A “Beautiful Exercise” for the New Year

Original Story, Julie Ann Bell

Amid major renovations at Trackside Studios last August, workers found dozens of brick pavers hidden beneath the floor. According to gallery artist Julie Ann Bell, these pavers date back to the early 1900s when the building served as a meatpacking plant.

Inspired by this history, Bell manipulated wire into a large copper tree perched atop one of the blocks. “Trees are iconic to me for many reasons,” she tells Asheville Made. “They require roots for connection. The trunk supplies nutrients and supports growth. The branches reach for sunshine.”

Similarly, Trackside Studios has nourished and empowered regional creatives since 2015. “And we continue to expand and grow like branches,” says Bell.

Her sculpture, “Original Story,” will debut on Saturday, Jan. 13, during Origin Stories, a group exhibition opening in the gallery’s new upper level. Other featured works include a vivid painting completed by acrylic artist Michael Allen Campbell during his first year at Trackside and a collage Li Newton created using pieces of jettisoned drywall.

Untitled, Michael Allen Campbell

“We are exploring the origins of our building, the origins of our time at 375 Depot Street, and the origins of what’s next,” says Bell.

Other artists, galleries, and curators will also pause to explore their origin stories as part of WHO AM I, WHO ARE WE?

Organized by the River Arts District Artists (RADA), this collaborative, year-long exhibition invites members of the River Arts District to create work in response to monthly prompts. The resulting work will premiere during Second Saturday Art Strolls, says Jeffrey Burroughs, president of RADA.

“We hope this becomes a really beautiful exercise that gives us a moment to reflect on who we are as artists,” they say.

Genesis, Philip DeAngelo

In response to January’s theme of Origin Stories, Burroughs is reconstructing the very first piece of jewelry their mother gave them. Fellow participating artist Philip DeAngelo is also returning to his roots by displaying “Genesis” — the first painting he created in his signature style.

“It was a huge departure from the paintings he created before we moved to Asheville in 2008,” DeAngelo’s wife, Tina, says. “Simplified — like our new lifestyle — and highly textured.”

As such, WHO AM I, WHO ARE WE? is a way for participants to “reintroduce themselves to anyone who wants to follow this journey throughout the year,” says Burroughs. “The theme deepens the relationship between artists and RAD visitors.”

Origin Stories opens at Trackside Studios (375 Depot St., Asheville, tracksidestudios375.com) on Saturday, Jan. 13, with a reception from 2-4pm. To learn more about Second Saturday Art Strolls featuring 2024 exhibitors of the theme WHO AM I, WHO ARE WE?, visit riverartsdistrict.com or see “River Arts District Asheville” on Instagram. 

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