, pa­prika, earth. Aug. 4, 2017.

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