A Reflective Moment at the Water’s Edge Rippled into a Painting Career

Cynthia Wilson fears environmental catastrophe, but not enough to stop painting.
Portrait by Rimas Zailskas

Cynthia L. Wilson was a young grad student at the University of
Alabama when her mother died. “I didn’t have a very good way of dealing with my grief since everyone I knew still had mothers,” she says. Still raw from her loss, Wilson was asked to illustrate a brochure for an upcoming lecture by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death
and Dying.

“When I tried to think of a way to illustrate death that wasn’t morbid and awful, I thought about the pond my parents built,” says Wilson. She remembered watching leaves drift onto the water. “Slowly, they went below the surface, losing their bright colors, and finally reaching the bottom of the pond where they provided food and shelter for the next generation of fish and frogs — just like life.”

Waiting for Spring

Her painting today is about capturing the same kind of eye-opening moment for others. Wilson names various dangers to the environment — global warming, new invasive pests, floods, and drought — as her catalysts. “I want to paint as much beauty as I can to help people look around and possibly see what we have to lose,” she says. The artist believes that “if enough people open their eyes to the beauty around us, we can expect change for the good.”

Gold at My Feet

After a lot of moves early in her married life, Wilson became a full-time artist in Baton Rouge. “I started out as a watercolor painter, but discovered acrylics were more versatile. I can paint in layers with acrylic and incorporate collage elements” (including gold leaf and found objects). “Also, with acrylics, I can paint on canvas, paper, board, metal, and scratch into the paint, build up textures with layers.”

Chased by the Wind

Wilson says her works generally fall in one of three categories: landscapes, abstractions, and dreamscapes. “I love to go into my studio and start a painting with no idea in mind. The paint begins to say something as it responds to my brush, and whether it ends up as a realistic painting or an abstract piece, the process is exciting.”


The viewer can experience something similar. One might, with a cursory glance, see a canvas as representative. That can change, however, as the aspects of apparent realism subtly transform into more abstract elements. “The abstractions come from my time as a graphic designer,” says Wilson. “I was trained to think in terms of spatial arrangement. When I started turning that into paintings, it was like a door opened that enabled me to use color and shape and pattern in a way I never had before.”

In the Morning When We Rise

Cynthia L. Wilson, Hendersonville. For more information about the artist, visit clwilsonart.com. Wilson’s exhibit “Stones and Dreams, Shadows and Streams” will open at Grovewood Gallery (111 Grovewood Road) on Saturday, May 18 and run through Sunday, June 30. www.grovewood.com. Wilson also exhibits paintings at The Gallery at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock, galleryflatrock.com).

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